March 2014 Editions - Beverage Journal, Maryland and Washington, DC Wed, 26 Oct 2016 07:28:27 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Frank Jones: Front and Center at the Gibson FrankJones.jpg - 130.62 KB

Frank Jones, bartender extraordinaire at The Gibson in Washington, D.C., is quick to list star mixologist Gina Chersevani among his first mentors in the business.  Chuckling at the memory of her early tutelage, he recalled, "Gina would always tell me that I was messy and slow!  What she was trying to get me to see was, as a bartender, you are constantly on display.  You don't really think of yourself as being part of the atmosphere, per se, but you are.  Unlike a server at a table, you can't leave your post.  You're stuck there, you're in a fish bowl, and they're watching you.  So, in turn, I've learned to be much more neat.  It's very important to always be aware of the fact that you are being watched and to bring some degree of elegance to the job."

Winner of last year's Artini competition at the Corcoran Gallery, Jones has been tending bar in the Washington metro area for a decade now. He started at the Poste Moderne Brasserie in the Hotel Monaco.  From there, he went to Ardeo + Bardeo, the Belga Cafe, and the Jack Rose Dining Saloon.  "Now I am very happy to be at The Gibson," he stated, "where I pretty much manage the cocktail program."

Jones describes The Gibson as a "speakeasy-style cocktail bar," which is located on 14th and U Streets in the District.  He and his staff specialize in pre-Prohibition-style cocktails, as well as craft cocktails.  "My favorite part of the job," he stated, "is coming up with the drinks and then seeing the guests interact with them, seeing them surprised and happy with what has been set in front of them.  Few Spirits are especially great to work with.  I have two favorites.  One is the Few Rye and the other is the Barrel Aged Gin.  I think the gin, in particular, is just amazing."

He continued, "The most challenging part is consistently coming up with something that you haven't seen already.  Once you get the idea, you're good to go.  You can work it out.  I usually just sit at the bar and ask myself, 'What haven't I put in a drink?' And then I'll think about things that might go well with that. Or, I'll look at a liquor that I don't necessarily care all that much for, that I've kind of avoided using, and I'll force myself to use it in some obscure way.  I also get a lot of inspiration from food and things that I like to eat."

One question he doesn't spend much time obsessing on is which ice to use.  Cubed, crushed, shaved, an ice wedge -- he just doesn't care.  "I might catch a lot of Hell for this, but someone once said to me when asked about ice, 'You just better not run out of it!' I, myself, am the same way. The different types of ice are great. They definitely do have their purposes. However, for me, I tend not to get caught up too much in the ice.  At the end of the day, people want a cold drink, and they want it fast."

Jones also doesn't have a lot of time on his hands to go to other bars and taverns and see what they're doing.  But that doesn't mean he doesn't have a few pet peeves.  "What drives me up the wall is shaking martinis," he exclaimed, "or shaking any cocktail that doesn't need to be shaken!  Other than that, I pretty much avoid going to other cocktail bars.  I try and go somewhere I can actually shut my brain off.  I'll go to dive bars where I don't expect anything."

Customers have come to expect a lot from The Gibson, and Jones and his colleagues are always looking for fun promotions to keep them coming back.  On the horizon, for instance, is a first-of-its kind April Fool's Wedding.  "One of my co-workers and I have decided we're going to get married on April 1st," Jones laughed.  " We're actually very good friends.  She has a boyfriend, and he's going to 'give me away.'  It's going to be a relaxed party, very different from what the Gibson is normally like."

Other than that, Jones just wants to continue having fun and keeping a level head.  "Don't ever be too cocky," he concluded.  "Nobody likes a cocky bartender.  Be confident, but understand that there is a line between confidence and cockiness.  And definitely understand that no matter what you know, there is always more to learn.  Every day, somebody is doing something different and something new.  The moment you think that you know it all, you're already behind."

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Little Shop of Horrors"



PERSON HE WOULD MOST LOVE TO SERVE A DRINK TO (living or dead): Janet Jackson.

SPECIAL INTEREST: "I like to draw and paint.  No particular style.  Whatever strikes me in the moment."

]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2014 Editions Wed, 26 Feb 2014 11:04:55 -0500
Spitfire Kentish Ale “The Bottle of Britain” spitfire.jpg - 127.03 KB

Spitfire Kentish Ale has an interesting back-story.  During World War II, Messerschmidt fighters from the German Luftwaffe dominated the air war over Britain until the Spitfire, a new Rolls Royce powered airplane, entered the fray and changed the outcome of the Battle of Britain. In 1990, fifty years after the battle, Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewer (1698), brewed Spitfire Kentish Ale in a onetime effort to commemorate the success of the airplane in saving Britain and to raise funds for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.  An unplanned success, Spitfire became popular and has remained in production since then, and during the past two years the brand has become the fastest growing bottled ale in Britain.

When poured into a wide mouthed pint glass, the beer is the color of blood orange and sports a thick off white head. As the beer is consumed, traces of foam lace remain while small bubble carbonation continues to rise in the glass.

Spitfire Kentish Ale has a pleasant aroma of both hops and malt.  The brewmaster uses two local hops known for their aromatic qualities: East Kent Golding and First Golding hops.  Although each of these hops varieties are often found individually in English ales, the combination of the two gives off a really nice fragrance with a fresh hop aroma. 

