For those of you who are interested here is some of my background.
Geographic: I live in Rochester, New York, which is about 300 miles (500 Km) away in actual physical distance, but light years away in terms of surroundings, shopping and politics from New York City. I am actually closer to Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada, than New York City.
Professional: I was brought up with an appreciation of wine, beer, and spirits at a early age. My mother caught my father putting scotch and water in my bottle at age 6 months (he has since said I was always trying to drink his manhattans too). I grew up with wine at the table since about age 5 or so and had my own wine cellar at 15. My father traveled extensively in Europe and knew people from Alexis Lichine, and Charles Fournier to Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. In addition, he traveled through the southern and western United States. Through his contacts and the things he brought home. I became acquainted with all types of alcoholic beverages and met quite a few people over the years.
I have been a 'Ardent Spirit' (to steal a term from Gary Regan of www.ardentspirits.com ) or at least a connoisseur of all things alcoholic for years. I was also brought up in a rare bookstore, so I had a Iove of reading and access to 1000's of books of all different types. Through these I have tried to learn the ins and outs of tastings and evaluation of all types of food and beverages coupled with of course, practice. One cannot learn cooking, martial arts, or tasting from a book. You can learn techniques and ideas, but practice and guidance are essential.
To that end I have been tasting on my own and going to tasting held by various groups for years. I like to think of it as an apprenticeship. I have been a professional judge at a number of professional spirits competitions , taught classes on spirits , bartended, and written numerous articles on spirits and mixology.
Through the years I have forged contacts and friendships with a good number of people in the field which have been very generous in their sharing of knowledge and time. In addition, I also work for various liquor stores (and the occasional individual person) to act as their "Spiritual Advisor" to help them find new and different (to them anyway) spirits -especially those that are standouts in quality and/or price for the quality.
My job is to find those spirits and who distributes them so a shop can have interesting (if not unique) selections of high quality alcohol. For individuals, it is much the same and also I act as a personal shopper for them to help locate different spirits either for themselves or as a gift.
This seems to work particularly well people like doctors or lawyers (or their wives/husbands depending ) as many of them have most of the easy to find things and I help find new spirits for their collection.
Personal: When I am not writing and reviewing beverages for this webpage, I am working in the family rare bookshop. I also enjoy skydiving, BASE jumping, and other stupid things to do for fun, along with antiquing (especially anything to do with alcohol!), Sci-Fi, movies and music (Tom Waits is a favorite!).
Here's another short biography of me.
The webpage SpiritsReview.com was launched in January 2005. The webpage was started by me after years of frustration trying to track down information and actual bottles of various alcoholic beverages here in upstate New York. One of the first problems was reliable information both in books and magazines about what was out there and what it was like. Most of the information that was out there was dated, expensive, or influenced by advertising/cash. The second even thornier problem, after identifying what I wanted, was actually laying my hands on it.
Due to a ugly confluence of Byzantine regulations on behalf of New York State as regards to alcohol, and the utter incompetence of a number of distributors it was damn near impossible to find a lot of things. When it came to new products I have gotten into arguments with distributors who will steadfastly deny they sell the product I am looking for. Only by confronting them with a invoice will they go back and look in their stocks for something.
I have learned that if you are new to the market and not paying a lot of commissions to have your product pushed you get zero attention even a lot of big brands don't get a lot of mention. SpiritsReview.com has over 3500 links to other webpages, and counting along with links to over 250 blogs and newsfeeds. I am aiming for this page to be THE reference site on the web for alcoholic products and so have assembled a large links library sorted by category and actively exchange links with other sites to gain wider readership and coverage.
I am particularly looking for new products that coming on to the market and especially by new people or small producers. I want to be different and cover a lot of different products that are not widely covered elsewhere. However, I also like to review and write about the mainstream large production products to give people benchmarks.
I want this webpage to be honest, relatively simple and straightforward. One of the more unique features is the price / value rating I use. I try to identify not just a best buy but a relative scale of value for the money spent on all the products I review. I also try to use fairly simple tasting notes that while not as rigorous as some, convey what I think of a given product. So after I do some reviewing, I can take the rest of the samples and try them out on some of my clients and report back to you!
Please see our Samples and Disclosure statement for more information on how we do business.