Wednesday, April 16, 2008

American Distilling Institute Conference, Day 1

On Sunday, April 6th, the fifth annual American Distilling Institute conference got underway in Louisville, Kentucky. We gathered at the historic Seelbach Hotel (lobby at right) to taste spirits, see old friends and meet new ones.

This is the third conference I have attended (I went to the 2nd and 3rd, but not the 4th), and this was the largest by far - over 170 attendees.

Like Lance Mayhew's recent recap of his mixology summit, I'm planning a day-by-day summary of the conference. Here's what happened on the short (but eventful) first day:

Pre-event Cocktails
A few of us arrived early for an informal ADI board meeting. Afterward, we visited the legendary Old Seelbach Bar. If you go, try the Speakeasy Select bourbon & rye. Its their house label, and I couldn't find it anywhere else (and believe me, I looked & asked). I wonder if its a rebottling of another product, or if it's custom made for them? If you like champagne cocktails, you should try the Seelbach Cocktail as well.

6 pm - Spirits Tasting and Meet & Greet
In a suite that was far too small for the crowd, this group of craft distilling enthusiasts tasted spirits and talked excitedly about their spirits and distilleries (or planned ones). Here are a couple of shots from the room.

A few observations:
  • The attendees came from all over. Most of the group was from the U.S., from both coasts and everywhere in between. I talked with people from Australia and El Salvador, as well as England, Scotland (a vendor), and Canada.
  • The group had a decent number of established distillers in attendance, which was good (especially for those new to the industry). The list included Jess Graber from Stranahan's, Brian Lee from Tuthilltown, Rick Wasmund from Copper Fox, Scott Bush from Templeton Rye, Ted Huber and Jason Heiligenberg from Huber Starlight, and others.
  • As before, there were very few women (which has the one benefit of meaning no line for the ladies room, even when there was one for the mens - had to appreciate that since it doesn't happen very often)
Informal Dinner
After the tasting, most folks broke into smaller groups to go to dinner. I went with a group of ten, and we were surprised to see how many Louisville restaurants were closed on Sunday. Of course once we arrived in one, we realized why that might be. We ended up at Proof on Main, and we were fortunate to end up there for our first dining & drinking experience in downtown Louisville.

Here's what you see when you first walk into Proof on Main. There art interesting works of art throughout the restaurant, including the sculpture sitting on the bar.

It turns out that sculpture has a name, although I didn't realize this until I came back the next night. Here's the scoop (it's Randy):

I'll write more about drinks at Proof in another post, but on this night we had a fantastic dinner (I had the bison tenderloin, it was excellent). The restaurant is connected to the 21c Museum Hotel, and connecting them is a small art museum (part of the hotel's collection). Its a really interesting space, with some great contemporary art. As you walk to the restrooms, you pass through the gallery.

There are a number of surprises in the gallery. For instance, here's the mensroom from the outside. Its one-way glass (and yes, I got a tour of the inside of the mensroom when there weren't any men in it).

The urinal is directly against the one-way glass, so you can see the people in the hallway while standing at the urinal. The poll was 50/50 on whether men in my group thought they could actually use the urinal.

After dinner at Proof, we returned to the Old Seelbach Bar for a nightcap, and then sought out some sleep before our 8 am bus departure time on Monday.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Glad you had a good dinner at Proof. I can't wait to hear about your drinks there. I've only visited the bar at Proof once for a very brief meeting so I'm really looking forward to hearing your impressions on it.

I didn't even know the conference you attended was going on so I'm looking forward to reading more about it as well.