Tasting The Whistle Pig With Dave Pickerell

Whistle Pig Farm is a distillery in Shoreham, Vermont being run by David Pickerell, who served as master distiller at Maker's Mark for more than a decade.  While most distilleries produce a white dog, or young whiskey to pay the bills while their good stuff ages, David went out and found a few barrels of something we'd actually want to drink.  His new bottling of 100% Canadian-distilled rye aged in the American style is going to impress just about every whiskey fan out there.  He stopped by the store today to sign all the bottles and taste us on this much-hyped release.  This rye is for big flavor hunters in the traditinon of Stagg, Van Winkle, and Handy.  The nose is rich and enticing and the color of the whiskey itself is a dark amber that just looks like its loaded with caramel and barrel spice.  The first sip lets you know that it actually is - this rye is brimming with vanilla, orange peel, and other baking spices.  This is a big, mouth-coating rye that finishes long and creamy, but never loses the kick of the rye itself.  This is going to be huge, mark my words. 

-David Driscoll


Do It Yourself Whiskey.....Genius?

I just got done tasting the Wasmund's line-up and, people, I was very impressed.  I love the rusticity of young American whiskey and both the Copper Fox Rye and Wasmund's Single Malt are dynamite examples of innovation - using wood chips from apple and cherry wood to help age the whiskey faster.  I think that their claim to fame, however, is going to be the home whiskey kit they just released.  It's two bottles of their fantastic unaged rye spirit or single malt spirit in a box with a 1.5 liter oak barrel.  You then pour in your two bottles and let the aging process begin.  The barrel has a spigot so you can release the whiskey when you want to sample it.  I think it's ingenius.  For $63.99 it's a freakin' steal just for the experience.  Honestly, the rye spirit is the best white whiskey I've yet tasted, so I'd be curious to see how it ages in a small barrel without the wood chips they're using in the Copper Fox.  These should be in stock soon.  

-David Driscoll


Devolution of Experience

I had a great conversation with a customer in the store last week who drove all the way from Nevada to pick out some unique bottles of booze.  When it came time to choose a nice Cognac, he turned to me slowly and said to me very directly, "I want something with balls, not this sweet and smooth nonsense."  Not only was he speaking my language literally (as I have a notoriously dirty mouth), but also figuratively as I knew exactly what he meant.  He didn't want something with a kick or with high alcohol, but rather a brandy made with real flavor, not simply a richer spirit that's all wood and caramel. As we started talking booze, he brought up a pet theme of mine that I could spout off about for hours: the dumbing-down of experience for the sake of the entry level payoff.  I can see how that might not make sense so I'll elaborate.

I have my own examples of what I mean based on my own interests (books, film, booze), but I loved how this guy had his own personal peeves.  "It's like camera equipment or camping gear!" he exclaimed and I pressed him to explain a bit further.  As a serious photo enthusiast, he stated that every new high-end camera was made cheaply these days and without the various options that appeal to the serious photographer.  The intent is obviously to market their formerly esoteric equipment to a greater number of people, but they do so at the expense of their true diehards.  Those with patience and experience would rather take the necessary time and training to understand what makes their product, while more difficult to comprehend at first, ultimately more rewarding over time.  It takes a while to understand shutter speed and aperture, but in the end when you understand their relation to film speed you will take better pictures than any default setting on a digital camera.  Experience is the key to appreciating high quality because it takes time to understand all these complicated concepts, but these days everyone wants to be an expert right out of the gate.

All of this guy's opinions on camera equipment, followed by my views on modern literature, ended up leading into our shared feelings towards booze.  These days, everything is manipulated to taste good to the greatest number of people, forsaking those of us who appreciate the traditional character, which isn't immediately agreeable or even apparent to the novice drinker. Tequila is the best example of this, but there are a growing number of rich, oaky, and vanilla-loaded single malts that are geared towards the inexperienced.  I say "inexperienced" because they're priced like premium spirits despite their obvious lack of quality and character.  The hope is that someone that's new to the genre will want to feel like an expert and pay a boat load of cash for their bottle, oblivious to the fact that what they're really getting is a bottle full of crap. 

Any one else out their have a similar opinion about this societal devolution?  Please chime in on the comment field if you do.  I loved hearing about how camera equipment fit into this formula.

-David Driscoll


Whisk(e)y Club Selections For August

Some people wonder about our whisk(e)y club and what being a member entails.  Basically, it means that you buy one bottle of spirits or wine from us a month.  You can leave it up to me to choose for you, or you can communicate with me to select it yourself.  The advantage to being a member comes in the discounts you receive with both wine and spirits.  Every month you have access to our 10 wine club selections at a steep discount, as well as the whisk(e)y selections that I pick out.  In the past I usually came up with one good bottle per month, but I figured that more selection means more satisfaction.  This month I've given our members three choices for discounted bottles, so if you are not a member you can see what you might be missing out on. 

1995 Highland Park 14 Year Old, Murray McDavid, Chateau Lafite Cask Single Malt Whiskey $75.99 (CLUB PRICE $65.99)

Highland Park 15 year old, Isle of Orkney Single Malt Whisky $52.99 (already lowest price in the nation, but CLUB PRICE $39.99)

Buffalo Trace K&L Exclusive Single Cask #162 Lot 1677 Kentucky Straight Bourbon $24.99 (CLUB PRICE $19.99)

-David Driscoll


Tequila, Tequila, Everywhere!

It's simply amazing how much tequila is being produced these days.  A few posts back I wrote about the Charbay tequila and, in doing so, I vented about my displeasure with many of these new endeavors.  Literally once a day I receive a phone call, walk-in visit, or an email about a new brand of tequila that I "need" to know about.  If you think you're overwelmed when you look at all the new bottles on our shelves, imagine how I feel!  However, my job is to taste them and separate the wheat from the chaff. 

Three new bottles will be in stores by the end of tomorrow and I couldn't be more excited.  Espolón tequila won the gold at the SF Spirits competition in 2006 and seemed to be on the right track foward, but their bottle was supremely ugly and they couldn't seem to get good placement in the market, so they eventually got dropped and it was soon gone from our stores.   They've now been picked up by Skyy and have revamped their bottle with an ultra-cool "Dia de los Muertos" style mural, which immediately catches the eye.  The price tag is more than reasonable, so that's two for two.  If you actually get around to tasting the tequilas, then you're going to experience the ultimate trifecta in the spirits world: package, price, quality.  Both the blanco and the reposado are $22.99 and extremely good for the price.  I'm super excited about their potential as I think true fans are going to really like them.  They have a softer mouthfeel, but they never sacrifice spice for smoothness. 

Also in a beautiful package is the Los Azulejos Añejo, which does us the lovely service of giving the market an añejo that isn't an over-oaked, vanilla-infused, single malt substitute.  It spends 18 months in new French oak, yet still powers through with white pepper and baking spice.  The textures are soft and gentle, but the flavor is traditional. 

What a great time to be a tequila fan.  There are more options than ever before and it looks like we'll have to expand our shelves once again.

-David Driscoll