Do you notice something different? Are your surroundings beginning to look like you are back in 1776? Do you feel as if we are once again on the brink of revolution? Well, very simply, that is because we are: Revolution Brewing has arrived at Julio’s.
Original source: http://www.beveragebusiness.com
Article By: Liza Weisstuch
In fact, some might say that the Westborough shop is enough of an interactive experience with such a broad international scope that it warrants comparisons to Epcot Center for northern epicureans. There are over a thousand beers at which to marvel and towards the back you’ll find the Angel Share, a wine tasting pavilion with eight wines being dispensed through a special European tap system – the wine selection s on the first Tuesday of every month. But it’s whisk(e)y that gets owner Ryan Maloney fired up like the elixir in a still in the Highlands.
And it’s whisk(e)y that takes the spotlight in his latest ventures at Julio’s, a business that has been in his family since as it’s evolved from a 1OOO square foot grocery store with wine and beer that his father and uncle opened in 1974. Then it was located at the opposite end of the Westborough plaza. Today it’s a liquor store with a gourmet food selection and selling space spans 17,OOO square feet of the store’s total 36,OOO. On a day at the end of the summer, I visited Julio’s and as Ryan led me into the store, he unveiled one of his newest projects. I’ll tell you, but try to keep mum about it, wouldya? At the entrance, a speakeasy was under construction. Yep, a speakeasy. (At that time, it was on track to open in early October.) He drew a small Napoleonic-style key from his pocket (more on that in a moment), inserted into a keyhole in the wall, and gadzooks! It turned. It disengaged a rollup gate built into the wall. He lifted it. On the other side was a room with a barrel ceiling of staves and metal rings. He pointed this way and that, explaining his plan to cover surfaces with pressed tin and cracked plastic. Sconces were going on the walls and he was going to mount all sorts of photos and memorabilia from the 192Os, including a genuine Prohibition officer’s badge. An old-fashioned knocker was to adorn the exterior. The room was also awaiting its crowning jewel, which is hardly as old as some of the flapper-era paraphernalia, but nevertheless, is far more precious. In a cut-out in the wall, Ryan planned to put a bottle of the prized, rare Black Bowmore and encase it in glass.
“It’s sort of a clubhouse/whisk(e)y event room. I plan on letting key holders pretty much have some access to it. It won’t be open all the time,” he explained. “It’ll be set up like a museum with pieces in there from Prohibition. If members want to set up a meeting or tasting, then it’ll be made available to them. I’ll bring in some master distillers for any type of whisk(e)y, and do meets-and-greets there. It’s a cool place to have a more intimate setting – plus it’s always cool to have a clubhouse.”
The “key holders” and “members” to which Ryan refers are members of the Loch & K(e)y Society, an online whisk(e)y club run by Julio’s that launched at the beginning of March. It’s a cyber-place where single malt and bourbon aficionados and would-be aficionados can ask questions, post reviews, share their tips, and generally talk shop. It’s gaining exposure thanks to support from, and links on, other heavily trafficked whisk(e)y tasting sites with broad national readerships, like bourbondrinker.com.
As far as Ryan sees it, establishing the club was a logical next step to help the single malt and bourbon enthusiasts he deals with daily – a set that’s become increasingly savvy, knowledgeable, willing to shell out, and, subsequently, inquisitive and curious (the true hallmarks of scholarship) – in their evolution of connoisseurship. “The idea came about because of people who were doing different tasting groups on their own. I wanted to think of a way to get them all together and let them talk amongst themselves. Now it’s created some other excitement that I hadn’t expected. Not only are they asking questions and talking among each other, but they’re coming up with their own ideas. They’ll ask ‘Can we have a dinner?’, or ‘Can we do X?’. And then all of a sudden they’re doing X – whether that’s meeting up for a drink or having a meeting to discuss the virtues of a particular whisk(e)y or a column still or a pot still. I think it’s neat they’re coming up with their own ideas and it’s spurring other ideas for me.”