As a counter balance to the hop bitterness, English Pale Malt and English Crystal Malt add sweetness.  The result is a detectable flavor of blood orange, marmalade and pepper.  After panoply of nice flavor and sensations, the beer finishes dry with a refreshing burst of bitter hop aftertaste.

The Shepherd Neame brewery is particularly proud of the fact that all of the ingredients used in Spitfire Ale are grown within forty miles of the brewery.

Spitfire Kentish Ale has won its share of awards including: in 2013 a Bronze award and in 2012 a Silver in the International Beer Challenge, 2012 Silver award at the World Cup  and in 2009 the Monde Selection Grand Gold award. In typical stoic English fashion, a recent advertisement simply says, “….Spitfire is quite a good session beer”.  At 4.5% alcohol by volume, it is easy to drink several at one sitting.  This is a beer you can easily recommend to your customers who are looking for something a bit different.

Spitfire Kentish Ale is imported by the Moosehead Brewery, and is distributed in Maryland by Bond Distributors, Bozick Distributors, DM Distributors, and Northeast Distributors.

]]> (Super User) March 2014 Editions Thu, 20 Feb 2014 10:11:46 -0500
Van Mitchell: Retailer-Legislator-Administrator and Lobbyist Van.jpg - 46.82 KB

Over the years, there have been several retailers and wholesalers who have served in the Maryland Legislature.  Names like Pete Bozick, Jim Simpson, Cas Taylor and former Delegate James King come to mind, but very few have had such diverse experience in business, the legislature, government agencies and the alcohol beverage industry as Van Mitchell.

If asked about his widely diverse work history, Van might joke and say something like, “This guy you are talking about must have had a hard time keeping a job.”  The fact is, his varied and cumulative job experience make him ideally suited for his current job as a lobbyist in a firm that represents the alcohol industry.  When Van speaks with legislators, he doesn’t speak in theoretical terms, he speaks with the authority of someone who has actually been there and done it. As the popular 1960s saying goes, “He can talk the talk and he can walk the walk.” And, in his numerous careers we can see examples of his use of best practices in running a business.

Van is a local guy born and raised in Southern Maryland.  He grew up in La Plata and graduated from La Plata high school.  After one year of college in North Carolina, Van joined MSI, Inc., the family hardware and lumber business in his home town.  His father made him promise to learn to do every job in the company before taking the reins. After several years of experience loading trucks, taking inventory and stocking shelves, he took over as CEO from his Dad in 1985.

Most Difficult Business Decision

At that time, MSI was comprised of four retail stores, a lumber yard and more than one hundred employees.  After becoming CEO, he experienced intermittent periods of prosperity and recession. But beginning 2006, he concluded finally the business had undergone a pronounced structural change.  The business no longer had a healthy mix of retail and contract customers, but had become skewed 90% toward contractor business. Unfortunately, for his business, his success was intrinsically tied to the success of his contract customers whose success in turn was determined by the state of the economy. As he watched his business decrease each year for several years in a row, he recognized he had a major problem. As an experienced business person should, he defined the problem specifically, examined his alternatives and arrived at was to become his most difficult business decision. Faced with an uncertain economic future, and not wishing to continue to burn through family assets, he chose to close the company. He did so in an orderly way in order to service his contractors through the end of their projects, and to also help his employees find other jobs. He lived through and learned some very tough lessons from what is probably the most difficult a business owner can face.


In 1995, after several years of involvement in local Charles County politics, Mitchell ran for state office and began a ten year career in the Maryland House of Delegates.  He soon realized that Annapolis and the Maryland Legislature was going to be an interesting and challenging experience.   As a member of the House Economic Matters Committee, his business background proved useful in understanding the myriad business issues that came up for discussion.  However, his real world business experience also would be a great source of frustration to him as so many members of the legislature had little knowledge of business and often lacked understanding of either the nature of entrepreneurial risk or the total effort it takes to maintain a successful business.  He had already spent a career in business in which it was vital to have clearly defined goals and objectives to be successful.  He knew firsthand about the need to hire and fire people on a regular basis and the mandatory nature of making a profit in order to stay in business.  But, he found the legislature doesn’t often think or operate that way. Mitchell also observed during his tenure that over time the Maryland Legislature was changing and had become less collegial and more contentious and seemed to be more about politics than it was about solving problems.  In 2004, he concluded, it was time to make a change and move on to do something else.

Deputy Director of the Maryland Department of Health and Hygiene

Mitchell, a Democrat, was appointed by Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich to his new position in 2004 as Deputy Director of the State’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In essence, he had become Chief Operating Officer of a governmental department with 8,000 people. The new job was a complete departure from selling drywall and building materials in Southern Maryland.  But fortunately for the employees at Baltimore’s West Preston Street campus, Van’s business experience Mitchell had taught him some common sense lessons about people management.

He vividly recalls arriving at his office building the first day of his new job. When he got on an elevator he observed everyone stood silently with their heads down looking at the floor. There were no greetings among colleagues, no talking, any laughter or interaction of any kind going on. It was apparent, something was clearly amiss.

A first order of business was to learn more about this department and the people in it, so he began a daily practice of choosing a floor and walking it while talking to people for an hour. He would stop, greet people and ask them about their jobs and how they were getting along. He quickly came to realize, the widely held stereotype of the lazy state employee was a myth. The caricature simply wasn’t true. He firmly believes there are many dedicated hard working employees who work for the state. 

