Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Revivalist Spirits Experience

The summer is waning, but we’re still entrenched in all its sunny glory. In these warmer climes (and sometimes when there’s a chill in the air) when we want something crisp and invigorating, with a little kick, we reach for a bottle of gin, and hope many of you do the same. There has been a major surge in the spirit’s popularity and the byproduct of that surge is a rise in small, craft production. Which means more opportunities for us to try something new and great! Recently we had the chance to taste the gins of a small producer, not available outside of their home state of Pennsylvania (save for a few select retailers and restaurants in nearby states like your friendly neighborhood Bounty Hunter!) We took little time to reach out to the distillery and ask a few questions and gain some insight into their new venture.

Brandywine Branch Distillers is in Elverson, PA and was founded by brothers Don and Scott Avellino just a couple of years ago. They purchased an eight acre farm in 2014 and they began transforming its old, run down, stone barn into a distillery in 2015. The barn dates to the 19th century and was part of a much larger farm. Known locally as “the hippie barn” for its colorful denizens of the 1960s and 70s era when squatters used it for shelter. The hippies left some colorful psychedelic designs on the beams that the Avellino brothers have been sure to preserve.
Don & Scott decided early in their planning that using the finest quality equipment would be of paramount importance. Their fermentation tanks are built from Douglas Fir by a century-old, local Philadelphia company who have built many of the water towers visible from the New York City skyline. They elected to purchase an alembic still from renowned German manufacturer CARL, who are known for their long family history, quality, and reliability. Choosing an alembic still, most commonly used in brandy distillation, allows a versatility that they might not get from a pot or column still, which is good news for us, as they’ll have the opportunity to experiment and produce a wide array of spirits. Once the renovation was completed they were ready to get to work. They finally fired up the still for the first time in February, 2016.

What has transpired for the brothers has been a fascinating journey. They grew up around machinery and equipment and found their way to the automotive repair business, a rewarding industry, but as Don says, “demanding in a way unlike some other industries; no one is ever happy about spending money to fix their car.” So, they set out to utilize another passion they shared, home brewing, and create a business that could be creative and offer an opportunity to build a brand with products they could be proud of that people would be happy to spend their hard-earned money on. After doing some market research they settled on the distilling business. They knew they wanted to make rye whiskey, in keeping with Pennsylvania heritage, but also realized that producing whiskey takes time and doesn’t generate immediate revenue, so they knew they’d need another spirit to keep the business operational while they lay down their whiskey stocks. Gin was the logical go-to for a spirit they could sell immediately that still showcases artisan craft and handmade production. While seeking to safeguard history, they’re also looking to “redefine how people view gin and attract new spirit lovers to the category.” To this end they’ve created a line of gins with distinct botanical mixes that are based on the seasons. These include a citrus-forward style for spring; a floral, grassy style for summer; warming spices for fall; and a gin finished in red wine barrels that has a kiss of ginger.

It’s our job to be a discerning eye, to look through many lenses at new products and this stuff passes all of the test! Our whole team was really impressed with the gins we tasted. We expect more greatness in the future from this small, family owned project. Cheers!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Art of Japanese Whisky meets the Art of Advertising

We like to look to ads from yesteryear for inspiration as we are working with new (and old) products. Often these are just print ads from magazines from the 40s on, but when it comes to video some of the best are from several thousand miles east of our Napa HQ… and we found many for Suntory, the Japanese distillery responsible for some of the most sought after whisky in the world today. So we put this little feature about the distillery together. Click the links for some great ads from days gone by.

Suntory distillery was founded in the early 1920s, but was not well-known here in the United States until 2003 when their whiskies began an unparalleled surge in popularity thanks to the film Lost in Translation. Bill Murray’s (who happens to be near our home base for “Festival Napa Valley” right now) dead-pan, stoic performance has been revered, but that fictional tale is not the first to feature actors and celebrities from the UK and US endorsing these fine drams. Now the brand is omnipresent, be it the legend that is Yamazaki 18 year old or the subtlety found in Hibiki Harmony, you likely know something about Japanese whisky. 

Sofia Coppola likely found inspiration from her famous director father and his series of ads for Suntory extolling the virtues of whisky and friendship with another film legend, Akira Kurosawa. Perhaps seeing Sean Connery go from disheveled to perfectly-pressed after a glass of Suntory Crest was the muse for Mr. Murray’s performance.

Humorous ads such as the one featuring a cartoon, bobblehead-like Duran Duran singing “The Reflex” might spark your interest. Perhaps a little ad-lib by the incomparable Sammy Davis Jr. would prove Suntory Whisky is of your class. Maybe a glass of Suntory on the rocks drunk to the jazz jams of my man, Ron Carter, on the bass, is your ideal soundtrack for relaxing times.