When it comes to bourbon, it was indeed Society members who suggested they join him on a recent trip to Kentucky when Ryan visited the Buffalo Trace distillery to hand-select seven barrels to be bottled for sale at Julio’s. But generally, when it comes to generating ideas, Ryan doesn’t seem to need too much help. In early 2OO6, he arranged and held an in-store festival, Whiskey A Go-Go, during which guests could sample over 1OO whiskies, all styles. Hundreds of people milled about and chatted with brand ambassadors and distillers. In February of this year, he did it again. Loch & K(e)y members who live nearby have already been treated to some rather unique opportunities. The club’s first real time, face-to-face event (read: off-line) was a dinner at One Eleven Chop House in Worcester. But not just any dinner. Ryan had been accumulating the Buffalo Trace experimental batches as they were released, and he had seven on hand when Buffalo Trace’s master distiller, Harlen Wheatley, came to town in June to run a tasting. The experimental batches are released in extremely limited amounts, and Harlen outright noted how stunned he was to see such an expansive, comprehensive collection. It was rare, to be sure, and it was all for the dinner guests to sample. Like they say, membership has its privileges.
All these opportunities are manifestations of one of Ryan’s driving principals: the best customer is an informed customer. And what better way to ensure an educated clientele than to taste them on everything? “I try to have things you can’t always buy open. If I only get one bottle, isn’t it better to have a hundred people try it? The more they know, the better customers they’ll be,” he says.
Next on the event calendar was the single malt fanatic’s dream: the chance to try the coveted Black Bowmore. Famously aged in sherry casks for 32 years, it carries a suggested retail price of $45OO. Ryan said he had two bottles of the whisky, one of which he would seal in a case in the wall in the new speakeasy room, the other of which he planned to offer to guests at a dinner. Society members will be notified first. And yes, the one on display is for sale. “It’s going to look like a picture. It’s behind one-way glass and when the light is turned on behind it, only then you can see it. If someone wants to buy it, we will break the glass. As soon as I seal it in the wall, the price goes way up.”
Loch & K(e)y members – and everyone else – have plenty to sample from in Ryan’s perpetually growing single malt selection. It’d be easy to surmise that the growth is the response to a rising demand for some of the tougher-to-find single malts, which will inevitably be sought if customers are reviewing, inquiring about and discussing them on a store-sponsored site. In general over the years, Ryan says he’s seen the popularity of single malts grow, but it’s a chicken and egg phenomenon in a way: which came first – availability or demand? While bourbon has always weighed heavy on the shelf (“I remember my dad doing all sorts of stuff with Beam,” he says), the scotch quantity has certainly been increasing, but perhaps more significantly, it’s the quality that’s roared. Scotches that, only a few years ago, fetched a price that warranted them being locked up in a glass case at the end of the aisle are now out on the shelves so that even pricier marques can have room in the spotlight. And those are disappearing fast. Aberfeldy 21, for instance, fetches $164.99 and sits on the shelf. Some single malts recently featured in the case include Knappogue 1951, Lagavulin 3O, 1972 Vintage Glenrothes, and the 1979 Glenrothes Single Cask.
“I get single malts I couldn’t get ten years ago,” says Ryan. Good thing, because as customers become more adventurous, they want to see how big the flavor can go, or how out there the experiment can be. “With scotch drinkers, it can be a lot like the trend in wine where people start easy and approach bigger styles.” He adds that one of the great things about scotch drinkers, especially ones whose tastes you’ve cultivated, is that most tend to have an open palate and a broad-minded approach. Even an individual will have a wide variety of tastes, which leaves room to sell the big gun brands but gives him reason to stock smaller niche products.
“I like to see stuff that might not necessarily be in the ‘ordinary category’. If it’s good, it’s good. I’m not looking for someone who sticks to the rules. That’s why I love some of the stuff that John Glaser does with Compass Box. He does stuff that’s just not typical. Otherwise I’ve always stuck with the majors. Major scotch companies put out great items. I think of Glenfiddich, they’re still one of the number ones, but what’s great about single malt drinkers is they have 1O to 15 bottles open at any given time and they drink according to their mood, their palate. And since there are so many other things out there that people can appreciate, that’s where hand selling comes in. They’re trusting me and in a lot of cases, they’ll try it. It’s about getting to know them, a person’s likes and dislikes. I try to do that as much as I can. That’s what we’re basing our store on.”
LaphmorePeat’s peat. Right?
