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Posts Tagged ‘whiskey’

Time Immemorial

September 26, 2020 Leave a comment

 

Howdy Free Rangers,

First, there is soon to be a new Secret Whiskey List going out. This is our separate mailing list for (first come, first served) unpublished whiskey sales, and generally represents our lowest price of the year on the whiskeys on said list. If you have never received one of these, please click here and enter your preferred info (even if you think you signed up in the shop), and we’ll make sure you don’t miss out. Please feel free to share that link with other worthy whiskey nerds.

They say time is on our side. At least the Stones thought so, but that was a long time ago (they were young and high); another era, burned out and long forgotten, from this foul year of our lord, Two Thousand and Twenty. But that’s not the case. Time is not on our side. It has a singular agenda, and is otherwise unimpressionable. While it seems to still be a linear measure, so far as I can tell, our perception of it continues to grow more elastic as it moves along. Is it just me, or does every impending tomorrow seem like a never-ending yesterday (like Groundhog Day, but without Bill Murray, and it’s not funny at all)? Time out of Mind indeed. I’ve been re-reading Beaudrillard, so probably best that I leave you with just the tip of this particular iceberg, and move on to our discounted rarity of the week.

As many of you know, my favorite American whiskey (and probably in the world) is St. George Single Malt. It’s released once a year, as a vintage batch, and while it is always excellent, it varies from year to year fairly significantly. St. George Spirits is the original micro-distiller in America, and has been distilling in Alameda, CA since the early ‘80s. Besides their rare and magical whiskeys, they bottle some of the best gin, vodka, brandies, and liqueurs in the world. Their anniversary single malt releases are a profound (and profoundly rare) story for another time, but when the 40th is released, it’ll be harder to come by than front row Radiohead tickets (in the before time, when concerts were still a thing). Regardless of these variations, we get a max of 6 bottles per year (no retailer in the state gets more), and as such, it is rather expensive.

A few years back St. George introduced The Baller, a different, lighter single malt whiskey, whose name is a play on ‘highball’, and whose bottle wears one of the coolest labels in the industry. While this one does also vary from batch to batch, the quality is consistently high, and it’s a fresh, lighter style (un-peated) Single Malt. If you are into the classic Highball Cocktail, it’ll work out perfectly, but most I know tend to sip it straight. For the first several years of its existence, this release didn’t leave California, and demand has always exceeded supply. Since becoming available in our market, we can usually get a 6-pack two or three times per year. But with the recent shake-up at one of the two major distributors, 160 cases appeared in open inventory (though wholesale price did go up a bit). As you can imagine, we snapped up a good few of those. Hence the below lowest price we’ve ever offered on a truly unique and (usually) very limited American whiskey.

Click on the link below to add a bottle w/ coupon code to your cart!

St. George Single Malt The Baller            sale: $75            retail: $129

*** This week only, as supplies last! ***
* No other discounts apply.

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Living the Dream

August 2, 2020 Leave a comment

Hey Free Rangers,

Another peach of a week, here on the Range, and out there in the world. I honestly don’t know where to begin. Yes I do. As I’ve mentioned a few times here, and constantly in person, besides a few trusted online sources for empirical data, I’ve curbed my news consumption mostly to The Majority Report and The Michael Brooks Show, though I do like to check in with reports by Katy Tur, and Krystal Ball, during the day. I was watching Majority Report live on the afternoon of the 20th, toward the end of the show, Sam Seder’s mouth drops open after looking down at a screen, and the ‘fun half’ of the show ends abruptly. Michael Brooks had died at 37 years old. He was the youngest person I can think of who I consider a hero, and I genuinely aspire to be more like him. I barely made it through the Majority Report tribute to Michael Brooks the next day, I don’t know how they held it together.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Michael Brooks to the progressive movement at large. I don’t throw around the word genius lightly, but the sheer amount of knowledge he amassed, and the number of world concerns he understood on a molecular level (and could explain to the rest of us without a hint of condescension) is humbling. MacArthur missed the boat on this one. That he was also a man of infinite empathy, and profound humor is what made him one of the finest communicators of the digital era, and why he was certain to change the world for the better, which seemed his only real goal. I’m a pretty cynical guy, and Michael Brooks gave me real hope. He and John Lewis were two of the sturdiest pillars in my personal Pantheon of necessary Agents of Good (Trouble), and the world lost that unfathomable gentleman last week as well.

