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AskTP – Groggy in Paris

September 11, 2013

If my plan goes according to schedule, this should get posted sometime soon after I arrive in Paris. Please keep talking amongst yourselves about the Tour de Cider Donut nominations.

It’s apparently apple season in Normandy too. Maybe I’ll be able to get some fresh cider from this year’s crop. That would be amazing. We’ll have to see. Like last time, I’m kind of playing the trip by ear.

But it’s Wednesday, on both sides of the ocean, and the last Ask the Profussor was two weeks ago. So that means it’s time to look back and answer any and all questions that were left unanswered in the comments section of the blog (at least the ones that included a question mark). This week however, there is one big catch.

Somehow I answered most of the questions as they came in. Either they dealt with something nasty that I wanted to nip in the bud, or they were questions that I felt demanded an immediate response. Perhaps being on vacation also had something to do with my unusual level of responsiveness.

That means, there is actually only one question to answer today. And given my relative level of exhaustion, that’s plenty. Plus, it’s a pretty good question. So, I’d like to dedicate a bit more time and thought into its response.

albanylandlord was a little bit frustrated with the sales and marketing of craft spirits:

My problem with the local craft spirits is that the entry point for a taste is so high. With beer I can buy a bottle and see how I like it and I don’t mind risking my $4,5 or even more for a craft beer. But when there are 6 bottles of craft Gin on the shelf, that doesn’t work. I not only would have to spend $200 to taste them all, I would have a multi-year supply of gin. And I would be stuck with a whole bottle of the ones I don’t like. And I have heard from my Whiskey drinking friends that there have definitely been some stinkers out there…

I have gone out on a limb and tried the mead that is made here in Duanseburg. ( And that worked out really really well (as in 4 bottles in 6 months including all three of the bottlings). But mead sounded really cool and unique. I haven’t done that for Gin or other liquors.

This really needs a solution. I want these guys to succeed, but how do you get people to buy your product without tasting it? I would like to see some comparison tastings set up (if they are happening I haven’t heard of them and I am looking). Or maybe they need to offer those single serve bottles. I’m sure that is a real expense for a small start-up, but I would fill a shopping bag with every one of those I can get my hands on – just like I do at Westmere beverage with the new beers. Hey, I think I just fixed the craft distillery business model!

For most craft spirits, the cost of a taste isn’t really all that high. Many distilleries are able to offer a bottle for their spirits at around $30. The Busted Barrel rum I got was $25. Now yes, that’s high in comparison to something like Bacardi. But a heavy 50ml pour from a $30 bottle still comes to just $2 a drink.

For comparison, in New York, I think a single cigarette is now north of $.50. And the time, energy, ingredients, equipment and manpower that go into craft distillation are significant. Ask a distiller about their electricity bill sometime. It’s astounding.

Yes, one can buy beer by the single bottle and half-bottles of wine are more readily available now than they ever were. But there is a difference between tasting something and really getting to know it. 

I have encourage people to buy wine by the case, for just this purpose.

Which isn’t to say you should go into the experience blindly. It makes sense to do your homework before committing to a bottle of spirits. That’s hopefully where people like me come in. The Internet is a great place to turn for many many opinions on almost any subject. Not all of them will reflect your own. But over time you can find people who you trust, or you can learn to identify cues in their observations which make them more trustworthy from the get go.

I can understand why a high end whiskey drinker might be nonplussed with something like the small barrel three month old Ironweed. For the same price, they can get some seriously great bourbons with a deeper influence from wood.

Craft spirits might not be for everyone. At some point, you kind of have to want to appreciate the spirit for what it is (not what it isn’t). And sometimes it takes sampling the spirit over and over again to really fall in love with its nuances.

No, you probably won’t be able to try them all. And that’s okay. Find the ones that are special to you. Not because of how someone says it tastes, but because of what it is, where it’s made, what it’s made from, or how it’s made.

And try to attend tastings where craft spirits are poured. Sadly, not all distilleries are allowed to offer tastings. Stupid licensing regulations. But getting to talk with the distiller can help open your eyes to what the spirit is trying to be, and why it’s made the way it is.

Most of these small operators still bottle everything by hand. Taking their work and putting it into 50ml bottles would be backbreaking, and ultimately I think it would be harmful to the movement.

Here’s an analogy. My All Clad stainless steel skillet is a lot more expensive than my cast iron skillet. If I tried to fry an egg on the All Clad, I would hate it, and never use it again. I may even feel cheated for spending such a lot of money on a pan. But over time I will find out its strengths and weaknesses and will see how it can be a great part of my cookware cabinet.

No, I’ll never be able to buy all the cookware I want in my lifetime either. That’s just how it goes. At some point we have to make hard choices based on a long list of priorities. But those will be different for everyone.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2013 9:58 am

    Really? There was only one unanswered question? That’s hard to believe… I know I’d posited something and was looking forward to your reply. Unfortunately I do not archive my comments to FLB… should I? (that was a question.)

  2. -R. permalink
    September 11, 2013 10:25 am

    An AskTP sans a mystery-link-o-the-day? Jet-lag? Old age? Bad Jersey air? Color me disappointed.

  3. Jessica R permalink
    September 11, 2013 11:29 am

    I think albanylandlords points are valid, especially when it comes to gin. You can find a random whiskey or scotch tasting in the area because those are seen as sipping alcohols. I’ve never heard of a gin tasting.

  4. September 11, 2013 3:16 pm

    Never heard of a gin tasting around here either, to echo Jessica R. Perhaps because it’s a liquor seen as more of a mixing drink than whiskey (or whisky, if it’s Scotch) is?

    As for the difference between an All-Clad and a cast-iron pan… I use the latter when acidic ingredients aren’t involved. So I’ll fry something in the Griswold, but if I need to make a tomato gravy or the like I don’t use the cast iron. I wouldn’t use anything else for fried chicken, though, for instance. And it’s great for fish fry as well. Really, anything fried. If you need to simmer slowly, then you want stainless steel or even aluminum.

    Hope you have a great trip. If I were you, I’d try to slip a few cheeses and a bit of charcuterie into my carry-on for the return leg. ;)

  5. September 12, 2013 10:50 am

    Like all luxury food and drink, there’ll never be enough time to taste everything and understand it’s subtleties. So one must rejoice in what one is able to taste and make much of it. As to tasting expensive spirits, it may be time to call together friends, each of whom should bring a bottle to the table. Spread around the expense, the gin will be consumed rather than sitting around and everyone gets to taste to their heart’s content. Seems like it would be a smashing cocktail party, to be repeated with any spirit that the group wants to try.

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