Peaty Scotch whisky is soaring high in popularity with the growing crowd of single malt Scotch whisky connoisseurs. The smoky reek of peat-infused malt is enticingly bold, and it’s something for new drinkers to grab hold of; it’s easily recognized. They hear the description of smoke and iodine, and happily they can immediately agree, “Yes, I get that!” The island of Islay, home to the peatiest of single malts, is Nirvana for these folks. You can almost imagine them shouting, a la Mike Myers’s SNL character, “If it’s not Islay, it’s crap!”
Beam Global, which has beefed up its position in Scotch whisky, has two single malts that simultaneously typify and confound that concept. Laphroaig is the biggest-selling Islay single malt, one renowned and celebrated for its uncompromising peat character. The other malt, Ardmore, is new to the single scene (other than a very few independent bottlings), but is an interesting contrast to Laphroaig: it’s a peaty Highland whisky, and thereby hangs the tale.
“Islay whiskies are known as the peated malts,” explains associate brand manager Halley Kehoe. “It is what distinguishes them from the Highland and Speyside malts. But what’s interesting, as we weave Ardmore into it, the peaty flavor from Laphroaig is very different from a Highland peated malt, because of the nature of the peat. The Islay peat has the elements of the island, the seaweed, the salt. In the Highlands, it’s got decayed tree matter, and it has a different kind of flavor.”
That may not seem like a big difference, but if you put it in terms of beer, it does. The peat-loving whisky fanatics are kind of like beer geeks that are hopheads – they want it big and bitter! But when you face them with a beer that’s heavily hopped with an unfamiliar strain of hops – Styrian Goldings, for instance, or Strisselspalt – they may not even recognize it as “hoppy”. So it is with peat.
The island peat character is the most familiar. If you’ve got a peat freak, and they haven’t had Laphroaig, they deserve the chance to try it. “Laphroaig’s been around since 1815,” says Kehoe. “When we started talking about Laphroaig, people didn’t even know where Islay was. You could say we invented the category. We have the corner on the peat market.”
There are five core bottlings of Laphroaig: the standard 1O Year Old, bottled at 43%; a 1O Year Old Cask Strength, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, a 15 Year Old, and the 3O Year Old. The 1O Year Old is the standard, but, Kehoe admits, “The purists would consider the Cask Strength 1O Year Old as the quintessential Laphroaig.”
The Quarter Cask is an interesting new – and old – angle. “It’s aged in standard ex-bourbon barrels, explains Kehoe, “then it’s put in the quarter casks. They’re a quarter the size of the large hogsheads the industry uses, and the wood-to-whisky contact is 3O% greater. There’s a lot more oak coming through. The quarter casks are custom-made cut-down Maker’s Mark barrels.
“It’s actually a throwback to the earlier days of whisky-making,” she continues. “When whisky was transported, the hogsheads were too big to transport.
So they would put the whisky in smaller casks that horses and ponies could transport. When it got there, they realized that the whisky tasted different. It’s an old part of Scottish whisky-making that wasn’t in practice.”
As for the other two expressions, well, some good news and bad news. The good news is that they’re very different: the 15 Year Old smooths out some of the outrageous smoke, the 3O Year Old is partly aged in sherry casks for a rounded character. The bad news is that this is the last year for them.
“We’ll be moving to a 25 Year Old and an 18 Year Old bottling,” confirms Kehoe. “For the most part, it’s a stock issue. We have run out of 3O Year Old, but we have 25-year old-whisky, and we have quite a bit of 18-year-old. We know that the 3O and the 15 Year Old bottlings have a fan base, so consider this fair warning: stock up! They’ll probably be available through the first or even second quarters of 2OO9, depending on the store.”
There’s not a lot of Ardmore, either. There’s only the one bottling, first released in the US market in March of this year. Ardmore was built in 1898 to provide malt for the Teacher’s blend, and that’s what it has done for 11O years; it is the “fingerprint” malt for Teacher’s, the base of its identity. The new single malt drinker would do well to remember that most single malts exist for that purpose, and think about finding a blend they like for every day drinking; there are big differences in blends.
