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Monday, November 23, 2015

Wyoming Whiskey's Barrel Strength Bourbon Gone in a Flash

As we noted in our recent post on Halloween punch recipes, barrel proof spirits are on fire, and few releases are as noteworthy as this one from Wyoming Whiskey. So worthy that ten gallons of 116-proof and twelve gallons of 120-proof bourbon sold out before it could even hit shelves.

WW's Barrel Strength Bourbon was personally selected by head distiller Sam Mead, with assistance from Nancy Fraley, a professional whiskey taster and consultant.

“As soon as Nancy came out to taste with us, it was apparent that we had different tiers of whiskeys. We have our Small Batch, we’ve got our Single Barrel, and then we have our Barrel Strength—our truly exceptional barrels,” said Mead. “These two barrels started as very good barrels and then they started to leak, significantly. This accelerated the oxidation process and turned them into very special barrels.”

Already well known among discriminating drinkers for its exceptional small batch bourbon, Wyoming Whiskey pushes the envelope even farther with this latest offering, joining the likes of Montgomery, Catoctin Creek and Koval in defining a whole new world of opportunity for whiskey drinkers.

We're certainly looking forward to their next release, so check back to learn when they do!

Friday, November 20, 2015

An Adventure in Long Form

Those members of our community who keep up with us here know that we often wax long-form. We appreciate the longer works, both our own and of others, that take time and endurance to fully ingest and comprehend. Epics, the likes of James Clavell’s Shogun or Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West.

Fortunately, so do others, including two people whose work we appreciate and admire, Tim Ferriss and Kevin Costner. Which is why the latest episode of the Tim Ferriss’ Experiment was such a pleasure to listen to.

Ferriss, an exercise in deliberate lifestyle, is a true champion of the long form. His own podcasts typically hover around two hours in length, and he often speaks to the benefits of long form writing for the web, where a piece may remain preserved in obscurity like undersea treasure, gaining value that, while only revealed upon discovery, actually existed throughout. Through his investigation of the fundamental essence of success, he teases out and touts the “evergreen” works, material that retains eternal relevance because it contains the thread common to all human experience.

Costner, for his part, casts a similar, albeit longer, shadow. His own momentus expressions of cinematic brilliance, films such as Dances With Wolves and JFK, are quintessentially epic in both nature and magnitude, mainstays of the common American’s intellectual lexicon. To date, much of his best work is rendered in the long form, which bodes well for his collaboration with author Jon Baird and illustrator Rick Ross.

The result of their creative marriage is a beautifully crafted tome called The Explorers Guild: A Passage to Shambhala, a throwback adventure tale in the spirit of TinTin and Allan Quatermain. Costner describes it as the ideal stocking stuffer, the type of book one might pass on to a nephew or grand-daughter. And while the chandlers at Simon & Schuster may have legions of Hogwart graduates in their sights, we suggest sitting down with this exceptional work, beside the fireplace and a glass of whiskey, either before or after you share it with yours.

#DrinkingMusic: The Carlos Adames Group

Percussionist Carlos Adames (@charlyconga) leads this cutting-edge latin jazz group featuring Elias Holman on keyboards, Tony Ayala on timbales and Conway Powell on bass, combining the best of latin music with innovative jazz arrangements that are both contemporary and classic.

Carlos is committed to the development of conga playing, breaking down traditional percussion barriers to perform Latin rhythms, jazz, funk and hip-hop while retaining his distinctly Latin roots. His musical journey is a personal quest to explore and create new sounds and rhythmic fusions, and his playing is characterized by innovation, energy and pure heart.

The group is a nominee in the Best Jazz 2015 category of The Best of Milwaukee annual voting, so pop over to the site to cast your vote after this video of them performing the original tune Montate blows you away. You won't find better music to drink to!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wicked Gold Rum

With winter weather fast approaching, rum might not be the first spirit that comes to mind, but perhaps it should be. Particularly since rum goes really well with that traditional holiday beverage, eggnog, and because Florida craft distiller Wicked Dolphin just released its long anticipated Gold Reserve.

