Attending the Tales of the Cocktail event in New Orleans is a lot like falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland - if Alice was constantly sweaty and hungry. Needless to say, it is equally bewildering and magical for all who attend. Below are the three brands your editor came away from Tales wanting to know more about:
SINGANI 63. Having grown weary of making so much money in Hollywood, acclaimed film director/producer Steven Soderbergh is moonlighting as an alcohol importer these days so he can rid himself of some of it. Singani is made from white muscat grapes, like pisco, but has the distinct accomplishment of being the national drink of Bolivia.
Steven discovered the product while shooting the movie "Che" in 2008 in Bolivia. He loved it so much he spent the subsequent five years figuring out how to get it into the US, where it is now available in New York and California under the name Singani 63. Aside from how it tastes, the appeal of Singani 63 is its unpolished and irreverent marketing content, all of which is created by Steven. Take this excerpt from the website, for example:
"Btw, some imperialist bureaucrats decided to categorize Singani 63 as a brandy because they lack vision and stickuitiveness and didn't really do their diligence by drinking a lot of this 500-year-old indigenous spirit that was around long before there was such a thing as an imperialist bureaucrat or an embittered filmmaker! Let's stop this insanity! Sign up for the liberate Singani 63 campaign now!"
Of the decision to create the content himself, Steven tells WSD: "No other brand has its spokesperson actually creating the content for the brand. I acknowledge there may a good reason for this. We'll see!"
Singani 63 retails for about $30 a 750 ml.
TEQUILA OCHO. Tequila Ocho is the oldest of the bunch -- launched in 2008 -- but we're including it in this write up because this event was your editor's first experience with the brand. What's interesting about Tequila Ocho is that it has taken a page from the wine category's book, marking its bottles with both a vintage and the precise field where the agave in it was grown.
In fact, founder Tomas Estes was inspired to designate the tequilas this way after attending several en primeur tasting in Burgundy, where he gained an appreciation for terroir. Carlos Camarena, the master distiller and partner in Tequila Ocho, has about 48 different fields in Mexico, making for a wide array of unique bottlings. "It's really about highlighting the plant itself, first of all, after that, the natural surroundings of the plant," Jesse Estes, Tomas' son and the Tequila Ocho brand ambassador for Europe, tells WSD.
Unlike wine, Tequila Ocho's offerings are priced the same for every vintage. The prices range from $55 a 750 ml for the Single Estate Plata to $70 for the Single Estate Anejo. It is currently available in 27 states.
RUTTE: Pronounced Root-eh, the smallest distillery in Holland joined the De Kuyper Royal Distillers in 2011, and debuted its portfolio in the US for the first time at Tales of the Cocktail this year. Rutte's portfolio includes small batch gins, genevers and a vodka made in the same room founder Simon Rutte used to distill in 1872.
The celery gin seemed to be a crowd favorite at Tales of the Cocktail. "The Rutte family founders were exceptionally creative and explored their surroundings for unique ingredients to distill, much like the farm-to-plate model we see now. That's how we ended up with our Celery Gin," Royal Dutch Distillers president Marc De Kuyper tells WSD. "Oddly, celery has been in our Genevers for generations and it only made sense to put it in our gin. Once you taste the products you can immediately identify the passion and heritage that goes into the bottles, not to mention they are all natural, made with real ingredients."
Marc says the spirits industry has long been aware of the concept of small batch spirits, but consumers are now becoming more aware of it. "As the smallest distillery in the Netherlands, and having been around since 1872, we see a huge opportunity to showcase the craftsmanship and care that goes into our products to consumers in the United States," he says.
The collection is available nationwide for a suggested retail price of $38 a 750 ml.
[Note, an earlier version of this article erroneously state Steven Soderbergh discovered singani in Spain.]
WILSON DANIELS ESTABLISHES EAST COAST DIVISION
Young's Holdings is making its first move to the East Coast by establishing a wholesale operation via its Wilson Daniels subsidiary. Beginning September 1, Wilson Daniels Wholesale will begin operating in New York and New Jersey. It will be a separate entity from Wilson Daniels' importing and marketing division, but the current Wilson Daniels brands will move from The Winebow Group's Martin Scott Wines to the new wholesale unit.
