Looking for Virginia-made cinnamon vodka, peach whiskey, cucumber gin or elderberry moonshine? Finding secret weapons for conversation-starting cocktails and discovering a new favorite distillery or two will get easier this weekend when the Virginia Spirits Expo brings 23 distilleries to Ix Art Park.
The inaugural festival, set for 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, will eliminate the need to drive to distilleries across the commonwealth to purchase favorite selections by the bottle, founder Brian Sullivan told The Daily Progress. It’s an opportunity to try limited-release products and spirits that are created in runs too small to stock at ABC stores.
“They may only run something new one time, and they may have only 100 bottles,” Sullivan said. “We literally have it all.”
Visitors will be able to select from more than 200 spirits crafted in Virginia. Radio Riot and Zach Angle will be providing the live music, and Uncle Dave’s Tacos, Chiki’s Pancakes and other vendors will sell foods to accompany the pours.
Industry experts will be on hand to talk about available whiskeys, bourbons and vodkas, as will the distillers who make them.
Look for custom signature cocktails at the event that will give connoisseurs and newcomers alike a chance to try creative new products, such as flavored vodkas and agave spirits, Sullivan said.
“They do have some really cool cocktails,” he said.
The expo, presented by Drink Local, offers visitors a chance to catch up on trends in distilling. “There are more people enjoying different types of spirits, and we’re seeing growth in whiskeys and bourbons,” Sullivan said, adding that younger audiences are seeking out flavored whiskeys and gins.
Local distillers include Ragged Branch Distillery, Virginia Distillery Company and Vitae Spirits Distillery. Also featured will be A. Smith Bowman Distillery from Fredericksburg; Brady’s Distillery from Roanoke; Caiseal Beer and Spirits Co. from Hampton; Catocin Creek Distilling Company and Mount Defiance Distillery from Loudon; Chesapeake Bay Distillery and Waterman Spirits from Virginia Beach; Copper Fox Distillery of Williamsburg and Rappahannock; Deep Creek Distilling of Chesapeake; Filibuster Distillery from Shenandoah; Five Mile Mountain Distillery from Floyd; Ironclad Distillery from Newport News; JH Bards Spirit Co. from Pulaski; KO Distilling from Manassas; Reservoir Distillery and Virago Spirits from Richmond; Lost Whiskey Club from Fairfax; Orkney Springs Distillery from Springfield; Springfield Distillery from Halifax; and Twin Creeks Distillery from Franklin.
Sullivan said the expo also offers customers a chance to see the distillers team up to promote the industry.
“I’ll say one thing: The Virginia distillers is a group that’s really here to work together,” Sullivan said. “They really work together to build each other up. They share with each other how they are making things. They don’t see each other as competition. The competition is to make the best products.”
Speaking of competition, visitors will be able to vote for their favorite distilleries, which will be honored with gold, silver and bronze medallions.
A woodworker will be on hand to carve items from whiskey barrels.
Gates open an hour early, at 2 p.m. for VIP ticketholders, who pay $100, $90 in advance, for admission. VIP tickets also include access to Virginia Distillers Association master classes and special VIP-only samples from each distillery.
A full-access sampling ticket is $75, or $65 in advance, and comes with a souvenir sampling glass and five voting tokens. A $20 ticket is available for designated drivers and folks who won’t be drinking. Last call is at 7:30 p.m. To learn more, go to virginiaspiritsexpo.com.