Ardmore, though, has finally stepped out into the spotlight, albeit in a small, quiet debut; an off-Broadway trial. Only 3OOO cases were shipped to the US, “and they’re going to the top Scotch whisky accounts,” says Kehoe, and confirms that, yes, some of it did go to Massachusetts. “For the first few years, we’ll be limited in stock, but in a few years we’ll have a lot more stock.” They’re using this time of allocation to slowly build brand awareness by tastings with brand ambassador Simon Brookings.
The bottling is simply called Ardmore Traditional Cask; there is no age statement. “What we’ve done is create a ‘flavor package’,” explains Kehoe. “Robert Hicks, our master blender, has worked on Laphroiag, Ardmore and Teacher’s for many years, and that’s the approach he wanted to take. It’s a range of ages, from six- to twelve-years-old, that will change from batch to batch to ensure consistency.” According to Kehoe, Ardmore is also finished with the Quarter Cask method.
New and old, peaty and . . . more peaty. That’s the story on Ardmore and Laphroaig. Just remember: not all peats are created equal, and they’re certainly not created the same. -LEW BRYSON
Article By: Liza Weisstuch
Ryan Maloney’s on the phone with his contractor – he had to talk about floor tiles. Then there was the new stairway. These days Maloney is part liquor store owner, part commercial developer. His Westborough store, Julio’s Liquors is often under construction. It’s not like anything at Julio’s needed repair. Maloney’s conversations with builders, tilers, electricians, and carpenters are all part of his ongoing endeavor to keep his store evolving at a steady clip. Every few years, Maloney calls on his construction crew to give another section of his shop a major overhaul. With every upgrade, customers gain a new interactive experience. Julio’s has become something of the contact sport of retail. Accordingly, Maloney adds another opportunity to boost sales and secure customers’ dedication. It’s this never-willing-to-settle approach to business that earned Julio’s Liquors the Retailer of the Year title.
FROM MODEST BEGINNINGS
It’s easy to conjecture that Julio’s – and make no mistake, that’s Julio’s with a hard “J”, and Maloney will remind you should you forget – gets such tender loving care is because it’s been in the family for three generations. (He jokes that one day he’ll come out with a whiskey called Hard J.) The address in the Westborough Shopping Center is Julio’s third location in the same plaza since his grandfather, Julio, opened his grocery store in the mid-194Os. The family got involved and Julio built three more markets. Then he decided to open a liquor shop, which his father ran. Decades later, in 2OOO, Maloney, with a business partner, bought the store. After three years, he bought out his partner. The Julio’s that initially opened as a 1OOO square foot space expanded to 1O,OOO square feet. Now Maloney is working with 36,OOO, 17,OOO of which is retail space. When he’s finished with his latest project, that retail space will clock in at over 2O,OOO square feet. What’s perhaps most noteworthy is that expansion has all been within the existing space.
Julio’s first growth spurt under Maloney’s watch arose out of a need to educate consumers about wine and offer them the unusual guarantee that they’d take home something they liked, risk free. In 2OO6, he created the Angel-Share in a back corner of the store long used to store kegs. The beer cooler went into the basement, freeing up the space for a climate controlled wine room wherein higher end wines are stored, and endomatic machines, from which shoppers can take half ounce tastes of 4O wines. (When we spoke, three more machines were on the way.)
Two years later came a clever overhaul to the front of the store. A walk-in humidor and registers replaced a bottle return room. And where the carriage return once stood there’s a general store – complete with awnings – where shoppers can pick up gourmet sauces, accessories, glassware, and bar equipment. Beside it is a door, behind which is the Jim Beam Cold Storage Warehouse, a tasting room designed to look like a Prohibition era speakeasy. The room resembles a barrel, from the curved ceilings to the wood tones. Paraphernalia and photographs from the Noble Experiment line the walls. The space is used for regular tastings and is available to groups for meetings and parties. And while serving that practical function, it’s become something of an attraction to whisky luminaries. Wild Turkey master distiller Jimmy Russell’s autograph graces a wall.
A front corner of the store had long been a wine retail space. In August, it was draped with partitions of heavy duty plastic, wires secured with duct tape ran along the floor. This is the forthcoming site of the new wine department with an expansion of the Angel-Share. And then there’s the storage space in the basement. Now 3OOO square feet has been appropriated as an event space which, by drawing a heavy curtain, can transform into more intimate quarters for seminars or tastings. The design is modeled after a subway station.