Speaking of “on the rocks,” check out these incredible ice cubes created by Tokyo Advertising Agency, TBWA/Hakuhodo for Suntory a couple of years ago! Icy works of art that pair with whisky works of art.

No matter which endorser you side with, bottles like Suntory’s ‘Toki’ or Hibiki Harmony are best enjoyed during these warm summer evenings the way the Japanese drink their whisky… on the rocks.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Why Whisper for Wine When You Can Wrangle?

We caught this article in Bloomberg last week, extolling the virtues of hiring a “wine whisperer.” It’s a business model we know all too well. While the author makes it sound like this is a fairly new trend in the world of wine, the truth is, we’ve been enthusiastic wine-country consultants for our customers since 1994.

While Bloomberg’s cast of Cab-rustlers charge exorbitant fees or annual retainers for their services only available to the ultra-wealthy, we’ve been providing the “inside line” at no extra charge for all these years. We believe you should spend your hard-earned dollar buying the wine you want, not on the staff that goes to fetch it.

And why not? We believe that putting those sought-after bottles and new discoveries into our customers’ hands is what we do better than just about anybody. We don’t charge for the service because we know that once a new customer sees that not only do we provide 100-point wines but have 100-point service to match, we’ll become their go-to resource for life. It’s what’s taken us from a simple one-man operation to a staff of over one hundred today.

So the next time you hear that someone out there will charge you for the pleasure of their wine-hunting services, just remember that you’ve already got a Bounty Hunter riding at your side.

New around these parts? Here are some of the services we provide to our customers every single day which have been setting us apart for over two decades:

ª      Need a rare, “mailing-list only” bottle? We’ve been building relationships in Napa and beyond for over 23 years. If we can’t get it, it likely can’t be gotten. 

ª      Are you going to miss Auction Napa Valley this June? Not to worry. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve raised a paddle on behalf of a client and scored them a truly one-of-a-kind, bespoke auction Cabernet. 

ª      Hosting a party or event and need some professional guidance, or maybe just out for dinner and not sure what to order? You’ve always got a personal Wine Scout on speed dial. Our Scouts are wine industry veterans, from multiple tiers in the business, so you know that you’ve always got a straight shooter who knows precisely what they’re talking about. 

ª      Building a cellar and need help taking inventory, or maybe just some advice about how to round it out? It’s not uncommon for us to fly our Scouts all over the country for just that purpose. Helping to curate our clients’ cellars is an honor, and fully utilizes the level of skill and experience that our team of wine professionals have to offer. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Bucket List: Derby Style

The first Saturday in May- aka- Derby Day- is one of the most romantic traditions in the sporting world. 

Here, at Bounty Hunter, we were lucky enough to get the full scoop on the best things to do in Kentucky leading up to the fun weekend from our Wine Scout Ilse Chun, who has deep Southern roots from growing up in Charleston S.C. and attending high school and college in Louisville, KY

When it came down to writing a blog post, it was a no-brainer to invite Ilse to be a guest and write about the love she has for the Kentucky Derby. 

The very first Derby race was run in 1875, and in later years was nicknamed “The Run for the Roses”- referring to the Churchill Downs race track founder’s proclivity for decorating his parties with copious quantities of rose garlands and bouquets. For locals, Derby is a weeklong celebration that begins on the Saturday prior to the race, and really hits its stride on Oaks Day- the Friday before Derby. Attending Derby and the events leading up to it, is one of the great pleasures of life, and after logging many hours of Derby revelry over the years, here is an insider’s list to maximizing your Derby experience.

For ladies and gents, procuring the perfect hat, will maximize your Derby experience, so a one of a kind, handmade chapeau from Olivia Griffin of Louisville’s The Mysterious Rack, is the savvy place to start. (558 S 4th Street, Louisville, KY.)

Oaks Day is all about the ladies- featuring 3 year old phillies racing around the Churchill Downs track. Junior Leaguers and equine enthusiasts alike, deck out in head-to-toe pink attire, to raise money and awareness for breast and ovarian cancer survivors.  Some locals, hoping to avoid the mayhem and hoopla of Derby, will opt to attend the Oaks, in lieu of the Derby.

Working in fine dining in Louisville for many years, I giddily looked forward to seeing the trainers and jockeys in my restaurant for dinner on Oaks and Derby Day. Beloved trainer Bob Baffert materialized like clockwork each year, sipping his Diet Coke and charming everyone- including the staff. Guests imbibed Single Barrel Bourbon flights like the one below and Manhattans, and service was always smooth and filled with colorful fashion and Southern gentility.

