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Podcast #9 - High West's David Perkins

Fresh of his recent award of 2010 Pioneer of the Year from the Malt Advocate, David Perkins and I discuss what it means to blend whiskey, the state of the barrel sourcing industry, and the misconceptions surrounding High West as a distillery.  A quick warning, there was some noise in my house and the combination of my loud voice with David's quiet one can make it difficult at times so listen in a quiet space!  I hope it's still audible and enjoyable.

This episode can be downloaded here.  Archived episodes can be found here or on iTunes.  You can also listen via our embedded Flash Player below.

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Reader Comments (9)

Loved it when Perkins said, "we just don't have that (N├ęgociant) tradition here in the states." And the popular narrative of tradition shared by the blogosphere's most zealous bourbon/rye disciples is really what fueled that mockery of Perkins' pioneer recognition. But some commenter's bashing of High West also demonstrated proficient knowledge about other narratives in the greater whisky world by the very mechanics of their own argumentation's distortion, minimization, and glossing-over of the legitimate praise of similar (sourcing/blending) practices in the scotch, brandy, and wine industries. So I would suggest that it isn't only the case that other analogous industry practices have not translated well among bourbon & rye consumers at large, but that it is also the case that the most vocal of these (whom intensely objected to the recognition of High West) fully comprehend such translations and intentionally minimize them while amplifying their own narrative of the bourbon/rye scene... like protectionism of their clique against, "dupes," whom enjoy trying, discussing, and recognizing sourced blended brands like Rendezvous Rye.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRN

Protectionism is a great word for that. But what I'm wondering is why the "amplification" if they really have nothing at stake? Are they afraid that less worthy people are entering their scene, like in "Can't Buy Me Love" when nerd Patrick Dempsey infiltrates the high school jock scene? Or iIs it like when their favorite indy band becomes famous and they call them a sell out because now they have to share their little interest with the majority? In the end, is it about feeling special?

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

Clever film references. On the enthusiastic consumer level it could be about any and/or all of those things. The next step down the symbolism inferno I think it's just pure branding. About protecting the golden goose... the capitalization of the presumed purity and exclusivity of established brands. It's not for nothing that Kentucky bourbon/rye industry insiders are some of the most prolific posters in the bourbon/rye blogosphere. Which is not to say that industry insiders cannot also be legitimate enthusiasts; just not while they are also disseminating dubious hyperbole.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRN

I don't know why I never suspected that these people were insiders. I must be pretty naive. Good point

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

"In the end, is it about feeling special?" I keep thinking that really taps-in to the visceral reaction against that pioneer award and how deeply entrenched some seemed in their position against it. Maybe the lesson is if a spirits magazine ignites inner-crisis, it's time for deep breaths and broadening one's horizons:)

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRN

Maybe we should start the world's first psychoanalysis clinic for booze-news related trauma

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

Right on! Too funny.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRN

Great podcast, inspired me to post my thoughts about the award on my blog:

March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFil

DD, great job, as always.
Two quick comments while am at it:
a) Indeed education is KEY; very few people actually do know about spirits and sadly some in-the-know get pretty close-minded in their approach to the subject. Raising consumer and trade awareness is crucial. I do believe artisan/craft spirits are to be considered as wines (expressing a sense of place, a tradition, the skills of the distiller as well as those of the blender); they should be promoted as such. Precise facts are very important in helping understanding the flavor and taste profile as well as the cost of making such products available.

b) Sourcing, blending and aging might not be rocket science (after all there are few diplomas available and even fewer people who make good products who undergone any other type of training than learning from either their relatives, a mentor etc...) but I feel it is fair to say that to source great products, make blends that are balanced & elegant and age distillates to perfection does requires hard work, a little bit of skills as well as some luck.
David Perkins did a pretty damn good job at that so far. Congrats to him; he very much deserves his award wether there is a semantic battle around the wording of the said prize or not.

Doing what one enjoys while following the path one feels is right, lead by one's beliefs of how to do a good job is not so frequent those days. High West should be considered as a model.

March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNP

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