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Wednesday
Nov152017

A Gin Soirée Tonight in Hollywood

 

Join Fords Gin and Joseph Brooke on a curated journey through the cocktail ages! Gin and crafted cocktails have been close bedfellows throughout history, and their connection has endured the ebb and flow of drinking trends. 

Gin shares a relationship with more classic cocktails than any other spirit, some receiving just a fleeting moment of fame, others enduring timelessly. The history of these drinks charts a rich course, one which we look forward to sharing with you. Expect to travel through time via your bartender's deft wrist and developed palate.

Enjoy shared plates paired with the following drinks and an educational tour of their history and relevance: Limmer's Punch, the Ori-Gin-al Cocktail, the classic Gimlet, the Dry Martini, the Negroni, the Bee's Knees, the Gin Sling, the Bramble, and the London Calling.

The Pikey is located at 7617 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046 and David OG will have the entire back room. 

You can purchase tickets here

Tuesday
Nov142017

Surprising New Speysides

It's whisky season, folks! We're ten less than ten days away from Thanksgiving and I know a number of you finicky drinkers out there are getting your selections together for the big holiday feast. I've got two new ones for you today that might be of interest, fresh from Scotland's Speyside region. First off, a new single cask of 22 year old Miltonduff; a gristy malt that packs quite the punch.  

Miltonduff 22 Year Old "Old Particular" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $89.99 - If you're tired of the same sweet vanilla and soft stonefruit profile of your typical Highland malt, I invite you to check out this 22 year old single barrel release from Miltonduff: a Speyside distillery that sees most of its malt go into the Chivas Blended portfolio. At 57.6% ABV cask strength and with a malty, gristy note, this is a robust and heavy whisky that very much tastes like malted barley smells, but with added notes of dark chocolate and cacao that carries over from the malting process. Intermixed with the malt and mocha notes are hints of toasted nuts and new oak with a classic Scotch whisky finish that is again accentuated from the huge proof. Mixed nuts and roasted cocoa flavors are the calling card of Miltonduff and this 22 year old cask offers both of those profiles with a bold and assertive character. It's definitely not your typical gentle, graceful Highland malt. This is big time stuff.

Then there's the new Macallan "Classic Cut" 2017 Limited Edition, a 58.4% ABV distillery release that drinks much like Macallan's version of the Aberlour A'Bunadh: big sherry, big proof. This is dark and unctuous on the finish. Sherry heads will be pleased.

Macallan Classic Cut "2017 Limited Edition" Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky $79.99 - This limited edition Macallan harkens back to an older and much lauded regular release, The Macallan Cask Strength. Adopting the royal crimson colored label -a color made famous by its predecessor - a warning of the impending intensity of this exceptional Highland Single malt whisky. The Macallan Classic Cut is aged exclusively in sherry seasoned oak from Jerez and bottled without the addition of any water prior to bottling. This preserves the extraordinary character of this most exalted of Highland malts. The higher proof adds texture and depth, highlighting the quality sherry and bold malt flavors produced at the Macallan. Like all Macallan single malt, the Classic Cut is bottled without the use of color additives.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Nov142017

Slow Rye

For most of my life I've been a music collector. It started with a Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet tape in 1986 and it peaked in 2002 with a 1,000+ CD collection and a job at the Castro Street Tower Records that was pretty much a wash in terms of income. It was a fun process building that library, one that was incredibly rewarding over time, but it was also crippling. Collections like that take over your life. You can't get away from them. You end up buying things you don't really need just because of some completionist idea in your mind that tells you: "your Sonic Youth collection will never be comfortable without the Made in U.S.A. soundtrack." I was one of those guys for many years. 

It wasn't until I moved to Germany that I digitized my entire collection. That was back when the first iPods came out, so I bought the biggest one possible and brought my entire collection abroad with me in the palm of my hand. It was liberating, to say the least. When I got back in 2005, I went straight to Amoeba and sold every CD I had. I didn't need the actual discs anymore, just the music. I had a hard drive full of thousands of albums at this point, all easily accessible whenever I wanted them. This was the future and I was going to embrace it. Everything was digital and available. There was no need to ever fret about jewel cases, scratches, and rare editions ever again.

But then something happened that I never expected: I stopped caring about music.

For a long time I thought it might be just an age thing. As we get older we have less time for the hobbies of our youth. However, I began to realize over time that it wasn't me, it was the format. Over the last fifteen years, music has completely lost its value in the eyes of the general public and I think the digitization and pirating of MP3s and ACCs has everything to do with it. It took away the ceremony, cheapened the commodity, and destroyed the idea of the album. Music became something I enjoyed while doing something else: driving, working out, cleaning the house, etc. It wasn't until I started getting into vinyl that I rediscovered that feeling of happiness from my youth. Putting on a record helped focus me. I had to sit down and listen to an entire side straight through, rather than skipping around through my iTunes collections or a thematic playlist. It also helped me to better appreciate whiskey. Today when I listen to records, I usually pour a glass of something with it and I limit myself to one option. Last night it was Leopold Bros. Maryland rye with Love & Rockets Earth, Sun, Moon (because I know that's exactly what Todd Leopold would have wanted).

