Sunday, April 6, 2014

So Science, Much Funding

Okay, I'll admit it. I browse Reddit. Well maybe BROWSE is a weak term for my interaction with Reddit. Let's just leave it at the fact that I have a vested interested in Reddit and I make sure to keep my investments to the site current and frequently substantiated.

FINE, I'M ON THERE A LOT.

But I'm not on there just whiling away the hours looking at cat pictures. I can assure you of this. I spent a lot of time on /r/scotch, /r/pipetobaccco, /r/cigars, /r/cocktails, /r/cigarettes (shush, that's another topic for later), and a bevy of other subreddits that cater to my whims. If you look hard enough (okay, not really hard), you can find me. I enjoy being on there and meeting people from all across the world that share my common interests.

As part and parcel of being on Reddit, I have run into Ben Eisenkop. He is a man larger than life, a demi-god of crows and eagles and pineapples and Minecraft. He is the man behind Unidan. Unidan is a behemoth of all things science and awkwardly funny. He actively engages Reddit, providing scientific explanations of biological and ornithological quandaries. And he does it with aplomb and good-natured cheer. Recently, I learned that Ben is actually a PhD student at my father's alma mater, Binghamton University. Even MORE recently, he did a TEDx talk at Binghamton University on a subject near and dear to my heart. Here it is, in full.



Yeah, it's pretty nerdy. Yes, it contains doge. And cryptocurrency. But it is about a problem that I have long tried to think through and surmount. Funding for research.

As you can guess (hopefully) by now, I am a man with a scientific mind. I enjoy the pursuit of knowledge and will generally stop at very few things in my course to solve mysteries. One of the things that stops me is money. Research costs money; from lab usage and testing to equipment to consultants. It's not free. And, as Ben talks about, it is difficult for scientists with narrow or limited scope topics to get funding for research. And let's be honest, if Ben can't get funding on any government or "official" level for something that could very well impact the way biology is thought about in some small manner...what chance does a man looking to research the effects wood has on an active poison have?

There are many topics that rattle around in my head that I'd love to research but would cost a fortune to do. Well, not a fortune, but a significant chunk of money (which, at the moment, is greater than $1000 to me). There are things that I'd love to run through GC-MS, to agar plate and grow, to consult with others about that would potentially affect the beverage industry. But is there funding for it? None that I can find. Perhaps there are avenues that I haven't considered or grants that I've never heard of but in my research I haven't really found anyone that would be willing to pay for the stuff I'd like to do.

So maybe, just maybe, if I can get my stuff together...I'll turn to the crowd. Because maybe if it's a question I've thought about, someone else has thought about it too.

And maybe they've got money.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Way I Tennes-See It

Okay, okay. I'm sure you all think I'm late to the game. Yes, I know of the Tennessee whiskey debate. To be truthful, I've been reticent to write about it. Let's be honest...if you're a whiskey nerd, or a whiskey connoisseur, or...well, hell...even know about whiskey, you've probably heard a lot about it by now. Last Friday, Brown-Forman fired a warning shot in the form of a press release loftily entitled "Jack Daniel Distillery: Tennessee Whiskey “Under Attack” in General Assembly". Frankly, I kinda considered this a bit of media grandstanding to begin with, mainly because of what they reference as far as bills. According to the Tennessee government HB2330 and SB2441 go exactly as follows:

AN ACT
to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 57, relative to alcoholic beverages.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE:

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 57-1-201(b)(1)(A), is amended by
adding the following language at the end of the first sentence of the subdivision:
However, the commission shall not impose a fine on a license or permit holder
for the same type of violation more than three (3) times in a two-year period. The
commission shall be required to suspend or revoke the license or permit instead of imposing a fine after the third violation within the two-year period.

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with this. This is a good law. This is a MUCH stronger incentive to keep shady people from doing shady things to liquids people put in their bodies. I'm happy with that. But when the Diageo statements started flying...I got curious. An executive vice president saying, and I quote, "We support efforts to protect the best interest of all large and small Tennessee whiskey distillers."

Sorry, but something strikes me wrong here.

