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'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.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Was Older Whisk(e)y Better?

Alright, buckle up because this is basically a battle of whisk(e)y nerds. And I say that lovingly, because I am one. Wholeheartedly. It would take a whisk(e)y nerd to even approach this topic, really.

Lately the topic of old whisk(e)y has been bandied about the blogging / freelance sphere and it's caused quite a stir. I first saw it in Joshua Feldman/Coopered Tot's review of 1960-70s Johnnie Walker Red Label. I found it to be not only a solid review (he does those, unlike my lazy arse) but an interesting peek into what was. Today, Billy Abbott of Billy's Booze Blog (more famously known for his dastardly delicious designations of whiskey on The Whisky Exchange) wrote about the topic of declining whiskey quality. It was bandied about in discussions on the topic when Oliver Klimek's response to the topic (from three years ago) showed up as well. It was quite the rabbit-hole to travel down and it had some interesting tidbits of opinion and such; so much to the point that it motivated me to unsheathe the ascerbic, self-defacing fingers from their cozy naps and put them to keyboard.

That means that I wanted to weigh in too.

The opinion camps are as such: Billy (I will now refer to him henceforth as cowfish) believes in consumer fault, Josh believes in producer fault, and Oliver...well..he just thinks everything's changed, I think. What do I think? Well...

I think whisk(e)y has changed. In some aspects, for the worse. Mainly blends but, thanks to people like Compass Box, we're working on that. In other aspects, for the better. It breaks down into three categories of change: economic, social, and manufacture. While all intertwined, I'll try to separate them out. Forgive me if I get the timeline wrong, it's rough in my mind so feel free to correct me. Let's jump in.


This part starts off with a historical conundrum that I'd have to phone in a few favors to get an answer to. Maybe someone can fill me in, I dunno. All I DO know is that roughly during the mid 1950s until the late 80s...everybody wanted lighter spirits. Across the board. It started with lighter whisk(e)y, not just scotch. Sure, as Josh points out, there were ads for lighter blends to appease a growing palate, like this one:

(Shamelessly stolen from Josh's Pinterest, forgive me. Check it out, its thirst-inspiring)

But there was a major trend toward other spirits as well, especially in the 60s. Vodka, popularized by Moscow Mules, Kangaroos, and Pink Squirrels, blanco tequila in Margaritas, gin in Martinis, Collins, etc. Irish whiskey took a step away from its higher content of pure pot still in favor of more aged grain whiskey from the Coffey still.We were on a crash course of light flavors. I don't know why. I'm GUESSING it has something to do with their mix-ability in the new wave of cocktails crashing into the states but that's just a shot in the dark. This fairly well continued into the 70s when there was the whisky glut and distilleries started tanking left and right, companies consolidated (both corporate structure as well as stock). The 80s were fairly quiet. And then the 90s came...and people started buying single malts. And whisk(e)y of all kinds (blends included) started taking off again. Which leads us into...


The most fiscally beneficial word to every distiller is the word "light". It's very easy to take away flavor in a finished product and it often results in MORE finished product to sell at the same price. It's awesome. If you want a lighter make it a "mixto" tequila, which means 51% 100% Blue Weber Agave spirit and the rest whatever neutral grain spirit (hereto referred to as NGS) you can get cheaply. Bam. A barrel of costly tequila becomes two barrels of tequila. Woohoo for everybody. This, in the scotch world, means leaning heavily on grain whisky. Grain whisky, on its own, is actually a delicious product. I'm sure in the early days, when light scotch was required, they were using respectably aged grain whiskey. By law, it only has to be 3 years but I'm sure that's not the age they were using. And when the whisky glut happened, they had loads of it and they can't really sell it. Sure, they could trade it for other blending stock but why not hold on to it? But the problem isn't when there's a glut, it's when there's a dearth. 

Single malt scotch demand after weathering a glut is the best problem you can have. You have a massive amount of blending stock to make a minimal aged spirit and a ready market. If you've got old stuff, make it 8-10 year. Or 12 year. You have WAREHOUSES full of the stuff that no one wanted for 10 years that had been slumbering away and now people are willing to pay double the amount of money for a bottle of single malt as a bottle of blended. Go for it. The capital can be used to lay down more. They want OLDER expressions? Awesome, we got them too. What do they want next, older stuff?

Wait...they want blended again? Lots of blended?

This is the "oh shit moment" for a company, a "shit bricks" moment for warehouse managers, and an "I hate everything ever" moment for the master blender. You've been dumping stock you didn't think you needed into, say a minimum of 10 year old, single malt whisky which you were more than happy to do because it meant they could fire the stills up again. But when they want single malt and sales of blended are starting to increase dramatically again and they're clambering not for the light scotch of yesteryear but for something with a little more oomph...well...stocks of the good stuff will deplete quickly. They probably had enough stock lying around to fill the immediate need until a new crop of whisky was suitable for blending again...but the new stuff won't be as old. They might have been blending 10, 12, 15 year scotch into blends to begin with when sales were low but when the next batch is ready in the's maybe going to be 9, 10, 11 years. And the next batch might be 8, 9, 10 years. And so on and so forth until they can catch up for the demand for BOTH single malt AND blended. And the grain whisky will suffer the same fate as well only they'll probably cutting the time down on that even further . The legal requirement is 2 years. If they just need blending filler...why go much further? And this flurried pace leads to...


This is part and parcel money saving as much as it is efficiency. When you need to pump out lots of whisk(e)y to meet demand and it has the benefit of saving you money in the long run, awesome. Floor maltings were never really efficient so Saladin boxes were used. It cost a lot of money, was slower, and required more manhours to produce the same batch. And even then, the malted barley produced wasn't as consistent. The barley itself was swapped out from Golden Promise to Optic because you didn't have to send away as many trucks full of barley at the intake testing lab because they had mold or pests or disease. Steam jacketed/bath stills were not only safer (not as much workers comp!) but were more efficient in Btu output. Stainless steel washbacks didn't need as much maintenance and upkeep as pine so let's ditch them too. And we can probably reuse that cask one more time for the grain whisky.

But that all lead to changes and that's just a small sample. Floor malted barley has different stresses than Saladin box barley, causing different chemical/biological reactions within the germinating barley that can result in different flavors. Often times (as is the case with Optic) flavor is sacrificed for plant survivability during genetic tinkering (I'm also looking at you, tomatoes). Direct fire would cause hot spots on the still, effectively caramelizing the wash and inciting Maillard reactions of the sugars that would cause different flavors in the still. Hell, in a direct fire still it could have had hot-spots hot enough to catalyze reactions of long-chain fatty acids into esters that wouldn't happen when the whole still is just at boiling point. And reusing barrels that are on their third go-around...well...don't get me started on that.

Basically, what I'm trying to say here is that there were several facets that resulted in changes in the whisk(e)y industry (I'm sure by this point you're well aware I'm focusing on scotch but it does hold true in some respects for American whiskey). I think that these changes are a chain reaction of social and economical reasons that I can't fault anyone for. I can't honestly say its the consumer, even today, because they've never had the old whisky that Josh had. The new, higher grain, younger single malt blends are what they were introduced to, THAT'S what they know scotch is. Some blends fared worse than others during the glut and they've been holding on by continuing to adjust their grain to malt ratios to keep competitive. I DO think that if the consumer base, on a whole, knew what blended USED to taste like, they'd begin demanding it. And I think that time is coming. With the boom of premium and ultra-premium spirits, consumers that have even a cursory knowledge of whisky, if introduced to quality blended whiskies (I'm looking at you, Compass Box) will begin asking for it. And we just might be in a position to offer it.

All that being said, I think today's Johnnie Walker Black is delicious.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Purloined Pappy

Dear distilling industry,

Congratulations, we've done it. Through tireless hours of effort, propaganda, and branding, we have achieved something only the greatest of mankind can accomplish.

We have created a MONSTER.

I'm not talking about a blasphemous beverage of mind-boggling flavor profile (although Malibu Red is very close). Rather, I am talking about a waltzing juggernaut of soul-sucking depravity that can turn the best of humans into the worst. I'm talking about Pappy Van Winkle.

