In situations like this, focus is key. I identified a few booths I wanted to check out, including Few Spirits, the Evanston-based distillery that launched last year. Stopping by their table, I immediately noticed a barrel-aged gin, something I'd never heard of before—but according to the Atlantic, it's a microtrend. The barrel imparts both color and flavor to the spirit, making it taste like a cross between whiskey and gin: it's lighter than whiskey, with the botanical notes associated with gin, but it also has wood flavors and some sweetness. I liked it a lot, but even more intriguing to me was Few's American gin. Admittedly, I haven't tried a lot of gins, but I've never come across one that I'd want to drink neat before (though the barrel-aged gin would certainly work for that too). This one was vegetal, almost cucumbery, with subtle juniper flavors—mostly, it was incredibly smooth. With almost no alcoholic kick, it was light (but not lacking in flavor) and easy to sip.
Other favorites included Corsair's quinoa whiskey—yes, you can taste the quinoa—and incredibly smoky "triple smoke" whiskey. Coincidentally, Corsair also makes a barrel-aged gin, along with oddities like cannabis moonshine and chocolate mocha porter whiskey (I didn't see any of those on offer at the tasting, though I could have missed them). Journeyman Distillery's Featherbone Bourbon, which Mike Sula wrote about last week, was also excellent, as was their Ravenswood Rye. I've tried Macchu Pisco's La Diablada pisco before, but I was impressed all over again at how smooth and fruity-tasting it is—I love pisco, but haven't found many that are suitable for drinking straight (they're usually best mixed into cocktails). This one is.