Tis the season to meet with many of our distributors and to talk with some of their on and off premise accounts as we anticipate a very busy spirit buying season ahead. In this case we headed South on a 5 city marathon tour, starting first in Atlanta where we arrived just in time to participate in Quality Wine & Spirits annual tasting event which they share with Inland Seafoods. The show kicked off the night before with a dinner hosted at Quality's newly refurbished warehouse show room. Several cocktails were created for the evening, including a delicious "Artillery Punch" which featured Armagnac Marie Duffau among other ingredients.
The Atlanta tasting event itself was very well attended as usual and kept us extremely busy for most of the five and a half hours it lasted, ending at 7:PM. We met lots of folks and talked about
new pairing ideas (caviar to foie gras) and cocktail suggestions with some very passionate and creative people.
From there we headed to the great state of Texas for a 3 city Texas Road Trip organized by our favorite Texas distributor, "Favorite Brands." It was a great opportunity to meet and talk with the energetic and growing sales teams located in Houston, Austin and Dallas. In between shows we took the opportunity to visit some of the major Texas retailer outlets like "Specs" and "Twin Liquors" while showing support for some of the incredible on-premise accounts who carry our products; "Au Petit Paris" in Houston and "The Bonneville" in Austin to name just two. All I can say is that the cuisine in Texas is as good as it can possibly be, at least in these outstanding restaurants.
As soon as the Dallas show ended we were heading to the airport to catch our flight to New Orleans. We arrived exhausted but with enough time to stroll down Bourbon Street, stop for a beer at "Vacherie" and wind up at "Cafe du Monde" for some Beignets and a decaf. The next day we were up early for a meeting with the sales team of George Brown and Vino Wholesale. Christine led us through a near complete tasting of all our locally distributed products followed by a lively question and answer period. During the meeting we were told of a New Orleans restaurant chef who uses our Troussepinete as an ingredient in his handmade pate. Needless to say, we headed over there for lunch and enjoyed an amazingly satisfying meal before getting back on the plane. The restaurant is called ROOT and the Executive Chef is Phillip Lopez. We gave it and the pate 4 stars. This was my first time in New Orleans and I look forward to going back soon for a longer stay. Visits to most of the other states that distribute Heavenly Spirits are already planned for the next couple of months. See our photo gallery for more highlights from this post.
One of our favorite times of the year to visit France and meet with our suppliers is in June. This year was no different. Besides being one of the most pleasant times of year weather wise, it seems to be a time when our producers are more available to see us as work schedules are a bit lighter and little or no distilling is being done. VinExpo, the largest wine and spirits trade show in the world is held every other June in Bordeaux, so that also presents a great opportunity to research new products and meet with associates in the industry. This year VinExpo was scheduled for June 16 -20.
Due to business commitments in the US, I delayed my trip to France by about two weeks and Christine attended Vin Expo with our eldest son Austin, who now lives in France and was able to receive quite an education during the process. I believe it was the first time in twenty years I missed a VinExpo. During the four days in Bordeaux, CC had the chance to meet with many of our suppliers, research some new products for the Heavenly Spirits portfolio and set up meetings for when I arrived in July. Austin served as company photographer in my absence and I have posted some of his images in our photo gallery page linked below.
When I finally arrived on July 1st, Christine had a full schedule planned. Highlights included: a three day trip to the Loire Valley, three days of meetings in the Cognac region and several meetings in La Rochelle. Our biggest and most immediate news is that we have added not one but four excellent examples of Pineau de Charente to our portfolio to share with the American market. Normandine Mercier will be supplying a wonderful Pineaux that comes both in a red and a white version, while Cognac Jean Fillioux will be supplying a vieux red pinieau that is ten years old and a really lovely vieux white pineau that has fifteen years of age. With Americans becoming more and more sophisticated about aperitifs and spirits in general, we expect there will be quite an interest in these wonderfully popular before and after dinner drinks.
Heavenly Spirit fans will soon notice some packaging improvements for some of our most popular brands that we will be announcing as they arrive. We will also be launching at least one delicious, brand new, inovative spirit in the near future that we have spent quit a bit of time developing here. In short we have been working very hard to bring you, the American consumer, the best and most "heavenly" spirits France has to offer and we look forward to doing this for many weeks, months and years ahead. Stay tuned. Click here for more images from our trip to France.
Picture this: Christine and I walking around a major DC Art museum, surrounded by "the beautiful people," looking at paintings with an award winning Heavenly Spirits inspired cocktail in our hands on a Saturday night. I'll tell you, it is work, but I am not complaining. That's exactly how it went down on another fast and furious road trip, this time to the DC area last weekend. We also had the opportunity to run around town with our distributor, Shannon Crisp and meet some of the amazing people who carry our spirits in the DC area. For example, we got to meet Tim Adams over at MacArthur Beverages, Prav Saraff at 1 West Dupont Circle, and Nathan at S&S Liquors. I say "amazing people" because each one seems to have a distinctive passion and dedication for the job they are doing and because each one has an obvious knowledge and respect for the art of making spirits and they seem to take pride in expanding and sharing that knowledge.
In addition to these fine retailers we also had the pleasure of meeting some great folks at a few on-premise accounts, including Boris at the Lincoln, Jonathan at the Firefly and Duane, who is the head bartender at Bourbon Steak, located at the Four Seasons Hotel. We had fun talking with Duane about a number of drinks industry topics and he introduced us to the best three variations of French fries in DC, (cooked in duck fat) each served with its own sauce.