In case you didn't know...

Some of the most sought-after Kentucky bourbon in the nation is now the subject of a whodunnit.
Roughly 65 cases of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon were stolen in what looks to be an inside job from a secure area at Buffalo Trace Distillery’s Frankfort facility, according to Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton.
Melton said the theft was reported Tuesday and appears to have occurred over the past couple months. Detectives are investigating but have no suspects.
The thief or thieves made off with about $26,000 of the limited stock, which Melton said consists of about $25,350 in 3-bottle cases of 20-year-old Pappy and about $675 in nine cases of 13-year-old Van Winkle Family Reserve rye. (courtesy of The Courier-Journal)

I'm not entirely sure what to say about this situation, really. I can't tell what the worst facet is. To start, there's the fact that $26,000 in whiskey was stolen. That's sad. There's also the fact that the estimated price works out to roughly $151 a bottle. That's heart-breaking. Or maybe the fact that it's clearly an inside job and that someone took the time to plan and orchestrate an inside robbery...for bourbon. That's a TRAVESTY.

To be fair, I can see their standpoint for stealing all that Pappy. While the article generously gives an estimated price per Pappy 20 year old as "$130 a bottle", it's more along the lines of the $200+ range. Because you can't get it. People sell empty bottles on Ebay for almost $100 just so you can either pass off cheaper bourbon as Pappy or...nefariously become an independent bottler. And the people that drink it...well...they're admirable people. The chef market has been hitting it hard. Anthony Bourdain constantly plies Eric Ripert with bottles of it on his various shows. I'm fairly sure Alton Brown's bowtie is just a Pappy flask. So you can see why it's celebrated. People with pretty good taste are willing to buy it.

But is this a good thing? Well, for the Van Winkle family...I guess it is. People want their stuff, even though they're getting mighty close to swapping out the Stitzel-Weller produced bourbon for Buffalo Trace bourbon at this point. Buffalo Trace is probably pretty happy as well (grand theft alcohol aside). But is it good for the industry?

Honestly, at this point I had to stop writing this and really think about it. It took me a few days of mulling it over to decide where I stand on it and here it is: it's bad...for the consumer. To have a product so in demand that no matter how many barrels are allocated it WILL sell out at a hefty premium (no wholesale discounts here) is a good thing for Buffalo Trace/Van Winkle family. It's cold hard cash. I doubt that even when the full switch to Buffalo Trace made/aged juice comes that people will stop buying it. It is more than a bourbon now. It is an industry myth. But for the consumer, this is a big step in a terrible direction. First off, be prepared to see bootlegs. If you can sell a 20 or a 23 year old bourbon for $600 a bottle, people WILL bootleg it. They will buy old Pappy bottles, fill them with whatever, and reseal it. Can't do much about that aside from flag the bottles on Ebay but even then there's a "legit" use of personal deception (i.e. people who care more about the status than the contents). And this brings about another point that is a sore contention with me. It's gonna start being...collected.

I hate collecting whisk(e)y. It's prevalent in the scotch industry but not so much in the bourbon industry...but this is the first step in that direction. I'm of the opinion that it was made to be consumed. I UNDERSTAND how it is a viable investment, I do. I just don't agree with it. It's like buying cigars as an investment or fancy cars as an investment. It's a luxury product, get some luxury from it. That and the fact that each bottle represents a small slice of history, of what was going on 15, 20, 23 years ago. When I did my stint at the bottling room in Tuthilltown this feeling continued to pervade my thoughts. As I labeled, signed, and numbered each bottle I realized that each of those wee little bottles was the culmination of not just time and effort...but atmosphere. Some of those bottles were bathed in the dulcet tones of Ozzy Osbourne. They suffered through iteration after iteration of "The Regular Show" quotes. They represented a snapshot of a day, that brief glimpse of the mundane that is taken for granted. Don't lose that. That's terrible. Storing away those little moments to never be shared, to never see the light of day again...I find it reprehensible. In the best of allegory sense (if you've read Harry Potter), every bottle is a tiny little Pensieve that can be revisited and savored. Or forgotten on a shelf like a share of stock.

Another thing that bothers me is that there is an increasing divide between accessibility of whiskey to the consumer. Bourbon, in its truest roots, is moonshine refined. The south was predominantly filled with Scotch and Irish settlers after the Whiskey Rebellion in 1791. In order to not pay taxes...they just left the colonies and headed into the wilds. Over time, the spirit grew to become the corn based beauty we know today. It is humble in its origins and its manufacture is even more humble. It is a combination of multiple grains, most of which are government subsidized. So, at it's crux, it should be affordable. But this increasing separation of "ulta-premium" is worrying. The most affordable ultra premium for your standard consumer is the Buffalo Trace Antique collection and even that's $80 a pop (but so worth it). It also worries me about what they'll be TRYING to push the ultra-premium category. My guess is extended aging and that is not something I'm comfortable with. Buffalo Trace does a fine job because their dedication to barrel monitoring is astoundingly rigorous (even if their application of scientific theory leaves me wanting). But what of everyone else? Will people be soon paying for nigh-undrinkable barrel squeezings at $200 a bottle just to let it sit on a shelf?

Finally, there's this:

"It's the pinnacle of bourbon," gushed Fischer. "If you're around a bottle, it's a special occasion." Melton said officials are in the early stages of the investigation, and will be on the lookout for any bottles popping up on the black market.

But the thief might not be in any rush, Fischer said.

"If you keep bourbon in the right conditions, it will be good forever."

"You have to wonder what's going to happen to the 195 stolen bottles," said Kit Codik, CEO of the all-things cocktail website "It's like when a van Gogh goes missing: Where does that rare piece of art end up? I have no idea." (courtesy of CNN)

I will give it that it could be construed as a piece of art, yes. I find that distilling is about 25% art, 75% science. But is this the top of the top? Is this where we stop? Is this REALLY the pinnacle of what bourbon can do? I don't think so. I hope not. As someone who is thoroughly enthralled in R&D, I PRAY it isn't. We have so far to go. Bourbon is a fledgeling spirit in terms of the world and we're just starting to stretch our legs. I dunno WHERE we're going to go with it (more on this later, trust me)...but we have room to grow. A lot of room. So I disagree that it's the "pinnacle" of bourbon. To call Pappy the pinnacle of bourbon means we're only on the decline. Don't cap us so soon. We can, and will, keep pushing limits and boundaries to make better, tastier product.

All this being said...I still want a bottle.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hudson Valley Wine and Food Fest 2013

My body, after years of careful consideration and scientific testing, has confirmed to be NOT carbon based. No, rather it is actually very carefully compressed, shaped, and orchestrated disappointment. I am, borrowing from Brian Posehn somewhat, a disappointment elemental. Not that I SPREAD disappointment, mind you. I know many people that could attest to the latter. But rather, it's self-disappointment. It strategically sacrifices little bits of itself to ruin plans. The odd thing is, the further away from my house these plans take place, the less it exerts. I guess the energy conversion of solid disappointment to gaseous disappointment (otherwise known as "the vapors") is considerable so whatever manifests when I am to go far away from home is generally mild but irritating. I had a kidney infection when I went to IPCPR in NOLA in 2010 but it was mild and, on the kidney infection Richter scale, was about a 2.0. When I went to ADI in Denver, I had a mild sinus infection and I could really smell the hundreds of spirits laid out before me in a literal spirit buffet. However...when the plans constitute going to somewhere within walking distance of my house...all hell breaks loose.

So, three days before the Hudson Valley Wine and Food Festival, a half mile from my house at best, I get a 8.0 Kidney Richter Scale mamma-jamma. It started as it usually does: my back hurts. Figuring I slept on it wrong, I went about my day. Then that deep rooted, aching pain started and I knew what I was in for. Confident that I could kick this before Saturday (it was a Tuesday), I called my doctor, got my meds, had some coffee, watched a few movies, drank a lot of water...then went to bed. When I woke up on Wednesday, what should have been a bright and beautiful morning of birds chirping, soft breezes, and no back was not. I had a fever of 102.6. I was delirious and hallucinating. Chills and shakes swept through me like the winds over the plains. But I had my meds! I'll be okay.


