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Sunday
Jun202010

Embajador Mezcal - The Best Deal We've Ever Offered For Quality

We've been trying to convince our whisky customers who love the smoky flavor of island malts to try some of our best mezcals for some time now.  While most coinoisseurs are used to paying $60 and up for their favorite single malts, asking the same price for a rather exotic and unknown adventure has made most people uneasy.  However, when we met Efrain Nolasco, an organic agave farmer and distiller from Oaxaca, we knew we had found the right person to bring mezcal to the masses.  His mezcals are the same spirits being bottled by other more expensive brands, only without the expensive price tag.  I also went out to three of the best bars in SF last Friday (Nopa, Smuggler's Cove, Comstock) and all three carry his Benezin mezcal - people who drink for a living seem to be in agreement that his products are quality.  If you've ever been curious to find out more about this smoky and intense export from Mexico, this is the time.  I just tasted these again last night and I was stil just as impressed as I was when I first tasted it.  This is a one time deal so when these are gone - that's it.  I can get a few more cases on top of what we have in stock, but not much more.  Try it and stock up if you like it.

 Embajador Blanco Mezcal de Oaxaca $19.99 -

Embajador Reposado Mezcal de Oaxaca $21.99 - This is perhaps the greatest deal I've seen since I took over as spirits buyer last August!  If you've ever been curious about high quality mezcal (not the guaranteed hangover with the worm in the bottle) but never wanted to pay $60+ just to experiment, we've just found an amazing, one time only deal.  For the past few years, Efrain Nolasco, born and raised in Oaxaca where mezcal is king, has been making organically-certified mezcal.  He works with a co-op for local farmers in the small town of San Juan del Rio where the best agave is harvested.  We carry two mezcals from him that are 100% organic and the cleanest, most pure mezcals I've yet tasted.  Because of our success with these two bottles, he recently reached out to us and told us he's been sitting on two other mezcals that he made before he was certified and that, since he wants to focus on being an organic producer, he's willing to cut us a deal.  The Embajador Blanco is made from organic agave but cannot label itself as such - hence the low price!  This is smoky, vibrant, tangy, spicy and clean mezcal that can hold its own any day of the week with the pricier Del Maguey bottlings.  For $19.99 it is the best price we have ever offered for a spirit of this quality.  The Embajador Reposado is made from organic agave but cannot label itself as such - hence the low price!  It has some barrel aging which smooths out the smoke and spice that penetrate the core.  A wonderful mezcal that sings of purity.  For $21.99 it is a complete no brainer. Mezcal is an underappreciated and overlooked product, but if we continue to get deals like this, it won't be long until the rest of the world starts paying more attention.  Now is the time to indulge your curiousity - these won't last long.

Tuesday
Jun152010

Chieftain's Are Back With A Whole New Line Up

Just tasted through the newest line up of whiskies from indie bottler Chieftains' and I was very very impressed.  Best of all: we will be tasting all of them at Martin's West on July 13th so mark your calender!  These are the ones I am ordering for the store, the rest are available for special order online.  All of them are single barrel and bottled at 43%.  They are not in stock yet so you cannot order them until later in the week.

1991 Longmorn 13 Year Chieftain's Speyside Whisky $59.99 - This is the type of whisky that you recommend for anyone - regardless of preference.  It is a perfectly balanced Speyside malt that should please anyone who likes to drink single malt - a simple combination of soft fruit, malty sweetness, and a hint of vanilla.  The straw colored whisky has a soft and supple mouthfeel and the finish is long and rich.  With all the over the top flavor profiles in the malt world today, it's simply refreshing to find a whisky like the Longmorn from Chieftain's that is as classic and traditional as Scottish whisky gets, with a price that's very reasonable for a single barrel 13 year old.  My highest recommendation.

1996 Dalmore 11 Year Chieftain's Madeira Finish Highland Single Malt Whisky $64.99 - This independently bottled single barrel expression of Dalmore is a fantastic example of how barrel finishing can enhance a whisky without changing too much of the original character.  The always fruity and floral Dalmore is brightened by the Madeira notes - the whisky zips and sings its way accross your tongue on the entry, bursting with flavor.  The finish is soft and subtle with hints of vanilla and a kiss of sweetness.  A beautiful Highland malt only made better.

1985 Glencadam 22 Year Chieftain's Highland Single Malt Whisky $105.99 -
This a single barrel expression of Glencadam, an eastern Highland distillery that sees most of its whisky end up in blends like Ballantine, but they do have a 15 year old single malt available abroad.  The 22 year from Chieftain's is a golden amber color and an outstanding example of complexity without the addition of peat of cask finishing - it's all in the distillation and the age.  The nose is a barrage of aromas and the intial sip presents loads of oily flavors as well as a concentrated grainy character that gives way to vanilla and herbs on the mid-palate.  The finish is long and brooding.  A fascinating whisky.

1982 Port Ellen 25 Year Chieftain's Islay Single Malt Whisky $265.99
- Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!  WOW!  On the few rare occasions I've been able to sample the now-extinct Port Ellen (the legendary Islay distillery closed in 1982), it's been an absolute pleasure, but this Chieftain's bottling takes the cake.  Tasting a great Port Ellen is like finding that perfect and all-too-ellusive middleground that doesn't exist with today's Islay malts.  If you can imagine taking the best parts of Ardbeg's Beist, Bruichladdich's 16 year, and Bowmore's 18 and integrating them in a fashion that cannot be improved upon in any way, then you might come close to imagining what this whisky tastes like.  Delicate malt with perfect whisps of smoke infiltrating the sweetness of the grain, and a fantastic balance of richness that doesn't overwelm you like the Lagavulin 16 can sometimes do.  I would buy a case of this if I could afford it.  This bottle proved to me that Ardbeg is only my favorite distillery currently in operation.  Port Ellen - I love you.