And then, much to the chagrin of every whisk(e)y nerd's Facebook timelines, the ideas and theories went a-flailin'. Prichards in Tennessee seems pretty happy with Diageo's supposed decision to fight the good fight, saying "If I wanted my whiskey to taste like Jack Daniels, I'd make Jack Daniels." Fair point. And to be honest, I can kind of see where he's coming from. If you come from a state that is known for proudly proclaiming that it is a state-made product on the label, I'd want to do it too. Enforcing a costly and, in my opinion, inane process on small manufacturers (Lincoln County Process) just to label it AS a Tennessee whiskey? That's not exactly fair. But Diageo is ALREADY doing it with their George Dickel whiskey...so why would they care? According to Fred Minnick's digging, it's a two-pronged attack. According to interviews he conducted with Brown-Forman, it seems they think that they are undermining Jack Daniels, as well as the law, in order to change the wording of the law from "aged in NEW charred oak barrels in Tennessee" to just "aged in charred oak barrels". Why? Because the barrel crop (well...the oak crop) this year suffered from heavy rains and terrible logging conditions. Also, they could use their rickhouses at the Stitzel-Weller distillery in Kentucky.

And this got me thinking.

Diageo is smart. If they can streamline, they will streamline. They did it with scotch. When demand for their single malts started to overcome what their individual distilleries could do...they built another one. A giant one. That can produce ALL the spirit types it needs. They opened Roseisle Distillery in 2010 and, in theory, they should have started using spirit from it in their blends two years ago. And then there's the matter, as of late, of the Bulleit bourbon and rye providence. As of late, Diageo have been VERY tight-lipped about where Bulleit has been made. Chuck Cowdery's two investigations yielded that it used to be Four Roses. Or maybe MGP. And now they're not talking at all. In fact, there's a "Bulleit Distilling Company" now, which is a PO Box address and a hotline to a Bulleit Customer Care Line. And have you noticed how much money they're dumping into Stitzel-Weller? $2 million alone on a Stiztel-Weller Visitor's Center ? Why, it's almost like they're going to move in...

What if...and I am postulating grandly here...what if they are? What if Diageo is positioning to reclassify the "Tennessee Whiskey" law into a "Tennessee-style Whiskey" law? What if Stitzel-Weller is to become Diageo's American whiskey Roseisle? By slowly creeping back on revealing who makes Bulleit, they could outsource the manufacture of it to a spirit plant and age it at Stitzel-Weller, all the while preparing Stitzel-Weller to fire up again. By reclassifying Tennessee Whiskey to a Tennesee-style Whiskey, they could shutter George Dickel and just make it at Stitzel-Weller. That's all of their American whiskies bundled up in one neat little distillery.

THAT is what I think the big picture is. Diageo wants one distillery that it can depend on for everything it needs in terms of American whiskey. A standard and reliable place for Bulleit whiskey. A place to manufacture and age a Tennessee style whiskey. The ability to sell off a distillery. Personally, I think that's what they're doing right now. Call it a hunch but this gumshoe's got a gut feeling. And, hopefully, I'll be wrong. Dickel will continue to stay open either under Diageo or other stewardship, Tennessee whiskey law won't be tampered with, and everyone can walk away happy.

I hope.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tuthilltown Spirits "Making The Cut"

I got an email about this contest last week, asking whether or not I could run a piece on it. I was debating what to do. On one hand...it kinda hurt. I used to work at Tuthilltown and I poured my heart and soul into that job. Seeing this opportunity come about, via email, from a PR company that never even realized I worked there....well...it stung. But then I realized that it's Tuthilltown and I still love them and have mostly fond memories of working there (the not-so-fond memories were the many times I'd pinch fingers moving barrels). So I'll run it, in it's entirety, even if this is something I usually refrain from doing. Here it is.