Needless to say, after many days of low grade fever and aches, I gave up. I couldn't go. I should be drinking and the antibiotics were just slow. So I called in my professionals. My photographer, otherwise known as the Sofrito Senorita, was fine to go. But who to replace my larger than life (both physically and metaphorically) persona? I had to call in the big guns. Enter the freelance.

Some say this is right before she got on a plane and sang "Tiny Dancer" with a band in a storm.
She has many names but prefers to go by the name of "Beauty and the Borscht" due to her deep-seated Russian roots and the fact that she can eat more borscht than any human I've ever seen. Some say she stores where her soul should be, using it to fuel her superhuman voracity for things. Not one thing in particular...all things.

What I was forwarded was a dirty and crumpled sheet of barely incoherent notes. Several of the pages were stained with wine and what potentially could be the blood of her enemies. No photos of the altercation exist so I'm guessing it was either brutal or non-existent. The notes were unusable; unintelligible to any but the finest cryptographers. But I do have the photos. And here's what we got.

inwithbacchus's HVWFF 2013 album on Photobucket

All in all, it looks like they had a good time. No photos of food which makes me sad because the Jamaican jerk chicken guy was there and I wanted to eat all of the plantains he had. Fried plantains are a medicinal food, right? Several types of wine which I want to try (that Dragon's Fire wine) and some pretty solid candid shots as well. So I think I'll let them pass for the dismal note-keeping. In case you were wondering whether or not you should attend this event, I wholeheartedly recommend it. You could huck a rock and hit a decent, if not foxy and fine, Riesling (In With Bacchus does not endorse the projectile movement of stones, rocks, gravel, or any other geological formation in the hopes of hitting a wine). So go drink some damn fine wine, eat a lot of stuff (one of the legible notes was about bacon jerky), and have a good time in the sun.

Now if you'll excuse me, my body has dinner plans to ruin.

EDIT:  Beauty and the Borscht has this to say: "The Americana Baco Noir was honestly my favorite. That and the Casa Larga Lilac wine."

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Bottomless Bottle

Sometimes, when I can't sleep at night, I daydream of what my life would be like if I had a fully stocked bar. Sad, isn't it? Usually these daydreams devolve into me foiling a rogue government plot with a trusty revolver and a bottle of whiskey...which kinda makes it even more sad. I go from wanting a stocked bar to turning into an inebriated, slightly bumbling James Bond or pudgy Philip Marlowe / Sam Spade.

And I always, magically, lose 60 pounds. Funny that.

More often than not, when I can't sleep, you can find me on Twitter or chatting with friends in a variety of formats available to me. So the other day, when chatting with a drunk friend who had come back from the bars, I got the idea for this post. His query, and I quote:

Friend: you are stranded on an island
Friend: you have 1 choice for booze
In With Bacchus: fuuuuck
Friend: it is:
In With Bacchus: this is the worst question for a distiller

It really is the worst question. In such a veritable smorgasbord of booze, how can I pick one? How can ANYONE pick just one? Would you go with the expensive? The tried-and-true? The utilitarian? How do you choose just one spirit? My eventual answer depended on not just what I liked, but the environment. Here's how it went down:

In With Bacchus: does the island have coconuts?
Friend: the island bows down to your choice
In With Bacchus: then Jamaican rum
In With Bacchus: overproof
In With Bacchus: Smith and Cross, I guess
In With Bacchus: tiki drinks forever
Friend: cant fault you for [sic] chosing rum

In the end, I settled on one of my favorite rums, the classic blended Jamaican rum: Smith and Cross. I was going to go for J. Wray and Nephew but I'm more of a sucker for aged things and I don't have the cooperage skills to make a barrel out of anything on an island. I can, however, crack coconuts, cut up pineapples, and juice limes. And I suppose I can chalk this up to my knowledge of drinks and engineering mindset of "work with what you've got to improve". I guess it also kinda says that I need a vacation or something. Who knows.

It is a question I pose to you, as well, dear readers. If you were to be stranded on an island, what would be in your proverbial washed up liquor crate? And what does it say about you?

In hind sight, if the island bows down to my choice I guess I could have asked for a bottle of "rescue me". Maybe it would have spawned a yacht plant or something.

Monday, June 24, 2013

RE: Craft Whiskey Isn't Always Better

Maybe by now, if you're as enthused about spirits as I am, you've seen the Slate article come across whatever media you decide to frequent. The Slate article that shares a title with this post. A Slate article that, for pretty much all intents and purposes, knocks around craft distilling something righteous and fearful. An article that says things like:

In America’s evolving whiskey landscape, however, smaller isn’t necessarily better. Some excellent craft whiskies have emerged in recent years, but the distilleries responsible for big names like Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, and Four Roses make whiskeys that a surprisingly high number of microdistilleries struggle to match.


Even the most basic offerings from many big distilleries—brands like Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam Black, and Wild Turkey 101—are excellent products that I find more complex than many craft products that are much more expensive. Higher-end products from these same big distilleries—Eagle Rare Single Barrel, Knob Creek, and Russell’s Reserve—are very hard to compete with, especially at the prices they charge.

It's ruffled some feathers. Some dander is up, it's true. But not mine. And it's not because I don't feel threatened by it or that I think it's borderline satire.
It's because I agree with it.

This isn't to say that I'm cut my roots and have shackled myself to the big boys. Don't worry, I love craft distillers. But the article itself crops up a LOT of good points that I feel that small distillers should take to heart. And I'm going to go through them, one by one.

Non Distiller Producers

I love Smooth Ambler. I think it's fantastic. I like High West. I could drink their Campfire until my eyes bleed. And I appreciate the fact that they are pretty open with the fact that, yes, that isn't really their product. It's product they've bought and bottled under their label. And I'm fine with that. Good whiskey and truth, what's not to like? If you're looking for more information on this, go check out Chuck Cowdery's post on it. He sums it up nicely.
What I don't like is people that DON'T let consumers know what their buying. That's just dishonest and it gives not just yourself but the industry itself a bad name. Be up front. Be honest. Don't become the proverbial snake oil salesman here. If you believe that you have a good product, let it speak for itself, regardless of where it comes from. If people like it, they won't care that it came from another distillery. They won't care as long as when they put their lips to the glass it is tasty. But to make a brand out of purchased whiskey and pass it off as the blood, sweat, and tears of labor in your budding distillery...that's just heartbreaking. And it makes your life difficult. Now that there's a whiskey shortage, how do you explain to people why your whiskey tastes so radically different? And if people find out that you are bottling something someone else made, what makes you think that they'll give you a chance when you start releasing your own product? Good brands are built upon trust.

Aging Your Product

This is probably my favorite quote from the entire thing:
For whiskey startups operating on shoestring budgets, four years is an eternity to wait before earning revenue. Many have attempted to dodge this obstacle by selling younger whiskies or attempting to quickly extract wood flavors by using smaller barrels, wood chips, ultrasound machines, pressure cookers, and even by playing loud bass music to agitate the whiskey. Upstart distilleries say these techniques do for their whiskeys in a matter of months what otherwise takes years.

Guys...stop. Just...just stop. Every time I hear of some small distiller thinking that they've found the Rosetta stone of fast aging, I die a little bit on the inside. Trust me. You CANNOT. SPEED. UP. AGING. Things take time. Chemical processes need to happen. Evaporation, esterification, ethanolysis...these things don't happen overnight. Or over-week. Or over-month. Think over-year. No matter how much you pressurize and agitate and saturate with wood...your spirit will not age faster. I'm sorry. So please stop claiming that the techniques you're using make your whiskey just as old as commercial stuff. It makes us, again, look bad. To be sure, there is a niche market for these kinds of whiskies. Heavy wood profiles can make for interesting cocktails and pair extremely well with cigars. People DO buy them. But don't exclaim that they are the same as a Jim Beam Black. Please don't. Don't feel the need to compare to commercial products. Be your own product.

