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Monday
Jan052015

Drinking to Drink: The Interviews

Many of you longtime blog readers know thata few years backI started a series of posts called "Drinking to Drink"; focusing on the fun and practical side of drinking, and away from the technical, stuffier side of spirits like single malt or Bourbon. That series resonated with a number of people, to the point that even now most of the email responses I get from readers have something to do with those articles. Then, of course, there's the long-dormant podcast that fizzled out almost as fast as our in-store spirits tastings. While it was a fun experiment, and I'm shocked at how many people have downloaded each episode (in the tens of thousands), there are a number of problems with the audio interview. One: it often makes the interviewee uncomfortable knowing that they're being recorded live, which can lead to awkward conversations. Two: there are a number of technical issues that I don't have time to perfect, and that ultimately limit the quality at which I can produce the show. Three: many readers (aka listeners) don't have time to carve an hour out of their busy schedule and listen to two people talk about booze, but they can skim through a printed interview while taking a break at work or by checking their phone in line at the bank. The amount of people who have read the written interviews I've posted is more than double the amount of folks who have downloaded the podcasts. Typing out the conversations versus posting the audio was an easy answer.

So the podcast is dead, but I'll continue to transcribe the conversations for the blog; that much I concluded needed to be done more than a year ago. The question that was pressing on me, however, was who should I continue to interview (if anyone at all)? Over the past seven years I've met a number of interesting people working in this industry, but I've also met a number of interesting customers; folks who I recognized or knew from their celebrity status. Many of them have become acquaintances, which has in turn led to amiable relationships. Why not interview some of these people, I thought? I know I personally would be interested in hearing how a love for booze played a role in their experiences. A love of all things alcoholic doesn't necessarily mean you want to understand how a column still works, or what the fermentation times are at Buffalo Trace. It might simply mean you're interested in what other people are drinking and why they are drinking it. 

I've said repeatedly over the last few years that the specs (meaning the age, proof, cask number, and name of a distillery) won't necessarily guide us towards better drinking. They can help us come to terms with pricing, but the quality will always remain in doubt until that first sip is taken. That being said, I thought it might be nice to conduct a few interviews with a few recognizable folks who like drinking, have interesting things to say and stories to tell, but don't necessarily take it as seriously as some of us. They're not searching for the gleaming bottle of Pappy, or cask #2363 of 1987 Highland Park from Signatory. They're just folks who enjoy their hooch and have decided they wouldn't mind if I asked them a few questions about it. 

These are people you'll recognize, and hopefully will be interested in hearing from. I thought maybe we should mix it up, rather than continue down the same trodden path. We started with director Steven Soderbergh a few months back, and I figured: why stop there?

Let's give it a go, shall we?

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Jan042015

Sick Drinks 

I hate getting sick; mainly because it happens so rarely these days I forget how draining it is. After teaching elementary school for so long, with little kids smearing germs on my bare hands right and left, my immune system is made out of steel. Getting sick at this point in my life isn't so much a biological battle with disease, as it is my inner conscience acting without my input or permission. I will sometimes go weeks without taking a night off from the sauce, so every now and then—when I refuse to be a responsible adult and give my kidneys a night off—my immune system will pull the rug out from underneath me and teach me a lesson. "You're not going to give your liver the vacation it needs? Fine, we'll take care of that!" it says in bold defiance of my wishes. Then—presto!—I'm sick. The problem with pulling a little stunt like this during busy December, however, is that my immune system also understands I'm needed at work, so it's torn between physical and financial security. It let's me off the hook—until January 1st, that is.

I got home from work on December 31st, the last day of the holiday season, ready to pop a bottle of Champagne and celebrate the end of another successful year at K&L. I was primed to rage; to really get a heat on, until my immune system scoffed and said, "Are you fucking kidding me? You've been boozing it up like Caligula all month long, you jerk! We need a break, buddy, and we're taking it now." And just like that—poof!—I felt the tickle in my throat. 

"Uh oh," I mumbled. "I think I need to go lay down."

"You're going to bed at nine on New Year's Eve?!" my wife asked, shocked and incredulous.

It was a good thing I did, however, because I have been holed up under a blanket ever since; sicker than shit. The thing I really hate about being sick is not being able to drink. I love drinking. It's my job, my love, and my life. When you take it away from me I'm forced to drink things like tea or juice, which can be interesting and delicious in their own right, but not in the same way as booze. I've never been much of a Hot Toddy person, but I decided to make one last night after deciding that being sick didn't mean I couldn't drink, it just meant I was limited to a specific genre of drinks: sick drinks. I grabbed my bottle of 1996 Giboin Fins Bois Cognac, a bit of honey from the fridge, and a lemon from the tree out front. I boiled some water, threw all four components into a mug, and sat on the couch watching some Werner Herzog documentary about life in Siberia; the heat from the mug warming my hands; the balance of sweet, sour, hot, and boozy goodness mellowing the stuffiness in my head.

