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APRIL 2014

Dear friend of fine spirits,

Craft Distillers has renovated their website, which has a ton of straight info about the products listed in the Caddell catalogue.

This time of year, we like to give folks relief from the depredations of Taxman by holding our annual sale: take 10% off all products in the catalogue, 15% on 12 bottles or more. It’s a chance to try things. Suggestions:

Don Sutcliffe’s The Exceptional Grain: Paul Pacult/spirit journal just gave it five stars: “the finest grain whiskey I’ve had? Damn close” ($100).

VODKA DSP CA 162: the Citrus Medica var Sarcodactylis, infused Buddha’s Hand citron, is ethereal. You can savor it like a fine brandy ($38).

New to the ALIPUS bottlings released for sale in the USA is my favorite, the Santa Ana del Rio: elegant and exceptionally pure ($48). Mezcalero no. 9 was distilled in clay stills from the feral and intense agave Arroqueño ($84).

Caddell has the only stock left in the country of the Great Lakes Menomonee Valley Rye, nice stuff ($70).

Caddell also has the last bottling of the Creme de Poete, perhaps the finest liqueur I have ever tasted (375ML $45).

Infusion Works Seville Orange is a superb infusion of Germain-Robin with Caribbean-grown orange peel. It is tasty indeed ($60).

Regards/Ansley Coale


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Dear friend of fine spirits,

Superb craft-method vodka has returned. Working with Devin Cain and his father Crispin (Tamar Distillery, home of Low Gap whiskey and Russell Henry gin), Craft Distillers has released the first bottlings of Vodka DSP CA 162, named after the Federal distillery number of the original (1982)  Germain-Robin distillery, where all that we do began.

These are brilliant vodkas. We get the fruit and leaves from the Central Valley specialty orchards of John Kirkpatrick, then macerate them and blend them into a vodka based on a mix of wheat (soft mouthfeel) and corn (body). There is  nothing like them on the market, $38.

Mezcaleros nos. 9F, 9J, and 9L are from three different single-still distilleries in a steep canyon southwest of Sola de Vega, about 65 miles from Oaxaca City. All three are from wild agaves, the agave americana var. oaxaqueña , and all three (this is very special) are distilled on potstills made from clay.  The arroqueño is spicy, smoky, intense; clay potstills yield mezcal with beautiful soft mouthfeel. Total was 726 bottles.

Los Danzantes has brought another family distillery into the  Alipus series: Baltazar Crux Gomez of San Luis del Rio. The terrain is steep, the soils are sandy, the mezcal spicy, round, soft. San Luis is on the same river as San Juan, eight miles away in a straight line, but you have to drive around the cordillera, 2 1/2 hours.


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truck3Burning garbage truck, Naples, 2008

Are Neapolitans excitable? The photo was taken during protests against not-so-good garbage collection in Italy’s 3rd-largest city. At the time, there were some 200,000 tons of uncollected waste.  You can watch a garbage wagon burn on youtube

Dear friend of fine spirits,

Don Sutcliffe, Managing Director of distribution and sales for CraftDistillers, was working for Rémy Amerique when The Macallan was introduced to the US, and became good friends with Willie Phillips, for many years the managing director of The Macallan (he left when the brand was taken over in 1996). Don and Willie have collaborated on creating a brand rightly named The Exceptional. The first release, a blended grain, has just arrived: see page 19.

Crispin Cain, whose recently released gin was ranked #11 in Paul Pacult’s annual ranking of the world’s best distilled spirits, and his son Devin, have turned their talents and many of the same methods to vodka. DSP CA 162, named after the orginal Germain-Robin distillery where Crispin learned his craft, is clean, exceptionally smooth, and, in the infused versions, wonderfully flavorful: citron, lime, and tangerine. This is authentic craft vodka, produced by a master (p.16).

In October, the first shipment of Alipus from Santa Ana del Rio came in. Santa Ana has been sold in Mexico for more than ten years; we couldn’t bring it in with the others because of delays in certification for export by the Mexican authority COMERCAM. It is beautiful mezcal, unusually soft, unusually cleanly distilled (p.11).


Ansley Coale

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Dear friend of fine spirits,

SALE on Hangar One: once we’re sold out of current inventory, we will no longer have this vodka, whose concept, package, and marketing came from the Craft Distillers folks. We have the Mandarin and the Lime on sale for $20/bottle, first come, first served. These are the original-design bottles, with amazingly fresh aromas, both distilled prior to the recent changes. We have just a few bottles left of the Straight, the Raspberry, and the Spiced Pear (discontinued at the distillery), still at $30.

We’re making room for Craft Distillers/Devin Cain’s upcoming wonder, a set of four unreal vodkas whose macerations are based on using one of the antique Germain-Robin cognac stills: November catalogue.

Just released: Mezcalero no. 7, from Joel Antonio Cruz’ family distillery in the Oaxacan pueblo of San Juan del Rio. The wild/semi-wild varieties of agave in No. 7 are perhaps the best for distillation: Sierra Negra (suave), Tepeztate (spicy), Tobala (elegant). The result is a very complex & smooth intensity. There are just over 600 bottles. Fabulous mezcal. $84. Many in the spirits trade regard the Mezcalero bottlings as the best mezcals on the markets.