 It was also during these walks, he noted that the halls and walls were dingy, dark and inhospitable throughout the multi-story main building. One reason was several hundred light bulbs no longer were functioning. No wonder it was dark.  He set out to relight the interior and repaint the walls in a brighter friendlier color.

He also discovered that, over time, personnel from many of the department’s sub branches had been split up and were located haphazardly throughout the building. After some thoughtful planning, Mitchell relocated personnel into logical departmental groupings, and was also able to free up space that would enable the state to reduce building rental expense by bringing personnel housed elsewhere.

A key takeaway for Mitchell from this experience is that when people are treated as though they aren’t appreciated, they will act accordingly. He felt he had begun to make an impact when people from within the department began to greet him, and he observed that no longer did everyone ride the elevator with his head down.  It is quite amazing what small cosmetic changes and a friendly smile can have on an organization.

Van Mitchell was Deputy Director of the Department of Health and Mental Services from 2004-2007.  The next state general election brought a change in administration, and he realized it was time to move on.

Beverage Alcohol Retailer

Somehow, along the way, Van Mitchell became a retailer for the second time.  This time he, his brother and his sister became partners in a new Green Turtle Sports Bar & Grille franchise in La Plata.  Owning one retail business in a career would be enough for most people but not in his case, as the saying goes he was out of the frying pan and into the fire.  When asked which was more difficult, being in the lumber/hardware business dealing with contractors and the public, or owning and operating a restaurant/bar he replied without hesitation, “Owning a bar/restaurant.”  Van said “No one outside the alcohol industry knows the pressures we face.  It is certainly one of the most regulated industries I can name.  It has all the same problems as any other business that hires non career type workers i.e. tardiness, absenteeism, a lack of genuine concern about the business you own and of course, we sell alcohol – a highly regulated product.  This one product, alcohol, separates us from all other legal businesses.  When I was in the home improvement supply business, I worried about employee accidents and potential product liability issues probably none of which would put me out of business, but with regard to the alcohol business, outsiders cannot appreciate the individual responsibility and liability an owner faces on daily basis.  In addition, there seems to be a general lack of understanding and widespread misinformation about our industry. The body of alcohol regulation contained in Article 2B of the Maryland Code is chock full of nuances, intricacies and potential liability situations. As a simple example, as a retailer, if I run out of a particular brand of scotch on a Saturday afternoon, I can’t just go to a local liquor store and buy or borrow some until Monday.  This would be a common sense practice in any other business but not the alcohol business. If there is one thing that causes me to lose sleep, it is unwittingly serving an underage person and getting caught doing it.  In my case, the local Charles County Liquor Board is unrelenting and unforgiving in dealing with this problem regardless if it is a habitual problem or an innocent mistake by my employee or manager.  A partial solution, but only a partial solution, is to continually train our staff.”


At the behest of Nick Manis, Van’s career path took a completely different turn in an already interesting journey when he agreed to join George Manis, Nick Manis and Mike Canning in January 2008 as an associate in their growing lobbying and government affairs practice.  At that time, the firm represented interests in the alcohol business, the motion picture industry, tobacco, gambling, law enforcement, and the accounting profession among others. Still, one the firm’s goals for the future was to expand the firm’s expertise and reach into other areas of the business community.  The firm now represents more than fifty local and national organizations.

Based on his experience in the health field, it was natural for Mitchell to join the firm and specialize initially in that area.  His clients include Amerigroup, CareFirst and various other professional medical coalitions. He also brings firsthand knowledge and valuable perspective as it relates to beverage alcohol.  With Van Mitchell on board, Manis, Canning continues to represent its clients with a tradition of candor, honesty and truthfulness throughout their lobbying efforts

It takes a good sense of humor and ample common sense to accomplish all that Van Mitchell has done in his various careers.  A good sense of humor, a healthy dose of common sense and a keen sense of perspective is clearly important as he represents his clients.  Van Mitchell is more than up to the task, and the beverage alcohol industry is lucky to have such a valuable asset on our side.

]]> (Super User) March 2014 Editions Thu, 20 Feb 2014 10:08:45 -0500
Longtime RNDC Salesman Mitch Laziuck Retires After 42 Years Mitch.jpg - 219.09 KB

On Friday, Jan. 31, Republic National Distributing Co. (RNDC) held a luncheon at its Jessup headquarters in honor of salesman Mitch Laziuck, who has retired from the company after 42 years of service.  The event started at 11:30 a.m. and drew at least 200 RNDC staffers; customers; vendors; Laziuck's wife, Patty; and his daughter, Heather, and her husband.

RNDC Executive Vice President Gary Herd served as the emcee.  "It goes without saying that Mitch has had a tremendous impact on our company throughout the years," he stated, while at the podium.  "When you think about 42 years, that's a lifetime, and he's seen a lifetime of change at this company.  He has seen brands grow, and those are brands we all reap the benefits of today."

In an interview with the Beverage Journal the day before the event,  Laziuck was relaxed, jovial, and full of stories of his four decades in the business.  He recalled working part-time at Western Auto in 1972 when he managed to score an interview at what was then the Kronheim Company.  "My dad didn't think they were going to hire a Polish kid, because back then Kronheim was predominantly Jewish. 'Forget it, Mitch. It ain't gonna happen,' he said.  I ended up interviewing six times, and I finally got it. Forty-three years later, I'm retiring from the only full-time job I've ever had!"