NEW YORK, MARCH 3RD, 2014 - Whiskey distillation is a science of circles. Circular barrels. Circular bottles. Circular stills. The circle of Gable Erenzo, co-master distiller and soon-to-be-former brand ambassador of Hudson Whiskey, is almost complete, as he will once again focus his efforts back at the distillery full-time. But as is the nature of circles, with the end of Gable’s journey begins a new one. Enter “Making the Cut”: the search to replace the irreplaceable Gable with a new face for the Hudson Whiskey brand, and one qualified individual’s shot at a full-time job as Hudson Whiskey’s brand ambassador.“Making the Cut” is not a hunt for the world’s greatest mixologist, or the foremost scientific mind in distillation. It is to find the human embodiment of Hudson Whiskey’s ideals and identity. Ten years ago, the Hudson folks set out to open a climber's ranch, but the neighbors balked. They had to either go home or try something new: whiskey. As New York’s first whiskey distillery since Prohibition grew, Gable rose to Everest-level heights as the brand’s global ambassador. However, he has now decided to forego his time on the road and return to his precious distillery, nurturing and improving upon our country’s craftiest of craft whiskies.
    With “Making the Cut”, the Hudson Whiskey team, brand founders Ralph Erenzo and Gable Erenzo, and the highly decorated distiller William Grant & Sons, which acquired the brand in 2010, is looking for someone who gets that make-it-happen, can-do spirit, and who gets the importance of shaking hands, meeting face-to-face and telling great stories. They want someone who understands how experiences circle back into the product, and how the product is comprised not just of distilled grain and rich barrel-aged flavor, but engrained with the personalities of each and every member of the distillery staff (there are only a handful!). Ralph and Gable chose whiskey over defeat, and they want someone who will make that same choice. The newest member of the Hudson Whiskey family will circle the country, speaking with bartenders, restaurant owners, whiskey enthusiasts and press, hosting tastings, connecting with fans via social media and representing our brand in the national press.
    Think you’re the one for the job? Ralph and Gable think so too. But they need proof, so send them a short video or a collection of photos, proving your readiness to begin your own circle of whiskey. Make a cocktail. Get crafty with some bottles. Recite your declaration of whiskey dependence. Then log on to HudsonWhiskey.com/MakingTheCut to submit your application. The chosen contenders will join us at the distillery to drink some good whiskey, meet some friendly people, and engage in a month-long course in craft distillation by Ralph, Gable and the rest of the distillery team. All will learn the wonders of craft whiskey from the leaders of craft distilling, but only one will make the cut to become the new Hudson Whiskey Ambassador.


Will I be entering? I dunno. I didn't see anything in the rules AGAINST me applying but I'm sure there's many more bartenders/distillers/cooler people out there that would do significantly better. That and I'm pretty sure, since it's judged by my old bosses, it might be unfair. Either way, if you're interested, link (again) is HERE. Good luck to those who enter. And if you do end up being one of the final 3, let me know. I don't live far. We can have a tipple or two.

EDIT: edited to make the damn video fit.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Copyrightin'...So Don't Copy Me

Things at Bacchus HQ over the past few months have been, to say the utmost least, dour. Life has been a progressive march downhill for awhile now. My health has been steady, and okay, but tumultuous in terms of the future and what my surgeon wishes to see accomplished and how to accomplish it. I have been out of work for coming up on two years now, thanks to these medical problems, and every application, lead, and job I've applied for has either dead-ended or lead nowhere. On top of that, I am now picking up my insurance payments on COBRA, which are $525 a month. And I can't switch to ACA plans because the hospital I use doesn't accept them (which I found out yesterday). Also, thanks to Congressional inaction, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program has lapsed and I no longer receive funds and have not since December 29th. Well, technically since October. Misinformation and lack of awareness meant that my unemployment claim lapsed in September and, upon resubmitting a claim, I am now under investigation by a NYS adjudicator because I filed for a D.B.A. And said adjudicator that hasn't done anything. And I can't get through to them because apparently NYS has never heard of "hold".

It just hangs up. What IS that?

Suffice to say...it's been pretty grim. I've been severely depressed. But lo, what strikes upon the midnight's shroud? A shining star, a bright beacon in a realm of shades. My copyright claim! As you can see below, this nifty little certificate came in the mail a few days ago. And with it, a warm fuzzy feeling.



In September, I decided it was time to file for a copyright claim on my thesis so that I can start sharing it with people. It is a source of some pride for me (although, after going over it for the application process I realize that it's not as good as I remember). My thesis for my MSc was entitled "Oak Alternative Wood Maturation with Basis In Historical Precedence". It was a literature analysis and chemical analysis of four historically pertinent (to the UK) woods that were widely used, imported, and bandied about through the beverage industry for the containment of various alcoholic fluids. There had been people interested in reading it and, honestly, I didn't feel totally comfortable sending them a document that only I and two people in the UK had seen and that only one institution had a copy of. So I decided the best course of action was to get that sucker copyrighted. And that's exactly what I did.

