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Singlemalting # 164 – Whisky Bucket List – Jack Rose Saloon, check

I had been looking forward to heading to Washington DC for sometime and so it was with great excitement that I landed in Pennsylvania to be greeted by my fellow whisky enthusiast Jared from Impex beverages.

3 full on days of whisky accounts covering Delaware, Maryland and of course DC. Really the highlight of the trip was meeting the legendary Harvey of Jack Rose Saloon fame. Jared and I spent some time at Harvey’s home going over the new out turn of Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling’s before heading to the Jack Rose Saloon. Harvey has had a life long passion for whisky and is one of the most avid collector’s of independent bottling that I have ever seen. More amazing whiskies than Harvey could drink in 10 lifetimes that takes up most of the available space in his home has given the Jack Rose Saloon an almost endless supply of exceptional single cask whiskies to draw from. After some really engaging discussion and quite a few drams of delicious warm up whisky it was time to head to where the action was. I have heard so much about Jack Rose Saloon and it did not disappoint in the slightest.

Singlemalting and Historic Harvey
Someone has too
Dram and Grain Speakeasy

Bar top to ceiling whisky bottles cover the walls and back bar. Harvey holds court at the bar at least twice a week where he passionately engages any whisky enthusiast that happens in. Getting downstairs into the Speakeasy (Dram and Grain) for a tour was fantastic, especially the selection of really old bottles that lines the shelf. Next time I am there this will be a must.

To get things rolling one really must have a cocktail or two, whisky based of course. The exceptional head bartender plied me with a couple of doozies that my darling wife would have absolutely adored. The appies were also amazing as was one of the last fresh oysters that I had to steal from Harvey (his favorite).

When it came time for whisky I just had to go with something American and tried the Willett Straight Rye Rare release. Oh yeah Rye goodness in a glass. We topped off the evening with a Tiki drink upstairs and a fantastic Hoya de Monterrey. The Jack Rose really has it all. If you love whisky and you ever travel to DC make it a priority. Say G’day to Harvey for me.

On the water in Baltimore the next day Jared and I tore it up with Halibut and Crab cakes, live prohibition era music, late night Pizza and a bunch of memorable beverages. I have to say that Jared was a spectacular host and I am really looking forward to my return trip to the mid Atlantic seaboard once I have had time to recover.

Trouble brewing in Baltimore
Dram and Grains old and delicious shelf

Next week we are heading back to the Yukon and a review on a particularly interesting spirit distilled by Two Brewers in Whitehorse.

The whisky fun never ends here at Singlemalting. I look forward to your company next time around.

Cheers

Jonathan

 

Singlemalting Blog # 163 – San Fran Tiki

With all sorts of fun done and dusted in Texas and LA it was San Fran time which is a great city to visit. No rest for the wicked after getting to the hotel at around 11pm I was up and ready to rock at the JVS offices at 9:00am. Little did I know as I was handed off to Robert that I was about to spend the two most fun days of my trip.
I could talk about visiting accounts and eating delicious food but what really made this portion of the trip so amazing was getting into some serious Tiki culture. My first Tiki drink was at OLK and was dangerously delicious. Not long after we had some amazing Cuishe Mezcal. Cuishe is a rare wild agave and this one was distilled in a traditional clay pot still.
Cuishe Mezcal
It was also an opportunity to get to know Robert and also Mark who is an especially geeky Tiki and rum personality in San Francisco. After kicking the night off right at OLK we headed up the winding trail to Mark’s insanely cool home that has been decked out more impressively in Tiki decor than any bar I have visited ever. Everything from the lighted rows of collected Tiki mugs (714 apparently and counting) to the Bamboo bar and seafaring accessories like the cool shark head and Pirate Ship. Tiki goodness was everywhere and it would take several days of careful study to truly see everything.
I almost had to be torn away from checking out the Tiki stuff to head out on Mark’s patio where we worked our way through some epic rums followed by a schooling in the nuance of small batch family owned Mezcal from Robert. Wow what a night. The cigar from Mark was just perfect with the rums and the Mezcal was more than impressive. I will definitely be blogging more about this amazing spirit in future. As the fire sent sparks up into the clear dark California sky and I nosed and sipped at my glass of Mezcal I thought again about how amazingly lucky I am to be doing something that I love so much.
Day 2 dawned way too early and with nowhere near enough sleep and a possible slight dehydration problem I headed out again into the San Francisco market. i was excited about what was to come after being told that we would be ending our day at Smuggler’s Cove and some other amazing cocktail bars. Smuggler’s Cove is one of the world’s best Tiki bars and after your eyes adjust to the dark you begin to see all the cool nautical themed decor unfold. Mark held sway at the bar where he owns the legendary status of being one of the first to complete the Rum selection challenge. Seeing his face on a Rum bottle behind the bar speaks volumes about just how many rums Mark might have consumed over the years at Smuggler’s Cove.