If you are planning to make the Derby pilgrimage you’ll want to book your hotel and restaurant reservations at least a year in advance. Everybody who is anybody already has a standing table, so it’s on you to plan ahead. The pinnacle of all that is right and good in food, wine, and service is at Jack Fry’s Restaurant on Bardstown Road. Founded by a bootlegger and his wife in the 1930’s, and known mainly to locals, Jack Fry’s is famous for their herb-encrusted pork chops and their expertly-curated bar. Bartender Nick Owens has a few favorites for this festive time of year, including Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey Caribbean Rum Cask Finish served with an ice cube, and The Bluegrass Mule- an invigorating update on the more touristy Mint Julip: with mint-tea-infused ginger syrup, shaken with Makers Mark Whiskey (try our exclusive BH Maker’s Mark bottling), orchard peach liquor, a kiss of lemon, and a fresh mint garnish. After sipping one of Nick’s classic cocktails, humidity and high heels will no longer be a factor.

After a busy day of selecting your horses and screaming your head off, you will crave the 4 Diamond luxury of Louisville’s finest and most historic hotel, The Seelbach.

Boasting a virtual who’s who of guests, from Gatsby’s F. Scott Fitzerald himself, to John F Kennedy, I make a point to stay here for at least one night, every time I return to Louisville. The hotel’s historic Old Seelbach Bar is renowned for its monumental Bourbon list and for its signature classic:

The Seelbach Cocktail:
1 oz Bourbon (We love the Old Forester BH Selection #3 Single Barrel)
4 dashes of Angostura bitters 
Pour in cold Champagne 
Finish with a long orange twist

Before you fly home, it is customary to ingest Louisville’s most legendary recipe: The Kentucky Hot Brown. Chef Fred Schmidt, (interestingly, the father of my first restaurant boss, Fred Schmidt Jr.), conceived of this decadent dish, sensing that diners craved more than a simple omelet. With layers of thickly sliced turkey breast, nestled between Roma tomatoes, bacon, Texas toast, and Pecorino Romano cheese, this is the key to your Derby recovery.

With the right ingredients and a few simple instructions, you will create classic cocktails from the comforts of your kitchen. Here's our recipe for The Manhattan, featuring some famous bartender 'secrets' along with all the ingredients you'll need to become a Manhattan master. You’ll receive one bottle of each ingredient listed below along with the recipe and instructions.

After much lauded success with the Angel's Envy Bourbon, the Hendersons have put their hat into the rye whiskey game for a few years now. Following the same principles as with their bourbon, this is finished in Caribbean Rum casks. A spicy rye that is bolstered with unctuous notes of blackstrap molasses, cocoa and mouthfuls of honey. A rye unlike anything else, this is not to be missed. Limited availability.

Perhaps the most unique of all barrel selection experiences, we were enthralled to come up with this "stave finished" whiskey. It's a whiskey that envelops your senses with robust aromas of barrel spice, caramel, toffee and vanilla, and a lingering trace of campfire in the background. The palate has a Cognac-like elegance, and the cask-strength bottling packs just the right punch to leave you wanting more. Our first trip to Loretto is one you’ll want to savor!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Toast the Ghost

Standing in a cemetery across from a distillery doesn't really sound like the type of tour introduction one might expect, but that's exactly how our recent visit to The Glenrothes began. Ronnie Cox, Brands Heritage Director, stood amidst the headstones memorializing denizens of the village of Rothes and told us a ghost story.

The distillery was founded in 1879, and the building that now houses the big-bellied pot stills producing this magical elixir was once its malting floor. That malt house was converted to house the stills in 1979.

At the turn of the 20th century, an orphan boy named Biawa "Byeway" Makalaga was found under a bush in Africa by Colonel Grant of Rothes. Grant brought "Byeway" back to Scotland to be raised in his hometown. The young man grew up to be the Colonel's helper and a well-known figure in the village, playing on the local football team. "Byeway" passed away in 1972, seven years later when the former malting floor was renovated and the new stills installed there were two reports of his ghost appearing in the still house.

The distillery brought in a local professor to investigate, he found a disruption in an energy line that was caused by the new stills installation, this led him to walk to a specific gravestone across the road, 70+ yards from the still house, and after a brief moment of conversation he returned and said the situation had been resolved amicably. The gravestone was that of Biawa "Byeway" Makalaga, and his ghost was not seen again.