Crispin Cain’s recent release of a Low Gap Single-barrel wheat whiskey, 2 years old ($75), received five stars/Highest recommendation review from spirits maven Paul Pacult: “astonishingly luscious”. This, his clear Rye, his standard 2-year-old wheat, and his Russell Henry gins (one of which was ranked as the highest gin on Pacult’s recent list of the world’s best spirits), are some of the finest distilled spirits on planet Earth.

Coming up: a Mezcalero from newly-enlisted artisan producers near Sola De Vega southwest of Oaxaca, the USA release of the fourth Alipus distiller, Santa Ana del Rio, who has at last achieved norma cerification,and a new Alipus supplier from San Luis del Rio.  Regards/Ansley Coale.

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JUNE 2013

Dear friend of fine spirits,

Major shifts at Maison Surrenne:. The cognac market in China has exploded. There is simply not enough cognac to take care of the incredible growth. Before, when the category was in decline, many grape-growers in the region had taken out their grapes: only about 70% of the vineyard land remains active. It will be quite a while before the situation settles down.

The big houses (Hennessy is now 6 million cases) are buying up 1) grapes 2) stocks of aging cognac 3) smaller producers. Other small houses are being forced out of business by the unavailability of grapes/cognac. For example, when LVMH (owner of Hennessy) sold the venerable house of Hine, the buyer got the name only; Hennessy kept all the barreled cognac. The price of grande champagne grapes has increased by 500%; small houses cannot afford them. Vineyards are being offered extra money to sign exclusive and long-term contracts.

Fortunately Tiffon, Surrenne’s producer, is large enough and has the cash flow (they do big business in Scandinavia under the Braastad label) to continue; they also have unusually large stocks of aging cognac. However, Tiffon no longer has access to the grapes they distilled for several of the Surrenne bottlings.

At the $48 price, we now have a bottling labeled simply as Cognac, an appealing and complex blend which includes brandies from Tiffon’s own vineyards in the Fin Bois region. Since the regional bottlings now come from their old stock, the prices have increased, and the petite champagne will be out of stock until 2014.

The bottlings are still bargains for the quality. There’s a new free DVD about Surrenne: call Sue Miller at 800 782-8145 .


Spirits maven Paul Pacult’s annual ranking of the world’s best spirits placed Russell Henry London Dry Gin at no. 11.

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APRIL 2013

Dear friend of fine spirits,

It’s our annual sale. Feeling weakened by the depredations of the IRS?  Here’s relief: 10% off every item in the catalogue, 15% for 12 or more bottles. Some suggestions:

Low Gap clear Rye whiskey. This product is unreal. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal gave it the 5-star rating: “if not the finest white whiskey I’ve tasted, damn near”. If there’s a better whiskey under 10 years old, we’d like to know it.

Pacult also thought highly of the recently-released Russell Henry gins, two 5-star and one (Lime) 4-star awards. The Ginger “finishes like silk”; the Lime is “seductively citrusy”; the London Dry is “a new landmark in American gin-making”. They are very good indeed.

There are 60 bottles left of the Single-barrel Muscat from Germain-Robin, an extraordinary brandy: intense, focused, beautifully long and complex. Another 5-star award from Pacult: “WOW! Find and buy 2 or 3 bottles”.

And here’s what David Driscoll, buyer for the great west coast K & L stores (two in the Bay Area, one in L.A.), blogged about Mescalero mezcals “The finest mezcals I’ve ever tasted. Nothing from del Maguey even comes close”.

Back in stock is a new bottling of the Germain-Robin Absinthe Superieure, which Pacult (5-star award again) regards as second only to Vieux Pontalier: ”Unblemished clarity… delicious”.

The prices of the Surrenne Distillerie Galtauld and of the Surrenne XO went up due to convulsions in Cognac because of the big distilleries trying to take care of huge growth in China. More on this in the next letter.

Who has the highest percentage of 5-star awards from the Spirit Journal? Us, way better than 50% and that’s after having submitted many many spirits from the Craft Distillers portfolio. Pacult told me that he always opens our packages first/regards/Ansley Coale

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Dear friend of fine spirits,

   We just bottled two rather amazing versions of the Low Gap whiskey.  Both are wheat: whiskies distilled in 2010, thus over 2 years in oak.  In its clear (unaged) version, this wheat whiskey was MALT ADVOCATE’s Artisan whiskey of the year in 2012.  The reviewer said he couldn’t wait to see what the spirit would do after aging.  Well, here it is. 

  LOW GAP 2-YEAR WHISKEY is absolutely beautiful stuff.  I do not exaggerate by sayingthat it is superior to any whiskey I know of under ten years; soft, richly flavored, complex, long-lasting.  $65 for a 750ML is a very fair price.

