Tuesday
Aug042015

Welcome to Seattle

I landed at around 9:30 AM. I could not wait to get off that airplane and into the cool Pacific Northwest climate. The San Francisco Bay Area has been unseasonably hot as of late, so the chance to feel that cool Seattle breeze against my cheeks as I walked down Pike Place was most welcome. Pike Place, you ask? Really? I know that some people consider the entire waterfront market to be the Fisherman's Wharf of Washington, but selling the heavily-touristed area that short would be a complete disservice to what's really going on. There's a lot of exciting action in between the wandering aimlessness.

You've got the original, first-ever Starbucks, for God's sake! Don't act like you don't go there every morning.

You've got Beecher's cheese shop; along with the glass window that peers into the kitchen where the curds are actually collected. You can eat cheese while you watch it being made. I stumbled in with Westland owner Emerson Lamb this morning, as we picked up a few things for later this evening. If you haven't guessed already, I'm in Seattle this week to drink single malt whisky with the boys from Westland Distillery. Domestic, American-made, single malt whisky, that is. Master distiller Matt Hofmann is with us. We're going to show you the complete operation from top to bottom, along with a little local flare when time permits. That's my goal for this week.

There's also the Pike Brewery; the local beer mecca owned and operated by local legend Charlie Finkel—an Oklahoman-born entrepreneur who spent decades in the wine business before devoting himself exclusively to beer. Charles has been in the craft brewing business since beer geeks used snail mail to share homebrewing recipes. He works with Westland as well, taking leftover whiskey barrels and laying down some of his locally-brewed ales inside of them for extra flavor. We tasted a six-month old amber aged in sherry oak while we snacked and talked shop. It was outstanding, and I'm not normally a fan of richer-styled beers.

If you don't like barrel-aged beer, then try the the "Locale" (prounced "low-kale", I kept asking if it was made from kale before understanding the pun): a lighter, classically-styled ale made entirely from locally-grown barley provided by Skagit Valley Malting. Besides Pike Brewery, Skagit is also currently working with Washington State University and Westland to breed a line of barley particularly suited to growing west of the Cascade Mountains. The hope is to find a type that can express a sense of locality in Westland's single malt whisky. Emerson explained it to me as we sipped: there are two main terroirs in Washington. There's the dry and arid terrain of the eastern side and there's the wet, foggy, almost-Scottish style climate along the western coast. Yet, despite the vast difference in soil and weather between the vicinities, most of the barley being grown across the state is from the same line; a type designed to withstand disease and pests, rather than acclimate itself to the region. Apparently WSU has over 15,000 different lines of barley currently growing in the Skagit Valley, all being tested and cross-bred for research purposes. It's for that reason, when Emerson is asked about a possible Westland Bourbon or rye whiskey, he says: "Over my dead body."

"We've got four ingredients: water, barley, yeast, and oak," he told me, taking a pull from his pint. "There's more than enough room for experimentation and variety within that group right there."

If Pike Place were only about fanatical fish-throwing and tepid tourist traps, there wouldn't be signs like this posted upon the pillars of the down-home merchants just trying to run a local business. My favorite FAQ is number five: Why don't you throw your meat? Because we treat our customers' meats with care.

Not everything is for show, so don't avoid the market. You'd be missing out on a lot of deliciousness by doing so.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Aug032015

Brandyfest 2015

It's on!!

Once again, we'll be taking over the Bar Agricole patio for some serious brandy action; because—if you didn't know—brandy is where it's at. You can fawn over those $150 ten year old Bourbons all you want. I'll be drinking 40 year old brandies in the warm San Francisco evening while I gorge myself on Bar Agricole's tasty appetizers and snacks. Oh....and it's not just us this year. It's a number of other California producers, as well as our Italian friends at Villa Zarri. You know you wanna go. In fact, can you really afford not to go? It's also the 5 year anniversary of Bar Agricole, so it's more than just a celebration of brandy. It's a celebration of drinking, and drinking well.

I'll be there pouring as usual, but I won't be alone this year. Tickets available here

2015 Brandyfest @ Bar Agricole on August 18th, Tuesday, from 6 to 9 PM $60

-David Driscoll

Monday
Aug032015

Drink Your Television

What are our favorite cult television characters drinking this week? This one caught me by surprise: Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams pound a bottle of Wiser's Canadian on this week's True Detective. Canadian whisky on prime time? When did I get the CBC as part of my Comcast network package? Bravo. I love Wiser's, so this was a big moment for me.

Meanwhile, over on Mr. Robot, the not-so-friendly DA pulls out a bottle of Buffalo Trace to pour into her morning coffee. Ten years ago this would have been—with 100% certainty—a bottle of Jack Daniels. But we unsophisticated, brainless television addicts all know that TV is better than it's ever been. Hence, she's drinking Buffalo Trace.

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Aug012015

Still the One

I had to go back to a blog post from over four years ago to dig out this picture of Jan Potocki, holding his namesake bottle in our San Francisco store. Why bring up Potocki vodka again? Because I drank about four glasses of this stuff last night (for the first time in quite some time) and I have to say, again, for the record: this is probably the best vodka in the world. It's so fucking good you just want to keep drinking it, and drinking it, and drinking it. I was so pumped to drink Potocki again that I was about ready to call up Baltica on 25th Ave and order up a bowl of borsch with a side of caviar blini to go along with it (fortunately I didn't because I was in no shape to drive; at that point in the night I was watching the original Nightmare on Elm Street with the sound turned off and playing various selections from the It Follows soundtrack in place of the original music).

The Potocki vodka is so good you don't need to do anything to it. Glass. Ice. Potocki. That's it. That's all you need. It's still the one, and I can't tell you how nice it is to go back and revisit a bottle that still tastes every bit as good as you remember it being.

-David Driscoll

UPDATE: Then I found this blog post which I have no recollection whatsoever of writing!

Friday
Jul312015

R.I.P. — I.C.O.N.

Because I will continue to watch and enjoy John Carpenter's They Live for the rest of my life,"Rowdy" Roddy Piper will live on via my television screen and my saddened heart. 

He was truly an icon of the entertainment business. Piper's passing today was like a knife wound to what still remains of my childhood nostalgia. What's funny is that I've been staying up late for the past few nights, watching random things from the past on Roku, and searching for old music videos. I ended up watching Cyndi Lauper's "Goonies R Good Enough" before going to bed last night, with Piper playing the ultimate heel to Cyndi and Captain Lou. When I was getting ready to post my interview with Sam Neill today, I was thinking how great it would be to talk with other John Carpenter alumni; maybe Piper himself if he still enjoyed a drink. Then the news hit today.

Now I'm going to go home tonight, pop in my DVD copy of They Live, and pour myself a drink while I reminisce about the glory days of the Hot Rod and how much I enjoyed watching him work. Rest in peace, Roddy Piper. I'll miss you.

-David Driscoll

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