Friday, July 23, 2010

Like tuna fish to a cat

Review of the Tales session "At Full Sail -- Spirits at Proof, Navy Strength and Overproof in History and Application"

[Dayne here...]

I've discovered that late nights, "early" mornings, spotty or non-existent Internet access, and high proof spirits don't make for rigorous note-taking or timely blogging. Any mistakes in the following review can be blamed directly on one or more of those conditions.

Wendy and I (and seemingly everyone) attended a seminar on high-proof spirits that we'd previewed on this blog a few weeks ago. The panel was moderated by Eric Seed and consisted of Audrey Saunders, Britt Chavannee, and Wayne Curtis.

I had to have a stern talk with my liver, who tried to flee for the exits when he saw the menu of gimlet (using Plymouth Navy Strength), Royal Million (with Lemon Hart 151), a single barrel cask strength bourbon, and a Newark (from Death & Co. I think???) with Laird's Bonded.

Wayne kicked things off with a Proof in History segment, where he talked about what proof is (ABV % times 2), who's historically cared (sailors and tax collectors), and then discussed the evolution of the daily tot in e British and other navies. Since water, beer, and wine would go bad in casks, rum was a stable potable liquid with which to appease sailors (Wayne didn't go into buggery or the lash, the other two staples of the British Navy. Wrong conference, perhaps.)

Other topics included the evolution of the hydrometer (Syke's supplanting Clarke's), the change from alcohol by weight to alcohol by volume, the Bottled in Bond Act in the States, and the gradual lessening of proof in even well-know spirits (e.g. Jack Daniels) in fairly recent years.

Britt talked about her family distillery business, from where such treasures as Red Hook rye have come. Sorry Britt, I don't have too many notes from your portion (Liver was revolting again and had to smack him down).

Audrey covered some of her early experiences with high-proof spirits (can you believe that only 5 or 6 years ago, Rittenhouse Bonded was basically unknown in NYC???) and the success with which Pegu Club incorporated Rittenhouse into their house Manhattan and Laird's into their Jack Rose). Audrey mentioned that the current American palette is definitely leaning towards "boozy and bitter" and, like tuna fish to a cat, there's no going back!

Eric discussed the 3-tier system of taxing and the high accumulative cost of taxes on high-proof alcohol. I'm sure he said more but the previous night was taking it's toll at that point.

Finally Wayne concluded with a little experiment that definitely did NOT violate any fire codes. Using a little black powder, he had one control (no alcohol), and 3 other tiny piles on which he dropped Pama, Plymouth Navy, and Lemon Hart 151. Disappointingly the Plymouth-soaked pile didn't ignite, but the control and the Lemon Hart were quite satisfying!

I'll post some pictures of the event in a separate post!