Not to mention the unnamed federal agents in major US cities throwing private citizens into unmarked cars, which without probable cause, or declaration of offense, is kidnapping, in any democracy. And there’s the incalculable toll American law enforcement continues to perpetrate with absolute impunity on any peaceful citizen they damned well please, most especially people of color (#BLM), and anyone without enough money for proper legal representation.
Dark days, my friends.

In the micro: This was also the lowest point for our new credit card processor(s), and it seems a small handful of customers were double charged, and a smaller few were charged for phantom invoices. Derek has corrected the issue, and everyone involved has been refunded (we believe), with our sincere apologies. If anybody thinks they were overcharged for anything recently (7/2 – 7/20), please shoot us a note, and we’ll get to the bottom of it. I assure you, it wasn’t deliberate, and it is no longer occurring. Thanks, as always, for your patience and support.

The next day, a guy comes in, dumps a bunch of change on the sales counter and asks for quarters for the parking machine, which we give him, doesn’t buy anything. Comes back and hour later, asks a bunch of questions about rum, doesn’t buy anything. Comes back in another hour, doesn’t say anything to us, parks himself inside, blocking the front, and makes a phone call. I ask him to please take his conversation outside (a policy posted visibly- in words and pictures- on 2 walls, the fridge, and twice on the front door, since the outset of the pandemic), to which he replies, “fuck this place.” Derek’s Zen may have been the only thing that stopped me from potentially incurring an assault charge. This kind of stuff seems to be happening fairly frequently these days.

There were a few moments this week when I was tempted to lock the place early, head home, and turn off all devices for a few days. It’s been a tough stretch, even by current standards, but we are grateful as always to our encouraging regulars, who make what we do both possible and fun (most of the time). And I’m not sure what I would do without your four-legged friends, especially my spirit animal, Fred the terrier. If you don’t see much of me this week, I might be taking some mental health days. Please be kind to our team, every one of them is nicer than I am. If you want to talk about any old and rare bottles most of which they have not tasted, please feel free to shoot me a note directly: jack@freerangebrooklyn.com

Usual open hours, we’ve got a website, call with any questions (718.643.2250), blah, blah, blah: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

Holy cr@p, you made it to the sale! Go team. Click here to access a coupon code for 15% off each of the following notable recent arrivals. A beautifully understated CA Syrah, one of my two favorite Pinot Blanc in existence (under $85), an Alsatian Pinot Noir that drinks like a red Burgundy 3 times the price, a wonderfully old school red Burgundy from the rarest of earth, and the last single vineyard Cab from one the most classic Napa estates that we can get on the shelf under $100 (in that order below):

retail:
Joyce Syrah Tondre Grapefield 2018           $34
Kelley Fox Pinot Blanc Freedom Hill 2019    $37
Bechtold Alsace Pinot Noir “S” 2017            $39
Domaine Forey Vosne-Romanée 2017         $79
Heitz Cab Trailside Vineyard 2013                $99

***This week only, as supplies last, no further discounts apply.***

Take care of each other.

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Baseball, retail, and square bottles of whisky.

July 24, 2020 Leave a comment

Howdy Free Rangers,

Okay, so this is weird. It seems the wrong people are becoming a bit afraid of me. Let me first say this: If you are reading this e-mail and have enough empathy in your heart to have ever wondered what it’s like to be on our side of the sales counter, you are not one of the people whose story makes it into these chronicles, about customers that drive us mad. Meanwhile, that same whiskey bro I bitched about last time apparently came back while I was out and started pointing to bottles behind the counter and offering Derek “cash prices” (tax free) below retail. Since it’s illegal to not charge sales tax, he was really asking for a double discount. This guy has yet to put a penny into our business, and is only interested in our very rarest items, so not sure why he thinks anybody would want to give him a deal and incentivize his return.