"Artini" featured mixologists from eight D.C. restaurants, which concocted special cocktails inspired by a work of art from Corcoran's collection. Artini 2013 marked the sixth year for this annual event and it was a huge success, raising a ton of money for a worthy cause; more exhibition opportunities for emerging Washington DC artists.
For CC and me, it was our first "Artini" and I hope it won't be our last. Craft Wine & Spirits, our DC distributors did a fantastic job in making our products available to the mixologists representing some of the top DC bars competing in this year's event. We were especially pleased to learn that Heavenly Spirits products were chosen ingredients for five out of the eight competing cocktails, including the people's choice winner by Joe Ambrose from P.O.V., whose signature cocktail "First Impressions" was inspired by the Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting, "View From Cap Martin of Monte Carlo." Joe used Marie duffau Armagnac Napoleon, and Artez Poir Eau de Vie along with elderflower liquor, pear juice, lemon juice, maple syrup, chervil herb dust, berry foam and dehydrated raspberry meringue to make an outstanding cocktail that was tasty, and beautiful with the right combination of texture and smoothness. See the Artini 2013 Pinterest page here for photos and recipes.
Additional Heavenly products that were represented during the evening include: Absinthe La Muse Verte and Armorik Single Malt Whisky; the Classic and Double Maturation.
Leaving Massachusetts directly from our son's dramatic 10:AM Sunday indoor soccer match-up (our team won 2-1), we arrived in the Big Apple just in time to catch the Metropolitan Museum's Henri Matisse exhibition on its last day and it was well worth the effort. The show emphasized Matisse's masterful working methods, highlighting his tendencies to create series of paintings and to rework a composition until he got it right.
At the Annual VOS trade tasting, held the following day we had the opportunity to represent our own assortment of incredable French Masters who work in a completely different medium, that of distilled spirits. There are not many distributors around the country who carry such a large percentage of our portfolio as VOS so it was quite a sight to have them stretched out accross most of the City Winery's long bar. It is always a pleasure to attend these tastings even thought they are closed to consumers, because we get a chance to talk with some pretty knowledgable folks who work in the industry and have a great appreciation for our products. The NY City Winery located on Varick Street, not far from Washington Square is a very hospitable environment for this event. In addition to a terrific ambience, the staff are always friendly, upbeat and helpful, which, makes standing on our feet for seven hours less noticable and much easier to bear. Many thanks to the hardworking team at VOS Selections for another outstanding job in putting this show together. Well done!
See our gallery page for more photos from this event.
This year's 3 Day Whisky Weekend Extravaganza at Julios in Westboro, MA was held on February 22, 23, & 24. Despite a day of steady snow and slush, the main tasting event on Sunday attracted nearly 1,000 whiskey fans, distributors and producers. In fact, I have never seen that many men dressed in plaid skirts since back in the days when I lived in San Francisco. Many of the kilt wearers were of course playing bag pipes, creating a wonderfully festive and very Scotish ambience enjoyed by the whisky drinking crowd. Many in attendance were seriously knowledgable whisky afficionados, including members of local whisky clubs especially the Loch & K(e)y Club as well as assorted whisky twitterers, and bloggers; @WhiskyRI @WhiskyCast @ScotchSniper @WhiskyProfessor @DrinkInsider and @JuliosSpirits to name a few.
Christine and I were pouring the Armorik Classic as well as the Double Maturation and as usual we had a split crowd when polled on their favorite. Some really liked the layered sherry notes of the Double, while others prefered the pleasant 1-2-3 taste profile of the Armorik Classic; floral nose, sweet entry, light smokey middle and a lovely round finish. We showed up an hour early and stayed busy right till the end. In addition to our single malt whiskies, we offered tastings of the Delord Blanche Armagnac, aperitif La Troussepinete red & white and the Lise Baccara XO cognac which was a big hit especially near the end. All in all it was a first class event and we will most likely be adding it to our annual tasting event program. If you have never been to Julios you should check it out. http://www.juliosliquors.com/WAGG2013/GOWW2013.html
See more Whisky Weekend photos in our gallery
Heavenly Spirits would like to thank all of our producers, distributors, support staff and of course the growing number of Heavenly Spirits consumers and product ambassadors for helping to make 2012 our best year yet. In addition to increasing overall sales, we added new products to our portfolio, increased the number of states we are distributed in and added new events to our educational outreach calendar. Many of the fine products that we represent received industry awards, positive reviews and press mentions in leading US journals. Our Chicago Tasting Tour was a huge success, bringing the producers of some of the top French spirit brands to Chicago in October. And it looks like we remained the #1 importer of Armagnac to the US for the third straight year, accounting for more than 20% of all Armagnac imported. In fact, we have been so busy it was quite impossible to keep up with this blog toward the end of the year. Instead, I was posting updates to our Face Book Fan page and to our Twitter account.
In 2013 we intend to keep our momentum going with more visits to suppliers and distributors, and even more tasting events and educational seminars across the US. We also plan to improve our communications by increasing the number of press releases we put out, and adding a Heavenly Spirits newsletter which will be emailed directly to subscriber’s “In-Box.” The newsletter will keep subscribers current on happenings within our company and include some fun features like cocktail and cooking recipes, bar or retailer of the month and spirit facts.
In short, 2012 was an exciting year for Heavenly Spirits but we hope to make 2013 even better. See the following links to recent press reviews: