Hard Water Newsletter, July 2016 Edition
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WELCOME! This is the first edition of our new monthly newsletter. We'll be using it to keep you abreast of changes to our extensive American whiskey selection and as a general source of information about whiskey and whiskey culture.

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New Arrivals on the Wall

Now that Four Roses Barrel #6 has been delivered all of our picks from last fall are in stock. If it's not too busy, ask for a "mini flight" and try them all. But there's plenty more:
  • Abraham Bowman ‘Pioneer Spirit’ Touriga & Merlot Wine Finished Bourbon 50%
  • Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Release 11 69.7%
  • Four Roses Single Barrel ‘Hard Water #6’ 2016 (OESV) 55.5%,
  • High West ‘Yippee Ki-Yay’ Rye 46%,
  • Jefferson 18yr, Batch 15
  • Peach Street Distillers Straight Bourbon, Colorado 46%
  • Seven Stills ‘Chocasmoke’ 47% $8
  • Redemption Barrel Proof Straight Rye 8yr 61.35%
  • St. George ‘Baller’ Single Malt, California 47%
  • Yellowstone ‘Select’ Kentucky Straight 46.5%
  • Wasmund’s Single Malt, Virginia 48%, $6
It's also worth mentioning that we don't announce ALL of our new arrivals. We like to leave a few things as "surprises" for patrons' scanning the wall to find on their own. Which means you gotta get in here to find 'em.

The Art of Picking a Barrel
Old Weller Antique Barrel Samples

The first of a two part article on how we go about finding and picking a private barrel of whiskey for the bar.
Part of what makes the whiskey selection at Hard Water so unique is the large number of private barrels we offer. You simply cannot get these anywhere else. Because we are so often asked about the process of obtaining a barrel, I thought it would be interesting to share some details of how it works.
“Is it fun to pick barrels?” we are frequently asked at the bar. The answer is an enthusiastic “Heck yeah!” Picking is one of the best parts of the job, an opportunity to stretch your tasting skills and, hopefully, find something unique for the bar. It’s also a very social activity, since at Hard Water selection is a group process. And sometimes that may mean selling fellow tasters on your top choice.
The process itself usually begins when we contact a distillery with a private barrel program and request a set of samples. Occasionally, a distillery may approach us directly with an offer. This is especially true with newer/smaller distilleries, like Garrison Brothers, that may be selling private barrels for the first time.
It’s worth pointing out that buying whiskey by the barrel is a bit more complicated than it used to be. As the global whiskey market has grown, so has demand for private barrels. Many programs are now closed to new accounts and the number of barrels released per year is fixed. Other programs require you to come to the distillery to make your selection (a sacrifice we make for you when we go to Kentucky). And finally, some distilleries that formerly had programs, like Heaven Hill and Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (Willett Family Estate), have discontinued private barrels sales altogether as they could not keep up with demand.
Once samples are requested, a set will be “pulled” and sent to us directly or dropped off by a local representative. Typically they’ll send around six choices.  If the whiskey we’re buying comes bottled at less than full strength, the samples may also be pre-diluted, e.g. at 107 proof if we’re buying a barrel of Old Weller. Once we’ve received the samples, we’ll have a fixed time in which to evaluate them, sometimes as short as 10 days. After that, the barrels they come from may be offered to other buyers.
If we’re working with a distillery that requires us to taste on site then we schedule a visit. The upside of a distillery visit is that we’re typically able to try more samples than would have been sent. The downside is that we need to make a decision on the spot. There’s not much time to deliberate or come back to try the samples again.Four Roses Barrel Head Detail
However it’s done, many programs only provide samples from barrels that closely adhere to the standard flavor profile for the brand. Thus a private barrel of Blanton’s generally won’t taste a lot different from the regular bottling of Blanton’s. This is done to protect the brand identity and we respect that decision. The situation can be more fluid if we’re evaluating a whiskey whose flavor profile is achieved by blending barrels together. Occasionally we’ll get a sample from a barrel that’s well outside the final flavor profile, which can be a good or bad thing. Good, because we might be able to obtain an extraordinary barrel of whiskey, which tastes nothing like the regular bottling; bad, because the sample may exhibit flaws which make it simply unpalatable. Both situations are unusual because samples are generally QC’d to prevent this from happening.
If we are really looking for unusual or unique expressions of a particular whiskey we’ll need to work with a distillery that’s more willing to share barrels that exhibit a wide variety of flavor profiles with us. It’s one of the reasons we love the Four Roses program. Barrel samples, which can come from any of their 10 unique recipes and a variety of warehouse locations, can be quite different from each other, letting us make truly individual picks. This had also been the case with Willett Family Estate barrels before that program was, sadly, brought to a close.
Next Month: The selection process.

In the meantime, please feel free to send us your questions via email:
Selecting a barrel of Knob Creek is done right in the warehouse. Here we had to do our work standing up. Benito Romero shows us how it's done.
A traditional copper 'whiskey thief' is used at Four Roses to pull samples directly out of a barrel. The hands holding the thief belong to Jim Rutledge, Master Distiller Emeritus.
New Whiskey List: Bigger, Better, BADDER
Just in case you missed it, we recently switched over to a new enhanced format for our extensive whiskey list. We added a bunch of new categories and every whiskey is properly cross listed. We also added a section of Staff Picks, New Arrivals, and some suggestions for guests looking for flavor profiles more familiar to drinkers of Scotch and Irish whiskies.

[For those of you who can't wait to see the new list, you can view a PDF version here]
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Hard Water · Pier 3 · The Embarcadero · San Francisco, CA 94111 · USA

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