Conversely, we have endless patience for, and take great enjoyment in, honest questions about wine and spirits, no matter how simple or complex. I can talk about the differences between Bourbon and Rye, or the subtle similarities shared by Pinot Noir and Syrah, all day. That’s kind of how I ended up here. And while I know a fair amount about these things, I certainly don’t know everything about anything. Part of what’s so cool about the world of wine & spirits is that any true student of the game is always learning. Though I suppose one could say that about any worthwhile discipline, and/or student. Whatever you’re into, if you genuinely believe there’s nothing more for you to learn there, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Reps, colleagues, and customers bring things to my attention all the time that result in questions and research on my end, which really is part of the fun. At some point, I reallocated all of the brain space that used to contain sports stats and trivia; so while I no longer remember who played 3rd base for the Pittsburg Pirates in 1960, I can tell you with relative confidence that unless you have a profoundly rare acute allergy- which completely prevents you from ever eating deli meat or dried apricots- it wasn’t the miniscule amount of sulfites in the wine that caused your headache last Friday. But seriously, please don’t stand in front of the fridge when you enter the shop. Those same bottles are priced on the wall (low to high), where the lights are on, five more feet into the building. Also, you’re blocking the front door, which isn’t cool to us, other patrons, or to the tenets of basic social distancing. Please help us out here.

Re: sports stats, baseball was my first love, and I do still remember that Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record on April 8th, 1974. He also once graciously let me interview him for a high school term paper on Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball. April 8th, was also the birthday of Mets’ great, Gary Carter, who wore #8 on his jersey, while his knees slowly disintegrated behind home plate. Gary was also super nice to an awkward adolescent me, and autographed just about everything I owned, during a few consecutive spring breaks of leaning over the rail at pre-season ballgames in West Palm Beach. It is for these reasons that even though I haven’t followed team sports for many years, I do still celebrate Baseball Day every April 8th. Please feel free to bring your own peanuts and Crackerjacks. Hopefully by next spring we’ll be hosting in-store tastings, and we can pour the perfect pairing for that.

This week’s Open Hours remain (though we’ve been staying open later than posted fairly frequently).

Mon – Thurs:             1 – 7pm
Fri – Sat:                      1 – 8pm
Sunday:                       1 – 7pm

Always worth a call, if you think it’s getting late: 718.643.2250

[NOTE: THIS SALE IS OVER, to receive e-mails directly from Free Range Wine & Spirits (while the sales are active), please enter your e-mail address at the bottom of the front page on our site: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com]

Congratulations on making it to the sale portion or our show! Unfortunately, I’m not tech savvy enough to generate a coupon code without Derek here, so we’re going with an old fashioned must-re:-this-e-mail style offer right now! I suppose it’s also radio call-in style, because the next 6 people to reply with intent to purchase, shall receive 1 bottle of Nikka From the Barrel Japanese Whisky @ $99 (usually $139), first e-mailed, first served!

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down and Out on Atlantic Avenue

July 20, 2020 Leave a comment

Hey Free Rangers,

The (whiskey) bottle hunters are back, and I’m not handling it well. Also had a non-masker be fairly aggressive with us (and a couple of customers), who later came back with a mask, seemingly attempted fraud, and then removed said mask to make a phone call at the counter, as a line began to form. Contrary to what some may believe, I take no joy in telling someone to get out and never come back (particularly in front of other customers), but that’s how this one ended, after some fairly predictable expletives were exchanged. It was a bit of a crazy moment, so I can’t be certain, but it seems as though this was also the source of the knife that was abandoned on our sales counter. Eight years into our 15 year lease on Atlantic Ave, and things have never been weirder. May we live in interesting times, indeed.