Made using 100 percent Florida sugar and local ingredients, Wicked Dolphin handcrafts their rum in small batches using the largest copper pot still in South Florida. The Gold Reserve expression takes this artisan approach a step farther, the spirit having rested in reused whiskey barrels.

“We have worked on Wicked Dolphin Gold Reserve since we started making rum in 2012. Our rum is aged for a full 3 years in bourbon barrels which gives us unique deep whiskey notes for one of the best gold rums on the market," states Wicked Dolphin Rum owner JoAnn Elardo.

Handcrafted from two distinct fermentation styles using both sugarcane and molasses, the South Florida climate plays a large factor in Wicked Dolphin’s rum making process. The barrels are then blended and finished to create a clean, honest profile without the use of added caramel or sugar. To fully appreciate this craft spirit, Elardo recommends drinking Gold Reserve over ice or in a classic cocktail recipe that will allow the oak finish to really come through.

Friday, November 13, 2015

@timwenger1: My Life Is a Movie Filled With Mountain Spirits

Snow is falling in Colorado. This is the time of year that excites me, that gets the visions of perfectly slashed heel-side carves running through my head. The way my TV keeps replaying Peyton Manning’s interceptions over and over, the snow blowing back into my face as I cut my board back toe-side.

They say that no two snowflakes are the same, and whoever they are, I believe them. I have found that this mantra is applicable in many different aspects of daily life, far beyond the reaches of mountain snowfall. Lately I have found that a similar uniqueness is not only important but imperative to growth as a person, and as a business.

In a state that is literally swimming in craft chugs - over 200 breweries and nearly 50 distilleries dot our landscape here in Colorado - it always surprises me when I see a bar owner pouring the same worn out drinks in his struggling pub, forced to drop the prices down so low just to draw in customers that he is barely pulling a profit from each draft beer he sells. The fact is that in 2015, any place that needs to serve $1 Bud Light to get people in the door is going about it all wrong and portraying a strong air of desperation in the process. With all the great beer and spirits being produced in Colorado, it should come as no surprise that drinkers want the local stuff!

I spent years working in bars around the state, doing everything from cooking tater tots to pouring 25 versions of the Long Island Iced Tea to booking and promoting concerts (I’ve even sat in as a bouncer once or twice), in places ranging from college dives to rock clubs and ski town pubs and grills. From the inside, the best places have personality - they aren’t afraid to put their stamp on things. The personalities of the management as well as the employees are allowed to shine through. Even the drinks have a persona about them. The owners have created their brand and are running with it, no holds barred. Recently I have come into contact with two brands, one local and one from California, that are taking concepts done many times before them and re-stamping them with their own flavor.

In Denver, many local pubs are pouring locally made craft spirits. This benefits not only their business but another local as well, injecting an extra shot of Colorado’s eccentric personality into their drinks. On a recent day at local live music haven Herman’s Hideaway I was treated to taste of Vanjak Vodka - a smooth, clean vodka with plenty of personality that even myself, a proclaimed rum drinker, enjoyed.

Vanjak is produced just up Highway 6 in the booze mecca of Golden, a town becoming almost as well known for the number of craft distilleries and breweries as it is for being home to one of beer’s biggest giants. I spoke with founder Jon Guelzow about what he has done to make his product stand out from the swatch of clear liquors on the shelves of local liquor stores.

“We want a clean tasting, smooth vodka that has no aftertaste,” Guelzow says. Using local ingredients is a key part of that process for the Vanjak team. “We looked at the vodka industry as a whole and realized that the majority of the vodkas being sold are all foreign. We were looking at the resources we had here in Colorado and we felt as though if we put a moderately priced vodka in the market we could do something good with it.”

