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Saturday
Mar052011

When The Customer Isn't Right?

I really enjoyed this article in today's New York Times because it is topical, relative to a customer service job like my own, and bound to stir up many different reactions from its readers.  The story is about restaurants in NYC that are refusing to offer alterations to their menus that stray from the original vision of the cuisine.  I won't ruin the reading experience by summarizing any further, but I wonder how far outside of restaurants this trend could extend.  For so long customer service has always been about pleasing the customer no matter what, many times in instances when the service demanded the ridiculous and over the top.  What cracks me up about these guys in the article is that they are completely flipping the anal-retentiveness around - a la the soup nazi.  I'm a big believer in voting with your pocketbook rather than throwing a temper tantrum, so this kind of enterprise really makes me smile because many people like to do both.  I wonder what would happen if I suddenly refused service to the customer who wants a 12 bottle box (something we are always short of) for his one bottle purchase because he drove here and he doesn't want the bottle to roll around in the car?

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Mar032011

Domo Arigato

All of the unknown wonders of wine that used to enthrall me, the unknown varietals and the history of the regions, are now unfortunately known to me.  It's great to have a wine education but it takes the mystery and excitement out of it.  Whiskey used to have the same effect on me, but now I'm an industry professional and I know a lot about what's going on.  However, I know absolutely nothing about what's going on in Japan because what's going on in Japan is staying in Japan.  We only get three whiskies imported to the U.S. and they're all form Suntory.  However, Neyah White and I hung out this afternoon and he brought me some special treats.  I don't have the time or the memory to fill in the details, but I feel like a second podcast about the other Japanese distilleries will be necessary very soon.  There is so much I want to learn and Neyah is a fantastic educator.  Here are a few more photos of what was consumed. 

When you listen to Neyah talk about these whiskies you can't help but get excited.  Some are using 100% japanese oak!  Crazy expensive and so different - they taste like they have curry!

A legendary blend of whiskies made by father and son.  Amazing.

This one is off the charts.  No plum wine aged malt in this (only in the 12), but the salty finish is mind-blowing.  Neyah said they obsess about the water in Japan and it makes all the difference.  I wish we were that obsessive because if water can make whiskey taste like this, sign me up for the H2O class.  More about these whiskies soon.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Mar032011

New Stuff

Finally got to taste the new Bulleit Rye which should be in stock by this Thursday afternoon.  From what I understand it's LDI rye but this is a bit more spicy and sweet than the Redemption or Willett.  This has the cinnamon and baking spices that the others lack.  A very nice, easy going 95% rye that should help ease the burden that Rittenhouse has been carrying.  This will retail for the same price as Bulleit Bourbon - $21.99.  A very good deal for such a tasty whiskey.

I decided to bring in the Nolet Gin, a $49.99 spirit that charms you immediately on the first sip.  Made with peaches and raspberries, as well as juniper, this is a perfumy and exotic gin that grabs the senses with a vice grip before lulling the taste buds into a stupor.  Very good, made by the Ketel One people who know gin far better than they do vodka.  Get this if you really love high-end gin.

I continue to be impressed by Belvedere.  I decided to bring back the vodka as well as the "intense unfiltered" stuff that has a bit more rye flavor.  These vodkas are soft, creamy, and very sippable.  I am intrigued by the idea of bringing vodka back.  I think there is something about vodka people are missing and I think that Belvedere might be the brand to show them the way.  It's as good if not better than every other high end product out there, so why not?  I might as well start somewhere!

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Mar022011

The Power of Marketing

I don't have the strength or the time to put these ideas into a long, well-written, cleverly-organized article right now, but here are some things about booze that have been on my mind over the last day or two:

- I participated in a blind tequila tasting last week where we rated five premium tequilas and gave our thoughts.  Using the dreadful 100 point system, most of us gave medium to low scores for all of the tequilas involved, but one of the judges gave all 90+ ratings.  Because we knew which tequilas were involved in the competition, her rationale was that these were all ultra-premium tequilas so they should all be in that range.  That blew my mind because the term "ultra-premium" is a self-designated label.  The point was that this minute bit of marketing was enough to influence a professional taster, so it must be influencing millions of other drinkers around the world.

- Yesterday I met with Belvedere Vodka's brand ambassador and we talked about the brand's role in the category.  She mostly talked about how it compared to other premium vodkas and how it was great for bartenders wanting to make great cocktails.  I said that trying to convince SF bartenders to use vodka was a lost cause because it doesn't fit in with what they're doing.  It isn't about snobbery, it's about taste and vodka doesn't add anything to these recipes.  That doesn't mean, however, that vodka doesn't have a place, but no one is marketing it appropriately for people who like craft spirits.  Don't talk about luxury or purity, talk about tradition.  Belvedere vodka should have two marketing teams: one schmoozing it up with Usher and Lil Wayne in the club, and the other preaching the tradition of vodka.  White people like myself love co-opting other people's cultures as our own!  Every hipster in SF is looking for the taco place that doesn't speak English and makes the "real" comida.  Show me a picture of a group of Poles from the 1800s drinking vodka in a warm cabin while eating a potato stew!  Romanticize the tradition of vodka in Eastern Europe!  That's the way to get the other side interested.  Make vodka cool again by showing people a rich heritage! That's free marketing advice vodka companies!  The craft movement has single-handedly made vodka uncool.  No one wants to admit they like it, but this is one way around that.  Make it cool again and everyone will come right back.

More on this subject later.  I've got a million things swimming around in my head right now that I need to consider first.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Feb282011

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.