Once again, I realized that drinking well is just a matter of understanding your situation and your condition. Let the moment dictate the drink and receive it with an open mind (and mouth). Go with the flow, and let the good things in life come to you. Because they will. Hot Toddies are delicious. I'm going to have one again in a few minutes.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jan022015

Rage, Then Evolve Into the Machine 

Since I'll be jetting off to Paris in a few weeks (finally getting some much needed R&R), I've started doing little things to pump myself up—like searching the web for interesting restaurants around my hotel, or watching old Bourdain episodes about France. I happened to catch a rerun of the 100th episode special where Tony and chef Eric Ripert meet up with young upstarts in the radically-changing Paris bistro scene; kids who are rebelling against the stodgy old guard of Parisian cuisine with its dependence upon Michelin stars, rules, and etiquette. Tony keeps laughing at poor Eric, who ends up repeatedly having to defend his position as the head chef at a one of the best restaurants in the world; as if that were a bad thing (something these other youngsters wanted to avoid at all costs—it seemed).

"There is room for both casual and fine dining. You can go to a U2 concert and then the next day go to the opera. It's not black and white; you don't have to choose one or the other," Eric says.

"But if you're young and starting out, it's important to attack U2. I think you almost have to," Tony went on to say. 

"You don't run a three-starred Michelin restaurant to screw people over," Eric replied. "I do it because I have passion and I want to make people happy!"

I laughed out loud when I heard him say that because I understood exactly where he was coming from. I've come across that same attitude in my time as a spirits buyer; the people who analyze every aspect of whisky to figure out how the parent company is ripping them off (and ultimately how they can outsmart it!). Some of them thought buying a bottle of corporate whiskey meant they were selling out or getting duped, but really it just meant they were missing out on some really good hooch. Not every company that achieves success is being co-opted into a soulless system. Sometimes hard work and dedication simply move you up the ladder of life, where you try to make a larger number of people as happy as you originally made a smaller group. But we're always surprised to see how things can change when that happens ("I realize now that I am old," Eric says at one point).

I really enjoy watching Bourdain and his friend Eric because they see both sides of the coin; they enjoy both the top and bottom shelves of cuisine and they live in the moment. The older I get, the less radical I become in my beliefs and the more I look to simply enjoy myself; much like these guys.

No Reservations was a great show, by the way. I really miss it.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jan022015

Dark Entries/Origins (Malt Goes Goth)

Caressing bent up to the booze again
Washbacks and mills invading all those stills
In a hovel of a bar I will scream not perry
Oh please, Miss Mary, just a bit of sherry

Went tasting through this Isle's peated flight
In fear of disguising my whisky seething
Pressure to drink the best, intangible of price
Trying so hard to find what was right

I came upon your store it stuck into my zeal
We lept into the deal, discarding all my vice
You took delight in taking down my shielded pride
And then exposed me to a darker side
Puckering up and down those flavorings of sin
Not cheap to ride, but still worth a try

If only for the old times, cold times
Don't go wasting this pretentious buzz

Dark Origins (sing it Peter Murphy!)

Highland Park "Dark Origins" Single Malt Whisky $79.99Once very limited, now more readily available! A darker, heavier, richer Highland Park that uses twice as many first-fill sherry butts as the standard 12 year. It's dark, sinister, and brooding, just like the figure shrouding in black robes on the front of the bottle. It's what I imagine David J drinking when he drinks Scotch during a magick ceremony (and I've heard he likes single malt).

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jan012015

Drinking to Drink: The Interview Archive

This is a post I'll be using as an archive to the D2D interviews I've done, beginning with director Steven Soderbergh towards the end of 2014. Unlike the podcast series, these conversations are done with K&L customers and fans who do not work in the industry, are not interested in the production side of distilled spirits, yet have something valuable and interesting to say about booze: namely, how much they enjoy drinking it (hence: "drinking to drink"). Each time I add a new interview, I'll add it to this post which is linked on the right-side margin of the main Spirits Journal page.

D2D Interview: Director Steven Soderbergh

D2D Interview: Bauhaus/Love & Rockets founder David J.

D2D Interview: Animal Collective's Geologist

D2D Interview: Former NFL Quarterback Steve Bono

D2D Interview: Silicon Valley mogul Marc Andreessen

COMING SOON: The Jazz Butcher's Pat Fish!