Tag Archives: Spirits


Highland Park Valhalla Collection Dinner [THIS Friday. Public Seats Available.]

We are thrilled to invite you to this Friday’s Valhalla Dinner, hosted by Highland Park’s Brand Ambassador, Martin Daraz.

Let’s just say, this is a BIG deal for scotch drinkers and foodies, alike.

For this one special night, eat like valkyries, gods and goddesses as we toast to Thor, Loki, Freya and Odin, the four rare expressions of the Highland Park Valhalla Collection. In fact, three of these expressions are no longer available for purchase, making this an extraordinary opportunity to be in the presence of greatness.

The night would not be complete without Brand Ambassador Martin Daraz leading us through each expression while we indulge on a Norse feast.


When: Fri, Apr 3rd at 6:30pm
Where: Wingtip 550 Montgomery, 11th floor
Ticket: $250/person – 2 spaces available.

RSVP: jennifer@wingtip.com

Highland Park Valhalla Collection


Highland Park Valhalla Collection: OdinHighland Park Odin represents a single malt Scotch whisky worthy of its namesake – the formidable and commanding ruler of Asgard. Its intense complexity ensures this final release is deserving of its rightful place at the head of the Valhalla Collection.

Tasting Notes

Colour: Vivid burst of sunlight
Nose: This intense whisky possesses a fierce spice; cinnamon bark and nutmeg rise from Odin’s spirit. Behind the spice, toasted walnuts smoulder with pulsating explosions of smoke. Odin cuts an ominous figure and this whisky is no different.
Palate: A huge, powerful palate draws on the complexity of Odin’s character. Layers of peat uncover thousands of years of wisdom. Dense oak and still smouldering away are the rich charred walnuts.
Finish: Throughout is a subtle sweetness, sharing the knowledge of well-seasoned sherry wines. Plums and soft fruit disappear into the dark as the peaty embers glow into a smoky finale.


Highland Park Valhalla Collection: FreyaFor the third release in the acclaimed Valhalla Collection, Highland Park has turned its attention to the mesmerising Norse Goddess of Love, Freya.
Continuing the tradition of reflecting the character and qualities of the Norse Gods in the whisky itself, Freya’s intriguing allure and feisty personality has inspired a full, rich and complex single malt with a lingering beguiling finish.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Almond and Madagascan vanilla. White chocolate followed by candied cherries makes way for a vibrant wave of mango and melon, riding upon a cloud of cream soda.
Palate: Orange peel, butterscotch and rose petals provide the sweetness along with orange blossom and ginger. Lively popping candy, lemongrass and tropical fruits are lightly shrouded in peat smoke.
Finish: Complex and beautiful, the finish gives lingering spice and soft peat smoke intertwined with soft orchard fruits, toasted coconut and a light char, providing a rounded depth and allowing this whisky to soar.


Highland Park Valhalla Collection: ThorHighland Park Thor has a natural strength like its namesake, drawing influence from the environment unique to Orkney, to create a truly elemental spirit. Distilled where sea turns to ocean, this 16 year-old single malt is a meeting point of nature’s forces, exuding a dynamic and bold character on the surface, but with an unexpected softer side at its heart.

Bottled at a robust 52.1% abv this limited edition whisky comes housed in a unique wooden frame, which echoes the fearsome contours of a traditional Viking long ship.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Concentrated and forceful, with an explosion of aromatic smoke, pungent fresh ginger, antique copper, stewed plums, and golden syrup. With water, earthy notes emerge, like a garden after a heavy rain shower.
Palate: Thor’s high strength grabs the palate and refuses to let go. Initially dry, with fiery gingerbread then vanilla, blackberries, fresh mango, peach and hints of cinnamon. As its big flavours swirl around the mouth, some softer, sweeter notes develop, giving Thor and unexpected layer of complexity and depth.
Finish: The finish thunders on, leaving behind lingering notes of sweet vanilla and an intense spiciness.


Highland Park Valhalla Collection: LokiOne of the most complex characters in Norse mythology, Loki constantly challenges the gods, questioning their order and hierarchy within Asgard. Yet with every treacherous situation he engineers, his actions ultimately create heroes amongst the other gods.

