Hooch

The Chandler Craft Spirits Festival Featured Local and National Distillers -- Plus Free Breathalyzer Tests

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See also: Arizona Distilling Company Wins Double Gold Medal at San Francisco Spirits Competition

5:05p -- The booth directly to the right of the entrance is already one of the best. They're still setting up, but you just know it's going to be good if guys like Geoffrey Wilson, who did a nice job the with the bar menu of Chandler's late Barrelhouse, is sharing booth space with Eddie Garcia of 'Eddie Garcia's Arizona Cocktail Hour.' I visit and tell them I'll be back around to see what they've got later. Sazeracs from Wilson, which he also did the previous year, ended up being really good, and Garcia's shaken mixture of Azunia reposado tequila, Giffard banana liqueur, ancho chile liqueur with a nutmeg dusting was the best thing I tasted all night.

5:15p -- I have a mouthful of 'Gold Miner' Barrel Reserve Rum from Kingman's Diamond Distillery resting on my palate, it's zesty finish clearing my senses. One-fourth of an ounce goes a long way. The distillery, one of a couple smart enough to charge money for full cocktails such as um-and-root-beer, offers Dark Rum to taste, too, but I rarely go down that stormy path and choose to find a palate cleanser instead.

5:20p -- Gin will do. And I haven't tried anything from Prescott's Thumb Butte Distillery. I don't really care to try their standard gin, which promises to be juniper-forward, so I instead I ask for their 'Western Sage Gin.' The distillery has cut back the juniper by 20% to make room for what becomes a mouthful of sage (a look back at my iPhone notes says "sage through the effin' roof!") in the distillation process. If success can be measured by such mouthfuls, then Western Sage wins. Maybe too much so though. The sage is seriously dominating the tasting experience, but could be put to good work in a punch or a relative of the Pimm's cup cocktail.

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Shelby Moore