But back to the bottle hunters: If you’ve ever gone into a shop, spent 20 minutes telling the shopkeepers stories about bottles you’ve bought elsewhere, only to walk out without spending a penny, you’re probably not as decent a person as you think you are. If you’ve done this during a global pandemic, you’re very likely what my bluntest uncle used to refer to as BAM (basic asshole material). We have a genuinely sweet, conscientious landlord (which is rare in this town), but even she won’t accept a story about the $800 you spent on 2 bottles of Willett XCF– in another state- in lieu of rent. This kind of guy will never understand why he doesn’t have access to our rarest stuff, or favorable (negotiable) pricing. Spending ten bucks vs. zero really is the difference between being invited to receive our unpublished e-mail sales, and not.

The same week, a customer came in looking for a few serious bottles of the brown stuff for a wedding-related event. He was friendly and inquisitive, we had a nice conversation, I pulled quotes on all sorts of rare items that aren’t on the web site, and we talked about the differences, and scarcities. In the end he selected 4 rare American whiskeys, for which we took $250 off his bill. I’m a collector turned retailer and really just want our rarest bottles to go to good homes. We’re like a dog rescue, but for whiskey.

To run with the metaphor, would you let a guy adopt a dog who tells loud stories about other dogs he’s known without ever looking at the animal you’re fostering? To sit, shake, lie down, and rollover with that metaphor… well, you get the picture. In honor of all those bottle hunters who are not on this e-mail list, check out the bottom of this note for some serious discounts on rare bottles.

This week’s Open Hours remain the same:

Mon – Thurs:             1 – 7pm
Fri – Sat:                      1 – 8pm
Sunday:                       1 – 7pm

Always worth a call, if you think it’s getting late: 718.643.2250

NOTE: THIS SALE IS OVER, to receive e-mail sales directly from Free Range Wine & Spirits, please enter your e-mail address at the bottom of the front page on our site: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

This week only!                                               sale:     retail:
Elijah Craig Free Range Single Barrel 8yr       $29       $36
Writers Tears gift set                                        $37        $44
EH Taylor Small Batch Bourbon                       $49        $56
The Clover 10yr Tennessee Straight Bourbon $69     $85
Henry McKenna Bourbon 10yr**                      $69     $89
Blood Oath Bourbon Pact No. 6**                   $109     $129
Yamazaki Single Malt 12yr                                $115     $135
St George Single Malt The Baller**                  $89     $149
Hakushu Single Malt 12yr                                  $149     $185
Dalmore Single Malt 18yr**                               $195     $249
Hakushu Single Malt 18yr                                 $425     $525

** limit 2 bottles per customer

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Death, Taxes, and Dad Whiskey

June 17, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the latest from Free Range Wine & Spirits:

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Hello Free Rangers,

So much for the waning pandemic. By the end of the week, a number of states had certified a record rate of new cases, and as much as the Orange Orangutan in the Oval insisted that the virus would ‘disappear like a miracle’, the warmer weather has not cooked it away. At this point, it’s abundantly clear that the national policy on the matter is to continue to do nothing, besides ensuring that none of us will ever know where the bulk of the stimulus funds have gone. Regardless, we’re still hanging in, doing what we do here. Hanging in is the new kicking ass.

Besides tracking empirical data through trusted online sources, I’ve recently limited my non-print news intake to Chris HayesMajority Report, and The Michael Brooks Show. There’s a fine line between staying up to date, and infringing on one’s own well-being. As with most other things, moderation seems to be the key. With the constant bombardment by unchecked sources of information, it’s also important to watch videos online, taken in real time at street level. And what cops continue to do, even when they know they’re being recorded, is a daily reminder of the profoundly untenable level of impunity under which they currently operate. Remain calm, know your rights, and record everything. If you have the means, it also can’t hurt to support the ACLU.

