Remembering the Sips of Summer 2017
All photos by Adam Levy.
It was quite a summer! As the calendar reminds us that it is officially turning to autumn, I look back on some of my favorite moments from Summer 2017.
I was fortunate to taste the Hennessy Portfolio with Olivier Paultes who is a member of the Hennessy Tasting Committee. Although a long time veteran in the Cognac industry, he is a relative new comer to the Hennessy this facet of the company. This was a great year for them, with the VSOP having recently won gold in the 2016 New York International Spirits Competition.
I had the opportunity to taste one of the new Maker's Mark Private Select Bourbons from the New Orleans institution, Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse. Jane Bowie from the Maker's Mark Private Select team explained the process of their new program and how the Dickie Brennan staff came down to Maker's Mark to select their own oak barrel staves to age the fully aged Makers Mark in for additional flavors. I am glad distillery COO Rob Samuels and the management team at Maker's Mark expanded this Private Select program, and hope other restaurant and on premise establishments also put their finishing touches on their own Maker's Mark barrel for their customers' enjoyment.
It is rare that you get to meet 10+ national brand ambassadors for any one company where they have the opportunity to ask questions as you likewise get to grill them about the industry as was the case with Bacardí. I was able to catch up with old friends like Duane Fernandez Jr., now down in Texas after knowing him for so many years in New York. Though one of my favorite conversations that day was with Chris Hopkins, one of their national account mixologists, explaining the issues and challenges of taking a world class cocktail and making it accessible for the mixology staff at a national chain. He further explained that large national chains are taking steps to replace fructose-based cocktails with better ingredients and that consumers in general are more aware and demanding to know what is going in their cocktail. Though the top highlight was seeing the ever dapper Senior Portfolio Ambassador, Colin Asare-Appiah rocking an amazing suit - want that fabric for myself!
A summer is considered a success when you get to see Allen Katz first at his distillery NY Distilling when attending a Scotch Malt Whisky Society Tasting and then two weeks later in New Orleans at an event hosted by Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits. Top mixologists were also in from Miami and other cities slinging their best.
I was fortunate to have two interesting interactions with Auchentoshan this summer. The first came at a special 3D experience in New York where Auchentoshan flew in a team from Vienna with their cocktail robot to make 3D Cocktails using Auchentoshan. It was so mad scientist with the device that it looked like it came out of the dentist's office! At the second encounter Auchentoshan introduced me to the new “The Bartender Malt”. Mixologists who participated in the blending program and won their own spots through the Auchentoshan Mixologist Contest were on hand to discuss their experience in blending this special whiskey. As attendees we also had the opportunity to do
our own blending with a few of the samples provided. A personal highlight of the tasting experience was to sit across Lew Bryson, in shorts, no less. I owe that man for his article about liquor competitions in the former Malt Advocate magazine over 8 years ago which gave me the inspiration to start the New York International Spirits Competition and how it has now grown into the International Beverage Competitions with competitions now in addition to NY taking place in Berlin, Melbourne and Hong Kong.
I was fortunate to attend an Indie Spirits Expo tasting event. Dave Schmier and his staff have done a great job in providing craft distillers a valuable, affordable platform to showcase their portfolios in New Orleans as well as next month in Chicago, We at the Alcohol Professor are proud to be one of their sponsors.
Edrington Group, the parent company of Highland Park and Macallan as well as 2017 NYISC Gold Medal winnerCutty Sark held a Macallan tasting for a good cause with good whiskey - a perfect combo to me! Macallan donated $250 for every guest who showed up to the event for the Veterans Airlift Command charity. All for a good cause, although anytime Charlie Whitfield is willing to lead me in a Macallan tasting I will show up!
The BNIC does not often run events in the USA and I was fortunate to attend a seminar called the “The Patient Spirit: Time’s Effect on Cognac” which was a wonderful representation of different Cognac producers. The presenters enjoyed geeking out as much as the attendees about Cognac. We in the audience definitely enjoyed their selected pours including multiple medal award-winning NY International Spirits Competition winner Bache-Gabrielsen.
My interest in sake and shochu was definitely elevated after attending a tasting event organized by the Sake and Shochu Makers Association. Shochu as a spirit has a long way to go to gain awareness in America and Europe. It is a relatively unknown spirit to be consumed neat as well as in cocktails, and is gaining traction even in no- Asian themed restaurants. I'd like to believe the Association did find a few new converts to the spirit after they left the tastings.
I had the opportunity to visit the De Kuyper team and sit down with CEO Mark de Witte and the acclaimed chef David Rosengarten, who was providing a pairing menu for their portfolio. Mark shared with me the benefits of taking over the CEO position of De Kuyper after working for larger liquor conglomerates and to now work for a family owned business who still desire to grow their portfolio and revenue worldwide.
It was great to also meet at the same event the team behind Italicus which won Italy Apertif of the Year in the 2016 NY International Spirits Competition (for a wonderful cocktail created by Melbourne Competition judge and bartender Josh Powell, please click here). I also had an informative conversation with
Master Distiller Myriam Hendrickx of Rutte Gin and the path that took her from the dairy industry to the spirits world. Myriam enjoyed explaining how the distillery is preserving their history as well as showing how things have changed for women, considering before WWII they were not even allowed inside the distillery.
One of the most interesting seminars I attended this summer was when five wise men of whiskey discussed the original whiskey writer Alfred Barnard, who wrote The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom in 1887. Daily Beast editor Noah Rothbaum led the discussion with experts and writers Dave Broom, Lew Bryson, Dr. Nick Morgan and David Wondrich. They discussed what Alfred Barnard probably experienced as being a reporter for the Harpers Weekly Gazette and what he experienced when visiting all of distilleries in the UK. Many funny jabs were thrown at the state of the whisky industry at that time as well as each other, which made it a very lively and my favorite seminar.
My travels this summer took me to many places as you can see. I visited Melbourne to lead the 4th Annual Melbourne International Wine Competition as well as its spirits competition. It was great to see old friends as many trade buyer judges returned and many new ones joined us as our competition has grown steadily.
I took a brief visit to Tokyo recently to visit Suntory Beer and their Non Alcohol Beer Team to discuss their Gold Medal for All-Free Beer in the 2017 New York International Beer Competition. There was lively dialogue on the state of the USA and international beer industry.
I am excited that we were able to launch the new Asia International Wine Competition and Asia International Spirits Competition in Hong Kong this year. The whiskey gods were nice to me and I was able to share a dram with good friend and Diageo Global Whiskey Ambassador Ewan Gunn while in Hong Kong after one of his Master Classes on The Singleton. I always look for an opportunity to visit Hong Kong and experience the amazing food and drink culture there.
Though the real personal highlight was attending the book launch of our Senior Editor Amanda Schuster, who has written an amazing book all about New York Cocktails (out now from Cider Mill Press)! She wrote this book and still kept the Alcohol Professor site on the right path while doing it. Congrats to her.