Among those who were on hand to honor Laziuck with speeches of their own was Fran "Pineapple" Schmitz, Business Development Manager at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and former Fine Wine Division Manager for RNDC.  His remembrances of their days together as wheeling and dealing salesmen in the 1980s were among the event's most comical.  "I've spent more time thinking about the stories I could tell as opposed to stories I couldn't tell," Schmitz stated .  "Then, I saw Patty and Heather walk in, and that knocked out 10 stories I thought I could tell right there!"

Two letters were also read during the celebration.  The first was from Tom White, RNDC's regional president for Florida, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.  It concluded: "You have been and will remain one of the foundation blocks this company has been built on." The second letter was from RNDC President Tom Cole, who wrote: "It takes a special person to devote so much of his life and his entire career to a single organization.  We recognize that the dedication and loyalty of employees like you are what made RNDC what it is today."

In his remarks to those gathered, Laziuck marveled at how much bigger the business is today than when he started.  Back then, he worked for a company that had just over 40 salesmen.  Today, RNDC's sales staff, by his estimation, numbers more than 225.  And Laziuck has served as a mentor to so many of them.

"If you are coming into the business today," he remarked, "you have to make a statement. You are your own person, and you have to convince clients, 'I'm different. I can help you with your business.'  You don't want to be the guy who walks into a store and asks, 'Do you need anything this week?'  'No, not really.'  And then you walk back out the door.  That was never me."

Herd wrapped up the festivities by singling out Laziuck's willingness to help his colleagues over the years.  Herd described him as the model employee, stating, " He always showed up every day with a smile on his face and a good attitude.  He never complained, even when the customers were being difficult or trucks were getting out late. He was always prepared for a sales meeting, more prepared than most of us in this room today.  He always had his sales plan ready.  He always put RNDC first.  He was selfless in the way he treated our company.  He always worked a full day and, most days, more than a full day.  That's what Mitch was all about, and that's hopefully what we learned from Mitch over the years"

So, what do the years to come have in store for Laziuck and his lovely wife? In the near future, a Mediterranean cruise is their next great adventure. After that?  Laziuck let out a hearty laugh and exclaimed, "I'm gonna sell peanuts on the beach in the Bahamas!"

]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2014 Editions Thu, 20 Feb 2014 10:04:30 -0500
Joe Bozick: Bringing Up the Beer Joe.jpg - 267.94 KB

Joe Bozick owes pretty much everything he has to the beverage industry.  He currently serves as Vice President of Bozick Distributors, the Waldorf-based beer distributor his father, Peter, founded in 1959.  The job has brought him closer to his brother, Brian, who serves as company President.  Joe even met his wife, Cheryl, through the industry as she was a longtime employee of Boston Beer.  They've now been married for 21 years.

Bozick Distributors serves the Southern Maryland area of Prince George's, Charles, St. Mary's, and Calvert counties.  Among the major suppliers and brewers the company represents are MillerCoors, Heineken USA, Brown Imports, Boston Beer, and Pabst.  "I love working with everyone here," Bozick declared during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "When Brian and I were growing up, everything was a lot more challenging in the sense that it was a struggle through the '80s and '90s.  We were in survival mode.  Back then, I really didn't have time to enjoy the people, because every day was a grind.  But now, everything runs smoothly and everybody does their job."

He continued, "The most difficult thing nowadays is the consumer is expecting such a variety, and matching that want with what we have and what we can get has been a challenge.  It's been a challenge for the supply channel all the way through.  There's been a lot more 'industry out-of-stocks' due to the variety and complexity of what the consumer is expecting now."

When things get really tough, the Bozicks thank their lucky stars they operate in the Old Line State.  "In my viewpoint as a beer distributor," Bozick states, "we are very lucky here in Maryland that we service independent retailers.  We're not a chain market dictated by major chains that drive business on a level that isn't as localized as we have it.  We have a one-on-one relationship with every retailer.  It makes a big difference.  We can create relationships here, and those relationships can benefit us and benefit the retailer.  By comparison, in chain markets, it driven by one central office and there is a mass execution through the market.  You live or die by those decisions.  In Maryland, we have a lot more ability to influence our own future here."

And when working with his brother to chart the company's future course, the two siblings often recall advice their father gave them over the years.  "My father  was very big on 'adaptability.'  He recognized how important it was to adapt to change, and that's more key now with all of the varieties of beer and sizes and flavors.  It's more true now than it ever has been."

Bozick even admits that there's a part of him that wishes he was just starting out in the business today.  That's because, from his vantage point, there are so many more avenues of potential success to choose from.  " These are very exciting times for anyone who wants to get into the beer business," he stated.  " I would say to anyone new in the beer business today to stick with it.  I wouldn't be scared of the future at all.  Right now, there seems to be tremendous opportunity in the beer industry on all levels -- distributor, supplier, even retailer -- because there is so much variety and so much more education about beer.  There are so many more interesting aspects of the business that have developed and are developing now as opposed to 10, 20, or even 30 years ago.  In some sense, it's extremely exciting, and the opportunities are limitless.  With craft brews, you don't know how far this is going to go.  So, why wouldn't you want to get in it?"

He further observes that 2013 was marked by the successful debut of new products in the market.  Bozick Distributors, for instance, scored with the introduction of Redd's Apple Ale out of MillerCoors.  "We anticipated it would be a big success because of the product itself and its taste profile.  We executed exactly according to plan, and we hit the target numbers.  . . . We are currently introducing a new West Coast-style IPA product from Samuel Adams.  With it being West Coast, it's a little 'hoppier.'  We just started this past week [this interview was conducted in late January, and it's been well received.  But it's still too early to tell."

