It may sound cliché but end of summer heading into fall in Chicago is one of my favorite times. The air is crisp the trees are changing construction is ending and the Chicago Independent Spirits Expo is held. This was in my mind the most successful one yet having attended every year since it came to Chicago. The brain child of David Schmier owner of Redemption rye and brought to Chicago by Marty Duffy co-producer   of the CISE.  This is the largest small production spirits show in America. This year’s event was held at the Chicago Hilton downtown and was a marvelous spectacle of the comradery that drives the craft spirits world. The show is a place where craft producers of rum, tequila, gin, vodka and of course small batch whiskey.


Usually filled with industry professionals rubbing elbows with producers this years show had a decent amount more of the public who regularly consume these goods. “Leigh Mabry of BC merchants explains that she was impressed to see more of consumer and not just restaurant people” If you love tasting small batch whiskey, gins, vodka and tequilas this is the place to go.


One of the highlights of the show was a panel moderated by Timeout Chicago’s Amy Cavanagh concerning the role of women in the craft spirits industry. Most of the women on the panel have had similar experiences with gender discrimination given that spirits is a male dominated world.  The panel discussion focused on the stories that some of Chicago’s most influential women including:

DSCN1358 DSCN1356

Co-owner and founder of Koval distillery  Sonat Hart, Dejorn Huffman the spirits director at Tenzing Wine and Spirits Jenny, Kelly Kniewell – CIO, Fresh Coast Distributor,         Raquel Leduc – Brand Ambassador/Bartender, Herbsainte, Monique Huston – Spirit Specialist, Stoller/Glazer, Anne Marineau – Bartender, Randolph Tavern, Sarah Sheperd Macfarquhar – Brand Ambassador, North Shore Distillery, Jenny Solsberg – Owner, Rhine Hall Distillery, Inna Feldman-Gerber – Co-Founder & President, Premiere Distillery. Filled with the darlings of Chicago’s craft industry the panel spoke about their unique experience dealing with the landmines of the spirits world.

DSCN1364 DSCN1367 DSCN1317DSCN1457

Monique Huston of Stoller tells me that she “cannot wait for the day that these panels like this will not be necessary”.  It does bring up an interesting question as to why we distinguish between men and women in certain jobs when we all know women work just as hard.

The Indy spirits expo is all about bringing lovers of all things craft and small batch. “Indie Spirits brought out some old favorites that were fantastic but the exciting side was to see how far American Craft Spirits has come, and to realize we are all living the rebirth of true small batch craft distillation” Drew Larson leaders beverage. Marty Duffy says “it was a success with a fantastic turnout and both the exhibitors and attendees were we’re happy, and that’s what the expo is all about”


Just some of the many producers that were there included…


Banks Rum

Barritt’s Ginger Beer

Big Bottom Distilling


Blaum Bros. Distillery

Bunnahabhain single malt scotch

Caledonia Spirits

Caledonia Spirits

Caorunn Gin

Carpano Antica

Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery

Charbay Distillery


Classic Imports

Compass Box scotch whisky



Craft Distillers

Deanston single malt scotch

Death’s Door

Del Maguey Mezcal

Demerara Distilling (El Dorado Rum)

Dimmi Liquore

Distillerie de Biercée


Duncan Taylor

Edinburgh Gin

Encanto Pisco

Fernet Branca


FEW Spirits

Gabrielsen Cognac

Glenfarclas single malt scotch

Glenrothes single malt

Gordon & MacPhail

Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach

Grand Marnier 1880

Great Lakes Distillery


Haas Brothers

Haus Alpenz

Heering liqueur

Jersey Artisanal Distillery

Journeyman Distillery

Kappa Pisco

Kavalan whiskey

Koloa Rum Co.

KOVAL Distillery

Letherbee Gin


Lyon Distilling Co.

Marnier Lapostolle

Martin Miller’s Gin

McClary Bros. Vinegars

New Holland Brewing & Distilling

North Shore Distillery

Old Petrero Rye

Oola Distilling

Orange V

Pacific Edge

Pig’s Nose scotch

Quincy St. Distillery

Redemption Rye

Rhine Hall Distillery

Scorpion Mezcal

Sheep Dip blended malt scotch

Shrubs & Co.

Siete Leguas Tequila

Sonoma County Distilling Co.

St. George Distillery

Tail Winds Distillery

Tequila Tapatio

Teeling Irish Whiskey

Templeton Rye


Tobermory single malt scotch

Tullibardine Single Malt Scotch

Veritas Brands

Warehouse Liquors

WhistlePig Rye 

Zaya Rum

Sadly, I was under the weather and attended to take pictures and meet with vendors, I was unable to taste anything so I went the whole day without a drop.