Like its namesake, this whisky is unpredictable and impulsive, echoing the formidable weather of the Orkney Islands. It is a single malt which is both dynamic and energetic, with constantly evolving flavours and a fiendish inner complexity.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A spirited lift of dried bitter orange, which quickly turns into lemon peels. Cardamom notes trick then tease the nose, before an enticing hit of gingerbread develops. With water, liquorice and aromatic smoke are both unleashed.
Palate: The true shape‐shifting ability of Loki springs to life on the palate: its waxy texture is amplified by an intense smoke that doesn’t appear on the nose, shattering the light citrusy illusion of the aroma. All is not what it seems. The smoke fades as liquorice and rich spiced apple flavours come out to play. Lemon and grapefruit are consistent throughout this elusive, yet intriguing character. With a touch of water, lingering notes of melted dark chocolate over spent embers leave a soft smoky impression.
Finish: As Loki departs, he leaves behind toasted cloves, hickory smoke and soft vanilla. It is constantly changing, from appearance to finish. Loki is an enigma and truly another whisky of the gods.


Stocking Your Home Bar For The Holidays

So you’ve got your man cave turned into a turn-of-the-century saloon, replete with spittoons and period-specific American flags. But the only booze in the place is drips and dregs of parties bygone, you know, some oxidized vermouth, triple sec, and a full-bottle of grenadine. Well, have no fear, I am here to lend a hand in the stocking of your liquor cabinet–before your holiday guests arrive. And, yes, any of these spirits can be picked up at Wingtip’s Bank Of Wine & Spirits.

These are the basics of stocking a bar with spirits only (we’ll have to deal with tools and accoutrements another time). These are the essentials in each category:


One bottle. I feel as if you should alway drink local when you drink vodka, to help reduce that carbon footprint a little. Just choose one local vodka from whichever region you live in. With the massive amount of micro-distilleries that exist out there this should not prove to be very challenging. For San Francisco, our current fix is Spirit Works ($29.99).


Unless you live in the great state of Wisconsin and drink Death’s Door Gin, which only contains ingredients from Washington Island, you’ll be emitting a few more carbon particles in this category. The gin will likely come from the UK, and, in my opinion you need three or four. Before I continue, I have to say I am a classicist; I was raised in a house hold that drank Tanqueray and that is still my gin of choice. I think every home bar should have a bottle of Tanqueray, at least Tanqueray 10 ($25), if not also the London Dry. You have to have Plymouth gin ($34.99), no question about it. I have been to the distillery, met Sean Harrington (the man who makes it), and drank from their water source, the town’s reservoir, which lends the gin a unique minerality. Third: Beefeater ($18.99). In all of our blind taste tests we have done here at Wingtip, Beefeater comes out ahead more often than not.


Rum is a conundrum of spirits, a real noodler. Do you want rum just to make cocktails with? If so, what kind of cocktails? If you want to make tiki drinks, you’ll need a few just to get started, as most tiki drinks call for at least two types of rum, and are so nuanced that there is no a blanket combination that works across the board. We’re going to call in the master of all things tiki, Martin Cate, creator of Smuggler’s Cove, for a further exploration of this topic. For now, keep these three on hand for a mixture of styles that will start to line up your coverage: Smith and Cross Jamaican Rum ($34.99), Diplomatico Exclusiva ($38.99), Barbancourt 8 Year Rum ($27.99). And for a rum that you can sip neat and smoke a cigar with, I love Brugal 1888 ($55.99); it’s aged in bourbon cask and sherry casks, a real stunner.


Ah, my not-so-secret lover. Where do we start? You need one bourbon for cocktails: Elijah Craig 12 ($27.99) is a no brainer. It makes great Manhattans and boothbys, makes great sour drinks, and it won’t break the bank. You need one bourbon for sipping. Four Roses Single barrel ($38.99) is the way to go. If you can find the 2014 Limited Edition ($99.99), even better. You need one rye for cocktails, and for this I love the High West Double Rye ($36.99), a blend of 2 year old and 6 year old rye. It makes for great sazeracs and old fashioneds. For a sipping rye, check out Whistle Pig ($65.99). It is a 10 year old rye that has 100 percent rye mashbill and comes in at 100 proof. It’s worth every penny.


