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Tuesday
Apr262016

Sake Tasting in SF Tomorrow

For five bucks tomorrow evening you can come by our sparkling new tasting bar in San Francisco and taste some very nice sakes with the folks from Vine Connections, our main sake importer. We're starting at five PM sharp and we'll run the event until six-thirty. Featured will be:

Yuho Eternal Embers Junmai $24.99

Fukucho Forgotten Fortune Junmai $16.99

Fukucho Moon on the Water Junmai Ginjo $36.99

Tensei Song of the Sea Junmai Ginjo $34.99

Mantensei Star Filled Sky Junmai Ginjo $29.99

Tentaka Hawk in the Heavens Junmai $24.99

This is a great chance to get your feet wet, or try some new expressions you might not have had. Plus, you can ask questions galore as Jonas Carlson will be in the house answering all queries from beginners to experts. Come by and join us!

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Apr232016

Funny 

I've written here before about the fact that I get a lot of email—like an insane amount of correspondence at all hours of the day. One of the funnier ones this week was from an anonymous reader who asked if I really even went on these trips I often post about, seeing that I was never in any of the pictures. I responded by typing: "I'm the one taking the pictures, so I'm never in them." 

"Then maybe you don't really go," this mysterious person wrote back. "Maybe someone is just sending you photos and you're just some guy writing the copy."

I laughed out loud when I read that. I'd never even thought about the possibility of doing something like that! That would save me from the sleep depravation and fatigue I'm generally consumed by these days, for sure. My problem, however, is that—while I don't consider myself a professional photographer—I'm very picky about the pictures I use here and over at On the Trail, so I prefer to take them myself. I've also followed a rule for the last seven years or so concerning personal images, which is something along the lines of: the blog should definitely not look like a cheesy Facebook page. I hate photos of people posing, smiling, holding bottles, and doing what could be done anywhere, at anytime, in any situation. 

Here's me in Scotland! Here's me in Japan! Here's me with this distiller! Yawn....

In any case, to ease your mind, I dug out this photo from Château Latour that my colleague Phil took in the tasting room. It's the only proof I have that I was ever really in Bordeaux.

But it might actually be just a tasting bar in San Francisco (which is why it's a boring photo).

-David Driscoll

Friday
Apr222016

Catching Up With Singani 63 

One of the coolest things about having done the Drinking to Drink Interviews over the past year or so is that just about every participant has kept in touch since. They'll drop me a line every now and again, or reach out when they're coming into town. In the case of Steven Soderbergh, we've kept in touch pretty regularly via email since first meeting back in 2014. I've been curious to know how his Singani 63 brand is developing, and he's always interested in bouncing an idea or two off this old retail-oriented brain. When he invited me to dinner last night I wasn't about to say no (even though I was still sorely suffering from a ten day Bordeaux hangover). I met Steven and some of his pals over at 1760 on Polk Street in San Francisco where the chef had prepared a little Singani 63 food and cocktail pairing. Now that it's been over a year since Singani 63 has been available in the California market, we're starting to see some serious creativity with the versatile spirit in the culinary scene. I was definitely curious to see the progress.

Snap pea cocktails seem to be all the rage right now! My friends over at Flea Street Cafe in Menlo Park have one on the menu, and to start off our voyage at 1760 the gang had prepared a similar concoction. You wouldn't necessarily think a pea cocktail would be delicious (especially because it sounds like pee), but it's quite wonderful. That fresh flavor balances beautifully with the fragrant flavors of Singani. I'm adding this one to my to-do list at home.

Each course was paired with a signature cocktail and I have to say I was quite impressed with the food over at 1760. These scallops were to die for, and the small plates we were treated to throughout the evening were all outstanding. The fennel and napa cabbage were the perfect side note to the snappy snap pea flavors. Cocktail pairing is definitely a thing.

Throughout the evening the restaurant made about six different Singani 63 cocktails and each of them was completely different from the next. "This is the exact type of presentation you need to be doing on a full time basis," I told Steven towards the end of the night. "It really hammers home how fun Singani is to use as a base spirit and the more people begin to understand how to use it, the more people you're going to have drinking this stuff." 

But I think he already knows that.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Apr212016

...

I remember watching this on TV in 2004. I said to myself, "Is that fucking Prince?" Yes, it was Prince. He walked out, shredded that solo, dropped his guitar, and strutted off leaving Tom Petty and Steve Winwood in the dust. I'm not sure many people knew he could play like that until that Hall of Fame concert aired on VH1. I certainly didn't.

I always knew Prince was talented. As a child of the 80s, I grew up idolizing him on MTV. But when you look back now you clearly realize there's no one since who has even come close to that level of talent. Not just talent, but also style, originality, and balls.