   How can this be?  It’s because distiller Crispin Cain is using one of Germain-Robin’s antique cognac stills.  We wouldn’t trade them for any other:  entirely hand-controlled, 100% (thick) copper, graceful swan’s-neck and rounded chapiteaux that cause significant rectification.  One batch takes four distillations (three beer distillations, one second distillation), each lasting 10 hours; the result is consistently soft, smooth, flavorful, with beautiful length.

   Crispin’s LOW GAP SINGLE BARREL WHEAT NO. 1 is even better.  He paid a lot of attention to this batch in the cellar, moving it among new American oak and a used bourbon barrel (from Van Winkle) and finishing with a Limousin barrel earlier used for Germain-Robin. The soft complexity is genuinely extraordinary $75/750ML 50.2% abv.

    Don’t miss the PEAR DE PEAR LIQUEUR.  We sold a lot of it over the holidays.

                 Have a wonderful 2013/Ansley Coale

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Dear friend of fine spirits,

Early last month we bottled 200 cases each of something Crispin Cain and I have been working on for about a year:   GIN!

RUSSELL HENRY is wonderful gin: smooth, flavorful, with beautiful length.  Crispin is using both a small Holstein (indirect heat) pot, good for stuff with solids (fruit), and a small traditional potstill, which lends complexity and elegance.  The process is infusion and redistillation; the base grain is wheat.  For the Ginger and Lime versions, a small amount of undistilled infusion is added at the end:  hence the remarkable freshness.

The Lime makes pretty great Gin & Tonics.  The Ginger is spicy:  real ginger, maybe a bit too much bite to sip but makes insane cocktails: ginger sour!

We just received two new releases of MEZCALERO.  These small-batch offerings are pretty much the best mezcals in bottle.  Stylistically different:  No. 5 from San Baltazar is soft and vegetal, long finish; No. 6 from Santa Maria Pila is crisp, clean, very complex.  When was the last time you tasted mezcal from agave Bicuishe?

The GERMAIN-ROBIN PEAR DE PEAR is selling faster than any product we have ever released.  People come to the Germain-Robin tasting room and buy 2 or 3 bottles.  There are only 1200 bottles, we have 240 of them.

Joe Corley has used the last barrels of Old Havana to reformulate the blend, including some amazing 2003 Pinot Meunier, dark, spicy, complex.  We took the price down to $105.

Regards/Ansley Coale

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Dear friend of fine spirits,

    We are releasing 1200 bottles of a newly-developed liqueur, Germain-Robin  liqueur  Pear de Pear. Here’s the story:

    In 1982, the year we brought over our first (antique) cognac still, Remy Martin constructed an 8-still stone edifice in the Napa valley plus an aging cellar capable of holding 5000 barrels. RMS alambic brandy turned out to be hard to sell – they eventually sold the place to a winery. The distillers were Americans, talented, who were often frustrated by being managed by persons from Cognac who didn’t fully understand the local grapes. One of their own projects was a pear liqueur that consistently outsold the RMS brandy itself in the RMS tasting room. After the place closed, we used to get calls asking where to buy it.

    In 2007, we did some research into the formula. Joe Corley (distiller and cellarmaster at Germain-Robin since 2006), spent five years developing our version, If you are wondering, 4 1/2 years is not weirdly long for a craft-method distiller to do his best work with a product like Pear de Pear.

    We like it a lot: rich, creamy, deep in pear flavor and aroma. In June, we hand-filled 18 bottles to show around: everyone who tasted it ordered some. We will sell it in the SF Bay Area but otherwise it will likely be available mostly in the G-R tasting room and at Caddell & Williams. If you like liqueurs, get a bottle.

     Mezcal is hot. We sold out of our first order of Alipus in about three weeks and have just received our second shipment. By the time you get this, we will also have Mezcalero  no. 5 in stock, a blend of cultivated espadín and wild tepeztate agaves. It will go quickly.

Ansley Coale

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JUNE 2012

Dear friend of fine spirits,

    ALIPUS, bottled at the Los Danzantes distillery in Santiago Matatlan, is Mexico’s best-selling authentically artisan mezcal. It is produced in limited amounts, and we are fortunate to obtain enough of it to sell into the USA market. It is fabulous, fabulous product. I have been, with real pleasure, to all three of the distilleries, any of them a 2- 2 1/2 hour drive from Oaxaca City. When Jaimé Muñoz and I visited San Andrés, we got lost, passing the same funeral procession 3 times.

    Alipus is a wonderful demonstration of what’s special about artisan distillation. Each distiller has his own way of approaching the delicate task of purifying and focusing the flavors and aromas he’s extracting from roasted and fermented mature agaves. In addition, you can also recognize the influence of soil and altitude as expressed through the classic agave species espadín(genetic ancestor of tequila’s agave weber).

       Alipus artisan mezcals are distilled from agave espadín by the same tiny family distilleries who supply the Mezcalero bottlings (the difference being that Mezcalero batches are distilled from wild/semi-wild agaves).

       The Germain-Robin single barrel Muscat is the best seller of the four we now have listed.  Its Muscat intensity is not for everyone, but it is great, great brandy.

Ansley Coale