Smuggler’s Cove San Francisco
Quickly upon arrival a fantastic Tiki cocktail was thrust into my hand and it was really delicious. These drinks are so yummy that it’s easy to forget that there is a serious amount of rum splashed in the mix. Mark has spread his love of Tiki to a lot of people and of course it was mandatory for me to purchase the Tiki cup that my drink came in to start my own Tiki journey. I plan on surprising my gorgeous wife with what I hope will be a worthy offering. I will need some supplies and a fresh orchid flower though if my drink is to even remotely rival the Smuggler’s Cove presentation.
I just had to try another and so completed the set with a Smuggler’s Cove Barrel that will be seeing a lot of use on the deck for the rest of this Summer. I finished off the night with their version of a Zombie which was just as delicious as the other two.
We put stops in at another couple of great Tiki and cocktail bars the names of which escape me as I write this (I’m sure you are not surprised). Doing a bit of research I see that we went to Pagan Idol among others.
This trip for me was one of the most fun I have had in a while. What a privilege to be introduced to real Tiki culture and to experience some of the best Mezcal on the planet. I certainly hope that all of my future trips to the US are this much fun. Thanks so much to Sam, Val, Robert and Mark for such great hospitality. Secret Spirits is in great hands so keep a look out for the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar and Rums Revenge coming to a store near you.
Cheers
Singlemalting

Singlemalting Blog # 162 – That’s how we roll in LA ……

“All i want to do is have a little fun before I die”…….. After a great leg in Texas it was time for some California sunshine and amazing Los Angeles hospitality.
Having spent some time in this market in my previous life I felt another bout of  deja vu coming on as I got to visit some very familiar stores that I had not seen in over 7 years. Meeting up with Chris Uhde again was great and it was fantastic to see that he has carved a really great whisky legend story of his own in LA.
Day one and Im actually enjoying a rare day off on the road. Topping out at 35 degrees it was definitely a warm one but I was able to soak a little in the pool, get some laundry done (yep have to be fresh and clean to sell whisky), work out and of course get some serious walking in. I managed to find a closish cigar store and nabbed myself a 1992 Rocky Patel Vintage 10 Year aged Toro which was really really good. Days like this are rare on the road and was one to cherish. Had a very tasty pint or two (definitely two) at Gordon Biersch in Burbank just a short stroll from my hotel.
Gordon Biersch
Into work on Monday and I was lucky to spend a couple of amazing days on the road with Josh and Tim from JVS Imports and was really able to showcase Secret Spirits to a whole new market.
What we are really here to talk about however is whisky and/or whiskey and that is what topped off an amazing trip to this part of the US courtesy of Chris and his generosity. Chris graciously invited me back to his place to meet his wife and brand new edition (Chris was definitely a bit sleep deprived). It was my last stop before heading to the airport and if it were not for the flight I would have loved to stay a lot longer.
1917 now that’s an old bottle
First was a warm up dram of Ohishi Tokubetsu reserve that is 33% 27 year old sherry cask Rice whisky from Ohishi and has been brought up to strength with some book ended 7 and 11 year old. More about this amazing whisky and its origins in a future blog. Suffice to say that it was delicious and the balance of the more delicate flavors intermingling with the sherry was outstanding. The good news is that Ohishi will soon be available in Canada launching in Alberta in August.
Chieftains 40 Year Old Springbank was my Single Malt choice as the 2nd whisky coming in at a very healthy 54%. This was a really great older dram and I couldnt go past it even when the other two Single Malts on the table were a Murray McDavid Gold Series Macallan 25 and an Exclusive Malts 2001 Bowmore. Still feisty after 40 years I was excited that Chris put this on the table as I knew that it would be a special old bottling and it did not dissapoint.
Next up was a choice of some really old American whiskey and the bottle offered was filled in 1917 and was a Rye from Old Lewis Hunter. It’s a very rare treat indeed (as in first time ever) to try a whisky that was bottled 100 years ago. Rye was the dominant force yet it was really even on the palate and the half ounce that I poured myself took longer to finish than I had time for with my flight to San Francisco looming.
Something for the road that has become a favorite category for Chris was a 1912 Verdelho Madeira that I tasted blind and thought might be PX but not as sweet, Absolutely delicious and being a real fan of anything old and sticky I absolutely loved it. All of this was tasted beside a very famous LA delicacy called a Guava and Cheese Strudel from Porto’s bakery (yummy).
Porto’s a local legend
What a great send off before taking off for my San Francisco leg. Thanks so much to Josh, Tim and Chris for making me feel so at home and helping us spread the passion of Secret Spirits to LA ‘ers.
Next up half a week in SF finishes my trip to the West Coast.
Until then
Cheers
Singlemalting