For every whisky and soda you will ever make for the rest of your life, get Hibiki 12 ($69.99) blended whisky. You will never need another whisky ever for this drink, that is it. As far as the rest of the category goes, everything from the two major distillers, Nikka and Suntory, is spectacular. But if you have to choose one, I have to give it up to Yamazaki 12 ($66.99). Easy on the pocket-book, but highly complex, with notes of sandalwood and incense.


Redbreast 15 ($79.99) takes the cake for the storied Emerald Isle. It is a single malt whisky that comes off of a pot still and is bold yet refined at the same time. If you want to make Irish Coffees for people this winter, trust the source, the Buena Vista here in SF. They use Tullamore Dew ($24.99), and so do we.


I have a special place in my heart for brandy, being from the great state of Wisconsin and all. [Editor’s Note: There is actually something to this dubious-sounding statement.] I must say there are two that stand out to me for two different reasons. The Lepanto brandy line is amazing and is some of the best price-performing brandy out there. I am especially partial to the PX line ($64.99). It is aged 10 years in used bourbon casks, and then finished in Pedro Jimenez casks. It is dry and dusty with a touch of fruit. Love this bottling. For making cocktails, like the sidecar or vieux carre, reach for Marie Duffau Napoleon ($34.99).


For your everyday margarita, do as Julio does at Tommy’s and go with Arette Blanco [Editor’s Note: Currently out-of-stock, but on order]. I know this may be a cop-out, but, hey, the man is an icon and knows more about tequila than anyone I have ever met, so I think we can all trust him on this.


I’m saving the best for last here. The problem I encounter is that I want to grab them all, like a kid in the Video Power velcro-suit maze. But if you want a well-rounded collection for your home you should look to buy one bottle from each region. It can get pricy, not going to lie, but here are the ones I have to have around.

Speyside: Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask ($69.99). Highlands: Glenmorangie Lasanta ($49.99), finished off in both PX and Olorosso sherry. At first I was bummed that they were changing the process on this, but after trying out, I love it. The Island: Highland Park 18 ($104.99), or anything they make, they can do no wrong in my book. Lowlands: Auchentoshan Three Wood ($73.99), one of the most diverse single malts out there and on of the most unique in that every drop of the whisky is distilled three times. Campbeltown: Springbank 15 ($119.99), a perfect blend of peat and malt. Isay: All of them. Or if that’s not an option, and this is really like choosing your favorite Star Wars Toy, there are so many that I love and keep near and dear to my heart, but if I could only have just one readily-available Islay single malt whisky, it would have to be Laphraoig 10 ($49.99). The peaty green pepper and spice of this malt is emblematic of the region. Takes me back every time.

Now that the bar’s stocked, we need to talk more about what to do with these fine elixirs. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on a few easy-to-make holiday drinks.

Lheraud Cognac & Armagnac Tasting [Members Only]

Come one come all to our first ever Cognac & Armagnac Event at Wingtip. We have tasted whisky, more times than I can count, we have tasted Mezcal, we have tasted Rum, it is now time to do a tasting of Cognac & Armagnac. And not just any, but one that has never been avail be in the US… until now.

We will be tasting 5 expressions, all of which will be offered for purchase. Seating is limited and interest in this event is high, so please book your tickets as son as possible.

Why: Because learning is fun!

What: Tasting cool cognac & armagnac with the International Brand Ambassador

How: By pouring it into glasses and letting people drink it.


Rum Event No. 1 [Members Only]

Our first ever rum event is approaching. Come join Willie Shine, overall good guy, funny bar man with funny stories, and national brand ambassador for Appleton Rum. Willie will be discussing the history of this amazing category while our Bar Director, Brian MacGregor, will be whipping up some classic and not so classic Rum Cocktails for you to enjoy. Snacks will be served. Space is limited, email brian@wingtip.com.


