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Kilchoman K&L Exclusive Single Bourbon Barrel #74 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Tuesday
Nov302010

Tuesday Tasting

Got the chance to meet up with Keith from Germain Robin today and taste some of their newer products.  I'm always impressed with the boutique stuff they are doing and this occasion was no different.  On the table today was their new wheat whiskey that was distilled on a small Cognac pot still.  One word: delicious!  And that's coming from a person who thinks white whiskey is more marketing ploy than enjoyable beverage. Germain Robin, however, isn't trying to pay the bills while they wait for their booze to age - they already have a strong supply of brandy and other amazing liqueurs to do that for them.  The whiskey is simply a new adventure from Crispin Cain and they do plan on aging it.  A 2014 bottling release is already in the works.  On top of that, they are working on a "barrel it yourself" program where you can buy a case of their Low Gap and a 10 liter barrel for around $500.  This 100% Bavarian wheat spirit is fantastic now, but does that mean that it will be fantastic later?  I'm not sure if those things translate over, but I'm curious to find out.  The nose is all stone fruit and wheat crackers and the palate just gives you more.  Their spirits are always so delicate and elegant, and this Low Gap is no different. 

Also tasted their new Mezcalero - distilled in Oaxaca by Ansley Coale.  Maybe the best mezcal I've ever had.  It's so vibrant, smoky, fruity, but restrained and balanced.  The finish is a mouthful of every element working in perfect unison.  The Port Ellen of mezcal, in a world full of Ardbeg, Caol Ila, and Laphroaig archetypes.  At $69.99 it comes in a bit less than the Del Maguey bottlings, so not inexpensive but not over the top.  I can't wait to put this in peoples' hands.

Speaking of Port Ellen, I'm really getting into a mothballed distillery phase - which is scary because it's expensive.  Luckily I was able to score one of the Cheiftain's Port Ellen 25 Year bottles, which I absolutely treasure and like far more than the 1979 distillery-bottled 30 year at cask strength.  Rosebank 19 is next on my list and I'm trying to find a nice Brora (the old Clynelish distillery) to take home as well.  I've been looking into some new "old and rare" purchases as well so that we can offer more options to customers.  Littlemill, North Port, Ladyburn, and Banff are also on my list.  Many of these I'm sure are pricier than currently available malts, and probably not as good as many of them, but it's all about the romanticism for me.  The idea of it is what drives me to spend!  That's probably not good for my finances.

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Nov282010

The Future of Booze Journalism?

There is soooooooooooooooooooo much booze information out there on the internet.  If I spent all day reading the newspapers, magazines, blogs, and related message boards, I wouldn't even scratch the surface of what is readily available.  Critics, experts, everyday drinkers, Tweeters, Facebookers, bloggers, and tasting groups all have a voice and they are all using it.  Some of the sites are consumer-focused with reviews, point systems, retail sources, and availability.  Others give information about new releases.  Many are travel-related and give detailed accounts of regional specialties.  There are also many different mediums being used to spread the joy of booze to others.  Articles, videos, podcasts, and photos are all forms of media that are manipulated to showcase information.  Many are enjoyable and informative, but how useful they are is very subjective.  I find it fascinating how many people are determined to be involved in some way or another.  My involvement is professional, but I do enjoy it.  My purpose and intent is to share the information that I perceive from my unique position.  However, there are so many other people who work fulltime as lawyers, teachers, whatever, and they know more than I do from drinking whiskey as a hobby.  These folks spend so much time sharing their passion with others and many times do a more effective job than people who actually get paid to do it.  What I'm getting at here is a questioning of the importance of booze journalism and what actually constitutes an effective example of it.  I'm reading more and more articles in major publications that are simply struggling to be relevant, while simple everyday enthusiasts are writing research paper-style projects about vintage reports, distillation techniques, and personal profiles of industry professionals.  I'm finding that everyday the line between professional and amateur gets even blurrier and that the larger than life figures who have been revered for their expertise are rendering themselves more irrelevant.  A large part of this phenomenon, I believe, stems from the passion and enthusiasm being displayed by the hobbyists in contrast to the professionals who have to constantly find the next thing to write about.  Most people who work in the industry want to take a break from alcohol at the end of the day, while those who work a different job come home, pour a drink, and really geek out.  That passion is spilling over into personal blogs, and many of these pet projects are becoming outstanding resources for those interested in all things booze.

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Nov272010

Dickens Faire Fun

Well my new camera didn't come in time for the Dickens Faire, so I had to bring along my 8MP Canon that takes terrible low lighting shots.  Of course, the entire fair was dim and warm, perfect for the atmosphere and terrible for my photos.  In any case, this should be the last time we see such grainy images, so bare with me.  Dressed up in our finest Victorian attire, my wife and I met up with Davorin Kuchan from Old World Spirits and had some drinks in old London town. 

We met up at the Bohemian lounge where Davorin's Blade gin and La Sorciere absinthe were on full display.  I had a Poe Cocktail (absinthe with Champagne) and Davorin ordered a Sazerac, but these were just precursors for Davorin's pocketed flasks - full with homemade Fishhouse Punch and his recently-finished brandy.  Davorin, myself, and our wives enjoyed the drinks while the bartenders came over to sample as well.  It isn't always the case that the customers pour their own drinks for the bartenders, but that's how it usually ends up when I roll out to a bar, and the same goes for Davorin (who is usually the one making my products!).