Why Craft Whiskey Isn't Always Better

Here's the one I'm assuming everyone will get angry at me for. I've tasted a lot of pretty solid craft whiskey. I've tasted some amazing craft whiskey. I've tasted some bad craft whiskey. And that was from just one producer. I've run the gamut of whiskey available from the craft distilling world and it is as varied as can be. Sometimes, this is a good thing. Like vintages of wine, some batches are better than others and that is certainly a drawing point for some. But for a lot of other people, it's not.
A long time ago, I was drinking with friends one night and I professed that I liked Bud. They all started ragging on me at that point. "How can you like that swill?" "I thought you had better taste than that." Blah blah blah. They ragged on me for a bit until I explained why. I like Bud matter where you go in the country, in the continent, hell, in the order a Bud and you get a Bud. You don't get something that tastes sorta like Bud. You get a Bud. It may not be the best out there but it is consistent. And being consistent is much, much, MUCH harder than anyone gives it credit for. To be able to reach for a bottle of Booker's or Old Granddad or Redbreast and have it taste exactly the same is not only impressive from a distillers point of view...but it's comforting from a consumer's point of view. Sometimes I want to try something new, different, exciting and I'm willing to pay for it. But I don't want to try something new, different, and exciting EVERY time. The craft distilling movement has major troubles with consistency. Whether it's by choice or it's by just figuring out what we're's a problem. I'm sorry but it just is. And until we can safely put out product that, no matter who grabs it or when they grab it, it tastes the will BE a problem.

To those that have said that this is a horribly written, wrong article, I humbly disagree. It is a well-written article in my eyes that points out problems in the craft community that we should be addressing. If we can successfully address these problems in a positive manner, it will give us all the more credence in the distilling industry. If we can't, I believe that it will significantly hinder us. But that's just me running my mouth as usual.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Convalescence Plans And Charity Gaming

Last Friday, I met with my doctor. And, wouldn't you know it, the ol' Spolverino Luck kicked in. I was (not very) politely informed that the surgeries I'd been having had...for lack of a better phrase...a shelf life. They could only be done so many times before they had to do major open surgery. I was less than enthused. So what went from "well, I can grin and bear this for another two months" turned into "I may be recovering for six months and will have a wonderful variety of medical procedures to do while I'm recovering".

Needless to say, whatever can't go wrong, will, and it will. Catastrophically.

So as I stare down the barrel of an exploratory surgery this Thursday, I've been thinking to myself...what can I do during my convalescence? The doctors frown heavily on drinking during recovery. I might be able to get away with doing some reviews of the spirit samples I have (as they are usually 50-100ml samples). I will be doing cigar/pipe/medwakh reviews as well. But I can't smoke every moment of the day. Well...I CAN...but I can't imagine doing that for every waking moment for two to six months.

So I turn to what I normally do. Video games. For me, video games are an anxiety relief. Escapism means I don't have to think about what I'm going through or what I have to go through. I just focus on what's on the screen. I have a wide variety of games that I could play but that doesn't really involve the IWB readers. So I've devised a plan.

I will play games for (semi) charity.

I say semi charity because, frankly, I am going to have massive bills to pay. I've been unemployed since the last time I've had this surgery. So, as much as I hate to say it, part of the proceeds will have to help me pay my hospital bills, doctors bills, prescription costs, and equipment costs. Can't do much about that. But what I CAN do is donate the rest to charity. The first charity I'll be donating to is the National Kidney Foundation.
They rate very well in terms of charities. See here for a whole work-up on them by the Charity Navigator. I'm sure you know by now that my kidneys are not fantastic, with "not fantastic" being a rather strong understatement. If I could, I would love to help everyone everywhere to have new kidneys. But until the manage to make kidneys out of thin air...I don't think I can do that. BUT WE CAN HELP FUND THAT RESEARCH. So the NKF is a charity I'm throwing my enormous girth behind.

The other charity that I'd like to support is probably not well known by you but is near and dear to my heart. I have, since I was two weeks old, been having all of my surgeries (well, technically, 25/27) at Westchester Medical Hospital in Valhalla, NY.

That's right, I've visited Valhalla and have returned. I'm the craziest Viking ever. So I will also be making donations to them because they have supported me since I was born and pretty much helped me live. Okay, DEFINITELY helped me live.

Now, these are 501c3 charities but, sadly, I am not so you can't exactly write this off. But I will be VERY transparent about this. Everything will be split in half. Half to my needs (until the point at which I stop needing it), half to charity. I will do weekly/bi-weekly analysis costs and make them available to you. IF I make excessive amounts of money (which I'm guessing I won't), then I will donate everything but what I need to charity. Examples for clarity:

Let's say I need $600.
I earn $50. $25 goes to me, $25 goes to charity.
I earn $200. $100 goes to me, $100 to charity.
I earn $3000. $600 goes to me, $2400 to charity.

I'm not hear to EARN money. I just want to keep from digging the debt hole deeper than it already is. It's mainly about donating to charity. I hope you can understand my mentality. If you want further explanation...just email me.

I will be using (for some reason it just lists me as so I dunno what the deal is with that). The link is here. I will also be Tweeting about video games, incessantly, on my other Twitter channel, bacchus_plays. So if you want to support me...and good causes, here's how to do it. Follow, subscribe, and give me feedback (WHICH YOU GUYS ARE NOT FANTASTIC AT). If you have any recommendations on HOW to stream...I'm all ears. is cool. I might go for the Adobe program or the Open Broadcaster Software. Also, if you've got any questions, comments, concerns, or games that I should probably play...let me know. I've got a huge Steam list but it can always get bigger. I will be playing a variety of first person shooters, real time strategy, some massive multiplayer's (FFXI and maybe WoW, depending)...

Oh, and whatever the hell you classify Minecraft as. Not sure WHAT it is, other than "Creeper Explosion Simulator 2: The Enrage-ening."

EDIT: I have added a new charity as well. It is this one:

By all intents and purposes, I am disabled. I meet most of the government definitions. I never consider myself disabled because I guess I feel like there are so many more out there that deserve the title of "disabled" more than I do. But its true. When I read the website...I cried. I dunno if its the Percocets I'm on for the pain or the leftover anesthesia or WHAT...but it hit so close to home I cried. I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's been a wearying few days so maybe that's it. Video games have always helped me escape. I escape pain, discomfort, situations with no silver linings in sight. I can be who I want to be: a powerful wizard or a savvy spy or a noble soldier....instead of a fat kid with PTSD and terrible kidneys. So I will be supporting this charity as well. The charity will be a three way split. If the value doesn't work out, I'll put up a vote on to who gets the extra. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go back to playing Minecraft.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

State of the Blog(ger)

"Men weary as much of not doing the things they want to do as of doing the things they do not want to do." - Eric Hoffer

Edit: The first draft of this read like a LiveJournal circa 2003. This is the second draft. You're welcome. Trust me.

Our family, the Spolverinos, have what we like to call "Spolverino Luck." It's pretty much like Murphy's Law but with a slight addendum. Murphy's Law is "Whatever can go wrong, will." Spolverino Luck is "Whatever can go wrong, will. Whatever can't go wrong, can go wrong, and it will. Catastrophically." At this point in scientific process it has evolved past a postulate, migrated beyond theory, and has almost become law. We're just waiting on data to come back from several trials that had to be independently validated by a non-partial third party. We expect this to become a law within the year.

I mention this to you now on the eve of one of my least favorite holidays, the Festival of Surgeons. Tomorrow I'm scheduled to go down to my doctor and have a gamut of tests done that are not exactly comfortable only to tell me what I already know. I know my body. I know what's wrong and I know it's gonna need to be fixed by opening the hood and rooting around. My body a late 80s Honda that's been held onto too long. To start it you need to hit the dash three times with a hammer, recline the seat, and then touch wires together at the bottom of the steering column...all while humming Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant."