San Francisco Wine School at Wingtip [Members Only]

Join Wingtip in welcoming San Francisco Wine School for a few of their Master Sommelier-led, formal wine education courses. Looking to learn more? Then here’s your chance. Class size is limited to 20-maximum.

Cognac Master Class: Elaboration & Essence:

Monday Aug 18th, 2014 from 1-4pm

Penetrate the elusive mysteries of the world’s greatest and most iconic brandy in a dynamic tasting of nine cognacs specially selected to reveal the intricacies of terroir and the profound effects of maturation. You’ll learn the history of Cognac along with a close study of the terroir and process that determines the nature of the spirit, and experience the results of distillation, maturation and blending…all through tasting the cognacs. Taste & Compare the celebrated crus of Cognac; sample the VS, VSOP and XO styles, and enjoy a tour through the “Seasons of Cognac” achieved through the skill and artistry of the Master Blender. Curated by Hoke Harden, B.N.I.C. Certified Cognac Instructor, Taste & Compare Academy of Wine, Spirits and Food.


Seven Stills Whisky Tasting [Public]

Seven Stills Distillery, who poured their mysterious Chocosmoke Whiskey earlier this year, returns with a new enticing spirit:

“Whipnose is a collaboration project we took on with Pacific Brewing Laboratory of San Francisco in which we distilled their double IPA into a whiskey and aged it in new charred American oak. The batch yielded 165 gallons of whiskey and is a one-off project.”


Distilled from an Imperial IPA, Whipnose is true to its roots as a beer. Opening up with a whip of hop aroma, rolling into rich malt, dried fruits, light vanilla-toasted oak, and finishing with a smooth, lingering maple syrup.


Whiskey distilled from beer. Seven Stills is leading the craft beer-inspired whiskey movement. While traditional whiskies are distilled from a low quality beer, Seven Stills distills finished beers, resulting in whiskies with innovative flavor profiles.


Big Bottle Night: Macallan M [Members Only]

Join Macallan’s west coast brand ambassador, Kieron Elliot, as we open the Maccallan M! This is a majestic, rare, and precious whisky. Space is limited; RSVP to brian@wingtip.com.

About Macallan M

Colour: Rosewood


Nose: Dried fruits ripen, then soften showing off velvet sateen. Vanilla accompanies green apple hand in hand, neither taking the lead. Ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon create an ensemble in the background, with polished oak offering to overstate, yet never does, but plays with a depth of resinous, juicy oranges.

Palate: The palate opens rich in wood spices, slowly showing all their viscosity. Wood smoke flits in and out.

Finish:The heavier raisin and sultana flavours take over, meandering to a long full finish.


The Country’s Most Exclusive Whisky Show

Recently I spent 24 hours in Las Vegas at the Universal Whisky Experience. I was invited down by the CEO of the event, Mahesh Patel, on an exploratory mission to check it out in the hopes that I’d be sufficiently enticed to invite our fine Wingtip members to join me at the event next year.

With that disclosure out of the way, I must say that enticed, I was.

Well, one more disclosure: I enjoyed a King Suite at the Encore hotel attached to the Wynn. All of the employees, from the croupier to the barista, offered up top flight service, knowledge, and smiles. Finally, I dabbled a wee bit at the craps table and came out ahead. But even without those rosy lenses, this whisky show easily topped the many whisky fests I’ve attend over the years.

As you enter the show, they give you a swag bag. This is standard fare, but the bag’s contents were not. First you get a cut crystal glencairn glass and three poker chips (one for a cigar, and two for premium pours). which were decided by the vendor, more on that later.

Unlike many large-scale tastings, there was no elbowing, no boot-fighting for a sip of whisky. You actually had time to talk to the experts about their brands–brand ambassadors like Johnny Mundell of Bowmore and Lorne Cousin of Balvenie. As opposed to the usual shills reading off a sales sheet, these guys know everything about their brands–go ahead and try to stump them with your toughest whisky trivia. The Dalmore booth actually featured their master distiller, the incomparable Richard Paterson. This, in itself, was worth the price of admission.

The show also maintained an exceptionally high standard in the quality of liquid gold being poured. Each booth was featuring the finest of their portfolios, including a few rare treats that were unavailable for purchase in the US.