The legend of The Glenrothes continues, and why not pick up a couple of bottles so that next time you want a fine Scotch Whisky you can raise your glass and "toast the ghost", in the tradition of Rothes, Scotland.

  Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky Speyside

  Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky Speyside

 1999 Signatory 'Glenrothes' 16yr Single Malt Whisky

Friday, March 17, 2017

Just Say No To Green Beer

Image result for green napa valleyAfter several months of rain here in Napa, the sun has finally come out and light is refracting off of water droplets on grass so green it isn’t in the Crayola box.  Glowing, electric green.  The kind of green where you might see a leprechaun jump out of claiming that the mustard flowers are really a pot of gold.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day today, and here at Bounty Hunter we are seeing green.

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, and what began as a remembrance of his death has become a holiday to honor Irish heritage in the United States.  Often celebrated respectably by drinking a lot of a Guinness and Irish Whiskey, and not so respectably by pouring green food coloring into everything in sight.  Here in the U.S, we love to dye food, who among us has not eaten green eggs and ham or drunk green beer from a green keg?  One of our wine scouts even had green Sparkling Wine in an unnamed tasting room.
Here at Bounty Hunter, we love Irish Whisky, but we want to help you do better with the green beverages.  Admittedly French rather than Irish. Absinthe and Chartreuse come by their green hue more honestly than green beer.

Sometimes called the green fairy for its reported hallucinations, Absinthe is an herbal spirit that tastes like licorice and packs a high proof wallop.  The traditional way to drink it is by dripping water very slowly into it until it turns green and milky.  We would also recommend slowly pouring Sparkling wine into it for a beautifully green glass of bubbles. 

Image result for vieux Pontarlier Absinthe Francaise Superieure

Chartreuse is a liquor made with 130 plants and flowers by French monks from an ancient recipe, it is the perfect thing to drink very cold after your corned beef and cabbage.The one we carry is not only green but aged for an extra time in French oak.

Here at Bounty Hunter Rare Wine & Spirits, we wish you a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day and want to help you just say no to green beer.  For the non-traditionalists among you here are two deliciously green spirits for you to try. 

Distilled using only locally grown wormwood, we’ve found the pinnacle of absinthe. As fragrant as it is bright, there are notes of spice, alpine herbs, and fennel. Add water and watch the louche create a milky, opaque color that draws out more complex aromatics. Looking to expand your horizons and give Absinthe a try? This is where you should start. 130 proof

The elixir of long life, Chartreuse is made of a secret recipe that has been handed down to each generation of Carthusian monks since 1605. The V.E.P. is a selected portion of the traditional recipe aged for an extra time in French oak casks. Intoxicating aromas of tarragon, fennel, and coriander are woven together with deeply concentrated flavors of mint,citrus and sage. The most powerful attribute occurs at the finish, as each component melds into one harmonious distinct flavor, leaving you green with envy for another sip, chanting is optional.

If you are a traditionalist, we also have some delicious Irish Whiskies. 


This whiskey is a fitting homage to the legendary literary history of the Emerald Isle. A most uncommon blend of pure pot still and single malt whiskey, recalling the whiskeys of the 19th century with honey, sweet orange blossom and a spicy hint of ginger and oak to the finish. Try on the rocks with soda, James Joyce’s drink.

The Irish Whiskey for the Bourbon lover. While lacking an age statement, it is matured in CA Cabernet barrels for around 4-6 years, the ripe fruit aromas mesh nicely with hints of coconut and banana, a touch of mint, and butterscotch. Long and flavorful on the palate with hints of caramel, honey, and tree fruits - just like a punchy young bourbon, this one packs an Irish, bare-knuckle finish that will leave you breathless.

Usually yellow spots aren't always a good thing, but in this case, nothing could be further from the truth. Aromas of ripe peach, cracked black pepper, nutmeg and clove lead into a decadent palate of honeyed citrus, milk chocolate, red apples and crème brulee to create a special bottle of Irish delight. A long and complex finish of sweet red fruits and toasted barley make this an absolute pleasure to imbibe. If Irish eyes are smiling, it’s because their lips have been graced with this delectable whiskey.

