For the most part, I try to avoid major spirits tastings because I don’t get to taste the really “rare” stuff and most of the “representatives” are hired based on eye appeal versus I.Q. Not to mention, when the general public is involved one is usually surrounded by a slew of drunks on a mission to consume as much whisky as possible trying to get their money’s worth. However, there are a few “trade only” shows each year that are well worth the trip and the Preiss Imports Spirits Showcase is indeed my favorite.
If you’re looking for high quality cocktail ingredients, or the rarest top shelf whiskies, brandies or liqueurs (as we always are), Preiss Imports has it all. The tasting shows off the latest wares in their entire portfolio; such as Duncan Taylor, BenRiach, GlenDronach whiskies, Leopold Gourmel and Forgotten Casks Cognac, Château du Breuil Calvados, Chinaco Tequila, Luxardo liqueurs and much more. This year, they had a few of San Francisco’s top mixologists from Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse mix up some delightful cocktails featuring these rare spirits – what a nice surprise. In addition, this years’ tasting was held at the historic Anchor Steam Brewery in San Francisco. It was a treat to start our journey with a half pint of Liberty Ale (Anchor Steam’s extra-hoppy pale ale) before the festivities began.
A few highlights of the tasting were the Pages Parfait Amour violet liqueur – an amazingly intense yet balanced essence of violet – that made the best Aviation cocktail I’ve ever had (kudos to the boys at Bourbon & Branch). Also, the 1966 Lonach (Duncan Taylor) “Glendarroch” single malt whisky – a rare cask strength offering that was rich and powerful with layers of toffee and honeyed oatmeal and had a long decadent finish – don’t be surprised if this shows up in the next Bounty Hunter Whisky Runner Club shipment. Lastly, the Maurin Quina Le Puy – a sweet, white wine fortified with an infusion of wild cherries, bitter almond and quinine in a neutral grape spirit. Honestly, I have had a poster of this in my office for several years now and it was my first sip of the intriguing elixir. It’s a fantastic ingredient for a plethora of cocktails – simply said, it’s Kool-Aid for adults. There was so much “great stuff’ that, unfortunately, I can’t list it all in this forum. Stay tuned for some really cool new items available in the near future on our website.
After utilizing tremendous willpower to try and pace ourselves, we made it through the room without getting out of control. Speaking of which, we always bring along a designated driver to get us back to Napa safely – it’s always a very good idea.
--Stefan Matulich, Spirits Buyer