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Goodfellas"

HIS TEAM: The Washington Redskins

GO-TO RESTAURANT: Sobo's Wine Beerstro in Salisbury, Md.



]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2014 Editions Thu, 20 Feb 2014 09:57:41 -0500
Dorothy Bakker Bubbles With Optimism Over Krug's Future DorothyBakker1.jpg - 137.37 KB

In January, Krug National Brand Director Dorothy Bakker visited Baltimore in advance of the much-anticipated release of the Champagne house's new vintage.  But Bakker was in town to do more than just pour bubbly and hobnob with the local beverage elite.  Charm City was her latest stop on a tour she has undertaken to spread the word that champagne should be regarded as so much more than just a special-occasion drink one has on New Year's Eve or after a best man's toast.

"Champagne is actually a great and incredibly personable wine," she declared, during a special luncheon at the Capital Grille's Inner Harbor location.  "It's no longer just something with bubbles for weddings or for toasting someone's retirement.  At Krug, we want champagne to be more than just a compulsory thing.  I think you can have it every day whether it's with a good burger and French fries or with a richer pairing like Parmesan Reggiano."

And, indeed, as she poured Krug's newly released 2000 vintage and then the Krug Grand Cuvee, she demonstrated how the flavors of each indeed danced off the various menu items those assembled had ordered -- everything from the restaurant's signature mini-tenderloin sandwiches to its Maine Lobster Pot Pie.

"Our champagne is the expression of a year, a story told by Krug," she stated.  "We produce a vintage only when there is an interesting story, when there is something unique in that year that we'd like to capture.  Right now, we're having the Vintage 2000, which is an expression of the year 2000.  The harvest of that year was very stormy.  In July, there were hailstorms and there was some damage in the vineyards.  However, because of Krug's plot-by-plot selection process, we were able to go parcel by parcel.  We would never just take fields of grapes and crush them all together."

She continued, "Our other champagne we're having today is the Krug Grand Cuvee, a non-vintage champagne. It's a blend of many different years."  In fact, according to the press materials, Krug's Grand Cuvee is a blend of some 120 reserve wines from 10 different vintages, some of which may reach up to 15 years of age.  To create its Cuvees and preserve the brand's style year after year, Krug meticulously chooses some 250 plots of vines out of the approximately 270,000 listed in France's Champagne region.

"With Krug," Bakker noted, "you have fullness and finesse.  There is a great backbone of acidity, and the exceptional amount of aging really opens up the champagne quite nicely.  The House was founded in 1843, and there have been six generations of the Krug family.  So, there is a direct lineage.  The fifth and sixth generation are alive today.  The fifth generation is Remy Krug, and the sixth generation is Olivier Krug."

But even with such a long and rich history, the House of Krug has made strides in bringing its brand into the 21st century.  Since the summer of 2011, for instance, all bottles of Krug Champagne feature a KRUG ID located on the label.  The six-digit number serves as a reference for wine collectors and a portal to further information about that particular bottle.

In addition to pushing the notion that champagne can be an every-occasion, even every-day drink, Bakker also stressed the importance of consumers moving beyond the traditional tall, thin flutes as the glass of choice for champagne and instead pour the beverage into bigger and more all-purpose glasses that will take the consumer through an entire meal.

"Champagne should be in a glass big enough that it allows you to roll it around in order to swirl the aromas," she declared.  "You want to be able to get your nose in the glass, which you can't do with most flutes where your nose is hanging over.  You can't quite engage it.  Inside the glass is where all of the wonderful interaction happens.  You pick up on a lot of properties with your nose and less properties on the palette.  So, it's very important to get that nose in the glass to be able to taste right.  Champagne is a very visual drink with the bubbles. You want to be able to enjoy them.  I think, as time goes on, the American wine culture will continue to evolve.  So, if you say this glass is going to provide you with a better tasting experience, most people will be all for it!"

]]> (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) March 2014 Editions Thu, 20 Feb 2014 09:53:42 -0500
Drams of Eire: The Irish Boom Continues Irish Flag.jpg - 244.82 KB

While bourbon and Scotch get more press, Irish whiskeys have quietly become the fastest growing, barrel-aged spirit in America. So what’s the attraction?

It may be no more complicated than Irish whiskeys are exceptionally easy to drink. They’re accessible, highly aromatic and loaded with palate pleasing flavors. Equally tempting, years of steadily increasing popularity hasn’t significantly driven up their price making them relative bargains. For a category long existing with nary a pulse, these are heady days.

There was a time when Irish whiskey ruled supreme. By the end of the nineteenth century, there were over 160 active distilleries in the country producing 400 brands of Irish whiskey. It was exported to every port of call in Europe, the British Empire and America, exceeding the worldwide sales of all other types of whiskey combined. It had become the world’s spirit of choice.

Two historical events brought the Irish whiskey industry to its knees. The first was the 1916 Irish War of Independence against Great Britain. In retaliation, England level a trade embargo with Ireland, which denied distillers access to markets throughout the British Empire. Then in 1919 came the American Prohibition and overnight Irish whiskey’s largest consumer base effectively vanished. The cumulative effect on the Irish economy was devastating.

During the same time, Scotch whisky distillers were thriving. Unaffected by the British embargo, exports of Scotch skyrocketed and truckloads of whisky found their way across the Canadian border and into American speakeasies. Scotch soon became this country’s whisky of choice, a distinction that it hasn’t yet relinquished.