Regardless of all of this, I can confirm that the whiskey still works. Scroll to the bottom for a list of sale-priced brown spirits on our site, now through Fathers’ Day, as supplies last.

Speaking of the website, Derek has noticed a very high percentage of people creating new passwords directly before ordering. Have any of you had problems logging back in after an initial site visit, or are you just logging in from a different device (where your password isn’t saved), and have to create a new one to gain access? Please let us know, as we’re constantly striving to make online checkout as seamless as possible. Most of this week’s new items are on the older and rarest ends, but our new lowest priced dry rosé was also just added, so there’s something for everyone: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

We are slowly returning to a more normal schedule, but still wearing facemasks, practicing social distancing, and requesting (ie. insisting) that our customers do as well. I’m embarrassed to admit how much I enjoyed asking the couple to leave today, who removed their masks to make a phone call (in front of the no cell phone sign), while others were waiting to get into the shop. Not my finest trait. Know thyself.

This week’s Open Hours look like this:

Mon – Thurs:            1 – 7pm
Fri – Sat:                  1 – 8pm
Sunday:                    1 – 7pm

Always worth a call, if you think it’s getting late: 718.643.2250

And now, for making it this far, here’s our deal of the week:
*** Through Fathers’ Day, web only, as supplies last! ***

Top whisk(e)y picks for Fathers’ Day:

Elijah Craig Free Range Single Barrel 8yr  $29     $36
Writers Tears gift set                                   $37     $44
Classic Malts Gift Set 3 x 200ml                $49     $59
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon (B519)   $66     $75
Booker’s Bourbon ‘Beaten Biscuits’           $79     $89
Tullamore Dew 18yr                                     $99     $115
Yamazaki 12yr                                              $115    $139
Hakushu 12yr                                                $149    $185
Dalmore 18yr                                                $195    $249
Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon (2015)  $229    $299
Hakushu 18yr                                               $425    $525
Talisker 25yr                                                 $499    $599
Redbreast Port Cask 27yr                           $499    $599

Happy hunting,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

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Copyright © 2019 Free Range Wine & Spirits, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you are a customer of Free Range Wine & Spirits.Our mailing address is:
Free Range Wine & Spirits
329 Alantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY  11201
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When I Find Myself in Times of Trouble…

March 23, 2020 Leave a comment

At some point during the recent chaos, the email blasts from my little wine shop ended up containing the kind of stuff I used to post here. So, I’m going to start re-posting them, with links and extra pics, the likes of which I would have added, had they been in a post like this, originally. So, here’s what went out on 3/14/2020, updated, but unchanged:

Howdy Friends and Neighbors,

Toward the end of his life, Hunter S. Thompson lamented that it never got weird enough for him. Well, it’s pretty weird out there these days. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to most of you that we’ve suspended in-store tastings until further notice. That being said, I’ve always promised that you would never get an e-mail from us that didn’t include FREE booze, so any time you’re in the shop, pick a category, and you’re welcome to a FREE taste from any one of the bottles we currently have open: whiskey, gin, vodka, amaro

We’re very lucky here at Free Range, and the vast majority of our customers we see fairly regularly, and 99% of you all are wonderful to talk to and it is my genuine pleasure to be trusted with your booze needs. It was this very neighborhood that led me to put every dollar I had into this business 7 years ago, and after that first rocky, scary year, we’ve done quite well, and we continue to do so, right into these turbulent, uncertain days. As previously mentioned, Thursday was absolute chaos in here and there were only two of us working. Luckily, Derek is one of coolest, mellowest, most understanding human beings I know, and with the help of you all (minus 2), we made it through the highest volume day, per shop hand, we’ve ever experienced. Yesterday was even higher traffic, but there were 3 of us, and most everybody who came in was grateful and reasonable, and we can’t thank you enough.

I’m not sure what’s going on today, but we’re seeing a level of uneasiness and entitlement that is completely unprecedented. Again, we all know that we’re in uncharted territory here (locally, nationally, and globally), and most of us are still handling it fairly well. There are 2 favors that we’ve always asked all of our customers:

1) Please don’t let anybody under 21 years old handle bottles of alcohol.