I'm just about used to it by now. So far I've averaged 1.08 surgeries a year for my entire life. I'm just starting to realize that I will probably never get to spend my tax refund check on anything fun or anything new but rather paying off hospital bills, wetting the beaks of doctors, and old man bro-ing out at pharmacies. This is also coupled with the fact that I lost my job around the same time last year because of the exact same surgery I'm going to need again. Two years running. I should get a trophy or something. I've had no real income for the past year (I finally got unemployment in September but I'm barely making loan and expense payments) and being out recovering from surgery means that I am "unable to work" and will subsequently lose my unemployment. I could apply for disability but that only nets me $200 a month which is about a quarter of what I need. Whee. Like I said, Spolverino Luck.

To put it lightly, I'm tired. Physically, yeah, I guess. Mentally I'm exhausted. I can compare my anxiety these days to someone playing a musical saw. Unnatural, high frequency, and oscillating in the oddest of ways. Sometimes I feel alright and I'm able to do things. Other days I pop my anxiety medicine like it's a Pez dispenser and just sit in my room staring blankly at walls...or the inside of my eyelids.

I know, I know. I don't write. I know I SHOULD be writing but I'll be damned if I have the motivation. I generally only have it in me to wake up, make a few cups of coffee, smoke a few cigarettes, and then escape for the rest of the day. I use video games primarily to escape and, while it keeps me sane, it leaves little room for anything else. And if I do get the bug to do a review (which, as I'm sure you know, is rare), I usually end up writing half of it and then let it languish in the stagnant pond that is "drafts" on Blogger. I've got about 20-25 reviews that I just don't have the heart to back-fill with the inane chatter I love putting into my posts but I also don't have the heart to just post them as is because that's just boring. For awhile I thought that I was tiring of booze and writing about it and talking about it and thinking about it...but that's not true. Attending ADI filled me with just a maelstrom of passion and energy about what I do. Granted, it was quickly consumed in the ever-raging fires of anxiety...but it's not like my interest has waned in any way. It is, as the quote by Eric Hoffer states, the weariness of not doing what I want to do for the past year coupled with the weariness of having to do what I don't want to do now.

Don't worry, however. I still have ALL the samples that I've been sent, in various states of cognizance of location. I don't throw booze away...that's sacrilegious. They are all safe, sound, and whole awaiting final judgement by my maw. But until I can get motivated, they will stay unmolested and dormant in my cellars until I call upon them.

I'm not going away, I'm just being quiet as I have been. Just wanted to drop you an update so you don't worry about me. If you'd like to help me (can't fathom why you would), send me emails/tweets/etc. of what you want me to review, to talk about, to analyze. I love reader feedback and I don't get terribly much. So help me get out of this rut and send me some sweet emails. Let's work on this together.

"Life is one long process of getting tired." - Samuel Butler

Friday, March 29, 2013

U.S. Airways Sucks

I've followed the news. I'm not a completely ignorant man. I know that, awhile back U.S. Airways filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I also know that, recently, there was a judge approved merger for American Airlines and U.S. Airways. But one thing I couldn't understand was...why did they fail in the first place?

To be fair, the economy is bad. I'll give it that. And post-9/ have gone down. But what could have made such big companies, such cornerstones of the flight industry...financially collapse.

Then I flew with them. And I understood.

U.S. Airways is nothing like it used to be. It used to be a decent airline, back when I was a kid. Now, through subtle, shady's become a shell of it's former glory. is a strong word. It's more along the lines of "dog feces and old meat in a paper bag, lit on fire, stomped out, and then left in the Texas sun for three days".

Why the bitterness? The hostility. Well, in the words of the Aristocats...allow me to elucidate.

I am, as we speak, getting ready to fly to the ADI conference in Denver. I booked the tickets for the flights through U.S. Airways more than a month ago. Valentine's day, to be exact. Here's the proof:

U.S. Airways, being the kind and generous souls they are, decided it was more than appropriate to take my money for said tickets. See?:

And I couldn't fault them. I had seats set and I was happy dandy. Bear in mind, these flights were for MORE THAN A MONTH AWAY. One month, two weeks, two days, to be precise. I HAD SEATS:

So when I got the call to finalize things, everything was hunky dory. I went to test out the "check-in" section and got a Runtime error. Not fantastic so I contacted them on Twitter. I asked what the deal was and if they could confirm my seats (I didn't actually have a seat for the return flight). They sent me to their website to confirm the seats. Buuuuut...when I got to the U.S. Airways website, I was greeted to this:


As you can see by that picture...there are no regular seats. Apparently someone needed my seat more than I did and got it. Who knew, right? So this means two things. I could:

A) Pay extra for seats.
B) Get my seat at the counter.

Now, bear in mind a couple things. First thing is that I already paid for these tickets. They TOOK MY MONEY. They took it from my account and its theirs. Second...the plane itself. Let me put the De Haviland Dash 8 100 Turboprop into perspective. Here is the seating chart:

Thanks for backing me up,
You may note something. This is not a large plane. It's not even a medium plane. Or a medium-small plane. This is a Kid's Extra Small plane. It seats 37 and "seats 37" means "37 bodies can be, in theory, Tetris'd into this plane and you will get there with mostly everything attached". Here's the interior:

Courtesy of Colin Zuppicich and

Now...if it isn't blatantly clear to you at this point...there is NOTHING AND I MEAN NOTHING "Choice" about those seats. The back row of this plane is pretty much three seats bolted to the wall like a bench seat. It's a glorified public bus with wings.

So let's get back to where I was...I could do two things:

A) Pay for the "choice" seats (NOT. CHOICE. AT. ALL.)
B) Get my seat at the counter.

I talked to the U.S. Airways people on Twitter, through private message. I asked if I was guaranteed a seat at the counter because, y'know, I paid for this shit and everything. Their response?

I'm sorry. What? So let me get this straight. You can't guarantee I'll get a seat, even though I paid for it over a month ago, BORDERING on two months. Instead, you decide that it'll be a good idea to put me between a rock and my wallet: either show up at the ass-crack of dawn and pray to the gods above that I can get a seat to make my connection to get to Denver and get to the conference...or shell out MORE MONEY TO YOU.

I shelled out the money for the piece of mind. It was probably the hardest $41 I've ever spent. And dammit, I want it back. And the worst part is is that as soon as I get to that goddamn gate, I'm going to have to shell over $50 just to check my bag. Because everyone can fit their clothing for almost a week in Denver in a carry-on. light has come on. The bulb has flickered to life and I get it. The general shitty attitude of all airlines has put them in the place their in now. Continuing to inconvenience travelers for profit means people will go elsewhere. Honestly, I'd say that this would be my last time on U.S. Airways...if it wasn't the only goddamn carrier out of Stewart worth a damn. So I'm stuck with them. Let me reiterate here, even though I'm probably preaching to the hundred thousand strong choir:

U.S. Airways sucks both figuratively and literally (the money out of my goddamn wallet).

Friday, March 22, 2013


Refer to video above. Watch it. Let it soak in. ABSORB IT. Except the "bad news" parts. Those you can ignore for now. Now that you're properly prepared for the good news, in a traditional Farnsworth style...


I'm now a consultant at large for the alcoholic beverage industry. Well...I shortly will be. I'm waiting to fill out some paperwork at the county clerk's office so I can get a swanky name and a business account. But yes, I am consulting.

You may have noticed (or probably not) me sneakily add in the tab above that says "consulting". Yes, I will be available for consulting for all of your alcoholic beverage needs. It's been a long time coming, really. I'm still ironing a few kinks out, double checking things, crossing I's and dotting T's (waaaait) but it looks like it's going to happen.

It's been a long time coming, too. I've been pondering over this decision for about six months now, wondering if it's something that I can make work and can afford to do. But the ultimate decision came down to one thing:

It's what I WANT to do.