There are several telling differences between Irish and Scotch whiskies. Unlike Scotch, Irish whiskey is distilled from both malted and unmalted barley. The malt used in the distillation is dried in closed kilns, rather than over peat fires as is the traditional practice in Scotland. As a result most Irish whiskeys lack the peaty smokiness of Scotch. Irish producers also triple-distill their whiskey and prefer to develop its character in the vat, rather than post-distillation blending.

Ireland’s standards of quality are such that there is no such thing as a mediocre Irish whiskey. In a marketplace where demand for super-premium spirits is soaring, Irish whiskeys are hot commodities. The strategy is clear, give the people what they want and order more bar stools.

Here’s a brief look at the category’s franchise players.

Black Bush — Created in 1934 by the master distiller at the Bushmills Distillery, the inimitable whiskey is a blend comprised principally of malted barley whiskeys triple-distilled in copper pot stills. Most are aged up to nine years largely in Oloroso sherry oak casks. Black Bush is a full-bodied beauty with a sherry influenced nose and a rich, malty palate. Its silky body makes Black Bush a highly accessible whiskey, an ideal entrée to the category.

Bushmills 16-Year Old Single Malt — This highly revered single malt is a blend of whiskies matured a minimum of 16 years in three different types of wood—ex-bourbon barrels, Port pipes and Oloroso sherry casks. Each wood contributes a distinctive character to the glorious finished product. It has a voluminous bouquet and a tantalizing, somewhat fruity palate. The finish is long and flavorful with delicate Port notes.

Clontarf Irish Whiskey — Made in Dublin by the producers Buru Irish Vodka, Clontarf is triple distilled from grain and spring water. It is aged in ex-bourbon barrels and filtered through Atlantic Irish oak charcoal. The full-bodied whiskey is delightfully exuberant and flavorful.

Connemara Single Malt — Produced at the renowned Cooley Distillery in Dundalk, this award-winning single malt is distilled in a traditional pot still using malted barley dried over a peat fire. The peat imbues Connemara with an intriguing smoky edge and flavor. It’s a glorious malt reminiscent of the whiskies of Islay.

Jameson 12-Year — John Jameson has been distilling whiskey since 1780 and their accumulated expertise is immediately evident in this 12-year old gem. It’s a blend of malted and unmalted barley whiskeys aged in ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry casks. The sherry-finished whiskeys in the blend give it a slightly sweet, fruity and nutty palate.

Jameson 18-Year — A stunning accomplishment that pays homage to the Jameson Distillery’s centuries old preference for aging whiskeys in Oloroso sherry casks. After maturing a minimum of 18-years in the sherry wood, the whiskey is finished for six-months in American oak. It has a wafting, sherry-influenced bouquet and a broad palate with nutty, spicy notes. An exquisite whiskey of great substance and style.

Knappogue Castle Single Malt — The current vintage of this celebrated single malt is the most robust and flavorful to date. The 12-year old, pot-distilled whiskey is generously aromatic and loaded with citrusy, malty and honeyed notes. The finish is lingering and eminently satisfying. Knappogue Castle is an exceptional buy at twice the price.

Michael Collins Single Malt — Produced at the Cooley Distillery, this marvelous malt is distilled in small batches from 100% peated barley malt and matured in ex-bourbon barrels between 8 to 12 years. It has a brilliant bouquet and a dry, appetizing palate with succulent fruit notes. The malt finishes long and silky smooth.

Midleton Very Rare — The highly esteemed Midleton Very Rare is a vintage-dated blend comprised of pot-distilled whiskies made from both malted and unmalted barley and matured up to 25 years in American oak barrels. Only a scant 50 casks are bottled each year. Midleton VR has a luxurious pot-still character with a silky texture and mesmerizing array of flavors.

Powers — In a country known for their abiding appreciation of whiskey, Power’s remains the best-selling brand in Ireland. It’s an elegant blend comprised of approximately 70% pot still whiskies and no malt used in the blend. Founded in 1791, Power’s was the first to market their whiskey in bottles.

Redbreast Pure Pot Still — This prestigious whiskey is crafted in heavy copper pot stills from malted barley and spring water and then barrel aged for a minimum of 12-years. The whiskey is complex, delightfully assertive and smooth as satin. It has a bouquet laced with malt and fruit aromas and a palate brimming with the flavors of honey, spice and sherry.

Tullamore Dew — Created in 1829, Tullamore Dew is triple-distilled in pot stills at the Midleton Distillery in Cork and aged for a minimum of three years in American oak barrels and ex-Sherry casks. It has a semi-sweet, fruity bouquet, a light body with a dry, woody palate with a caramel finish. Tullamore Dew is a premium dram at a value price.

Tyrconnell Single Malt — The brand dates back to 1762 and is now distilled at the Cooley Distillery, Tyrconnell is a flawless whiskey with a full body, malty bouquet and a slightly sweet flavor. It has a long, marvelously dry finish. Tyrconnell Single Malt compares quite favorably with the single malts of the Speyside.

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Mastering the Irish Coffee

One of the best reasons to open a bottle of whiskey is the Irish Coffee. As the story goes on a particularly cold evening in 1952, the chef at the Shannon airport restaurant laced his coffee with a healthy dram of whiskey, a spot of sugar and a layer of whipped cream. The combination was pronounced utterly delicious. The drink soon became a specialty of the airport’s bar and took on a life of its own after that.

