Spring is in the Air – Part II
I had had this appointment with Cameron Mackenzie and Stuart Gregor set on the books for some time now. I kept checking my calendar reminder on Outlook for February and I always noticed that one isolated event on Friday the 5th: "Meet with Four Pillars gin." How did that even get set up? I couldn't remember. I think it had something to do with my friend Ryan Woodhouse, our Australian wine buyer who somehow had a connection to these guys. Four Pillars is an Australian gin company and they were going to be in town for the Super Bowl. They wanted to drop by. Something like that. I'm terribly unorganized, so I couldn't really remember to be sure. But I remembered that it was important.
Someone asked me about the "craft" spirits industry for the 900th time last week, wondering what my thoughts were about the genre's evolution. I said: "Imagine a bunch of businessmen who were successful in their respective sectors cashing out of whatever profession they were originally part of and reinvesting that money back into a distillery. Except that the distillery and the spirits business itself is just another investment; it's all just another exciting opportunity to build something up and cash out once again." Not that I have a problem with any of that. I'm all for new blood in the booze biz and if you want to believe in the new American dream, who am I to stop you? I just can't deal with the ridiculous pageantry that goes along with it—often literally like a pageant where, much like the beauty queens on stage, these guys deliver hackneyed, rehearsed lines about their life's passion and how all they really ever cared about since childhood was quality liquor. Unlike the nature of many of these appointments, however, Cameron and Stuart walked in with three gin bottles, put them on the table, and let the booze do the talking. They never mentioned one word about their life-long desire to own a craft distillery, or how they wanted to change the world with booze. They opened three bottles, poured each one into a glass, and said: "Taste that."
I took a sip of each and found myself able to summarize the experience quickly and succinctly in about eight words: these gins are really, really, really fucking good.
There's a reason that gin and not whisky distilleries continue to pop up in foreign countries all over the planet: it's much easier to create a unique sense of place within the flavors of gin. Look at the St. George Terroir gin—an expression that uses spruce and other local botanicals entirely from Mt. Tam. Or the Bruichladdich Botanist that sources all of its flavorings from Islay. Or even the Principe de los Apostoles that uses yerba mate from Argentina. With Four Pillars, you've got a distillery in Australia dedicated almost entirely to gin using local and native ingredients like lemon myrtle, pepperberry leaf, and various Australian citrus. If you're going to be the 547th new craft gin to the American market in 2016, you'd better have a plan to stand out from the rest of the crowd. In the case of Four Pillars, the flavors speak for themselves. These gins leap out of the glass, smack your taste buds upside the head, and leave your tongue begging for more. They explode with citrus, force you to ponder their complexity, then have you racing to figure out what cocktail to make with them.
These are the type of appointments I look forward to. These are the arrivals I wait in anticipation of. Look for Four Pillars at K&L this Spring.