American Whiskey Convention

When I think of heaven I think of endless rows of white linen tables with angels pouring whiskey and more whiskey. On March 25, Citizen Bank Park got pretty close with the American Whiskey Convention. As vacations do occasionally get in the way of other vacations, both John and I were unable to attend this year. Lucky for us, my girlfriend and her brother didn't mind the idea of tasting whiskey all evening and went in our stead to rep BourbonScout.

Although northeast Kentucky is inarguably the capital of American whiskey, it was not always so. Throughout the 1700s and early 1800s the Monongahela Valley of western Pennsylvania was the epicenter of whiskey production in America. The drink of choice - rye whiskey. However, this shifted drastically at the turn of the century. With the heaviest opposition to the spirit excise tax implementation, disgruntled Pennsylvania distillers faced Washington’s response in the Whiskey Rebellion. For many years following, the majority of Pennsylvania’s distillers fled to Spanish Louisiana and Kentucky and what was left of the once prominent PA whiskey industry was wiped out during Prohibition 100 years later. 4,000 active stills were reduced to 0 by the 1940s.

Whiskey Rebellion -Britannica
Well after Prohibition ended, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and their puritanical liquor laws made it rather unappealing for new craft distilleries to open up. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that we’ve seen the few bold break the mold and open up shop in the Quaker State. Slowly but surely, as more and more have caught on, Pennsylvania is amidst a bit of a whiskey comeback. Now the state has over 30 active distilleries.

Perhaps the greatest ambassador of this movement, Laura Fields and the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation, decided the American Whiskey Convention would be the perfect vehicle to spread the word that Pennsylvania stills are back. In its inaugural year the AWC was an event designed to showcase over 100 American whiskey brands from around the country with a particular focus on local distilleries. In addition, many area artisans and farms were present.

Among giants like Four Roses, Beam Suntory, Buffalo Trace, and Makers Mark, there was plenty of local talent including Stoll and Wolfe, New Liberty, Dad's Hat, Thistle Finch, Myer Farm, Red Brick, and the favorite of the event: Social Still (particularly their barrel-aged gin).

Based on what I've heard and read following the event, I think it's safe to say the AWC was a success. We certainly look forward to checking it out firsthand in the future and can't wait to see the continued progress for these Pennsylvania distilleries!