Their product passes through their signature ‘Silver Filtration’ process, which according to the company’s website allows them “to curb as well as enhance, certain organoleptic characteristics of the finished product.” The silver works as an anti-bacterial and allows the company to send the vodka through a carbon process producing a very clean product. “You can taste the smoothness,” Guelzow says. “It tastes like what vodka is supposed to taste like.”

Another thing separating Vanjak from other fine vodkas (especially ones produced here in Colorado) is the price point - a 750 ml bottle costs around $17. Many other small-batch vodkas are nearly twice as expensive.

They also try to incorporate their love of the outdoors into marketing the brand. Guelzow and his wife have been in Colorado for over twenty years, drawn in by the active culture here. Vanjak Vodka, appropriately, plays towards that, marketing itself as a true Colorado brand that ‘embodies the state’s purity and refreshingly honest character.’

“(The culture) is a pretty big deal, to be honest with you, because my wife and I both moved here for the outdoor activities,” he said. “Most people that move here have that theme in their life, so we are trying to capitalize on that.”

Guelzow comes from a long background in the liquor industry, over twenty years at this point, a long path that fostered his desire to create a strong local product that the state can be proud of. Vanjak is delivered to clients out of the back of their company truck, no middleman involved. “I started off at a distributor being a salesman, went into retail, and now went into distilling,” he said. “It made sense, and it’s something we enjoy doing - making a brand having fun with it.”

Having fun seems to be the key to putting personality into your business - fun is something that is hard to fake. For entrepreneurs, separating yourself from those doing the same thing is second nature, but it is often easier said than done. An entrepreneur needs to find their voice, their way of letting people known that the product is originally and absolutely theirs.

Straying outside of the booze world, and away from Colorado, travel blogger Alyssa Ramos is the perfect example of an entrepreneur doing the business of blogging her way. I recently came across an article she wrote for the Huffington Post that documented how her constant travel has ruined her dating life, and started thinking about the ‘constant travel’ part. I know plenty of bloggers, most of whom make no money and have little actual knowledge to share outside of their opinions. This got me wondering how Ramos grew her brand to a point where she is not only travelling constantly but doing so as an authority and trend setter. Her blog, My Life’s A Movie, is a record of her world travels and advice documented through articles, listicles, photos, and video - plus a full social media suite of awesomeness.

It seemed to me that no one starts out simply as a blogger. I wanted to know how she built this - how she got people to care and to trust her judgment on things. The ability to have something to say that people actually want to hear has to come from somewhere, and for Ramos it all started with a snap decision to move from Florida to LA. She left a solid job to head into the unknown. “I graduated with a bio degree, I was a vet tech,” Ramos says. “I came to LA to visit and I hadn’t considered moving anywhere before, but I ended up cancelling my ticket home and staying in LA. So that was the whole ‘quit your job and do something else’ part.”

The travel bug was planted by an itch to volunteer in Africa. She had never done anything like that before - her travel experience consisted of little other than sojourns with friends or significant others and quick road trips during college. She looked into a volunteer opportunity in Muizenburg, South Africa and planned on making the leap. “I was waiting for someone else to book the trip too, and I waited so long that it ended up getting filled,” she says. With her deposit money for the trip out the door, she made the decision to just put together a trip to Africa on her own (it ended up working out - she booked a flight and met up with the volunteer program anyway). She has since founded a charity aiding the children in Muizenberg in obtaining new t-shirts, a luxury many of them never had. Find out more at

While there, another idea struck in addition to the charity she founded. “I was like, ‘I might as well see how much it costs to jump over to Thailand, because it’s cheaper if you’re already over there,” Ramos says. “I’m apparently really good at figuring out cheap flights and I got connections from South Africa to Thailand to Australia and back to LA, a revolution around the world.”

