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Month: August 2017

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.

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