And swagger. I'm so sad.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Apr212016

Some Things I'm Quite Excited About

If you're one of those people who thinks that the best years of whisky enjoyment are now behind us, I wouldn't necessarily argue with you. Finding affordably-priced, high-quality, NEW whiskies to enjoy is relatively difficult these days compared to say 2010. You have to look harder, work smarter, and often times pay more than you did back then, but that doesn't mean you can't get excited about anything these days. The key word in that initial statement was NEW. It's the biggest problem currently facing the spirits industry, in my opinion: the fact that a large percentage of its customers don't want to buy anything more than once. 

I've had it. Cross it off the list. Next!

Part of what inspired so many folks to involve themselves in the world of whisky initially was the sense of adventure; the vast and untraveled road of options just waiting to be visited. Once you exhaust many of those options it can be a little sad, especially when the new options aren't quite as compelling as the old ones. Part of that disappointment is whisky's problem, but part of that is our problem as well. Our expectations are a little out of whack, in my opinion. Today we think whisky should be like wine or fashion—there should be a fantastic new release every year and everyone should be entitled to a bottle. We're constantly looking to what's next, rather than what's in our collection. We take a few sips and then we're over the remaining 650 milliliters. We want new stuff. We want to constantly raise the bar and the whisky companies are scrambling to cater to our capitalistic desires. 

Next!

Booze companies have a choice, however: cater to that mindset and attempt to constantly create new expressions, or rip the band-aid off and get back to a more sustainable reality. I'm not sure what the answer is, personally. I've been thinking about it for more than a year and I'm not any closer to a solution. In the meantime, let's talk about some NEW things coming down the pipe that I'm pretty damn excited about; new things that are not a reaction to recent demand, but are rather just incredibly wonderful and high in quality.

Four Pillars Gin (ETA June 3rd)

The only time I've been more excited about a gin release was for the American debut of Monkey 47, and I will go on record right now as saying I think the standard Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin is better. Not only is it better, it's more versatile. I wouldn't even want to use Monkey 47 in a Gin & Tonic cocktail, whereas I can't imagine using anything other than the Four Pillars at this point. Distilled in Australia and made with native ingredients like lemon myrtle, pepperberry leaf, and various Australian citrus, we'll be helping the brand launch in the United States this June with a Friday night event in our San Francisco store. Think I'm being hyperbolic? Come by and taste with Stuart for free on June 3rd and find out the truth. If we don't sell everything out by that weekend I'll be shocked. The best part is that they make three gins, so you're bound to find one you like. If you like gin, you should be very, very, very excited about Four Pillars. 

Villa Zarri Single Barrel Italian Brandy (ETA Summer 2016)

This past January I posted a brief article about my excitement over three samples I had sitting on my desk. I was vague about what they were, but I got dozens of emails from folks immediately afterward who were trying to guess their contents. I'll give you the answer now: they were 20+ year old samples of single barrel, cask strength brandies from my friend Guido Zarri. I had inquired about their potential and he had responded with three candidates. I bought one of them. It should be here by summer. It is, in my opinion, the best aged spirit of any kind I've tasted in the past two years. It is so unbelievably rich, supple, textural, delicious, long on the finish, satisfying, and full of flavor that I can't wait to unleash it upon the world. It's basically just Cognac made in Italy, but matured like whisky—no topping up of the barrels, no added coloring, no water added. The best part? It should be under $100 a bottle and I'm hoping it hit the 25th birthday before being bottled, but I'm not sure at this point. If you think you've tried everything affordable and of quality there is to try, you haven't. There are a few secrets left on this planet and Villa Zarri is one of them. 

Caol Ila 35 Year Old From Hunter Laing

Yes, we have a 35 year old single cask of Caol Ila coming from Hunter Laing and—yes—it will be expensive. However, it won't be anywhere near as expensive as you think it will be (or as we thought it could be!) And it won't be anywhere near as expensive as Diageo would have priced it were they to have released an official version. I don't want to make any promises before I've seen the shipping costs and the final invoice, but let's just say if you thought there were no more bottles out there worthy of splurging on—truly worthy of dropping down a few hundred dollar bills for—then you might need to think again. This whisky is a swirling pool of mature Islay goodness, a layered and complex sea of salt, smoke, caramel, earth, resin, and peat. Our entire selection of casks from Hunter Laing this year will definitely restore your faith in the idea of exciting, affordable, and interesting single malt whisky you can actually get without waiting in line, winning a raffle, or scouring the internet at ungodly hours. 

There's still plenty to be excited about in the booze world; that is if you actually like to drink. If you've been buying whisky as an investment, then—yes—you're pretty much fucked at this point.

-David Driscoll