The same year, a columnist and travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle passed through Shannon on his way home. He sampled several of the coffees and was immediately smitten. Word of the Shannon airport’s coffee made its way to the Buena Vista Café on Fisherman’s Wharf. The drink became an immediate hit and has been ever since.

Despite its simplicity the appeal of the Irish Coffee is nearly universal. It’s prepared by lacing freshly brewed coffee with a splash of simple syrup, a measure of Irish whiskey and a layer of frothed milk or whipped cream. For sport try the Irish Coffee Royale. It features an additional shot of Kahlúa. Another version includes Bailey’s Irish Cream and a touch of Irish Mist or Celtic Crossing.


]]> (Robert Plotkin) March 2014 Editions Thu, 20 Feb 2014 09:41:26 -0500
Whiskey’s Brightest Spot: The Irish Surge is Just Beginning toc_irish.jpg - 173.85 KB

If you’re looking for bright spots in the world of Irish whiskey, it’s hard not to find them. The question is where to start.

For example, ground has recently been broken in County Carlow for the new 25 million pound Walsh Whiskey Distillery, a venture backed by the Italian makers of Disaronno Liqueur. Meanwhile to the northwest, William Grant & Sons, owner of Tullamore D.E.W., will fire up the stills next fall at their new distillery, the first in a generation for the brand. Those two are just part of the unprecedented Irish whiskey distillery boomlet, to be followed by other new facilities including one at a former Diageo brewery site in Dundalk and another right in Dublin.

All this, of course, complements the enormous expansion of the new Midleton Distillery, headquarters of Irish Distillers’ broad portfolio of whiskies, including world leader Jameson. Beam Global’s assimilation of Kilbeggan and other brands formerly owned by the Cooley Distillery continues apace. And among whiskey aficionados, there’s been great enthusiasm for such hard-to-get brands as  Greenspot, a legendary Irish whiskey that even competitors have been known to pack when returning from Ireland, and  21 Year Old Red Breast Pot Still Whiskey.

These changes are a result of Irish whiskey’s role as the fastest-growing whiskey in the world over the last five years, leaping from 4.4 million cases to 6.5 million since 2008, with analysts expecting that growth to hit 12 million cases in the next five years. In 2012, the last full year for which numbers are available, Irish grew 22.5% in the U.S., according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, with super-premium brands and extensions up an astonishing 86%. The U.S. is the largest and fastest growing market for Irish whiskey with sales of 2.2 million cases in 2012 and is now a larger category than single malt Scotch here.

Rapid Market Change

Quite a difference from about 20 years ago, when every major and most minor brands were owned by one company. Yet there’s still a long way to go before Irish gets anywhere near its pre-Prohibition standing as THE imported whiskey in the U.S.

“Irish whiskey is still in its infancy,” says Pernod Ricard USA VP Irish & North American Whiskey Paul DiVito. “It’s one of the smallest categories by volume and even though there’s been double digit growth for well over a decade we expect the category to double over the next five years.”

The changes in the Irish business and the entrance of deep-pocketed rivals like Beam and Grant is welcomed, he says, to spur on further growth. “In ten years or so, all these new distilleries will be producing some amazing whiskies and we’re going to give Scotch a run for their money a real changing of the guard,” says DiVito. To expand the category, he and other marketers actually encourage retailers even to take on competitive brands in order to broaden the selection for curious consumers. 

DiVito points out that traditional markets like New York and California continue to thrive, with states including Texas and Florida presenting huge opportunities for the category.

“Whiskey is as popular across all regions of the U.S. as it has ever been and the whiskey consumer is becoming more diverse—younger, female and multicultural,” says Yvonne Briese, VP North American and Irish Whiskies for Diageo. “These new whiskey consumers are more educated and savvier. They seek high quality, crafted products with great stories.”

Adding New Dimensions

Brand reps see lots of cause for optimism. Irish whiskey drinkers tend to skew younger than with other whiskies, and are showing an openness to exploration beyond standard entry-level blended Irish whiskies. Even the burgeoning flavored whiskey market shows promise: Pernod Ricard, owner of Irish Distillers, recently relaunched Paddy in the U.S. as an entry level Irish at a lower price point than Jameson and added flavors Bee’s Sting and Devil’s Apple. Ninety days into the launch, the flavors are “enjoying tremendous success,” says DiVito.

That success is no surprise to suppliers of Bushmills, who launched the first flavored Irish in the U.S. a few years ago. “Bushmills Irish Honey has opened up more opportunities with consumers through creating a more approachable whiskey,” says Briese. “Our research shows that flavored whiskey is recruiting consumers from other spirit categories. It is also expanding occasions for our current whiskey drinkers.”

Taking an even bolder approach, M.S. Walker is launching Kennedy Irish, an innovative line of an “Original” whiskey plus four 70-proof infusions: Limed, Honeyed, Spiced and Chillied.  Handcrafted in West Cork, the line will sell at a competitive $22 price point.

Diversity & Tradition

Another Pernod Ricard brand, Powers, has been growing over the past ten years without much support, but now it has been reformulated, repackaged and expanded, and expectations are up, as is pricing. With a larger proportion than Jameson of Single Pot Still whiskey in the blend, Powers has garnered fans among Irish drinkers looking for more spice and fuller flavors. Now at the original 42.3% ABV and non-chill filtered, the brand is being positioned as the next place to go for explorers within the category, says DiVito. In addition, there’s a new Single Pot Still expression, Powers Signature Release, joining the ultra-premium Powers John’s Lane, released last March.