West Cork Distillers was founded in 2003 and has patiently bided their time while these casks matured in the cellar. Triple distilled in a pot still using only Irish grown grain, this single malt is exactly what we've been waiting for in Irish Whiskey. Aged 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels and finished for nearly 6 months in rum casks sourced from Caribbean distilleries. A bounty of flavor with cracked hazelnuts, citrus and a sweet cereal grain from nosing and through the mid-palate. The finish is long and loaded with overripe mango and a taste of the tropics. Bringing together two distinctly different latitudes in one bottle, this is one to savor.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Sweet Pairing: Girls Scout Cookies, Wine, and Spirits

Napa Valley is still a place where Girl Scouts come to sell cookies at your door.  There’s always a table in front of Sunshine Market in St. Helena, and there’s no doubt we have a tough time going in without buying some cookies.  This time of year girls all over the country are learning how to run a micro business and building up teamwork with their peers.  Here at Bounty Hunter, we are fully supportive of girls learning to be entrepreneurs, partly because we have developed a wicked Thin Mints habit.  Seriously, we just opened a sleeve this morning and now it’s gone. 

Since we are all in the Girl Scout cookie boat together, we asked our Wine Scouts to be Cookie Scouts and tell us their favorite cookie pairings.  The first thing we learned is that there are two Girl Scout cookie bakers. If you’re like Tom Miller and grew up in Texas, you remember a cookie called Caramel deLites, while if you’re a California girl like Rachel Kau-Taylor, you called the same cookie a Samoa. 

Because cookies are so sweet, they present some real obstacles to successful wine paring.  Many wines have qualities like tannin and acid that are softened by age or decanting or thoughtful contrast pairing that is enhanced by sugar.  We often think that because this red wine tastes like raspberries it will go with chocolate because chocolate goes with raspberries.  Instead, the sugar plays up the tannin in the wine and suddenly the inside of your chocolatey cheeks are stuck to your tannin covered teeth.  It’s not delicious, and your Wine Scouts believe you deserve to have a better experience. 
Here is a rule of thumb to help you pair with all sweet treats, and your Wine/Cookie Scouts professional opinion about what you ought to drink with the cookie gold inside those brightly colored boxes. 

Remember: Keep the wine as sweet as the cookie. Sugar is the aforementioned tannin and acid enhancer, if you keep the wine as sweet as the cookie, the wine and the cookie will complement each other. 

Sam Miller: 2007 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes with Samoas 
(AKA Caramel deLites)
Chateau d’Yquem is the liquid gold of Sauternes.  It overflows from your glass with honeysuckle and apricots. It's expensive because the grapes shrivel on the vine and the amount of juice is minuscule.  It is a lion among dessert wines.  If you want to have the most decadent Girl Scout Cookie experience, Sam says, “The caramel character in the wine will match perfectly with the caramel/coconut/chocolate flavor of the cookie. 

Jeremy Jones: Bounty Hunter 10 year Cask Strength Bourbon with Tagalongs (AKA Peanut Butter Patties)
Jeremy’s definitive answer to the difficulty of pairing sweets with wine is to skip the wine and head straight for Bourbon.  He says, “Bounty Hunter’s ‘Cask Strength’ bourbon whiskey has the perfect integration of oak showing cinnamon, nutmeg, and toasted coconut.  These oak spices harmonize with chewy caramel and fresh vanilla bean that pair perfectly with the crunch of the vanilla cookie, creamy peanut butter and rich chocolate that make up the famous Peanut Butter Pattie Girl Scout Cookie.”

Lee Reinsimar: Craneo Organic Mezcal with Thin Mints
Lee takes the same approach, pairing a hot spirit with mint to cool you off.  “The underlying smoke character with the grapefruit, cotton candy and grassy notes in the Mezcal will marry well with the coolness of the chocolate-covered Thin Mints.”

Chelsea Hamilton: 2014 Streamside Moscato with Savannah Smiles
Chelsea is dreaming of summer and there is nothing better on a wine country summer day than sitting on the back porch with an ice cold glass of Moscato and a plate of Savanna Smiles.  She says, “The sweet lemon in the cookie actually makes the wine taste a bit less sweet and more refreshing.  The effect is like the perfect glass of lemonade.” 

Tom Miller: Mother Earth Brewing Company ‘Sin Tax’ Peanut Butter Stout with Do-si-dos (AKA Peanut Butter Sandwich)
Tom is one of our resident beer aficionados, and when we asked for a pairing he quoted H. Simpson, saying “Beer… sweet beer.”  We have to agree that the Mother Earth Sin Tax Peanut Butter Stout with the Do-si-dos is about the richest sweetest thing we can imagine.  This is for people who love the sweet in sweet beer. 

Sandro Morro: 2014 Emmolo Merlot with Girl Scout S’mores

The Girl Scout S’more is new this year and celebrates 100 years of Girl Scout cookies.  Emmolo Merlot is super plush with soft tannin.  It tastes like black cherries and ripe plums.  You’ll think you are eating s’mores after a day of berry picking, and what’s better than that?