American Distilling Institute Expo Review
The distilling industry was dominated early April by 2014 Annual American Distilling Institute Expo in Washington State as some of the biggest names in the industry flooded Seattle for a long weekend of tastings, lectures, examples in new and inventive distilling techniques and the chance to share the experience of participating in one of the most affluent events of the year.
Now in its tenth year, the Expo has become a recognized showcase in the distilling business, pulling in over one hundred reputable vendors of custom glass bottles and others and playing host to more than a dozen interactive conferences, coming a long way from its humble beginnings back in 2004. The origins of the Expo as well as its continual climbing success belongs to Mr. Bill Owens, founder and president of the American Distilling Institute. “I shocked myself,” Owens laughed cheerfully when asked about what he thought of this year’s turn out. “Over a thousand people were there. Ten years ago when we held the first Expo, only 68 people showed up. Now we have 109 vendors and interactive workshops that last throughout the weekend, giving people the chance to experience what it’s like inside distillers and learn from different experts in different fields.”
Not one to sand alone in the spotlight, Owens made sure to mention Seattle, contributing the city’s support for much of the Expo’s prosperity over the years, and made note of the bus tours and city guides on hand throughout the weekend who made sure to highlight the city in gratitude for all its assistance. In recognition of the newly tapped potential, the annual Expo holds a diverse judging each year, holding categories in select groups like moonshine, gin, whiskey, brandy and rum. Just a few of the winners in previous years have gone on to make headway in the distilling world, including 2013 winners Valentine Distilling Co. of Liberator Gin and Balcones Distilling of Texas Rum.
Optimism for the future of craft distilling can be mirrored the progress and outpouring of achievement and success in Annual American Distilling Institute Expo. “We’ve seen a 30% increase every year for the last five years,” Owens said. “This surge reflects the growth of the Distilling Industry as it branches out from the small circles of individuals dedicated to perfecting their artisan craft and into the eye of the mainstream public.” When asked what he thought might be behind the gradual rise in interest, Owens replied, “We’re doing what the big guys don’t,” he said, referring to larger cooperate distilling companies. “We’re carving a new piece of the pie, working on things like absinthe and gin, making a niche that hasn’t been done before.”