WSWA 73rd Annual Convention & Exposition
Brings Interesting and Delicious New Products
The industry’s leading event for wholesalers and suppliers, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America WSWA 73rd annual convention convened last month at Caesars Palace. The WSWA hosted competitions including the Wine and Spirits Tasting Competitions and the Call for Cocktails Mixology Competition, and the trade show filled two exhibit halls and numerous hospitality suites, featuring some of the most innovative products available. The following is a rundown of interesting products that caught my eye and palate.
Shortly after entering the exhibit hall my eyes were drawn to red cups with dead scorpions perched in them at the booth of Skorppio Vodka. Every bottle of this vodka has a scorpion in it minus the poisonous stinger, of course. Naturally, I had to eat the scorpion and was surprised to learn I was the first person crazy enough to do so, and it was the second day of the tradeshow! Tradition has it that eating a scorpion allows one to gain strength and courage and is also an aphrodisiac. I must confess the scorpion was not very tasty, but the vodka, on the other hand, was quite good. Skorppio is a five-times distilled 100% wheat vodka distilled in England and uses scorpions farm-raised in Mexico.
Some very fine wine was to be had at the Bellissima suite. Bellissima is Italian for most beautiful, which is how I would describe Christie Brinkley, who introduced the sparkling wines at the WSWA. The three varieties include Sparkling Rose Wine made from 100% Pinot Grigio grapes, Prosecco DOC Brut 100% Glera grapes and Zero Sugar 100% Glera grapes with no residual sugar. All grapes used in the wine are organic and grown in Treviso, the Italian region where Prosecco originated.
Usquaebach, Gaelic for “the water of life,” has over 225 years of tradition and the Reserve is a 15-year-old blended Highland Malt Scotch Whiskey using only 100% Highland Single Malts.
As I had recently been reintroduced to Grappa, a spirit made from the marc skins of the grapes after it’s pressed, I was drawn to try the Gra’it, an Italian grappa that is all natural and a blend of 7 grapes Barolo, Moscato D’Asati, Amarone, Prosecco, Brunello, Aglianico and Nero D’Avolo and aged for 12 months in Slovanian oak casks.
Also on the floor was Grappa of Amarone Barrique, made in Italy by Distillerie Bonollo Umberto from the marc of 100% Amarone grapes and aged for 18 months in small French oak casks to develop a harmonious blend of fruity and spice tones.
A brand new spirit hailing from Ireland is Crem?r Irish Cream Liqueur. Unlike Bailey’s, is doesn’t blend, but stays on top and is the first Irish cream to float on top of coffee.
Packaged in eye-catching boxes shaped like gold bars, Gold Bar is an American-made gold-finished whiskey distilled from three grains 88% corn, 9% rye and 3% barley and filtered through solid 24-karat gold. The spirit won Double Gold at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and Best of Show for its packaging at the 2016 Denver International Spirits Competition.
We’re used to aged whiskey, but not so much aged rum, but it is every bit as interesting. Cobalt Brands was serving three Rum Malecon products aged 12, 18 and 25 years, all of which use Panamanian sugar cane and distilled using the traditional Cuban method and aged in re-charred white oak bourbon barrels. Each rum is 40% ABV, distilled in Panama and the brand is named for Ron Malecon, a legendary street in the heart of Havana, Cuba.
We usually expect to find rum in the Caribbean, but K?loa is a premium rum made in Kaua`i, Hawaii that has won several awards, and I was surprised to learn that rum has been produced in the Garden Isle since 1837. K?loa Rum Company was founded in 2009 and is the first and only licensed distillery on the Island of Kaua`i, where sugarcane production has been a traditional way of life. If you like spiced rum you will definitely be interested in their rums with coffee and coconut.
You rarely see wine marketed to men or wine packaged in a can for that matter, but MANCAN Wine is doing just that. There are many advantages to canning, including sustainability, protection from UV light and oxygen, easier to transport and recycle and no stemware or corkscrew needed. They even have pictures of man’s best friend on the labels. MANCAN is crafted from grapes from Sonoma County and comes in three flavors: Red, White and Fizz. As for the flavor, let the judges decide. At this year’s WSWA, MANCAN took home medals for all three, earning a gold and two silvers in the tasting competition and was a finalist for the Brand Battle.