You don't know me, really. You've never hung out with me ad nauseum like my friends have. So subsequently, you don't know how hard I NERD OUT to booze. Like...embarrassingly so. My friends, I'm pretty sure, feel tinges of shame every time I do it. I go to Stockade Tavern and browse the back bar and begin rattling off formula information, legal definitions, obscure cocktails they go into, and my thoughts on them. It happens every damn time. And...I'm not ashamed of it. I genuinely love doing it. I love to share what I've garnered with the world. I mean, I don't know everything. I can't profess to being an expert. Even if others would consider me an expert I still wouldn't consider myself an expert. You call yourself an expert when you stop learning. And I never want to do that. So I figured it was time to share my unbridled enthusiasm with the world. And to be paid to do what I do anyway, well...that's just icing on the cake.

So! Over the next few weeks I will be getting all of my ducks in a row, getting the necessary paperwork filled out so I can be all fancypants and such, and I will be open to consulting offers should you or anyone you know need them. I will, once I get things worked out, be purchasing a domain and making another website that will have my CV on it and such. Don't worry, it won't affect anything here. If anything, I'll probably be posting more! Although, frankly, I don't think I could be posting less. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to that little Consulting button and hopefully we'll be able to work together in the future, immediate or otherwise.

PS: If you know anyone that needs some distilling help, let them know about Bacchus. Bacchus likes consult-ies.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Social Media and the Alcoholic Beverage Industry

This is a post I've been meaning to write for awhile and now I finally have the impetus to do it. Being part of the IBM My Smarter Commerce program for (almost) the past month has left me with a lot of thoughts. Aside from the self-depreciating ones like "why did they pick me?" and "what do I have to offer?" and "why am I talking to myself in my room?", the biggest one is "what is good social media and what has it done for me?" And then I realize.

It's built my brand. Or whatever you want to call In With Bacchus at this point.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that without Twitter, I don't think I'd be half as known as I am now and a quarter as popular as I am (maybe I'm exaggerating those two numbers but I'm just gonna say that they're small to begin with). It's allowed me to do so many things with so little monetary investment. When I first started this website, I had no Twitter followers and it was just a way for me to write down what I liked and didn't like. Now I have 3000+ followers and people actually listen to me. LISTEN TO ME! HOW WEIRD IS THAT?! But how? And why? After a month's worth of thinking, of ruminating, of pondering...I think I got it. The key is twofold: good social media practices and interfacing. Here's how they work.

What Is Good Social Media?

First off, what is good social media? I'm not talking about "what's your favorite platform". I'm talking about how it's used. For me, this ties directly into what I love so much about the beverage industry. You see, even the most industrial spirit...require something special. They require hands on. Hands on is a big thing for me. So many places these days don't make anything anymore. They ship it out, the automate it, they streamline it. But for the majority of the alcoholic beverage industry...that's just not how it goes. Sure, you may have your rectified spirits cut down to make vodka. But at the heart of that are a few guys and gals who check the grain in the grain quality office and decide whether or not its suitable for ethanol production. There are the guys and gals that mill the grain. The people that pump the grain into the mashing vats. The people that pump the water in. The people that check the strike temperatures of the water going in to make sure the enzymes convert the starches to sugars. The men and women that work in the yeast propagation labs, mixing proprietary yeast strains into nutrient media and letting the yeast divide and conquer its way to volumes suitable for fermentation. There are the men and women that dump the yeast and and watch that fermentation. The men and women that fabricate the short, squat pot stills or the stories tall column stills. All of it requires hands on. It's just the nature of the beast. No matter how industrial a company gets...there's always someone there checking, watching, waiting, and using their experience to guide the process to a better product. And that's amazing.

It is no coincidence that good social media programs should be the same way. If you follow me on Twitter (if you don't you should), you know that I spend a majority of my day on Twitter. I love Twitter because it allows me to have hundreds, thousands of micro-conversations in real time with people all across the world on topics I love. Whisk(e)y, gin, cigars, pipe tobacco, you name it. There are people out there that I get to talk to about anything I want and that's super cool. And I get involved. I get hands on. I don't send out blanket Tweets (well, very, very rarely I do), I engage people in one-to-one or small conversations, I answer questions and pose new ones. I treat it like a conversation. That's what people and companies do wrong. A lot of people complain that "Twitter is all Tweets about what people ate for lunch." Yeah, you get those. But fundamentally...that's what you want. You want it to be personal. You want to put yourself out there, get your hands dirty, and use your knowledge and expertise to put your spin on things. Everybody's got something their passionate about. EVERYBODY. You may not think it but there's something out there that when someone mentions it your eyes light up and you start to talk faster. Everybody's got it. Twitter is where you should flaunt it. Where people (mostly companies) go wrong is when they don't share that passion. They don't interact. Blanket Tweets, shilling ads, funny PR quips...they're not good. They don't add anything to the conversation that is Twitter, they just clutter it up. Are you someone super excited about plastic molding? I'm sure there's people out there on Twitter that would gladly listen to what you have to say. But you NEED to get involved. I've seen so many businesses and brands START on Twitter and become successful on Twitter just because they interact, they converse, they hang out in the e-cafe that is Twitter. And that's cool. It also brings me to my next point.

How Does It Help?

The alcoholic beverage industry is MASSIVE. It's more massive than you can possibly imagine and in ways you may not understand. Sure, you have your large companies in the alcoholic beverage industry. They produce dozens of brands, if not hundreds. That's fine and dandy. But there's also the little guys as well. The small production, locally sourced guys. The mom-and-pops of the liquor industry, I guess you could say. And this is where social media shines.

Over the course of the 4 years I've spent on Twitter, I've ran into so many brands NOT associated with large companies its staggering. I've talked with them on Twitter and watched them grow. Imbue Vermouth, Cro Magnon Cigars, Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters, Drew Estate Cigars. I've been able to interface with these brands and watch their growth as I've puttered along on the blog. Twitter is amazing for smaller brands to directly interface with their consumers and get their sweet, sweet liquor and cigars into my mind. I think about them. I want them. They maybe thousands of miles away from me and all they really have is a website and a bunch of stores that sell them but the fact of the matter is is that I've talked to the people that own them, that make their stuff, and had conversations with them. We've chatted. Kind of a big deal. I dunno, I find this part especially hard to put into words. The first part is easier because it reflects what I love about my industry but this part has that certain je ne sais quoi about it. It's awe inspiring to watch brands grow on a social media platform. Using the ability to say "Hey, what about our stuff" in an era of massive advertisements for big brand products is pretty cool. Being able to talk to the people making the stuff is even cooler. And the fact that I can do it at 2am in my sweatpants is probably the best part. But shhh, don't tell anyone that.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Old Rip Van Winkle Combines Releases

So there I am, minding my own business, playing Minecraft, when a friend logs on and drops some knowledge. This knowledge:
We had been speculating about what was going to happen for some time now. He had said that there was a possibility that there would be a condensing of Van Winkle releases or they might not even do a spring release. Normally, I'm relatively unfazed by this as I can't afford any Van Winkle stuff. It's extremely hard to find and if you can find it, it's expensive and/or got a rarity premium on it. And for someone who's on unemployment...that's a no-brainer in the no-buy area. However, as of late its been something of an intrigue for me at this point. With the reopening of the Stitzel-Weller distillery by another company...I'm rather fascinated by this decision. Do I think it will mean more Pappy for the US?

No, no I don't.

You have to understand that the Van Winkle family has been blending their bourbon with stock from Buffalo Trace for a bit now. The fact of the matter is is...well...there's only so much Stitzel-Weller juice to go around. More can't magically appear. I'm VERY sure there's no hidden barrels of Pappy lying around because they've probably got a private detective PLATOON on the case looking for anything and everything that they can bottle from the old distillery. No, I don't think it will mean that there will be more Pappy.

I actually think there'll be less.

One of the funny things about delaying or combining releases is that it's rarely because there's MORE coming out that they're waiting on. It usually means that they're waiting for LESS to be ready. I think that we'll see larger bursts of Pappy...more cases going out at a time than usual...but less OVERALL. This collapsing of the releases means that they can sit around and wait a year in-between releases to keep an eye on the barrels, as opposed to every six months. Six months in Kentucky heat can do wonders...but a year can do even more. Barrels that might not be "ready" yet (I say this loosely as you're talking about extremely old whiskey as it is) can get the benefit of a bit more time to mature and, say, gain a bit more blending edge for mixing with Buffalo Trace stock. Enough to replicate the Stitzel-Weller character when cut with Buffalo Trace 15, 20, or 23 year old bourbon. To me, this is a sign that the Pappy line will be changing and probably soon. Maybe within the next three years. I'm not sure if they can hold out on that flavor profile with the dwindling reserves of Stitzel-Weller.