That sense of exploration among consumers of Irish has brought most brands to expanded offerings. “Like a lot of whiskey drinkers, a portion of Irish drinkers are becoming explorers, and we find they stay with Irish but want other expressions. Within the category, we’re making those expressions more available as we can, all the way up to Redbreast,” he says. For instance, Pernod now offers four iterations of pure pot still whiskey—Powers John Lane, Midleton, Redbreast and Green Spot. Other suppliers have accentuated single malt offerings, while recently, Grant has offered a variant called Tullamore Phoenix, a 55% ABV limited release.

While a broadening range of distinctions mark the Irish category’s current offerings, from a packaging and image standpoint suppliers have remained mostly traditional, with many brands directly evoking authentic Irish culture and family names. One of the most successful ongoing examples is Michael Collins, named for the legendary hero synonymous with Irish independence. The lightly peated Michael Collins 10 Year Old Single Malt and the recently repackaged Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey, imported by Sidney Frank Company, are both available nationwide.

Concannon has done well since the 2012 U.S. launch, presenting both a four-generation-family connection to Ireland and a novel twist—aging in Concannon Petite Sirah barrels. Brand new (and naturally just in time for St. Patrick’s Day 2014), the Donegal Estates brand, from Star Industries, is well positioned with a bourbon-cask-aged profile and classical label.

Speaking of classics, and also launching this month, here’s an interesting new variation on a beloved theme: Irish Mist, the honeyed whiskey liqueur dating back to 1947, has engineered a sort of reverse line extension, releasing a straight Irish Whiskey. The only global brand to have the word “Irish” in its name, Irish Mist Whiskey plays off the flavorful base recipe of the original liqueur. A blend of four-year-old whiskies that have been triple-distilled and aged in American oak, the whiskey delivers aromas of raisins, vanilla and soft spice, with hints on honey and toffee on the palate.

Keeping the Flames Burning

Sensing they have a proverbial tiger by the tail, suppliers and marketers are ramping up promotions. In order to spur the sense of discovery about their brand, Tullamore has hired a national brand ambassador and six others for local markets. “Whiskey requires more education for consumers and the trade to understand the differences and the back stories of the brands,” says Reilly. “True advocacy can’t come from hoping from city to city. The grassroots approach bears fruit over time, having ambassadors who understand the local markets working there.”

Building awareness that Irish is a family of whiskies—blended, pot still, single malt, cask strength, even peated—is the goal of Kieran Folliard, the founder of 2 Gingers Whiskey and Beam’s Irish brand ambassador in the U.S. The 2 Gingers brand has become a phenomenon since Folliard, a former Minnesapolis pub owner via Ireland, launched it in 2011. Bought by Beam, the brand is what Folliard calls their portfolio’s Trojan horse, with it and Kilbeggan showing growth rates above 60% last year. 2 Gingers is in the midst of a national roll-out and Beam’s focus is being rewarded as the brand has surged to second-most popular Irish in some Midwestern states, he says, a result of focus on Irish pubs, sports bars and high volume operations where he targets non-whiskey drinkers for conversion before stepping them up to their other brands—peated Connemara, grain Greenore and single malt Tyrconnell.

It’s a model other Irish whiskey companies are emulating. “Most people are entering the category through standard blends and are doing so due to the smooth and sweet taste they deliver,” says Jack Teeling, founder of the Teeling Whiskey Co., now imported by Infinium Spirits. “We think there is an opportunity to build on this taste profile by producing more flavorsome blended Irish whiskies and also allowing them to move up the flavor ladder into the world of Irish single grain and single malts.” Teeling expects to launch in the U.S. this spring and to be distilling in a new facility in Dublin by the end of the year.

Those new distilleries are being built with an acute awareness of the changes in the U.S. whiskey-making and drinking market. “We position ourselves as the craft Irish whiskey producer, creating super-premium whiskeys,” says Conor Chase, brand manager of Palm Bay-imported The Irishman, which has among variations a Founder’s Reserve Pot Still Blend, made with 70% single malt and 30% pot still whiskey, a style of Irish more common pre-Prohibition. “Today in the USA there is a huge movement towards craft products, which indicates a clear demand for premium and quality products. This has reopened the door to traditional and different styles of Irish whiskeys, which are currently less common there,” says Chase.

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Irish Blending Basics

Like with Scotch whisky, the biggest selling Irish whiskies today are blended, a mix that usually includes grain whiskey with some pot still whiskey or single malt whiskey added in varying percentages. At least one brand—Tullamore D.E.W.—is made up of all three styles. But on the growing US market for Irish, a multitude of types —pot still, single malt, grain, blended, cask strength—are being offered.

Most blended whiskies are predominantly grain with some 20-30% malted whiskey or pot still whiskey added in. Grain whiskey is just that—whiskey made from wheat or corn or another grain, usually in a column still. It can be made using malted and unmalted barley as well, although that is considered uncommon. Single Pot Still Irish whiskey is today a mix of malted and unmalted barley distilled in copper pots, a style said to have been created as a way around British taxes on malt. Once oats and rye might have been in the mix as well. Single malt, like with Scotch, is a whiskey that comes from only one distillery and not mixed with grain or pot still whiskies.  

]]> (Beverage Network) March 2014 Editions Wed, 19 Feb 2014 10:53:55 -0500