30 Oct Stateside Urbancraft Vodka debut at Philadelphia’s Whiskey Fest
As the elevator doors opened and we stepped into the club level of Lincoln Financial Field hauling a dolly loaded up with cases of vodka and our very first homemade still with boxes full of miscellaneous cocktail making tools under our arms, we noticed two things: if you’re an Eagles fan, the pictures of great players past and present that adorn the walls will get you pumped for Sunday and the Philadelphia Whiskey Fest is about as accurate a name for this event as there could be. We made our way across the plush carpet bypassing whiskey tables, bourbon set-ups, and scotch stands with their stout and port barrels used to age their spirits, fancy take home whiskey glasses, and even a fountain that distributed one company’s signature cocktail. This was an intimidating scene to walk into considering this was going to be the first time that people were going to taste our product and because at Whiskey Fest, we were bringing vodka.
Our table was nestled in between a table occupied by a bourbon distillery from State College, PA and a sitting area full of high tops and chairs. To our rear was another bourbon distillery and just beyond that a long bar that had been designated as the food station. Directly in front of us: the ladies restroom. Strategically, this was a perfect location for us. No one to our right and a spirit to our left that was as different from us as Bobby Hoying was from Donovan McNabb. Add the constant flow of people going to and from the bathroom and the small seating area flanking us, we knew we had come across some prime real estate and we were ready to give the people of Philadelphia their first taste of Stateside Vodka.
This being our official introduction into the exclusive world of quality spirit distillation and knowing full well that bringing vodka to a whiskey tasting could be considered the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gun fight, we knew we had to make the table look as appealing as possible. Our first still, which was essentially a beer keg with a large pipe attached to it, was set up next to the table and was going to hopefully be a large draw and conversation starter in a “what the hell is that thing” kind of way. We set out nearly 150 Stateside shot glasses to give away in neat little rows in addition to making sure that everything we needed to make our signature cocktails was set up to be as practical and aesthetically pleasing as possible. This took much longer than we had anticipated. So long, in fact, that we gave ourselves very little time to run home, make ourselves presentable, and make it back in time to unveil our product to the assembled restaurateurs, bar owners, and whiskey enthusiasts.
Cleaned up and ready to go, we entered the elevators at the Linc to go back to the club level and discuss Stateside Vodka with as many people as would listen. There was an odd mixture of nerves and poise as the elevator made its ascent. We knew we had a good product and we were anxious for people to get their first taste, but this was also the culmination of three long years of trial and error, set backs, false starts, and hard work and whenever you put so much of yourself into something for that amount of time, the butterflies in your stomach are bound to feel more like they’ve been doing steroids than normal. As the doors opened and we walked through, we were overwhelmed by how many people were there already considering the event had started just three minutes prior.
Standing at the table, waiting to hand out that first taste of Stateside, a lot of things were going through our minds. We were constantly going over the tasting notes in our heads. We asked ourselves hypothetical questions that we might encounter throughout the evening and rehearsed concise, well-worded answers. We thought about the shoes we were wearing and how we would give just about anything to trade them in for literally any other pair of shoes we owned due to the blister we could already feel developing. And then all at once, the questions and the prep ceased. Someone approached the table and wanted to try the vodka.
This was a pivotal moment in the history of Stateside Vodka and Federal Distilling. This person, a young lady who was working a table near the live band that we never saw, was going to be the first person to try Stateside who was not directly affiliated with our company. This was the first bottle to ever be opened that had been produced at our facility in Kensington, a pour top was about to be inserted into the mouth of said bottle, and its contents dispensed into a cup for someone to imbibe. Needless to say, this was nerve-wracking. As she raised her cup to her lips and that first sip of Stateside Vodka had been distributed, we waited for what seemed an eternity for her to taste it, let it rest on her pallet for a year (which was probably only a second), and look back at us with an approving nod and a smile.
“That’s really, really f***ing good.” she said.
And just like that any and all concerns we had were gone and from that moment forward the table was being visited constantly. Curious looky-loos who wanted to know what the still was, vodka drinkers, whiskey drinkers who needed to get away from whiskey for a second, and seemingly everyone else wanted to try Stateside Vodka. One woman liked one of our cocktail creations so much that she came back three times for it. It was instant validation that what we had spent the last three years of our lives creating and perfecting, banging our heads against the wall over, and staying up way past our bedtimes to make sure that everything was just right was well worth it.
At the end of the day, we couldn’t have been happier with the way the 2015 Philadelphia Whiskey Fest had gone. We got to participate in a really great event, mingle with some other movers and shakers in the distilling business, and, most importantly of all, share Stateside Vodka with Philadelphia. We are profoundly grateful to everyone who helped make this dream become a reality and can’t wait to show everyone what is in store for Federal Distilling and Stateside Vodka in the future. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got some vodka to make.