Distill America XV
will be held on Saturday, May 20th, 2023. The event runs from 1-6pm at Breese
Stevens Field in Madison, WI. This is a different venue from previous
If you’re new to the area or
just getting into distilled spirits, you may be curious about what Distill
America is about. I’ve attended for the last seven years and am friends with
the folks who make this event come to life. As such, I’ve got the rundown for
everything you need to know.
Distill America was founded
15 years ago by a small group of spirits enthusiasts in Madison known as
the Madison Malt Society. They often traveled to Chicago for whiskey
events, but growing expenses damaged their enjoyment and took from the
excitement of attending year after year. Aside from travel costs, they
contended with pricey entry fees for the distillers and attendees. They were
struck with the notion that they could create an event locally that anyone could
attend every year, whether they were an exhibitor or a fan of distilled
spirits. The goal was to attract bartenders, retailers, and the general public
to learn about what is on the market and available to enjoy.
Rather than simply
recreating the typical whiskey event, the founders wanted to create something
unique. Star Liquor on Williams (Willy) Street got involved. The group
then decided they wanted this to be a big, real event. They also wanted to
introduce visitors to exclusively American-made spirits, not just Bourbon, Rye,
and other American whiskeys. That opened the door for rum, brandy, gin, vodka,
and other brown or clear spirits. Boom! Distill America was born.
Behind the scenes, there was
much volunteer work to get the process going. The crazy thing is nobody involved
took a salary. All proceeds benefit the non-profit Wisconsin Distillers
Guild. The Guild’s mission is to promote Wisconsin-made spirits,
agriculture, tourism, small-batch distillation, and the safe enjoyment of
alcoholic beverages. Distill America also creates scholarships for people to
take coursework and learn about the distilling industry.
From the smallest craft
distillery to the largest, established distilleries, they all travel to Madison
to entertain and educate both true spirits enthusiasts and people new to everything.
There is something for everyone to enjoy.
The Madison Malt Society's
desire is and always has been for Distill America to grow and remain
sustainable for the future without losing what makes Distill America unique.
But that means change will happen. Distill America went a step further by offering
educational seminars about six years ago.
Now that you know the
background of Distill America, I have a few tips and tricks for attending.
First and foremost, enjoy this event responsibly. Make arrangements in advance
for getting to and from the event safely. Bring a designated driver who can
attend for a mere $20.00. Your DD will have access to any non-alcoholic
beverages and food.
It is very easy to get more
than buzzed as the spirits are free-flowing, and there are more exhibitors than
you can shake a stick at. Eat a full meal before showing up. Appetizers will be
available on the floor, but you shouldn’t show up on an empty stomach.
VIP+ gets you on the floor
at 1:00pm before anyone else can look around. Have you ever heard of the Stitzel-Weller
Distillery? That’s the holy grail of American whiskeys. It is many years
out of production, but Blade & Bow will be there to pour you some of
the very last of the original stocks! Diageo, the owner of Blade &
Bow, will provide an educational seminar. You’ll also get special glassware beyond
the standard that everyone else receives.
VIP gets you through the
door at 2:00pm, and you’ll visit booths an hour before General Admission. There
are special VIP-only pours that exhibitors offer. Some of the big legacy
distilleries previously served up their most sought-after limited-edition distilled
Both VIP+ and VIP tickets
are sold out.
General Admission comes in at
3:00pm, and there’s still plenty of opportunity to taste awesome things that
American-only distilleries have to offer. In all, there are over 80 vendors
from across the United States. General Admission tickets are still available
for $70.00 and can be purchased at https://distillamerica.com.
No matter which ticket you
possess, you’ll get a complimentary Glencairn nosing glass from the event’s
sponsor, Bulleit Bourbon, and food throughout the evening. Distill
America is an outdoor event under tents. Whatever crazy weather Madison has to offer that day, you’ll have a great time!
Finally, I’ll be walking
around doing meet-and-greets with various distillers. I hope to see you there. This
is your perfect opportunity to #DrinkCurious. Cheers!