1968 Springbank 39 Year Chieftain's Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky $375.99 - Sheer whisky perfection.  Only 132 bottles came out of this single barrel Springbank expression and they are glorious.  The amber beer color is beautiful and the whisky is everything you hope it will be: toffee, very faint hints of smoke, spices, herbs, and a gigantic finish of rich wood and malt.  Springbank independent bottlings are very rare and should not be taken lightly.  Only 18 bottles are available in California, so do not wait on this.


-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jun152010

Cocktail Recipes: The Vesper (variation)

So after reading the Chronicle's much better summation (see the link in the post below) of up and coming aperitifs, I was motivated to try the Vesper #2 that Heaven's Dog has added to their cocktail menu - without actually driving up to Heaven's Dog.  I already had a bottle of the Cocchi and some brandy at home, but I needed a bottle of the Ransom Old Tom gin - something we carry, but that I had never actually tasted.  It's made in Oregon and is barrel aged with just a touch of sweetness - more so than the Heyman's which I had just run out of.  Upon tasting the Ransom I was very impressed.  It was more what I had originally expected Old Tom gin to taste like.

If you're wondering what Old Tom gin is exactly, it's a style not a brand.  London Dry gin is called dry to distinguish it from slightly sweet gins.  Old Tom gins are always a bit sweet as they were the original ingredient in the Tom Collins.  From Wikipedia: The name purportedly came from wooden plaques shaped like a black cat (an "Old Tom") mounted on the outside wall of some pubs above a public walkway in the 1700s England. After a pedestrian deposited a penny in the cat's mouth, they would place their lips around a small tube between the cat's paws. From the tube would come a shot of Gin, poured there by the bartender inside the pub. They mix better than dry gins with sweeter cocktails like the Martinez or the Negroni.  The Vesper, however, sees no addition of sweet vermouth, so it's interesting that HD decided to go down that route.  I see the merit in this cocktail however and after getting a tip on what the basic formula should be I was ready to get down to business.

I tried to follow the classic cocktail mentality that your drink should always be at least 50% of its base - so:

1 oz. gin - .5 oz Cocchi - .5 oz. brandy - this tasted OK, but the Cognac overpowered.

I decided to beef it up a bit on the Cocchi and rather than decrease the brandy, I added more gin - that's the sweet spot!

What a fantastic cocktail.  You get all the herbacious qualities of the gin, the bitter notes from the Cocchi, and the brandy just helps to smooth it out a bit.  This is what James Bond wished he would have ordered in Casino Royal, rather than some bizzare vodka/gin/kina Lillet martini. 

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Jun132010

Aperitif Profile #3: Gran Classico (Just Arrived!)

Before I begin with our third profile for the month of June, I would like to point out that a more extensive report of my first two profiles has now been written by the SF Chronicle.  The article is actually about the EXACT two products I have previously written about (coincidence?) - the Cocchi Americano and the Chinato of Moscato d' Asti.  You can read the article by clicking here - I'm so happy we're getting some support because people are missing out.  Anyway, onto the Gran Classico.

This bitter liqueur just got 5 Stars from Paul Pacult - Highest Recommendation! - and we just got it in fresh off the boat last Friday.  Gran Classico Bitter is based on the original Bitter of Turin recipe dating from the 1860’s. This classic aperitif is artisanal-made in a small Swiss distillery from an infusion of numerous herbs and roots including bitter orange peel, wormwood, gentian, rhubarb, and other aromatic plants. Gran Classico Bitter’s color is a natural result of the herbs and plants infused into pure grain spirit produced to the highest Swiss standards and is not artificially colored in any way.  It is amazingly complex and refreshingly bittersweet with a long and remarkable finish. Traditionally mixed into a tall glass of iced, sparkling water in the Italian style, or added to a fine ale, a la Française, or as an unforgettable ingredient in historic cocktails, such as the Negroni or Americano.  It has garnered a year-long waiting list that includes the best mixologists in the world.  I've had bartenders and mixologists everywhere emailing me about when we were expecting this.  It's in stock as of now.  You know me and my Campari loving ways, so I can't wait to get home and make a new Negroni variation. 

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jun102010

Cocktail Night Extravaganza!!

Pre-Prohibition Cocktail Night w/ Jennifer Colliau & Erik Ellestad @ Martin's West - Monday June 21st 7 PM $15-

I'm not sure I can express to many of you how awesome this is going to be.  These two are some of the most experienced and knowledgable people I have ever met when it comes to booze of any kind.  They are pros.  Jennifer makes the Small Hands Food line up and is a bartender at Heaven's Dog and the Slanted Door.  She specializes in pre-Prohibition drinks and is a master behind the stick.  She is going to mix and show you how to mix and tell you all her secrets.  Erik is also a bartender at Heaven's Dog as well as Alembic and has garnered national fame for his Savoy Cocktail book project - making every drink in alphabetical order.  He makes a hell of a drink and is usually the first person I call when I need help with booze.  IF YOU THINK YOU DON"T LIKE COCKTAILS, THIS IS MY ONE CHANCE TO PULL YOU INTO THIS WONDERFUL WORLD!!  You will be enthralled, guaranteed.  For $15 you get 4 drinks (not full size, so you can drive home still) and you get an education in what "going out for a drink" used to mean in America (and can mean again).  Please call Moira at Martin's West to reserve a spot. (650) 366-4366