2) Please remember that it takes an hour or less to chill a bottle of wine and only take from the fridge what you plan to open right away.

All of a sudden the latter simple request seems a bridge too far for a small few. We are all on edge, on both sides of the counter, and we’re doing our best to maintain our usual high level of product and service (while desperately trying to keep the shelves stocked), and we really need your help to meet the needs of everyone who comes through the door.

Please keep as cool-headed as possible, and take care of each other.

Most sincerely,
Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Twitter
Facebook
Website
Copyright © 2019 Free Range Wine & Spirits, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you are a customer of Free Range Wine & Spirits.Our mailing address is:
Free Range Wine & Spirits
329 Alantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY  11201
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BourbonGeist – Elijah Craig 12 year, End of an Era

June 21, 2016 Leave a comment

1 Elijah Craig 12 6-2016Well, I’ve just cleaned out a local discount shop of the last of the 12 year, so I can relay the secret, my personal stash secured.

Elijah Craig 12 year small batch bourbon is one of the very best values in American whiskey. Quality and barrel year per dollar, with an age statement of 12 years, it is (was!) almost always available for under $30 per bottle. These are unheard of numbers in the new American whiskey market, and they’ve finally buckled under its weight.

Elijah Craig SB 12 6-2016Last year, when the visually prominent ‘12’ was removed from the Elijah Craig 12 Year label, it seemed they’d eventually be dropping the age statement, as so many have, due to the Boom. Until the most recent batch, the 12 year age statement was still in the very first line on the back of the bottle. The trend in the whiskey world is toward removed aged statements and increasingly mysterious blends. It’s the simplest way to increase production and keep up with demand. Regardless of all technological advancement, it’s still impossible to up production of a twelve year old product tomorrow.

As a nerd and a collector, I would’ve preferred the price of the 12 year increase and a less expensive 8 year be released (or even a 6 and a 9 year, or a 6 and 9 year, or an If 6 was 9 year!). I get why that would be less practical, but it would’ve been much cooler.

Now, the tasting. It’s easy to assume the worst, and at this point the age unknown small batch blend likely contains barrels of 6-12 year old bourbon, but with no statement, it can literally be any age combination. It will likely get younger and younger over time as Heaven Hill struggles to keep up with world thirst. As of today, the 94 proof Elijah Craig Small Batch is a little lighter in color than the last of the 94 proof 12 year, a little less red, slightly more golden, visually. The difference in nose is similar, but a less measurable contrast, the small batch comes off as a little brighter, the 12 year a little deeper, more overt wood, and a ghost of faded smoke.

Flavor-wise, the difference between the two is subtle, but noticeable, though it’s hard to say that my beloved 12 year is empirically better. It’s deeper, darker, more complex, greater overt wood affectation- and all the little secondary and tertiary flavors that go along with that. The small batch is comparatively lighter, sweeter, prettier, livelier, but not hotter. One man’s ‘lighter’ is another man’s ‘flatter’. I’m sure many will prefer one over the other, but I don’t think in a blind panel collective preference would necessarily skew toward the elder.

In short, the quality per dollar is still high in the new NAS (no age statement) Elijah Craig Small Batch; this is not just a cheap imitation of the original. That being said, for your own future enjoyment and edification, you may want to check out your nearest retailer, flip the Elijah Craig bottle(s), and if the back label says ’12 year’, maybe squirrel a couple away. Nobody ever said, “What am I going to do with all this nice 12 year bourbon?”

A Suitcase of Lightning

June 30, 2015 1 comment
Taos Lightning Rye Single Barrel, 5yr, and 15yr.

Taos Lightning Rye Single Barrel, 5yr, and 15yr.