So, I guess this post serves as kind of an update as to where I am as well as what I've been doing. I'll be taking the necessary digital precautions to secure my work and sending it off to those interested in reading it. This also means you guys, as well. If it's something you seem interested in and are willing to slog through about 40 pages of literature review and textbook grade chemical analysis of wood maturation and aldehyde reactions in exotic wood, then by all means feel free to email me. I won't be handing it out to just EVERYONE so plead your case well. I might try to shop it around and see if anybody wants to pick it up for a journal or magazine.

Also, a very important note. While deciding on what to title this post, I had to listen to Missy Elliot's "Get Ur Freak On" which, while a fantastic song, is grammatically incorrect. It's "copyrighted", Missy, not "copywritten". Shame on you.

Also, "Gossip Folks" is better, lyrically. But that beat is sick, I'll give you that.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hestia Tobacco Craft Cigars

I'm not entirely sure how I found Hestia Tobacco. Reflecting on it, I think it was fortuitous happenstance. I might have seen their iconic logo bopping around on Instagram or maybe I saw someone mention it on Twitter. But no matter what way I found it, I was enthused and intrigued. For the longest time, I had been wanting a bespoke cigarette blend and, since they stopped doing that in the 50's and 60s, this was my best bet. My secret smoke. Naturally, I contacted the owner, David Sley, asking him more about his craft cigars. He quite generously answered my questions and sent me a pack out to review. The box came and it looked a bit like this:


Needless to say, I was impressed. Taking the pack of cigars out of the box, I couldn't help but admire how damn slick it looked. His artwork/logo was just downright striking and it's what drew me to the smokes to begin with. How can you argue with this?

(You also may note how SO MUCH BETTER that photo looks. That's because it was taken with my new Canon T3i. The first photo on it.)

But fancy packaging can only get you in the door. Can it hold the door open and try to sell me a vacuum? Well...

Yeah, it can.

Let me preface this in saying that this is in NO way, shape, or form a replacement for cigarettes. I tried, I really did. But I hit quite a few problems with that. First off, it's packed to the brim with tobacco to the point that the draw is tight. Not "fresh Frostee through a straw" tight but enough to be a bit of a bother. I tried dry-boxing it a bit but it didn't help much. Another point is the blend itself. It utilizes a fair amount of Virginia (David told me it was bright Virginia with burley but wouldn't tell me ratios). This means that towards the end of the cigar, you get a bit of tongue bite if you're puffing away on it like it's a cigarette. Also, nicotine level didn't provide the buzz of a cigarette, even though it's a 100mm cigar.

THAT BEING SAID...it's still a very high quality product that I enjoyed and would recommend. The flavor of the smoke is heavy on cedar with bright lemon notes coming through with chocolate, nutty undertones from the burley. It is fragrant...and smooth, if you do choose to inhale. And honestly, I can't fault them for the draw; it's because of tobacco classification, really. Small cigars have to weight a certain amount per 1,000 in order to qualify for the lower tobacco tax (HA) so they gotta cram it in there. So you can blame the law for the draw. So if you treat them like cigars, you will have an enjoyable, tasty treat to savor. What would I like to see them do? Offer it in a roll-your-own pouch or box. The taxes on shag cut are astronomical these days so I would understand if they went with the finest pipe cut they could and I'd probably be pretty happy. Hell, I'd throw it in a pipe too. It's a solid, if a bit Virginia heavy, Va/Bur. It would cut down on the cost of manufacturing and allow people to customize their smokes as they see fit. But Hestia is a new company and they're barely making enough to keep up demand as is.

I urge you to give them a try. While I need the sweet, subtle embrace of Dame Nicotine as much as the next man, I'll probably be slipping these into my rotation when I can find the money and time to wait for it to ship to my house. A Hestia, a coffee, and the warm sun is a pretty sweet mid-morning break from whatever shenanigans I'm up to. Much like my preferred consumption, take it slow and steady and Hestia will treat you right. Get 'em here.