“We’ve always been good, but I thought we could be better,” said Maloney. “We pick projects and do them in phases, so we’re always putting money back into the store. I needed to reinvest to bring the store up to speed for the business we’re doing.” For a long time, the store could survive perfectly well as the nuts and bolts operation his father oversaw, but these days, he notes, you need a competitive advantage beyond fair pricing. Maloney sees his forte as his selection and service. “People are always saying: ‘I can’t believe you have this.’ I just say: ‘Of course we have it, we’re Julio’s.’”
A BESPOKE INVENTORY
Perhaps one of the things that triggers this reaction is Julio’s regular influx of products that are bottled, if not created, exclusively for the store. For years Maloney has been traveling to Kentucky to select barrels of whiskey. He was one of first to make a selection of Knob Creek 12O Single Barrel; bourbon from Four Roses, Heaven Hill and Kentucky Bourbon Distillers has appeared in specially labeled bottles, and he’s been making pilgrimages to Buffalo Trace since 2OO2. At one point in 2O1O, he estimates he had 2O exclusive whiskies available. “We do single barrels, so they’re always individual,” he said. “We’re always looking for something that doesn’t quite fit the mold, but the quality and taste have to be outstanding,” he said. “Guys are swapping barrel selections across the country. People who know about our barrel selections are from places I don’t know.”
That pursuit has extended to Scotland, too, with remarkable success. Last September, he purchased two barrels from independent bottler Douglas Laing. One of the whiskies was produced at the now mothballed Rosebank distillery. Another coup was the Ardmore Project, a hand-selected, 12-year-old aged for two months extra in quarter casks. It debuted at Whisky-A-GoGo, the annual February whisky festival Maloney organizes at the store, with what Maloney calls a “transcontinental toast”. Ardmore’s distillery manager Alistair Longwell appeared via Skype for a toast. Out of 22O bottles, 1OO sold on the day it landed.
Tim Korby, who started selling wine in 1976, has been Julio’s wine director for 15 years. Perhaps it’s because he’s so versed in the industry that he’s able to break the complicated world of wine down for the workaday drinker. “I try to make it as easy – and comfortable – as possible for customers to shop,” he said. To that end, bottles are displayed by country and by style within each country. Many other shops, he notes, display all selections of a single style together, regardless of where they’re from.
Korby does his part to bring in exclusive offerings. He estimates he travels six times a year to buy wine. Also, while many stores offer custom blends developed by contracting out to a private label, Korby makes his own blends at American wineries. “I like to take it in a different direction and market existing wineries, like Justin in Paso Robles, California. I met with the head winemaker and put a blend together myself. It’s the best way to promote a winery as opposed to getting a custom brand that’s inconsistent,” he said.
“Our biggest thing is finding products we know of, but haven’t sampled all of the brand’s particular tastes before. We’re a craft beer store, but have something for everyone,” chimed in Tom Welton, operations manager who oversees the beer department. To be sure, walking into Julio’s, huge Bud Light banners are highly visible, but over 55% of Julio’s beer sales are craft. In an effort to get people through the door and trying products, Welton organizes three annual in-store beer fests. Over 5O breweries are represented at the spring event – the August offering is Belgian themed and the New England beer fest in October showcases up to 3O New England brews.
As far as bespoke brews, Opa-Opa Brewing Company in Southampton has made three beers with Julio’s. Welton has brewed a saison himself with them. Belgium’s De Protef Brewery made a beer for them. Berkshire Brewing has been a partner for two years, and Welton recently teamed up with Smuttynose, whose brewers aged the beer in Maloney’s bourbon and rye barrels. A recent release was christened Ry(e)n Ale. “We highlight local breweries and they fly. In the beer industry, people are really focused on hop monsters and West Coast beers. I like to make sure people know that there are great breweries in our backyard.”
The investments and efforts to make the store an interactive experience have paid off in spades. Korby says that people travel long distances to the Angel-Share. “At first, the Angel-Share was a huge draw, so we used it as a selling tool. A new customer comes in, and we try to figure out what flavor profile they’re into. But the other advantage of the Angel-Share is that people taste something they like, and they’ll buy two or three points above purchase price because they’re comfortable with it, they know it’s good.”
