Espresso and Whiskybar

Managing a Whisky Bar is like managing a hockey team; you won’t get good results if the players aren’t movers and shakers. And with too many players on the bench, the good ones won’t get enough ice time…

. So picking your roster is pretty darn important, and at the end of the day if a player doesn’t perform, you don’t pay them, you cut them – that’s just business. For a hockey team, 23 players will do, for a whisky bar, I’ve seen a roster of hundreds, but to what end? To carry any more than 50 whiskies at a time takes the spotlight off of the stars and completely overwhelms the fans.

 

Enter the rotating roster method. Perform or die. Why should a whisky have it any easier than a pro hockey player? You hire them to do a job, (making people warm and fuzzy inside) and they better dram well deliver. The problem is, some whiskies that don’t sell well aren’t necessarily ‘bad’ whiskies. Without naming names and pointing fingers, I can say we have some great whiskies that don’t sell well. So what makes that happen? It’s not price – I have some inexpensive ones that sit a lot longer than the more expensive ones. For whisky to perform well it comes down to one important factor: the coach standing on the bench (AKA our staff). Whisky patrons want to be steered in the right direction and they look for that from the guys and gals on the other side of the counter. And rightly so. But they’re not just whisky coaches, they’re your spirit guides to dramland.

 

Now most people that visit us at DVLB have seen the whisky wall and paid their due respects. But not a heck of a lot of people have had a chance to visit our secret whisky lab. (The whereabouts of said lab will remain undisclosed for fear of mass looting and rioting in our fine town), but rest assured we in management are hard at work toiling away, dram after dram, day after day to bring you the best of what seems like an endless golden utopia of malt madness.
When building and destroying a whisky collection, one should search for a diverse set of skills from your players. Consider light ones, sweet ones, and some with that quintessential mark of St. Andrew: Peat. Let’s look at some new and bright stars in the line up shall we:

 

Port Charlotte An Turas Mor

Speaking of player performance, I’ve had an on and off again love affair with Bruichladdich. When first I looked at the Laddie Classic I thought it must have been a printing error. The Tiffany blue bottle screams of desperation in the not-so-sublte art of peacocking.
The pale liquid inside didn’t offer much more. The Laddie Organic is tolerable, offering up a unique approach to the market by jumping on the ‘green’ wagon. But it was the Port Charlotte sub-brand of Bruichladdich that finally did justice to a distillery that for many years waved it’s proud flag of independence (recently sold out to Rémy Cointreau). Hmmm. To most, Islay = Peat. And Port Charlotte is Bruichladdich’s answer to that question: ‘where’s the peat?’
Found on our flavour map just below the ‘Lone Wolf’ (Ardbeg) and it’s shyer half-beast cousin (Laphroaig) the PC An Turas Mor (Gaelic for ‘the great journey’) is just one peated single malt in a long line of other PCs that are leading up to the release of a 10 yr old… probably within a year. The concept of releasing several underaged malts to the public so they can experience the maturation process is, well… pretty cool. One thing we can’t take away from Bruichladdich is their tenacity to be inventive. Let’s hope their new Parisian overlords let them keep playing in that sandbox.

The Balvenie Peated Cask 17 yr old

Innovation isn’t shipwrecked on Islay though. Master Distiller of The Balvenie, David Stewart has his own brand of sorcery. From the stunning 14 yr old Caribbean Cask (in our top #5 for sales) to another malted mutation: The 17 yr old Peated Cask. ‘So what’ you say? Well my darling deerbunnies, as you know, The Balvenie is a Speyside whisky and as such is more known for its focus on honey and vanilla notes. Peat is very atypical for this distillery (see sister: Glenfiddich) here’s the low-down: In 2001, he produced some heavily peated Balvenie whisky and put this in to ex-bourbon casks. In late 2009, after eight years of maturation, he decided to transfer this heavily peated whisky to some fresher casks and had planned to experiment and put some other suitable whisky in the old casks. Stewart selected some 17 yr old and transferred it to the casks that had previously held the heavily peated whisky and monitored its maturation progress. The result was then blended with some other 17 years old whisky that had been part matured in new American oak casks. The result is this Balvenie 17 years old Peated Cask. Got all that?

This is the only whisky on our flavour map that has a multi-coloured rating. Starting off with honey notes and easily tricking you into a calm and collected serenity before smacking you upside the head with it’s open fist of peated prowess, this dram is unapologetic – The way a Scot should be. Thanks Davey.

Written by Joel Gingrich ( espresso & whisky bar) October 2012

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