Category Archives: Richard’s Blog

McConaughey, Wild Turkey, and Finding Whiskey

As many of you may already know, there is much commentary in the whiskey world about the new spokesman and creative director for Wild Turkey. He’s a Texas fella by the name of Matthew McConaughey. Yes, that Matthew McConaughey. Not only will he be the spokesman for Wild Turkey but he is also spearheading the writing and directing of their promotions, commercials, photography, etc. So far all we have seen of this union is a painful snippet in the New York Times which doesn’t portray Mr. McConaughey very well and a six minute video you can view here. Admittedly, that video is probably the single best piece of whiskey advertisement that I’ve ever seen. It kicks the shit out the sad pandering that was the Mila Kunis/Jim Beam spots.

Mr. McConaughey’s poignant piece on Turkey really got me thinking. Which is good and I guess that was kind of the point. It got me thinking about how we find ourselves in this crazy infatuation we call whiskey. Whether your tipple of choice is bourbon, scotch, Irish, Japanese, Canadian, Taiwanese, Indian, Australian, French, Dutch, Swedish, or wherever the hell they are making whiskey now, it still comes down to the liquid in the glass. The poorly exerted conversation with Mr. McConaughey in the Times highlights his fervent belief that to get whiskey in the hands of Millennials we have to stop “selling” to them and tell them an authentic story. Well, I bristle a bit at that.

First, any half-witted twenty something who hasn’t been in a bunker their entire life will be well aware that even McConaughey’s well crafted piece of storytelling is selling them something. That’s the point. You don’t buy this product now. I’m going to do whatever I can to engage you enough to get you to buy it tomorrow. Ta-da! Selling! Second, the whole idea that Millenials are the golden goose of whiskey consumption is half baked at best. Yes, everyone is trying to sell to these kids because they are the burgeoning gorilla of buying power. But I’ve got news for you. There are tens of millions of Boomers and Gen-Xers out there who also are not drinking your (or anyone else’s) whiskey. Sell to those damn people too!

I also think that the way whiskey producers are going about selling their products is misguided. There is a lot of talk about the “Mad Men culture” fueling whiskey sales and about trying to get people to “turn away from clear spirits” but I think some of that is horseshit. Yeah, there is a drinking contingent out there that drinks whatever the hell they think is hip or cool. They buy their clothes, cars, food, and just about everything else that way too. Forget those guys and gals. They are bunch of douches anyway. You’ll have their dollar today but it will be gone tomorrow. That’s not what real whiskey drinkers are like and that’s not the base that they should be tapping into. Real whiskey drinkers are those that enjoy whiskey because they like whiskey. Whiskey is their alcoholic vehicle of choice. They may drink it straight, on ice, or crushed under a mountain of soda. They like the taste of whiskey. They don’t drink it because someone told them it was cool or because their dad drank it. That may be why they first tried it but that is not why they still drink it.

Let me dispel a rumor about whiskey drinking. You don’t have to “work up a taste” for whiskey. It’s not a goal to be powered through to at the end. You either like it or you don’t. And that changes over time. Someone may have had it in college to get drunk with buddies but never moved beyond Jim Beam. When they graduated they stuck with beer and then in their forties they were reintroduced and found that they really liked bottles like Bakers, Four Roses, and Elijah Craig. Why? Well they sure as shit weren’t working up a tolerance for the intervening 20 years by drinking Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams. As we get older our palates change. If they didn’t then we would all be forty year olds who only eat McNuggets and fries. As your palate develops you appreciate different flavors. You come back to whiskey and find a depth you never tasted before. THAT is when you really become a whiskey drinker. THAT is the moment a whiskey producer can get their bottle in your hands. Now it’s hard right? That moment is different for each of us. We founded Whisk(e)y Apostle on the belief that there is a whiskey for everyone. You just need to find the one for you. Well, encapsulated in that is the time in your life when you are ready to find that whiskey. Your palate may be ready at 25 or not until you are 55. Everyone is different. As a whiskey company the best you can do is set the table for these folks. And in the mean time you can also fill the coffers with earnings from the numerous sheep that started to drink Wild Turkey 101 one part to 12 parts Coca-Cola just because they like Matthew McConaughey movies.

My own personal story is a bit of what I’m talking about. Matt was heading off to a semester in Wales his senior year at the University of Georgia. Leading up to that he came to Atlanta for a visit. On that visit he wanted me to try something he’d recently been introduced to. It was Bushmills. It was regular old white label. It changed my life. Seriously. Up to that point I avoided alcohol because I didn’t like beer, tequila, or vodka and the only whiskey I’d had to that point was Crown Royal and J&B Rare, both of which I found kind of nasty. Wine was okay but I didn’t know enough about it to stay away from the crap stuff. Bushmills was a revelation. From there, I went so gonzo on Irish whiskey that I had lists of bottles I wanted Matt to track down while he was in Wales. Irish led to scotch. Scotch led to bourbon. Bourbon led to rye…..and on and on it went. I was only 21 but it set me on a course, 16 years later, where whiskey drinking is just a part of who I am. I am a father, husband, karate-ka, and whiskey drinker. It’s that important to me.

All this blathering on makes for a pretty shitty manifesto on whiskey. However, I like where McConaughey seems to be going. His thoughts on the subject may be a little off track (or off quoted) but he’s doing a damn good just setting the table for anyone nearing their intersection with whiskey. They just need to take a seat. Wild Turkey isn’t too damn bad for a first course either.

My Favorite Macallan

For those of you opening this post and looking for whiskey related commentary, I apologize. This is only tangentially touching the whiskey world. However, it’s my damn website so I can write what I want. And what I want is to pay tribute to an amazing friend that I lost this week.