Three continents in three weeks- that’ll do a lot for not only the confidence but for the wanderlust in you. How do you go back to a 9-5 lifestyle after you’ve had a first-hand experience with cultures around the world? When you have experienced the door-opening freedom of extended travel, is there a way to re-incorporate yourself into the hustle and bustle of the corporate world? “I hate having a schedule that someone else makes,” Ramos says. “I can’t do that.”

Her reaction after returning from three weeks encircling the globe? “I’m going to do more crazy stuff!” She has since traveled to 32 countries on six continents now and has not only a blog but a social media following reaching over 50,000 people (35,000 on Instagram alone).

That extended trip was the start of the My Life’s a Movie brand. On the surface, the image of her blog is that of a ditzy wanderlust exploring the world from a single girl’s perspective, and certainly this is part of the curb appeal. But dig a little deeper, read the articles, and you’ll find a brilliant voice that is making solo international travel much more appealing and attainable for women and men alike. “I am keen at business, I know what I’m doing and, especially with Huffington Post, I write my headlines in a way that makes people go, ‘Did that bitch really just say that?”

Her content is very clearly hers, and her advice is worded in a way that is not only relevant but surprisingly not intimidating. “I don’t ever want it to be like ‘ooh look at me, I did this awesome thing and I can travel and you can’t” Ramos says. “That’s the opposite of what I try to do. I try to do things that are actually informative for them and it’s almost like ‘I’m going to test the waters and see what’s out there so that you can go do it to.’”

Her approach to documenting her travels is simple. “I just have so much to say and I have a really good memory,” she says. “I take a lot of pictures but I can remember so much and have so much to say about it. There is so much more to say about travelling than about a celebrity or a TV show. I write non-stop.”

Her passion shines through her work, and is what keeps her going. Because of this, she has developed a strong business sense and is very specific about what she posts and when. As a blogger, there is no money coming in right away - everything is earned through hard work and relationship building. “It’s a lot of risk,” Ramos says. “I’m not rich and I’m not going to be rich anytime soon because the money I do make I spend on traveling.”

Makes sense. She’s already got me wanting to pack my bags and hit the road immediately. As I sit here finishing yet another stiff Vanjak Tuff Mudder, I am already dreaming about my next trip. Keep that snow falling because in a few short weeks, Jackson Hole here I come!

#DrinkingMusic: Sharon Van Etten - I Don't Want to Let You Down EP

Sharon Van Etten is a singer songwriter from Brooklyn, New York. Ghostly organ, gracious sympathetic string arrangements, a distinct southern folk influence, this EP is much emotional baggage laid down for so few songs. Charred and languid voice streaming themes of heartbreak allowing her distress to become sovereign. Self analysis and brutal honesty bordering on self deprecation, countered with self absolution in the face of blame. A constant plea to perhaps change what she knows she cannot. Dark and cunning. A collection of songs that fill the heart, rising and falling innocuously and haunting me like an EKG. Rapture and ecstasy endowed by embracing life’s eventual despondency. Loving the lowly on this splendid EP.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Spirits of the Third Industrial Revolution

While the art of distillation in modern times may best be described as intoxicating, its roots are much more mundane. Surely fermentation was first recognized by humanity for its physiological effects, but it was alcohol’s utilitarian value in preserving food that truly made it valuable.

Since prehistory, man has fermented fruit and grain for storage. Because alcohol curbs or eliminates the growth of bacteria, it significantly lengthens shelf life compared with foodstuffs stored in other forms. It is for this reason that throughout time, a direct consequence of agriculture is alcohol, as it allows excess production to be utilized, rather than wasted.

Prior to the industrial revolution, beverage alcohol was omnipresent. Subsistence farmers and field workers drank low content beer, wine and cider from daybreak until sundown, to combat both the tedium of labor and the lack of clean water. By the 1st Century, Greek and Chinese alchemists had begun distilling these low-wines into high content spirits, giving rise to the "national" drinks of Europe.

