I’ve been traveling for the last ten days with a kid named Oscar Beckmann from Norway—a talented little prodigy of a twenty-five year old who does movie special effects for a living. He told me he had worked on a few films recently called Star Wars and Jurassic World—nothing I had ever heard of, but maybe if he keeps working hard he’ll make it big some day. He and his buddy Michael were filming a potential TV show about drinking in France and had asked Charles and me to be in the pilot. After ten days of non-stop work, we made the long haul back to Paris last night from Gascony—an eight hour drive that leaves plenty of time for small talk. Oscar and I shared the back of the van, so naturally our conversations gravitated between cinema and booze. Oscar would ask me some questions about spirits, then I would ask him questions about movies, and we’d trade off tit-for-tat (there are so many scenes from famous movies that I didn’t know were digitally created!). He had an absolute blast on this trip. He didn’t know hardly anything about spirits when we left, but on the flight back he was ordering Armagnac and Cognac from the flight attendant like a professional. This trip completely changed him. At one point I was typing one of the On the Trail blog posts from the car and he asked me about what I was writing. Looking for the right analogy, I said:
“You’re going to buy some stuff at duty free when we get to the airport tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah, probably some gifts,” he said.
“OK—so let’s say you were married and you were going to buy your wife a present. Would you buy her Chanel perfume–a world-class and world-famous fragrance available in every department store around the world, including the Charles de Gualle airport? Or would you look for something unique that she could only find in France? Maybe something that she couldn’t find back in the states.”
“Probably the latter,” he answered. “I’d want it to be something cool from our trip maybe.”
“Exactly, so that’s what I consider part of my job to be—to find a whole bunch of booze that our customers back in the States could never buy locally and give them the opportunity to try it.”
“What if my imaginary wife wanted Chanel though?” he asked.
“Then your job is easy. We’ve got Chanel at my store too, we just call it Dom Perignon. That’s a nice present. But, personally, I like to find cool French food stuff and bring it back as gifts. It makes life a bit more interesting, I think.”
“What are you going to buy at duty free?” Oscar inquired.
“La Maison de Truffe has a stand in the Air France terminal, so I’ll definitely grab a few things there. Truffle products aren’t all that easy to find at home. Ladurée macrons, Angelina hot chocolate, things like that. My wife and family always look forward to unique candies and cookies from abroad. It makes coming home much more fun for me, too.” I answered.
“Can you get Camut Calvados at your store?” he asked.
“Right now you can because Charles just delivered some last week, but only once or twice a year as the bottles are very short in supply these days. It’s pretty special.”
“I think I’ll bring the bottle that Jean-Gabriel gave us back to Norway to drink with my family. We had a great time there, so the memory makes it a little more special,” he added.
“Hanging out with all of these guys, doing what we do, staying up late and opening bottles—that’s what it’s all about,” I told him. “You visit, you eat, you drink, and you bond. You understand each other more, you learn about life in other places, and the booze is like a distilled version of that experience. It’s preserved for you in that bottle. Now you can take it wherever you want and share it with whomever you like,” I said.
“That’s what you’re doing on your blog then. You hope your customers can enjoy the bottles in the same way?” Oscar asked.
“In a way, yes. I know that 90% of the people out there don’t care as much about these people or these places as I do, but at the very least I want them to know that they got something cool, something different that they wouldn’t normally be able to get. And I want them to have the chance to learn more down the line should they ever decide they want to. The blog is my personal way of preserving these experiences.”