There's a whole lot of whisky, gin, tequila and more that is nigh-on impossible to snag. Perhaps it's made in limited quantities and "allocated" before you ever get the chance to see it, like fine Bordeaux or Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23-year bourbon. Perhaps it's only available in a few states or for a limited time. It might simply cost an arm and a leg. In addition, however, there's a shadow world of fine spirits that never (or barely) make it to market. A handful of bartenders and reporters will score bragging rights and happily tell you what you missed. But you, dear reader, are SOL when it comes to trying these experimental boozes. So what's the point?
It turns out that distillers and blenders are constantly experimenting with new ideas, barrel-aging combinations, ingredients and so forth. Even brands that produce a single label are always digging around for new concepts. Some "experiments" result in unusual limited-edition expressions of an established brand. Take distiller Chris Morris' annual Master's Collection: Each year, one variable (wood type, age, finishing, mash bill, yeast, etc) in the Woodford Reserve formula is tweaked. However, a great many trials never leave the distillery, or are available only as teasers to the industry, who share their experiences with the public. Why? So we can tell you how great something is you'll never have a chance in hell of finding, even on eBay? It's a bit like a designer showing off a custom piece at the Oscars: If we can't buy it at Banana Republic, what's the point?
"It is an interesting challenge and conundrum," says Jim Ryan, U.S. brand ambassador for Hendrick's Gin. "It's also a lot of fun." Last month, Hendrick's toured the U.S., allowing a few bartenders and even fewer reporters sips of Kanaracuni, a special expression of their signature gin blended with an additional distillate of a tropical plant called "Scorpion Tail." The super-special liquid (only 560 bottles were made, and none will be sold) was the result of a grand adventure to the jungles of Venezuela by longtime Hendrick's distiller Lesley Gracie and global brand ambassador David Piper. The evening was accompanied by a slideshow of their adventure -- a three-day canoe trip up the Orinoco River to a community that rarely makes contact with the outside world, then stomping around the jungle with the local medicine man and explorer/botanist Charles Brewer-Carias tasting and distilling exotic plants, stems, berries and leaves.
"It was purely experiential," says Gracie, who traveled with a miniature replica of Hendrick's Bennett Carter Head still, to try her best to score a cool new distillate from something. "We had no idea what we were going to find, or if we would find anything at all." She concocted a total of nine liters of Scorpion Tail distillate to take back with her to the U.K. Of the 560 existing bottles, our small group probably polished off 5 or so. Other stops on the tour probably did similar damage. Once the stuff is gone, it's gone.
"I think for Hendrick's the brand, it's more about reaching out and showing the values of the company," says Ryan. "We value exploration and travel." Despite the fact Hendrick's is known for exactly one expression (no cinnamon-flavored product, no summer edition), Gracie is in fact experimenting all the time with botanicals in a never-ending quest to find the most unique gin possible. "A bit of this is reminding the community that helped build Hendrick's that we're always tinkering around." (Last year, Hendrick's released a limited-edition cordial dubbed Quinetum, to a handful of bars). As for Gracie, she notes it brings excitement to a category that is all about rigid, long-time formulas and consistency. "As a distiller, you very rarely get the chance to look for something new."
Check out the original article on AskMen for the full story.