Oenophilia is still such a minority hobby that wine lovers always get excited when someone famous from outside their realm shows an interest. That’s why you can always find articles in Wine Spectator about some football or baseball player or actor who collects wine. Such was the excitement last week, when a dinner was organized around Maynard Keenan, lead singer of the rock band Tool and avowed wine geek and now wine producer.
St. George Spirits of Alameda, the good folks behind Hangar One vodkas and all the amazing Aqua Perfecta eaux de vie, recently had me out to preview the long-awaited release of their absinthe. Lance Winters, the distiller, was the mastermind behind this delectable spirit, and he was kind enough to pour the better part of a bottle and talk about the product, its history and how it should be consumed.
At 7x7, we focus on the relatively small area denoted by the numbers in our title. Sometimes I argue with the powers that be that we should extend coverage a bit. Not that there isn’t sufficient activity within city limits to supply our editorial needs, it’s just that there’s so much really cool stuff going on in the whole Bay Area that I feel bad in not writing about it.
December 5 is an important day for drinkers, as on this day in 1933 the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing Prohibition and reinstating our right to imbibe. Phew.
It’s hard to imagine the 14 years America spent as a dry country. Certainly, in the decade of the raging ‘20s there was still a lot of drinking going on. But this was all illegal and organized crime saw a huge increase as they became the arbiters of the new underground economy. Repeal not only legalized drink; it also put the kabosh on a great deal of criminal dealings. We celebrate with a big batch of bathtub gin and a toast to Al Capone.
Laphroaig 10-year cask strength scotch whisky is no longer to be sold. But you should snap it up if you encounter it, as it’s a hell of a dram—a violent wallop of peat smoke and brine gently sleeping in rich warm blankets of honey and toffee with a pillow of sweetness. It’s incredible stuff. I recently picked up the last bottle at a Bay Area Bevmo, but know that there’s more out there . . . just not for long. Make sure to add a squirt of water, though, because cask strength means it’s never been diluted and thus comes to you at a whopping 111 proof.
Last week, I had an opportunity to do some reconnaissance on the New York bar scene, which is often held up with London as the best in the world with San Francisco generally considered to be tightly nipping at their heels.
Perhaps one of the reasons my zeal for WhiskyFest was a little subdued was that I had had a whiskyfest of my own the night before with my old pal, Jameson. The occasion was a performance by the Pogues, who played four straight nights at the Fillmore last week.
Half my blood is Scotch-Irish, meaning that when I get enough whiskey in me and hear the familiar reels of Irish folk-punk as spun by the Pogues and bellowed by their bibulous lead singer Shane MacGowan, I start to reflexively bounce off the f’in walls.
So, WhiskeyFest went down last week. As usual, the giant trade and consumer show had a ton of scotch, bourbon, Irish whiskey and more, arrayed on table after table in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency.
There were lots that I’d tasted before, but standing out for me was a new distiller’s edition from Lagavulin, Stranahans Colorado whiskey, and the wheated malt from Buffalo Trace.
Absinthe can now be legally sold in this country, as long as it stays inside some rules, which is how we now have our first legal brand in this country: Lucid. It’s decent stuff—not the best I've had, which happens to be in a few bottles that I’ve smuggled back from France over the years—but we’ll soon have more brands on the market.
Last week I had a tasting and dinner at Frisson with Charles Braastad of the esteemed Cognac House Delamain. Braastad is half Norwegian, though he’s lived his whole life in France, and his family still owns Delamain. A tall, thin and handsome man, he seems a bit stiff and formal at first, but quickly reveals his lively sense of humor and native charm.
Anyway, Delamain is one of the smaller houses in Cognac to achieve such worldwide acclaim. Their style is fine, elegant and balanced. The various bottlings wow you with finesse and complexity—not with power, fruit and oaky richness.