Neyah White was pouring expressions from the Suntory portfolio that have not been state side yet, including Hibiki 17 and 21, and Hakashu 18 and 25–two of the best Japanese single malts I have had the pleasure of tasting. (Read more about Neyah White and his upcoming Wingtip visit here.)

William Grant and Sons presented a few whiskies that will be available later this year. A 12-year-old single cask and a 15-year-old sherry cask that were exceptional. (I’m looking forward to offering these gems at the club.) They also poured what many were calling the “best Glenfiddich” they’d ever had. It was a peated malt, with classic Glenfiddich characteristics overlaid with a nice bit of peat smoke throughout the entire dram.

The aforementioned Johnny Mundell, of Bowmore, also brought some standouts. The clear winner was a Bowmore 23 port wood whisky. This was big and sweet up front, with notes of raisins and dates on the finish, and the signature Bowmore peat smoke to round it out. It reminded me of smoky Christmas cake.

This show’s premium ticket offering includes a day of golf and private dinner with either a master of whisky, a brand ambassador, or a master distiller. I was not so fortunate to partake in this portion of the event, but from what I hear, there is no better time to learn from the undisputed experts of single malt whisky. When we book the event for our members next year, this will be a key component of the trip.


Pouring Cachaça in the World Cup

To celebrate the World Cup this month, we will be pouring $10 caipirinhas at the club for the duration of the tournament. The caipirinha is Brazil’s national drink, and while we never exactly forgot about it, we want to shift focus to it–at least until the World Cup is claimed.

The caipirinha is known from SF to Rio and beyond–it was even popular where I worked in Minneapolis. Every bartender worth their salt knows it; and it has been named by the IBA (the International Bartenders Asscoiation) as one of the official cocktails. At one time it had cache and panache, as popular as any thing around, yet as cocktails grew more popular and the obsession with whisky grew (yes, I am guilty of the love of the brown spirit), the Caipirinha went by the wayside.

That’s a shame, because it’s beautifully simple. The only trick is figuring out this SAT question:

_______ : CAIPIRINHA

The answer is “cachaça.” You have to find a great cachaça. It’s a sugarcane-derived spirit, and we’re fond of Avua. It is available at Wingtip (10% Off during the World Cup) in an unoaked bottling that we prefer for our caipirinhas ($35 $31.50), as well as a bottling that was aged in Brazilian amburhana wood ($45 $40.50), which has a distinct flavor that tastes superb on its own, but that I actually like to mess with in some sherry cocktails. (Ask me more about that when you visit the bar!)

Besides the cachaça, all you really need is a handful of limes and a muddler. Just shake up a few slices of muddled lime with a bar spoon of sugar, 2 oz of Cachaça, and a heap of ice. Dump the lot into a double rocks glass and you’ve got one hell of a drink, both refreshing and complex. It’ll keep you watching soccer long after the US has been eliminated.

The World Cup kicks off this Thursday with a 12:30PM (PST) match between Brazil and Croatia. It runs through July 13. For a complete schedule, in Eastern Standard Time, check ESPN here


Aug. 18: San Francisco Wine School at Wingtip, “Cognac Master Class” [Members Only]

Cognac Master Class: Elaboration & Essence
Monday Aug 18th, 2014 from 1-4pm

Join Wingtip in welcoming San Francisco Wine School for a few of their Master Sommelier-led, formal wine education courses. Looking to learn more? Then here’s your chance. Class size is limited to 20-maximum.

Penetrate the elusive mysteries of the world’s greatest and most iconic brandy in a dynamic tasting of nine cognacs specially selected to reveal the intricacies of terroir and the profound effects of maturation. You’ll learn the history of Cognac along with a close study of the terroir and process that determines the nature of the spirit, and experience the results of distillation, maturation and blending…all through tasting the cognacs. Taste & Compare the celebrated crus of Cognac; sample the VS, VSOP and XO styles, and enjoy a tour through the “Seasons of Cognac” achieved through the skill and artistry of the Master Blender. Curated by Hoke Harden, B.N.I.C. Certified Cognac Instructor, Taste & Compare Academy of Wine, Spirits and Food.