The Good Stuff

By RC Dean

I can tell this crowd has its fair share of folks who like their liquor straight up, with none of that faggy “mixology” or “artisanal” bullshit [mental note: must Google to see if “Artisanal Bullshit” is a cocktail already]. So, this week’s post is for you lot.

Liquor that’s enjoyable straight out of the bottle is the Good Stuff; at some level, cocktails are what you do to make liquor that isn’t as palatable more drinkable. You can use the Good Stuff in cocktails and it will often make a better cocktail – although we use Casa Noble for margaritas due to Mrs. Dean’s unfortunate reaction to other tequilas, it is plenty good enough to drink straight up.

For me, mixed drinks are more social – I just associate them and generally drink them in groups when there is a lot of chatter and whatnot. Drinking liquor neat is more contemplative for me – I’ve done some of my best thinking with a glass of Scotch, a cigar, and a sunset. As Timothy Leary taught us way back in the day, set and setting are important when monkeying with your brain chemistry, and those are the sets and settings I use/associate with different kinds of drinking.

Ice? Water? Hey, de gustibus. I don’t drink the Good Stuff on the rocks, but I put a splash of water in my Scotch. Do what thou wilt, I say.

Things about the Good Stuff to keep in mind:

There is a deliriously huge number of brands and varieties. No matter how hard you try, there will always be a ton of things you haven’t tried yet. I always try to have two or three bottles of sippin’ likker in the cabinet, and not just Scotch (I’m a Scotch guy, not a Bourbon guy, when it comes to drinking neat). I always have a good Scotch and tend to rotate rum, mescal/tequila, and Armagnac. I am a creature of habit; I typically get the same booze for mixing, but the variety of the Good Stuff on offer practically demands that I try different ones. The good news is that it’s hard to go far wrong, so that $50 bet you just made on a new bottle is likely to pay off. Worst case – you can use it for making cocktails.

Unfortunately, it’s the Good Stuff, and it is priced accordingly. While my palate for wine runs out around $20/bottle (retail, not restaurant, pricing), in that I just don’t taste what’s “better” about more expensive wines, my palate for liquor hardly ever runs out as the price goes up. Sure, there are bottles that cost $60 that are as good as bottles that cost $100, but by and large the older, more expensive stuff tastes better, sometimes a lot better. That said, anything that is the latest, hottest booze is probably going to be overpriced – I’ve never had Whistle Pig or Balcones because I figure the hype on these has run the price too high. My personal price cap for stuff I drink neat is around $60/bottle (subject to moments of weakness); I’ve never paid much more than $80/bottle for anything but a gift.

So, a few recommendations:

Scotch: I’m an Islay guy. Laphroiag Quarter Cask is a regular visitor to the liquor cabinet, and their 18 year old bottling is reliably divine (I’ve never had the 25 year old). One of these years I hope to make it to the Islay Festival. Caol Ila (thanks to Ron for the recommendation over at TSTSNBN) is excellent, not as peaty/oily/smoky as Laphroiag. Honestly, the problem isn’t finding excellent Scotch, it’s affording excellent Scotch. Personally, I blame hipsters.

Mezcal: The Del Maguey Single Village line-up is excellent. They have contacts with OG local distillers, and some of it is amazing (and priced accordingly – the spendy Chichicapa tastes like the love child of an excellent Scotch and a very naughty tequila). I tend to have a bottle of the more affordable Vida available for those evenings when the world needs that particular mescal vibe.

Rum: The Ron Zacapa Solera 23 has to be tried to be believed. They age it like brandy, and, well, just try it. Honestly, I’ve never even tried another rum for drinking neat. I sprung for a bottle of their XO once, but that was one of the few times when I just couldn’t quite taste the extra money.

Armagnac: Basically, Cognac’s country cousin – I think the only real difference is that each is grown in a particular region (yeah, I’m sure the terroir is totes different, but whatev). I have the vague impression that Armagnac is a little more affordable. This one is more occasional, but I’ve enjoyed the Dartigalongue XO and Hors d’Age, which are both affordable(ish) and not a bad place to start if you are curious.

Derpetologist’s Spot the Not:  Thomas Piketty

1. My premise is not to tax to destroy the wealth of the wealthy; it’s to increase the wealth of the bottom and the middle class.

2. I draw my inspiration from Sweden, not the Soviet Union. I have never advocated a centrally-planned economy.

3. I am not political. It is not my job. But I would be happy if politicians could read my work and draw some conclusions from it.

4. One way to have broader access to wealth is to reduce the tax on the large group and increase the tax on the very top so concentration of wealth doesn’t get to extreme levels.

5. I loved American universities. In many ways, they are better organized – certainly than French universities.

6. To put it bluntly, the discipline of economics has yet to get over its childish passion for mathematics.