Some Things I'm Quite Excited About
If you're one of those people who thinks that the best years of whisky enjoyment are now behind us, I wouldn't necessarily argue with you. Finding affordably-priced, high-quality, NEW whiskies to enjoy is relatively difficult these days compared to say 2010. You have to look harder, work smarter, and often times pay more than you did back then, but that doesn't mean you can't get excited about anything these days. The key word in that initial statement was NEW. It's the biggest problem currently facing the spirits industry, in my opinion: the fact that a large percentage of its customers don't want to buy anything more than once.
I've had it. Cross it off the list. Next!
Part of what inspired so many folks to involve themselves in the world of whisky initially was the sense of adventure; the vast and untraveled road of options just waiting to be visited. Once you exhaust many of those options it can be a little sad, especially when the new options aren't quite as compelling as the old ones. Part of that disappointment is whisky's problem, but part of that is our problem as well. Our expectations are a little out of whack, in my opinion. Today we think whisky should be like wine or fashion—there should be a fantastic new release every year and everyone should be entitled to a bottle. We're constantly looking to what's next, rather than what's in our collection. We take a few sips and then we're over the remaining 650 milliliters. We want new stuff. We want to constantly raise the bar and the whisky companies are scrambling to cater to our capitalistic desires.
Booze companies have a choice, however: cater to that mindset and attempt to constantly create new expressions, or rip the band-aid off and get back to a more sustainable reality. I'm not sure what the answer is, personally. I've been thinking about it for more than a year and I'm not any closer to a solution. In the meantime, let's talk about some NEW things coming down the pipe that I'm pretty damn excited about; new things that are not a reaction to recent demand, but are rather just incredibly wonderful and high in quality.
Four Pillars Gin (ETA June 3rd)
The only time I've been more excited about a gin release was for the American debut of Monkey 47, and I will go on record right now as saying I think the standard Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin is better. Not only is it better, it's more versatile. I wouldn't even want to use Monkey 47 in a Gin & Tonic cocktail, whereas I can't imagine using anything other than the Four Pillars at this point. Distilled in Australia and made with native ingredients like lemon myrtle, pepperberry leaf, and various Australian citrus, we'll be helping the brand launch in the United States this June with a Friday night event in our San Francisco store. Think I'm being hyperbolic? Come by and taste with Stuart for free on June 3rd and find out the truth. If we don't sell everything out by that weekend I'll be shocked. The best part is that they make three gins, so you're bound to find one you like. If you like gin, you should be very, very, very excited about Four Pillars.
Villa Zarri Single Barrel Italian Brandy (ETA Summer 2016)
This past January I posted a brief article about my excitement over three samples I had sitting on my desk. I was vague about what they were, but I got dozens of emails from folks immediately afterward who were trying to guess their contents. I'll give you the answer now: they were 20+ year old samples of single barrel, cask strength brandies from my friend Guido Zarri. I had inquired about their potential and he had responded with three candidates. I bought one of them. It should be here by summer. It is, in my opinion, the best aged spirit of any kind I've tasted in the past two years. It is so unbelievably rich, supple, textural, delicious, long on the finish, satisfying, and full of flavor that I can't wait to unleash it upon the world. It's basically just Cognac made in Italy, but matured like whisky—no topping up of the barrels, no added coloring, no water added. The best part? It should be under $100 a bottle and I'm hoping it hit the 25th birthday before being bottled, but I'm not sure at this point. If you think you've tried everything affordable and of quality there is to try, you haven't. There are a few secrets left on this planet and Villa Zarri is one of them.
Caol Ila 35 Year Old From Hunter Laing
Yes, we have a 35 year old single cask of Caol Ila coming from Hunter Laing and—yes—it will be expensive. However, it won't be anywhere near as expensive as you think it will be (or as we thought it could be!) And it won't be anywhere near as expensive as Diageo would have priced it were they to have released an official version. I don't want to make any promises before I've seen the shipping costs and the final invoice, but let's just say if you thought there were no more bottles out there worthy of splurging on—truly worthy of dropping down a few hundred dollar bills for—then you might need to think again. This whisky is a swirling pool of mature Islay goodness, a layered and complex sea of salt, smoke, caramel, earth, resin, and peat. Our entire selection of casks from Hunter Laing this year will definitely restore your faith in the idea of exciting, affordable, and interesting single malt whisky you can actually get without waiting in line, winning a raffle, or scouring the internet at ungodly hours.
There's still plenty to be excited about in the booze world; that is if you actually like to drink. If you've been buying whisky as an investment, then—yes—you're pretty much fucked at this point.