I was talking about this idea yesterday with my co-worker Sal who's going through a similar rediscovery with vinyl. He said to me: "Not only am I listening to the songs that I normally skipped over, I'm actually enjoying those songs the most." I felt the exact same way. About ten years ago I picked up a copy of Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual for a dollar at a garage sale and had that same epiphany. There's a Prince cover of "When You Were Mine" on that album that I had never listened to before because I had skipped over it. Today it's easily my favorite Cyndi song and I have vinyl to thank for that introduction.

Giving any hobby of appreciation the time it needs to present itself is paramount to the enjoyment of that hobby. Sometimes ease and accessibility is actually more of a burden. I've found that slowing down my consumption has helped me to better appreciate whiskey as well, but I never would have taken those steps had it not been for the vinyl. 

-David Driscoll

Monday
Nov132017

Rare On Camera Footage

Because it was Alan Kropf, someone who I greatly admire and who is pretty much one of the nicest people in the industry, I did something I usually try to avoid which is to appear on camera AND on the record. I'm very sensitive to interviews these days having done a podcast myself back in the day (I quit because guys like Alan came along and did everything waaaaay better than me). People say things on the record all the time that they wish they could change later on, not necessarily because they said something they wish they could take back, but because it didn't come off the way they intended. It's for that reason that I give all of my interviewees on D2D the chance to look at the transcript and change anything they're not comfortable with before we post.

I have to really slow down when I do interviews these days because I have a tendency to speak before I think, but sometimes I still goof up. There's a part in the interview with Alan where I compare the Leopold Brothers to the rock group the Pixies because they're the model for that every other distillery aspires to be. What I was trying to say was that despite all of their ability, accomplishments, and accolades, they haven't become the next Pappy Van Winkle with bottles flying off the shelves at break neck speeds. Instead, I said something like "they aren't thriving" which taken by itself is entirely inaccurate. I know this because—coincidentally enough—I was just emailing with Todd Leopold this week about business and he was telling me how important it was for distillers to plan ahead with their investments. The Leopold Brothers aren't just a model for what every distiller aspires to be, they're a model for creating the EXACT type of business I've been harping about all week: a self-sustained, well-operated company that is solvent, growing at a healthy pace, and has no intention of selling out. What I was trying to communicate to Alan is that being the best distillery in America isn't necessarily enough to make you the next cult superstar these days. That's because I think the Leopolds have pretty much the best distillery in America and should be the booze world's superstar producer. Just like the Pixies should have been much bigger than Nirvana because they're a far better band. But that's not always how things work. Going back and listening to that part now, I wish I would have said that differently.

What's crazy is that this interview was posted by Alan more than a month ago, but I didn't see it until last night. That was after Todd emailed me about the Pixies due to my Kim Deal blog post. It's weird how psychic energy works sometimes. 

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Nov122017

Cottage Industry

Part of the reason Armagnac continues to resonate with me as a booze consumer has to do with the way the industry is run. That's because there is no real Armagnac industry. It's just a bunch of barns, farms, and cottages that have a few vineyards nearby and a few barrels in the shed. They are not distilleries. Ninety percent of them do not even have production centers; they rely on a traveling stillman to do the actual distillation once a year after the harvest is done. Few, if any, use brandy sales as their sole source of income. Prices are reasonable because supply is high and demand is low. It's seen more as a commodity. The cost of a bottle depends on how much it cost them to produce it, plus any appreciation from maturation over the years. It's a very simple formula for a very simple way of living and doing business. It's every bit the romantic ideal you think it is. It's what business used to be. 

While it's nice to imagine the American craft distillation business as a cottage industry because it seems so homey, like a local farmer's market with handmade jams and jellies, it isn't. First off, there's so much overhead involved with starting your own distillery between equipment, permits, licenses, and red tape that you'll be lucky to ever get out of debt with production as small as it is (similar to student loans today: $150,000 for a BA? To do what?). It's for that very reason that craft spirits cost more money even though the flavor doesn't always warrant it. Then there's the distribution side. You can't sell directly to the public as a distillery (although distillery gift shop laws have loosened), so you have to pay a middleman and a retailer. That makes the bottle price even higher, even though the actual profits to the distiller are lower. 

So how do you become profitable as a craft distiller? When do you get out of the red and into the black? When you sell the company. Business today is speculative, especially in the booze game. Equity is no longer about actual profit, but rather market share or perceived value. Silicon Valley investments can go nowhere so long as they hit the jackpot every once and a while. That one home run pays for all the strike outs. Starting a small distillery today is like buying a house in the Bay Area. It might have been worth it 15-20 years ago as an actual lifestyle decision, but today the amount you'll pay will never justify itself as a practical purchase. Therefore, it's almost purely speculative at this point. Who plans to actually LIVE in a $1.4 million studio?

That's why I'm back here at my desk asking myself: who is actually starting a business today to actually run it? To find a way to be profitable as an actual operation, not as an investment with profit payouts to shareholders when the sale happens five to ten years down the line? The only people I know who can afford to start a distillery today made their money elsewhere previously (same with those buying a house in the Bay to actually live). Is there hope for anyone else?

Time to pour myself some Armagnac. 

-David Driscoll

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