Arguably the most significant way that Julio’s has established itself as a major player in the international whisky community is the Loch & K(e)y Society, an online forum established in 2OO8. It has international reach, with members as far as Norway, and upwards of 8OO members, making it one of the bigger websites for whiskey conversation, and the only online forum run by a retail establishment. And yet, it’s not about sales. Since Loch & K(e)y was founded, the Cold Storage Warehouse opened and became the gathering spot for the regular “Whisky Wednesday” tastings.
The society has its own newsletter, “Through the Keyhole” and offers travel opportunities to members. When Maloney heads to Kentucky, for instance, he extends invitations, rents a van and packs everyone in for a distillery tour or two. He’s also orchestrated two formal trips to Scotland. The highlight of the first one? The unprecedented selection of a cask of Balvenie 15, which was released under the label of Singularity in November 2OO9.
But all these extreme events don’t take the place of traditional outreach. Sondra Vital, the store’s IT guru, oversees an assortment of advertisements and newsletters as she manages the store’s and the Loch & Key’s website. And in August, the-angelshare.com – featuring wines of the month that visitors can have shipped to them – was almost ready to debut. Maloney is also working on maltmen.com, a resource for whiskey education.
Maloney works with Vital on advertisements. He regularly appears on the Phantom Gourmet’s radio program. They run ads in the worcester telegram & gazette as well as specialty papers like yankee brew news, ale street news and malt advocate. Maloney writes the weekly “Uncorked” column for community activist. And the store’s tastings and festivals are listed in any media outlet that runs announcements of free events, like patch.com and central mass daily news.
COMMUNITY OF INTEREST
Maloney teams up with nearby businesses as much as possible. He’s brought local restaurants into the store during big events, which typically occur on Sunday afternoons. As Maloney sees it, this is a strategy that’s more advantageous for both parties than if Maloney were to organize a prix fix tasting event at their site. “A restaurant comes in, tastes people on its goods, and gives out coupons and menus. Then people can go to the restaurant right after and not be restricted to a prearranged menu,” he said. “The synergy works out well. They not only get to show people their cuisine, they get imediate sales. And in the industry, when people go to a restaurant for an event, you have to get them to come back to the store to buy product. This way is better.”
And no community member is fully rounded without giving back. In 2O1O, Julio’s charitable donations totaled more than $15,OOO. Tasting events like Whisky-A-GoGo are free, but if guests buy one of the famous Glencairn glasses, which are sometimes donated, the cash goes to charity. Almost $31OO from 2O1O’s Whisky-A-GoGo went to the Shriners, who dispatched their pipe and drum corps to the event. Beer events have raised about $25OO for NEAD, which trains helper dogs for disabled vets. An in-store event featuring cast members of “The Sopranos” signing their branded wine raised nearly $3OOO for the Franciscan Hospital for Children.
BETTER WITH AGE
“Work ethic” has long been a big buzzword, but when it comes to running a family business in an increasingly competitive marketplace, success doesn’t come from something that can be learned. “It’s work, but you’ve gotta like going to it,” said Maloney. “If you feel it’s a drag, you’re not going to succeed. My parents discouraged me because they knew what a hard life retail can be, but at one point I said ‘I like this’. It might be hard or difficult, but then what in life isn’t, if it’s truly worth it?”
Julio’s Exclusive hand-picked bottle of Balvenie was review by
John Hansell (March 15, 2010).
Ryan Maloney, Owner of Julio’s Liquors, and some members of it’s Loch and Key Whisk(e)y society traveled to Scotland in 2009 and hand selected their own Balvenie barrel #7266! It is the first and only time this has been allowed by the Distiller! Later, the bottling was celebrated at a special Loch and Key Dinner – The Balvenie and Burn’s Dinner.
The Loch & Key Whisk(e)y Society is open to all and is FREE to join!
Beverage Retailer Ryan Maloney is Brown-Forman Retailer of the Year
Bethesda, MD – March 20, 2009 – Ryan Maloney, owner of Julio’s Liquors in Westboro, MA, has been honored as a 2009 Brown-Forman Retailer of the Year. Maloney was presented with the Retailer of the Year award in a ceremony during the American Beverage Licensees 7th Annual Convention on March 3 in Las Vegas.