Singlemalting Blog # 161 – Doin it Big in Texas

It’s amazing how so much comes back around in this industry and so it was over 6 years ago that I last visited the Lone Star State of Texas and this time at the helm of my own company with a case full of Secret Spirits goodies and some Texans to talk to.
Gary Clark an Edinburgh born Texan has pretty much been there and done everything in the alcohol industry but his real love lies with whisky and so I knew I was in great hands. Airport to hotel and then straight to “The Man Cave” a South Houston Cigar lounge that was hosting Gary and Brian Devorik of Impex to pour the range of Tamdhu and Kilchoman Single Malts for the whisky club crowd that were coming in to get their taste on.
The Man Cave
Lets head inside
A quick stop on the way for Texas BBQ and a plate full of smoked Brisket did me the world of good. I was along for the ride to chat with club members, taste some whisky and of course support The Man Cave by having a cigar (if I have too). I ended up going for a My Fathers….. which was a great smoke and went really well funnily enough with both the Tamdhu Cask Strength Sherry and also the Single Batch Kilchoman sherry. Some really tasty whisky, cigar combo action going down for my first night in Texas.
Deja vu reigns supreme as I travel into the US now visiting stores and meeting people that I have seen and talked whisky with before. It was very encouraging to be met with such enthusiasm about what is for everyone in the US a brand new concept. Along the way Gary was always keen to drop into his go to spots to showcase a local Texan treat like Tex Mex Fajitas that were absolutely awesome and a triple smoked pastrami sandwich that was so big I had to eat half of it for lunch and the other half for dinner. I think you are getting the picture here that I love trying the local specialties and meeting like minded whisky and rum lovers.
The 35 degrees every day made it much like my former home (Australia) and so I was really soaking up the ambiance and recharging my Summer batteries. There were some great independent stores visited along with one of the largest Chains in the state so fingers crossed Texans everywhere will be able to get their hands on our fun brands this year.
Thanks Brian for the Ashton Churchill it was excellent and thanks Gary for being such a great host and showing me the dining ropes in Houston. I’m really looking forward to heading back to the market with some whisky to pour after our launch later this year.
Whisky brings people together from so many backgrounds and cultures and it is so fun as an Australian/Canadian to be tagging along with a Scot/Texan and a Jewish/Illinois combo to sell great whisky and rum.
Thanks again boys it was a great time. Look forward to cracking some whisky when I am down there next.
Cheers

Secret Spirits Scotland Tour – Blog # 158

G’day everyone and welcome back to the Singlemalting Blog. After my whirlwind blogging marathon leading up to Christmas I spent some down time back in the home country. Anyone who read the last blog knows that I had my day 25 calendar whisky on Christmas day in Australia a full day before you all got to have yours.

My journeys since then have taken me all over the place including my annual February trip to Scotland to choose the new edition whiskies and on the January Whisky festival train that is a highlight of every new year touching down in Red Deer, Edmonton, Calgary and Victoria. You can read about some of my adventures in these blogs.

Oh yeah whisky barrels that’s what I’m talking about

Having been pestered by many over the past few years to think about potentially organizing a Secret Spirits tour to Scotland I have relented and started putting something together. For those of you that think traipsing around the Scottish Countryside with yours truly and experiencing what it’s like to live in my world for a week of tasting, brokering, bottling, drinking and dining then maybe this might be just what you have been waiting for.

A Secret Spirits tour of Scotland would be a peek behind the curtain of how we put together our list of whiskies and where we go to source them. A stint at the bottling plant and distillery visits would all be a must. A touch of sightseeing and the odd castle or two along the way would also be on the docket. This would be no ordinary tour and plenty of inside industry treats and privilege.

Dumfries House

Some highlights would include a special exclusive hand blown piece of whisky glassware made by master glass blower Tom Young from Angels Share Glass in Bridge of Allen. Being part of selecting a Secret Spirits Barrel and guaranteeing your case of 6 bottles. Seeing the Edinburgh Military Tattoo as part of a whisky dinner extravaganza. A high brow dinner and history lesson at Dumfries House. Staying in top class accommodation and having all meals included, there would even be a day for either a round of Golf or a day at the Spa to soak up some Scottish relaxation. A trip up to Speyside and down South to Ayr means you will get to see a lot of the fabulous Scottish Scenery along the way. All you have to do is get to Glasgow and we take it from there.

Turnberry

We are trying to make it work for late August this year. There are only a maximum of 10 spots available so if you are interested to get all the details please email me at jonathan@secretspirits.com as soon as you can.

Thanks to John (you know who you are) for poking me many times about putting something like this together.

For a detailed itinerary and pricing just get onto the email address above and I’ll get right back to you.

I promise in the coming weeks that I will be back to normal programming as I have a lot of delicious whiskies and other assorted goodies to go through.

Cheers and here’s to an amazing year of fabulous whisky.

Jonathan