Of course the Prohibitionists were out in full swing, preaching the ills of alcohol consumption.  The costumes were very well done and my wife perhaps had one of the best, as people kept stopping to take pictures with her rather than the hired actors.  There were town drunks as well who had their own bottles full of booze and walked around looking for someone to buy them another.  We parked up next to one of these vagrants and bought some hot apple ciders which we then spiked with more of Davorin's brandy.  That zinfandel-based spirits mixes really well into just about anything.  I've never had such a tasty cider beverage!

The food and ale was fun as well.  We ate lunch before we arrived, but couldn't help and nibble on the more appropriate snacks like Yorkshire Pudding (fried doughy bread smothered in beef gravy) and roasted chestnuts.  The Dickens Faire is an extravagent event that is a blast for adults and I'm sure for kids as well, although some of the hysterical musical performances were full of sexual innuendo ("Everyone knows a miner has a long shaft and the butcher a giant sausage!" went one of the tunes).  It goes for the next few weekends at the Cow Palace and I would advise anyone who loves British themes and a Christmas Carol to take part.

-David Driscoll

 

Friday
Nov262010

Hi-Tech Spirits Journal Coming Soon

I pulled the trigger on a new camera that can record HD video and take superior quality shots in low-lit places (which is mostly where I am hanging out and reporting), so hopefully starting tomorrow (as long as it arrives on time) I can test it out.  Davorin Kuchan and I are hitting up the Dicken's Fair at the Cow Palace (fully decked in my Victorian garb), however, as I have a "no pictures of David" on the blog policy, I will be documenting the crowd rather than Davorin and me.  This is spirits related because both Old World Spirits and St George are sponsoring the event and there will be Blade Gin, Le Sorciere Absinthe, and Hangar One a flowin'.  Hopefully in some large punch bowls or in a Victorian-style cocktail.  We'll see tomorrow!  Video and photos to follow from now on.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Nov252010

Booze Comments on SF Gate 

For those of you who live in the Bay Area, you are likely aware of the Chronicle's online site (SFGate.com) and how its comment fields have become ground zero for public displays of opinion.  At the end of every article the readers have a chance to leave a few sentences expressing their opinion on the matter.  Sometimes they can be thought-provoking and insightful.  Sometimes they can be very clever and very funny.  Most of the time, however, they are vulgar, annoying, stupid, or just plain mean.  As a long time reader of the Chronicle, I have come to lose faith in the basic kindness of humanity by perusing these comments over the years.  If there's an article about democratic politicians, the right wingers come out in spades with vitrolic rantings about how the Bay Area is full of dumb liberals and how Obama is a foreign-born, socialist puppet, etc.  An editorial by openly gay Mark Morford can usually bring forth vomitous hatespeech by those who believe homosexuality is a sin.  I even remember, during the Giants' playoff run, a Philly fan commenting that he hoped the players would go out and have sex in our "AIDS-infested city" and contract HIV and die.  Crazy, right?  If you go to the New York Times online site, you'll usually find carefully thoughtout, interesting, and helpful responses from readership, mostly because the NY Times usually filters them.  At SFGate however the comments are live instantly and it seems that most commentors are posting just for the sake of being an asshole.

No articles make this phenomenon more apparent than the ones about wine or cocktails.  I find that whenever Gary Reagan or Camper English write about new drinks around the town, the response is always a defensive backlash by someone who doesn't know anything about booze and is self-conscious about that fact, hence the need to post their "real" expert opinion.  It's usually anger about the vast selection of booze available and annoyance that someone is actually trying to navigate it and enjoy it.  "Why should I try all these prissy $10 mixologist cocktails when I can make myself a stiff vodka martini at home?" It's like growing up in a small town and wanting to move to the big city, but then hearing nothing but negativity from your friends or family who in reality are either jealous or too scared to do it themselves. 

I woke up early this morning as usual, so I hit SFGate in bed on my laptop and read Jon Bonné's well-written article about Thanksgiving Day wine pairing.  As someone who spent the last few days helping customers pair their Thanksgiving meal, I always like to see what other professionals recommend and Jon is normally spot on with his choices.  Basically, Jon clarifies and explains the basic fundamentals of how bubbles, pinot noir, gamay, and chardonnay, when made in a certain style, can be outstanding holiday pairings.  Easy to understand, well thought out, and most of all helpful.  Bravo.  What did he get for his trouble?  17 comments (so far) from people who either posted what they would be drinking instead of his selections (as if to show him that they don't care about his advice) or flatout disregard for his advice in general.  My favorite being,

"Articles this are a waste of time. Just go out and buy, depending on your budget, a white and a red (whether it's Chardonnay or Sauvignon, Cab or Zin makes no difference.)

Wow, thanks for your advice commentor!  You're right!  Wine is all the same and Jon Bonné is just a big phony who is making all this stuff up!  Thank you so much for figuring this out!  Here, all this time, I thought I was tasting differences between wine varietals, but you're right, I don't!  It doesn't make a difference!  All that matters is that I buy something I can afford.  I will now go to a wine shop with the exact dollar amount that I can afford and buy the first bottle I see.  That is genius advice.  GENIUS.  Then there's this one:

"Drink whatever you feel like drinking. You don't need a lame newspaper to tell you."

Wow.  Thanks.  You're right commentor, Jon Bonné is always trying to tell ME what to do.  I hate that!  Stop telling me what to do Jon!  I went to your website, and read your column, and thought about what you would be drinking, and said, "Who does this guy think he is? He can't tell me what to do!  I can do whatever I want!  This is America, land of the free! No one can tell me what to drink!  NO ONE!"

Sigh.

-David Driscoll