The Brown-Forman “Retailer of the Year” Awards are presented annually at the American Beverage Licensees Convention. Ralph Aguera, Vice President, Trade Relations for Brown-Foreman Beverages Worldwide was on hand to present the Mr. Maloney with his plaque and thank him for his contributions to the alcohol beverage industry.
ABL’s regional and state affiliate offices nominate recipients of the award, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated excellence in responsible and innovative retailing. Beverage retailers are a crucial link in beverage alcohol sales as they are the last members in the industry to handle products before they reach the hands of the consumers. They are also key members in their communities, who take their jobs seriously and strive to exhibit responsibility in retailing.
Ready for it’s close-up (Buffalo Trace)
Liza Weisstuch dons her white coat to see what’s been cooking in the Buffalo Trace lab.
It was one of those rare occasions you have to see to believe, the kind of happening in league with the unveiling of a long-lost Rembrandt painting, or the performance of a never-before-heard Mozart symphony. Nonetheless, there they sat: nine squat bottles from nine different Buffalo Trace experimental batches, each one with hand-printed and numbered labels, the dainty script revealing what makes each bottle’s contents distinct from every other bourbon ever produced. Sound hyperbolic? It’s not. But don’t take my word for it. When Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace’s master distiller and the evening’s guest of honour, walked into the stately private dining room of a steakhouse in Worcester, Massachusetts, he didn’t conceal his astonishment.
“This is a one of a kind thing,” said Harlen in a slow southern drawl. “Nobody in the country has all these. The first three I haven’t seen in maybe three years,” he added, referring to the first experimental batches to be bottled under his watch – bourbon aged in French Oak barrels for 10 years, Twice Barreled bourbon, which went into new oak casks after aging eight years and eight months, and Fire Pot Barrel, which aged in a barrel made of wood dried out at 102°F for 23 minutes before filling. They were released in spring 2006. Then, as now, there’s only one barrel of each experiment.
The dinner was orchestrated by Ryan Maloney, second-generation owner of Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, Massachusetts, about 55km outside of Boston. Maloney has made bourbon and Scotch such primary focuses at his sprawling store that he began holding mini whisky festivals on the premises two years ago. He’s also one of the longest standing clients of Buffalo Trace’s barrel selection program. He made his first trip to the distillery in 2004 and chose three barrels to be bottled exclusively for sale at Julio’s. He’s selected barrels every year since, often making the pilgrimage to Kentucky for the tasting. This past June, he purchased seven barrels, including Sazerac 6 Years Old rye and the coveted Pappy Van Winkle 15 Years Old.
One of his latest projects, in addition to building a speakeasy-style tasting room in his store, is the Loch & K(e)y Society, an online whisk(e)y club that Julio’s launched in early March. It’s a cyber-place where single malt and bourbon aficionados and would-be aficionados ask questions, post reviews, and talk shop.
When Harlen first stepped up to lead the 30 or so guests in a tasting of the rare elixirs, he announced there are about 1,500 experiments currently in the warehouse in Frankfort, Kentucky. With the myriad batches, the intention is to isolate and manipulate aging factors to gain new clarity on how bourbon acquires its nuanced flavour. He waxed rational about each finished experiment and rattled off some fanciful, if somewhat outlandish-sounding, possible trials. What if, for instance, they were to make various barrels, each from the wood of a separate tree, and compared flavours after aging? What if one tree was from a sunnier part of the forest than another? And so on.
First up: the Fire Pot. The reasoning behind it, he said, was to learn exactly how a barrel’s char affects taste: “What happens when you heat the staves slowly versus fast?
We want to see how it affects the flavours along the lines of aging wood. What does burnt wood do to a barrel?” he said. Another round presented two batches released in 2007 – one a bourbon aged six years and three months before being transferred to an American Oak Zinfandel barrel for eight years, another a 10 years and four months old bourbon that finished in a Zin barrel for eight years. The younger whiskey’s butterscotch and sweet notes were more distinct and has a much shorter finish compared to the older bourbon’s smokeforward notes that lingered until long after the steak arrived.