Whiskey came to America in the late 18th century, likely at the hands of Scot and Irish immigrants who began to settle and farm the area of present-day Kentucky. The spirit they brought with them evolved to suit these new surroundings, making increasing use of their primary crop, corn, and became known as bourbon in the early 1900s. It was easier, and likely more profitable, to ship to market than grain, and barreling whiskey for the burgeoning seaboard communities soon became an integral part of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee agriculture.

Today, interest in American whiskey is keen, as demonstrated by a recent announcement from MGP that it is spending $16.4 million to double warehouse capacity at its Lawrenceburg, Indiana distillery. MGP, for those that don’t know, is an industrial-scale producer of beverage-grade alcohol, and the base spirit behind innumerable craft labels and “small-batch” whiskeys, including Bulleit, Smooth Ambler, High West, Templeton and George Dickel. This investment is predicated on management's belief that “American whiskey is in the early stages of a long term growth trend … Increased capacity will help us better support the rapid growth of the whiskey category.”

How that makes one feel about the merits of their favorite craft label aside, the real problem with MGP’s rationale is that it flies in the face of current trends in economic dialectic and consumer thirst.

Steel, electrification, and the model of centralized mass production ushered in the second Industrial Revolution, the greatest increase in economic growth ever recorded. Fueled by petroleum, improved communications, and the Green Revolution, the period gave rise to a proliferation of cheap goods and the extensive urbanization of the world’s population, a cohort which in the past decade has come to exceed its rural counterpart for the first time in human history.

Today, we are on the cusp of a third industrial epoch, one founded in the leverage generated by lateral power aggregated from abundant point sources. At its core, the recognition that a networked system of smaller nodes has a greater effective capacity than a centralized one of equal magnitude. Millions of connected utilities, constantly propagating, evaluating, and disseminating the whole of global output at the speed of light will power mankind into the future.

The loudest voice in this movement is that of Jeremy Rifkin, an American economist and philosopher. Rifkin has become a vocal proponent of renewable energy and intelligent infrastructure, and he has the ear of some pretty important people. He currently advises the United Nations on the Future We Want, and numerous world leaders, including the European Union and Premier Li Keqiang of China, have incorporated his economic precepts into their plans.

Revolution relies on disruption; in this case, distributed capacity. It is here where MGP’s thinking lags, and why the future of spirits belongs to craft.

The emergent economy is comprised of millions of people around the globe who produce and share information and energy across a network of peer-to-peer connections. Just as Napster disrupted the music industry when they introduced the world to file-sharing, today’s micro-distillers are disseminating production capacity across the landscape, disrupting a near century long paradigm of mass manufacture sustained by cheap transportation and regulatory strangleholds. Much like server farms, power plants, and factories will inevitably be replaced by nodes, solar collectors, and 3D printing, micro and craft producers will most assuredly supplant bulk spirits.

Were it not for market forces, however, MGP’s strategy might still be considered sound, and in the short term will likely prove profitable. With the majority of humanity living in an urban setting, regional point sourcing is not entirely feasible in all cases, and the company’s scale and expertise ensures a product of consistent quality that will remain relevant for some time. But the American drinking public grows increasingly intelligent, and the days of non-distilling producers, those who source bulk products and market them as their own, are numbered. As spirit imbibers become better educated, and micro-distillers pay off capital costs and achieve profitability, they will ultimately begin to undermine the legitimacy of the MGP business model.

Mankind is entering the next phase in its economic evolution, and as the population of the world continues to increase, its propensity for existential qualities such as terroir, regionality and distinction in its provisions and appurtenances will only intensify. People in the next chapter of human development will not be satisfied with cookie cutter products from an assembly line when they can just as easily download a design to their 3D printer that expresses their own unique tastes, any more than they will tolerate a whiskey that differs from a dozen others only in its label. And while this spells trouble for the likes of MGP, it opens up a world of opportunity for true micro and craft producers, whose spirits embody the essence of how, where, and by whom they were made.