In early 2005, my wife (then fiancée) and I decided to take the plunge on a getting a dog. I had dogs growing up but college and the early part of my career had left me with little time for the trials of bringing home a puppy. Unlike many people, we approached breed selection in a more analytical manner rather than an emotional one. We were looking for a small, even tempered, playful breed that shed little and would be content in our modest two bedroom townhouse. We settled on a Boston Terrier. They are cute in a less conventional way and really the quickest route to my wife’s heart is unconventional. After the decision was made we found a breeder in Douglasville in short order. We called, found out they had several puppies available, and set up a time.

On the appointed day we drove down from Smyrna to Douglasville with our printed MapQuest directions (no Google Maps app then) and managed to not get lost. We pulled into the small farm and knocked on the door. The breeder took us to the shed where two very rambunctious Boston Terriers were running around outside (the parents). Inside there was a small open topped pen with several squeaking little puppies in it. I got to choose which one would come home with us. I picked a little one who wandered right over to me with an odd little white marking on his nose. CIMG0100
We held him wrapped in a towel all the way home. He burrowed in and slept most of the way. He was so quiet that he gave us no sign of the years to come. Words like “ornery” and “rambunctious” just don’t begin to describe this little dog. I named him “Macallan” because I was fond of the malt and mostly because I wanted to name him after a malt distillery and it seemed like a reasonable name. At least it was reasonable compared to many of the nearly unpronounceable Gaelic names born by other distilleries. If I had known the kind of dog he would be I would’ve chosen Ardbeg or whatever Gaelic is for “hurricane.”

The puppy years were challenging. Macallan was rarely contained if he didn’t want to be. We saw him climbing dog gates like a ladder stacked two high and then jumping from the top to escape. Not only would he sneak out but he would also sneak back in leaving us to wonder how there was a puppy downstairs and poop in the hall upstairs. He cost us thousands of dollars in damage over the years. We had to get new flooring put in the living room because he worked up a little piece of carpet from behind the dog gate and pulled it so that it ran a two inch wide strip straight into the middle of the living room. He chewed up so many of my wife’s shoes that I was worried that she might end his life before it really even got started. He even decided to “mark” my best friend by peeing on him the moment they met. Macallan never did that to anyone else and I always told Matt that he was Macallan’s bitch from that day forward. All this was juxtaposed against the quiet moments laying with him on the bed. His favorite place was laying on my chest sleeping, nose up so that he could feel me breathing. CIMG0156

The middle years saw maturity in terms of obedience and destruction but he didn’t slow down. CIMG2607
There was no toy he wouldn’t destroy. I bought the ones you usually buy for a pit bull, not a 12 pound Boston Terrier. He laid waste to them all. His favorite toy was a soccer ball he would chase endlessly around the backyard. Sometimes he would get it in the corner nose bumping it like a seal. He scrapped and chewed that damn ball until one day he came running toward me with the half deflated ball in his mouth. He’d finally eaten away enough covering to puncture it with his teeth. He ran toward me with it in his mouth, so big that it was blocking his field of view, with such joy as if to say “See Dad! I finally killed the motherf%$#er!” The arrival of our second Boston Terrier named Abby was not well received. Macallan was a people dog not a dog’s dog. The two dogs were just getting to the point of grudging acceptance when we added insult to injury by having the audacity to have kids. But he was always so great with children. He was gentle and patient. Macallan didn’t growl or fuss. He just sat there bearing the brunt of our girls’ “affection.”Christmas2009 192

His later years still left him with the vigor and playfulness to fetch and play for hours. He was never motivated by food or treats (which made him a pain in the ass to train) but he loved a ball and tug of war like they were the greatest things in the world. A cataract started to set in his right eye around the age of eight. That was made worse by a leaky cornea a year later. But he still would not be slowed down until a blind right turn ran his left eye into a stick in the yard at age 10. The recovery was slow and came with surgery and lots of medication. Still, he prevailed and healed. By then he was completely blind but he managed. As long as we didn’t move around the furniture Macallan made his was around just fine. He couldn’t run and fetch anymore but that made him more snuggly and companionable again like when he was a puppy.

In the last week of his life he started to act out of character. He was bumping into things and endlessly circling the house and the back yard unless we held him. Late on the morning of July 4th he fell over having a seizure in the downstairs hallway. Over the rest of the day the seizures got worse and more frequent. He was in so much pain that night and seeing him that way broke our hearts. Early on the morning of July 5th we took him to the vet for observation. Shortly after 9AM my wife and I were called back to be with him. He died in my arms right before 10AM. He was so tenacious and lived life so aggressively that only a brain tumor could bring him down. He was a great companion and the best four legged friend I could ask for. He was our oldest child and my only boy. I will always remember him sleeping on my chest as a puppy, face up so that he could feel my breathing. I love him more than I can express and his loss hurts so much more than I could have expected. A piece of my heart is gone.

I miss you buddy.
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Roses for Valentine’s Day

Ladies, we know you like your roses for Valentine’s Day. Did you know that the fellas like roses too? Four Roses to be exact. We will be posting reviews this week leading up to Valentine’s Day of several bottles of Four Roses we have around here at Whisk(e)y Apostle Headquarters. If none of those tickles your fancy then check our Review Archive for some of the other great bottles of Four Roses we’ve pontificated on. Or, for that matter, any other whiskeys that might tickle your fancy.

Cheers!

Free Extravaganza Tickets?

Do you want tickets to one of the upcoming fall Whiskey Extravaganza events? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Shoot me an email at richard@whiskeyapostle.com if you want to enter the drawing. On September 30th I will pick the winner and contact them via email. They will win two free ticket to the Whisky Extravaganza event in their city of choice. It’s that simple. So let’s see those entries come rolling in!!