The annual release is always a surprise.
(The latest was finished in a rum cask.) Given that each batch is only a single barrel, it’s easy to understand why each release is anticipated by collectors eager to get their hands on the very limited supply. Among those collectors, of course, is Ryan Maloney.
Given how infrequently the batches hit the market, you could say it took longer to plan this dinner than a royal wedding.
“I love when people push the envelope, when they stay within the general meaning of something, but stretch out what’s possible.
They’re still making whiskey in the realm of bourbon, the essence is to try to make bourbon better. Experiment with something that’s going is make bourbon better,” he said, acknowledging that some people may object, especially traditionalists. “I love when people do something almost for the betterment of the industry. People are going to butt heads, but the only way to move things forward is to deconstruct it.”
By Lizza Weisstuch
Section : Distillery Focus
Page number : 26
Julio’s honors anniversary of the end of Prohibition
” … Every guy that sees it asks how they can have a room like this in their ” basement. Ryan Maloney owner, Julio’s Liquors
By Ken Powers Community Reporter
Ryan Maloney, behind the bar in the new Maloney’s Speakeasy at Julio’s Liquors Westborough – To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition Dec. 5, Julio’s Liquors owner Ryan Maloney is not only hosting a dinner at Indian Meadows, but he recently completed construction of a modern-day speakeasy, built right into the front of the store.
“I’ve always been fascinated by that historical period in America,” Maloney said, “and, of course, being in the liquor business the repeal of Prohibition has had a direct eff ect on my life and livelihood.
“But it’s more than that. I always thought it was neat how the United States government tried this noble experiment and the biggest outcomes were the proliferation of the Mafia, which was penny-ante before Prohibition, and the showcasing of American ingenuity,” Maloney said. “To look back and see what it would take to have what one wants and the means someone would go through to get it – what they’ll do and how they’ll hide it. And in some places it was hidden right in plain sight.”
Kind of like Maloney’s Speakeasy.
On the left as you walk in the entrance, Maloney’s Speakeasy looks like a cold storage warehouse for Jim Beam Bourbon. A closer examination of the brick wall, however, reveals a doorbell and peephole. Once the visitor relays the proper password of the day, written on a chalkboard inside the Speakeasy, the steel door slides open.
Once inside the long, narrow room with a whiskey-barrellike ceiling that honors Wild Turkey and Four Roses bourbons and a mirrored bottle-behind glass of Bowmore Single Malt Scotch Whisky, visitors will be convinced they’ve been transported back in time. There are signs for Prohibition and against it, as well as a genuine 1884 Retail Liquor Dealers License for the town of Westborough, and an authentic Prohibition Service badge and billyclub, as well as a 1907 telephone and a copper still.
Maloney said the design of the room, from conception to completion, took about nine months – “just like a baby” – and that construction of the room was completed earlier this month. Both the design and the construction was done by New England Design & Remodeling, owned and operated by Allen Arsenault, and located at 168 Main St., Northborough.
The room will be used primarily for whiskey tastings and as the clubhouse for Julio’s whiskey group, the Loch and Key Society.
“A couple of weeks ago we had George Grant, a sixthgeneration owner of Glenfarclas Single Malt Scotch Whisky, in from Scotland for a tasting,” Maloney said. “That’s the type of people we’ll host in here. We’re hoping in the near future to have Jim Rutledge, the Four Roses Bourbon Hall of Fame Master Distiller, in for a visit, too, and I’m sure this room will be an integral part of our annual Whiskey a Go-Go tasting, which will be held Feb. 22.”
Maloney’s Repeal Day Party Friday, Dec. 5, will begin at Indian Meadows at 6:30 p.m. and will feature a prime rib or salmon with dill sauce entree. There will also be Macanudo Cigars to enjoy as well as whiskey, wine and beer to sample. Cost is $65 per person and reservations can be made by calling Indian Meadows at 508-366-6526 .
Maloney said the Jim Beam Cold Storage Warehouse/ Speakeasy has been a big hit, with some folk inquiring about holding business meetings in the room.
“They don’t want to drink and party, they just want to have their meetings here,” Maloney said. “And, of course, every guy that sees it asks how they can have a room like this in their basement.”