While in New Mexico, I became aware of Taos Lightning Rye. Both the craft whiskey thing and the sourced whiskey thing (aka I’m not telling you where the juice is from or how long it was barreled) are getting out of hand. A lot of new whiskey is super-hot brown firewater and there will be a serious reckoning and culling of the population in the coming years.

Taos Lightning, it turns out, is a product of KGB Spirits in Santa Fe, NM. I purchased a number of different bottles from Total Wine and from Jubilation in Albuqurque, the latter of which was offering 2 different exclusive single barrel bottles, at very reasonable prices. If you’re in town, don’t let the odd location and prison-barred windows fool you, Jubilation is an excellent shop for spirits (I honestly didn’t check out their wine selection, but they did acquire a bunch of Merkin Vineyards wine for my neighbors’ wedding- of which I highly approve).

Taos Lightning Rye 5yr.

Taos Lightning Rye 5yr.

Now, the juice: Taos Lightning Rye 5yr is visually attractive, a medium reddish deep golden brown. A fairly sweet round nose gives way to a sweetly vanilla palate, a touch of bright cherry fruit to the mid-palate, and a nice spicy, medium-hot finish. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Willett’s excellent 4yr Rye– which is amongst the highest praise one can give a younger rye. According to co-founder, John Bernasconi, “All current whiskey was sourced from Lawrenceberg and the 15 year had the Jos. Seagram’s stamp on barrel. We are about to switch to house made with San Luis, CO grain. The aging in NM along the Rio Grande is what gives these products their uniqueness. We have a high elevation, low humidity climate and the river brings constant air flow exchange.” With so many shady stories in the current US whiskey market, we very much appreciate the candor, and anxiously await tasting what comes next from the fine folks at KGB Spirits.

And now, the case…

I was sufficiently smitten with the Taos Lightning 5yr that I was on the hunt for a styrofoam 12-pack shipper, common in the wine shipping world. However, the incoherent and arbitrary nature of state liquor law has left Albuquerque stryo-shipper-free. It’s illegal to ship wine or spirits within the state of New Mexico, let alone to the outside world. Albuquerque is a scorched barren wasteland, where the food sucks, people drive ridiculous cars, and a law abiding citizen can’t get a styro 12-pack. If the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce would like to sponsor this blog, they know where to find me.

Next, at the absurd yet demure, banal megaporium of intoxication that is Total Wine in Albuquerque- I love this town- I ask if they have anything suitable to safely transport at least a dozen bottles through the meathook paws of JFK baggage handlers. There is something they tell me, it’s a rolling travel suitcase fitted with styro insert, cut for .750ml wine bottles, 12 of them. The only one left in stock is the floor model, they’d be happy to take 10% off the sticker price for the pre-scuffed exterior shell and slightly stained interior fabric. Five minutes later, I was in a parking lot, cramming copious piles of fine New Mexican and Californian rarities into my new VinGarde Valise.

The suitcase of Lightning: Title Achieved!

The suitcase of Lightning: Title Achieved!

First, the idea is great: it’s a rolling suitcase containing 6 inserts, each cut to hold and protect 2 bottles each, such that one can remove as many or as few as necessary to adjust to any clothing and toiletries needed for the journey. But I was already out on the road and had my regular suitcase in hand, and used my new VinGarde Valise to full bottle capacity. Unfortunately, the follow-through is not nearly so inspired as the concept. The materials are fairly flimsy, the foam inserts made to separate the two halves aren’t even cut to the same size (one doesn’t fit at all such that the case will not close), and the bottle slots are cut to a fairly impractical stencil, unless they intend one only to carry obscure sherry. It’s one thing if the owner is going to be extremely careful with the cheap zippers, but on its maiden voyage, mine was tossed by the TSA, and returned to me in less than new condition (and containing the requisite slip letting me know my privacy had been violated). The guts of the bag are poorly constructed of insubstantial materials, and while not space efficient, I’d still recommend a much less expensive styro 12-pack shipper over this unit. Simply put, VinGarde Valise have a long way to go to make the quality of the case fit its $200+ price tag.