But that's just a young, naive man's thoughts.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

NY Wine Expo (Coupons Inside!)

Hey all!

I'm sure that at least a few have noticed lately my enthrallment with wine. For the longest time I was drinking cheap, rough Chianti and, after a few wine tastings I attended, I realized that I'd been missing out. Greatly.

Seriously, wine is really good! It's not just cheap Italian heartburn juice. I promise.

So what do you do when you want to try a bunch of wine? You attend a wine expo. Specifically, this one:

I will be covering the NY Wine Expo at the Javits Center in NYC from the 1st - 3rd of March. Sounds cool, huh? Well, it gets better. You can attend too. Don't want to pay the $85 or $95 for the ticket? Don't worry, homeskillet, I got yo back! Until the 28th, you can use the promo code "VINO" for some sweet sweet discounts. 10% off? Nope. 12%? Noooope. You're looking at a whopping $15 off the top of each ticket for Friday and Saturday. Sweet, huh? You know I love ya so I do what I can.

Now, I will probably be attending on the Trade day. However, if you guys can convince me to go either Friday or Saturday and swirl some wine with some readers...I'll change the day. BUT YA GOTTA PERSUADE ME. Valid forms of payment are: cash, pork buns, scotch, bottles of wine, cigars. Anyway, here's the press release to give you a taste of what's going down. So, until the 3rd of March, get your tastebuds ready for some hot grape-on-grape action.

Press Release (rare, I know)
Raise a glass in celebration! The New York Wine Expo is celebrating its 6th anniversary, March 1-3, 2013. With only their wine glasses and taste buds to lead them, attendees can travel through the vineyards of Europe and the Mediterranean; from South America
to South Africa; and coast to coast in the United States. In all, attendees will have the opportunity to
choose from a sampling of over 500 wines. The 6th annual New York Wine Expo is at the Jacob Javits
Convention Center in New York City.

“The Expo is truly a feast for the senses, with wines from every corner of the world represented,”
said Ed Hurley, Marketing Director, ResourcePlus Shows & Events. “For anyone who enjoys
wine or is a beginner and wants to learn, a day at the Expo is a deliciously fun way to spend time
with friends and family.”

Dedicated fans know him as “Your Resident Foodie,” and this year for the first time David Venable will be joining the New York Wine Expo. As host of the hit QVC program, In the
Kitchen with David, he offers a unique interactive viewership experience and features the latest in gourmet foods, cookware, kitchen gadgets and cookbooks. Although he will not be cooking David will be conducting a “Meet & Greet” and will share wine pairing ideas.

Along with the Grand Tasting, consumers can purchase tickets to a variety of seminars led by industry experts. Additions to the seminar calendar are updated frequently. To date:

Wine 101: Taste Like a Pro with Wine Spectator’s Director of Education
Gloria Maroti Frazee
Friday, March 1st at 6:00pm | Saturday, March 2nd at 11:30am
In this seminar, attendees will build the wine appreciation framework required for a
lifetime of vinous adventure. Tasting a bounty of wine from around the world, they’ll
learn the tasting techniques used by pros, explore important grapes, identify key wine
styles and determine their own wine preferences.

The Cool Climate, World Class Wines of the Finger Lakes
Saturday, March 2nd at Noon
The Finger Lakes region of New York State has undergone an evolution in quality and
developed into a cool climate, world class wine growing region. Join Thomas Pastuszak,
Wine Director at the NoMad in New York City, for a discussion and tasting of wines
from the region. Learn about what makes the Finger Lakes the premier growing region
for cool climate grape varieties in the United States and how it compares on a global level to other regions.

Italian Cheeses and Wine with Lou DiPalo, the Cheese Guru of DiPalo’s Fine Foods
in Little Italy, NYC
Saturday, March 2, 2:30pm
Don’t miss a chance to meet this most knowledgeable and passionate advocate for
the cheeses and wines of Italy. Lou DiPalo will detail how typicity, provenance, and
maturation regimes contribute to the irresistible quality of Italian cheese. Amongst the
cheeses to be tasted will be Agriform’s Grana Padano, Piave, Asiago, and Valtellina
Casera, with Italian wines selected for pairing perfection. You will leave this informative
and tasty seminar with a bevy of expert suggestions on how best to entertain with Italian
wine and cheese.

Attendees can ensure they remember the names of every wine and wine maker they liked and lifestyle vendor they stopped by with the free New York Wine Expo mobile app. Along with notes, the app will help attendees navigate the venue, find exhibitors of interest and provide the latest event news.

Grand Tasting Pricing & Hours:

Friday, March 1, 6pm to 10pm - $85
Saturday, March 2, 1pm to 5pm - $95
Sunday, March 3, Noon to 4pm (Trade only)

Please note: Sunday, March 3 is dedicated to trade representatives. Liquor licensees from
throughout the region are invited to attend on Sunday along with attendees of the co-located International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York. The Wine Expo is not open to the general public on Sunday.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

In With Bacchus Guide to Whisk(e)y: Sulfur and You

The internet is funny sometimes. Especially when it comes to Twitter. Sometimes, I use Twitter for...less scholastic things. Like this:

Other times, things crop up that are interesting and relevant. Fun things! Like this:

Isn't the internet neat? Talking to the master blender for Morrison Bowmore about whisky? Social media is pretty boss. In conversation with others about whisk(e)y and sulfur, I realized that while it is widely discussed in the industry as a negative thing, many don't ask how it happens or what's done to take care of it. So, I've decided to do a bit of science jiggerypokery and present yet another super scientific case for all of you to enjoy. Presenting...The In With Bacchus Guide to Whisk(e)y: Sulfur and You!

We have to start, really, at the root of the problem. And I mean this in the most literal sense. The sulfur problem begins in barley, specifically in the root system. Sulfates found in fertilizer and in the ground are taken up into the root system of barley. They don't mean to make your whisk(e)y smelly, they really don't! The problem is, sulfur is necessary for cellular activity in plants. Two amino acids, cysteine and methionine, are critical in growth of plants. These amino acids are key in protein building within a cell. The primary culprit is cysteine.

From Wikipedia, because I'm too lazy to use ChemDraw.

Ignore most of the other stuff here and focus on that sulfur down at the bottom. Bonded to hydrogen and another carbon chain (the little weird dot thing is a carbon chain that denotes its physical orientation in a 3d plane). It is bound to a Carbon and a Hydrogen. Sulfur is an anion; it wants to take electrons from other molecules to complete itself, which is known as an ionic bond. It's oxidation state (how many electrons it wants/gives to attain stability), is usually +2. In this state, it is useful for forming anti-oxidants (important in plants as they use CO2, not O2). doesn't ALWAYS do that. SOMETIMES it will form a covalent bond (where electrons are shared, not taken) with itself, known as a disulfide bond. Two cysteine will come together, chuck off their hydrogen, and bond. The best way to describe this is as such. Let's say two couples are dancing on the dance floor. Normally, the hydrogen is content to let the sulfur lead and waltz around. But sometimes, the sulfur will ditch his hydrogen partner and begin dancing with another sulfur. In this case, no one leads, they just dance. That's a rough analogy between ionic and covalent bonds.

This means that, within a cell, a bunch of cysteine will bond together to become more stable (on a singular molecule level) and, in turn, link themselves. This makes it more stable (in terms of two compounds) and also allows it to be used more efficiently in the cells themselves (catalyzing important reactions in cellular parts, giving proteins rigidity). They also can be oxidized to form a variety of sulfur acids as well. Methionine is actually catalyzed using enzymes to BECOME cysteine. So no matter how you shake it, your barley needs sulfur to function. I've glossed over a lot of the biological minute because I'm a chemical engineer and I'm terrible at it. I probably got some of this wrong but it really just serves to illustrate the ORIGIN of sulfur and why its taken in in the first place.