Wilson Daniels Wholesale's portfolio currently includes wine brands such as Casablanca Valley from Chile, Chateau Simar from Bordeaux, Domaine Laroche from Burgundy, Castello di Volpaia from Italy, and Schramsberg Vineyards RouteStock Cellars from the US. Its spirits brands include Cognac Lheraud, Sipsmith and Coppersea Distilling.
Chris Underwood will lead the division from California while Benjy Kirschner, vp of sales, and Kevin Murphy, vp of operations, will hold down the fort in New York.
SPI GROUP PICKS UP SPANISH WINERY
Luxembourg-based SPI Group has acquired Arinzano Winery as part of its newly created luxury wine division HEW Holding. Arinzano estate is located in Northeast Spain and owned by the Chivite family. It was Spain's first Vino de Pago, the highest classifications, recognizing a single estate as its own denomination, per Decanter.
Arinzano will join SPI's other estates including: Achaval Ferrer in Argentina, and Italian wineries Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Castelgiocondo and Luce della Vite, a joint-venture with Marchesi de'Frescobaldi and Michael Mondavi.
ALLTECH BREAKS GROUND ON NEW PRODUCTION FACILITY. Kentucky-based Alltech, makers of Pearse Lyons Reserve bourbon, Town Branch Bourbon and a number of Kentucky Ales, is breaking ground on its fifth production facility today. The new Dueling Barrels Brewing & Distilling Co. cost the company $13 million and will produce Dueling Barrels Moonshine, Dueling Barrels Bourbon and Pikeville Ale. In addition to the new facility, Alltech owns a brewery and distillery in Lexington, Kentucky; is building a distillery in Dublin; and just bought two craft brewers in Ireland and Cumbria. As a result of the company's rapid expansion, Dueling Barrels' beer, whiskey and moonshine are expected to go global by the end of 2016.
WA WINEGROWERS Washington may also be in for an early harvest this year after two weeks of triple-digit temperatures earlier this summer. L'Ecole No 41., Barnard Griffin, and Chateau Ste. Michelle are all busy prepping for a slightly early harvest, per Great Northwest Wine. Bob Bertheau, head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, says they picked sauvignon blanc from Klipsun Vineyards on Red Mountain last year on August 27 and expects to begin this year around August 21. Charlie Hoppes, owner and winemaker for Fidelitas Wines on Red Mountain thinks the other winemakers may be jumping the gun a bit. "I don't think it's going to be as early as everyone thinks," he says.
WEMYSS FAMILY EXPANDS GIN RANGE. The Wemyss family, producers of Wemyss Malts Scotch Whiskies and Darnley's View Original London Dry Gin, are expanding their gin range to include a Darnley's View Spiced Gin. Darnley's Spiced is distilled with ten botanicals, but the principal players are juniper, cinnamon and nutmeg. It will initially be available in PA, NY, CA, WA, FL, MA, NH, DC, MD, NJ via Palm Bay International, beginning September 1. It retails for approximately $37 per 750 ml.
VISION WINE & SPIRITS FILES SUIT AGAINST ITALIAN SUPPLIER. US importer Vision Wine & Spirits has filed a lawsuit in Italy against its supplier Biondi Santi for breach of contract, WSD has learned. Vision has an exclusive contract to import Biondi Santi and Jacopo Biondi Santi in the US through mid-2016. But over the last couple of years the winery has had intermittent stalls in shipping, and stopped shipping to the US entirely in October 2014, according to the legal complaint. Biondi Santi had declined to comment on the case.
ROGUE LAUNCHES CHIPOTLE WHISKEY. Oregon's Rogue Ales and Spirits is launching a chipotle whiskey made with local jalapenos. Rogue Chipotle Whiskey is distilled in copper pots and aged in Oregon oak barrels. It will be available in select retailers throughout the US for approximately $47 a 750 ml.
CLARIFICATION: WSD quoted Diageo cfo Dierdre Mahlan yesterday telling a story about Ciroc Orange during the company's earnings call. Diageo has clarified she was referring to Ciroc Peach.
"Only a mediocre person is always at their best." --W. Somerset Maugham
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