So we have sulfur compounds in our barley. Can't do much about that. In fermentation, the heat used to activate the enzymes in barley (alpha/beta amylase, limit dextrinase) will cause the proteins to break down. The inclusion of yeast (which too contains cysteine) will catalyze the formation of sulfides, in the form of hydrogen sulfide. A nasty little bugger. It smells like sewer gas and rotten eggs and all sorts of delightful things. No bueno for good whiskey. However, we still have a few aces in our pocket here. We know that sulfur has gotten INTO the mash...but how do we get it out? This little beauty:

From Wikipedia...because I don't have copper lying around my house. YET.
That's right...copper. This little beauty will react with that hydrogen sulfide while in the presence of water. With a traditional oxidation state of +2 and high reactivity, it's not just good for conducting heat. In fact, it's other use is to remove sulfur. With water, (H2O), it will break that H2S to form CuSO4.

Cu 2+ + H2S --> CuS+4 + H+ 
CuS4+ + 4H2O --> CuSO4 + 8H+

Beautiful, isn't it? A simple bit of chemistry saves us a majority of headache. Okay, fine, it may not be beautiful to you but it's BEAUTIFUL TO ME! The only problem is...this isn't ALL the sulfur compounds. Its not just H2S. There's others. I mentioned it awhile ago in my barrel aging post, actually. Take a look back at that cysteine structure. Remember how I told you about that weird dotted line thing being a carbon chain? A methyl carbon chain? Also remember how I said that they will bond together with others? Well...yeah. That becomes a problem. During the heat-related breakdown of cysteine, that covalent bond might break. As the molecule breaks apart due to the heat, pieces of it will start coming apart. Its theorized that the disulfur bond will break and a methyl group will replace the sulfur on one sulfur. It can also come from said methionine as well. It forms this chemical:

Wikipedia. LAAAAAZY. Also, ChemDraw is annoying.

May not look like much but I can guarantee you've heard of it. DMS: dimethyl sulfide. It's in your favorite beers...if your favorite beers taste like cooked cabbage and corn. DMS is a particular bane to the brewing industry because there's not a whole lot you can do to get rid of it without ruining the beer. However, if any transfers over in the's not too big of a problem. Why?

Barrels. GOODIE! My favorite!

The boiling point of DMS is 99oF. Rick/rackhouses can get upwards of that temperature, even in Scotland. Even in colder temperatures it will evaporate as well. As I've said before, things from high concentration like to go to low concentration. Couple that with a low boiling point and you've pretty much always got a LITTLE bit of it in vapor form in the barrel. So eventually, it will evaporate out. IF you have good casks. Casks that breathe easily, are well stored with proper temperature fluctuations, and adequate airflow is important. For the trimethyl takes a bit longer because the boiling point is higher so less will be in vapor. I've heard it quoted that DMS evaporates in a year~ish while the higher polymethyls will evaporate in 2-3.

So sulfur. Inevitable but, with care, can be almost completely avoided. Thankfully the flavor threshold for humans on sulfur is pretty high so it'd have to be a glaring mistake in order to catch a whiff o' the old brimstone. Or cabbage. Or sewer. Either way, I think we're fine. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line.

EDIT (3:44pm EST): Had a question from Oliver Klimek of His question is as such:

"Very interesting, Scott. But there is one thing about sulphur removal that isn't quite clear yet. Distillers tell me that for getting a more sulphury spirit they try to prevent the copper from oxidisiing because CuO supposedly is more efficient than elemental copper. You only describe sulphur removal by Cu alone."

This is true. The metals that we know and love (iron, copper, tin, aluminum) aren't readily reactive in their elemental state. They form complex crystalline matrices that provide balance and stability to the metal. Each chunk of metal you see is made up of layer upon layer upon layer of grid-like metal ions. That's why they're so good at conducting heat and electrcity: its easy for electrons to flow. Much like those desktop multi-ball novelties that have you pick up a ball on one end and it transfers momentum through the other balls to move the one on the opposite end, so too is kinda how metal in its elemental state works. The problem comes when you have activation energy. Activation energy is the energy needed to break the bonds of the metal to get it to react with another chemical. Think of a roller-coaster. That long, clanking chain that brings you to the top is the activation energy; once you hit the top you just saiiiiil down. So copper in its elemental state is not prone to spontaneously and violently reacting. However...CuO means that somehow...some way, the activation energy has been provided to destabilize the elemental copper and it is now polarized. When its in this stage, it takes far, far less activation energy to get it to react again. So for a more sulfur-y spirit, you'd want clean, clean copper. It takes more oomph for it to react. For a less sulfur-y spirit, you want that metal to react because it means that it takes far less energy for it to react with subsequent elements like the sulfur.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The IBM #MySmarterCommerce Program

As I'm sure you know...I'm a rather social creature. I like hanging out in the Twitterverse and the Facebook...o...sphere (or whatever). It's awesome to be able to chat with people continents away about the subjects I love (whisk(e)y and cigars). It's all gravy. But I'm not a professed EXPERT at it. I'm not even adept at it. Fluent, maybe. Bumbling idiot with a keyboard and the ability to type fast is actually the most accurate. I try to converse as much as possible but I'm not perfect. I'm not optimized. I don't breathe it like guys like Gary Vaynerchuk do.

So color me surprised when my email's inbox gets blasted by a prompted for participating in a program with IBM. Only instead of was suspicious. Call me cynical, call me pessimistic...but I actually thought it was spam. I was moments away from hitting the "Spam" button on Gmail when I decided "Well..."

I'm glad I did.

As you can PROBABLY tell at this point it wasn't spam. Either that or I'm REALLY dedicated to going through with a ruse. Pretty sure its IBM. Like 99%. 95%. Whatever. Either way, IBM selected ME...ME! to take part in their #MySmarterCommerce program. So what is this program? Well, if I told you I'd have to kill you.

Super serious here.

Can't say anything.

...Alright, I can.

The #MySmarterCommerce program is something that I'm actually cool with. It's the use of normal, every day people to tell their story of how they interface with technology. How it helps them live daily, work daily, function normally. This has been a topic I'd wanted to go into at some point but never had the motivation or focus to do. It's a heavy, lofty, and hefty tome of analysis that I generally save for over pints or a good cocktail. But instead, I've decided to take part in this and share it with you, instead of my long-suffering friends whom I'm not entirely sure are capable of bearing any more of my nerdy beverage industry analysis.

So here's how it works: I put up posts...and Tweets, and Facebook stuff about my relation with technology and social media and how it works for me. IBM waves its fingers and makes magic happen. I don't get much for doing this at first but if you guys pull through with me, we can be on the winning team that sees me on stage telling my story at SXSW. And if you're a booze geek or a cigar nerd like WANT to see me on stage repping our collective nerdiness to the SXSW masses. YOU WANT THAT, I SWEAR.

As things go along...they get serious. Game faces get put on and someone breaks out the boot polish and puts those weird stripes under their eyes. Seriously, what's with that stuff? I heard it prevents reflection from the sun from blinding but all I can think it does is smear uncomfortably into your eyes. Anyway, the serious bit comes in when they follow me around with a camera. That's right, In With Bacchus: The TV Show. You get to see my lovely face.

Stop laughing.

After that, I don't know. Things get crazy, I think. Maybe lavish parties at mansions...helicopters full of gold bullion...Ferraris full of Pliny the Younger and and trunks full of cigars. At least that's what I'm hoping. But I can't do it without you fine folks. So join in and let's rock this.

NOTE: This is a sponsored post from IBM. They haven't given me anything YET...but they will. I don't know what it is yet. Maybe it's the gold bullion I was talking about. In all likelihood, it will probably be products, access, content, or any other form of reward or remuneration. As has ALWAYS been the cast, the opinions here are honest (usually brutal) and all mine. I have also chosen the most unobtrusive banner I can. <3 you guys.