Our bottles are reviewed by a panel of some of the industry's most passionate, opinionated and knowledgeable experts. Meet the Tasting Table.
Distiller Spirits Director & Editor
As spirits buyer of one of the most regarded spirits shops in Manhattan, ergo the country, Stephanie was afforded an opportunity most only dream of: to be paid to taste alcohol. Tasting products from bottom shelf vodka to 50 year old Single Malt Scotch, she has tasted it all. There are, however, those spirits that speak a bit louder to her and they are often of the brown persuasion. Her love for Scotch in particular was etched permanently on her heart while visiting and touring distilleries throughout Scotland. These are the spirits that truly drive her to drink. Photo: Stephanie getting barrel samples at the Bowmore Distillery in May of 2009.
Owner, Idle Hands Bar, New York City
The Idle Hands Bar was opened in 2010 by Marc Schapiro, Dave "The Rev" Ciancio and Rob Morton; music industry veterans with a keen eye for the scene around them. The bars mission statement is "Idle Hands is bringing 'Bourbon. Beer.Rock.' to the East Village in NYC."
Senior Editor in Chief at Alcohol Professor
Amanda Schuster is a freelance writer, particularly as Senior Editor in Chief of Alcohol Professor, and also a social media brand strategist for the drinks business. She is a certified sommelier, former retail spirits and wine buyer, food enthusiast, always a writer at heart. Her first taste of Scotch came at 2 when she accidentally sipped from her mother's glass (of what was likely a Talisker) at a dinner party and exclaimed, "Mmmmmm! Scotch juice!" After entering the drinks business and having the opportunity to taste many delicious whiskies, "Scotch juice" and all its international relatives became a driving passion and inspiration to share her knowledge. Furthermore, she thinks the worst thing to happen to whiskey is the Pickleback.
Independent Restaurant & Bar Consultant
Brock Schulte was pre-medicine, pursuing his life-long goals in healthcare, when the Kansas City cocktail scene pulled him in. The exposure to prohibition-era spirits, customer service, cocktail innovation, and rewarding patron interaction showed him his real calling was handling shakers, not scalpels. He moved from Buca di Beppo to M & S Grill to learn as much as he could about the burgeoning bar scene. From there, he helped open the Rieger Hotel & Exchange and its underground speakeasy, Manifesto, recruiting experience from the best in the business. Schulte finally had the chance to create his own, original bar program when the Drum Room reinvented itself in 2012. Today, Schulte brings his expertise to both new and established restaurants as a consultant. He has found his own way to ease people’s ills and stresses in the landscape of the Midwest bar scene.
Bar Manager, Longman & Eagle
Opened in 2010, Longman & Eagle has quickly become one of the most well respected bourbon bars in America. In 2012, bartender Phil Olson took over as Bar Manager and has been curating the whiskey program since.
Assistant Bar Manager, Longman & Eagle
In 2010 Eric Abert joined the team at Longman & Eagle, a well respected whiskey bar in Chicago. As a crucial part of the bar team, he helps to develop and refine the ever growing whiskey list.
Spirit Guide at Seven Grand Whiskey Bar
Pedro Shanahan, Spirit Guide at Seven Grand Whiskey Bar, helped to open Seven Grand after working for 10 years as a bartender/bar manager in Los Angeles. An enthusiastic teacher (and avid student,) he co-curates the Whiskey Society and leads the education program at Seven Grand, hosting bi-weekly tasting events. Bar Jackalope is his latest collaboration, a sipping lounge and tasting library recently opened in the back room at Seven Grand.
Bartender, entrepreneur, writer and spirits professional.
Michael J. Neff is a bartender, mixologist, entrepreneur, writer and spirits professional whose purpose in life is to make great bars and entice people to drink well in them. He was the founding partner of Ward III & The Rum House in New York City, both bars famous for bespoke cocktails, finely curated spirits selections, and a commitment to hospitality. He has worked with spirits brands from around the planet, with a focus on new products, education, public outreach, and on-premise strategy. As a consultant, he spearheaded the build and programs at Kolo Klub in Hoboken, NJ & Corvo Bianco in Manhattan. On the West Coast, he helped The Three Clubs in Hollywood re-launch their cocktail program and is currently building the five bars and programs at the storied Clifton's Brookdale in Downtown Los Angeles.
Freelance Alcohol Writer
From the time of his birth in Kentucky, whiskey has always been a part of Keith’s life (his babysitter became the master distiller at Brown-Forman). His grandfather, a Chivas man, gave him his first gulp of whisky at a criminally young age to prove it was not liquid butterscotch. Now living in New York City, Keith has become a freelance writer for Alcohol Professor as well as running his own site, Teleport City, which focuses on film, travel, and spirits -- sometimes all at once. His obsession with spotting bottles of J&B in sleazy films from the 70s and 80s borders on the disturbing. He is currently writing about the spirits and cocktails consumed by James Bond and his creator, Ian Fleming.
Fine Wine and Spirits Specialist at Hedonism Wines
With a family rooted in the drinks industry in France, it was clear that Julien, sooner or later, would himself be part of it. Moving to London was the logical step thanks to the boom of new bars, stores and a cocktail of people coming from all over the world. After working on educational and entertaining programs for wines and spirits, Julien joined the newly but already world-renowned Hedonism Wines. Dealing on a daily basis with more over 1,500 whiskey lines and even more in wines and other spirits categories, Julien has gained a true expertise in advising customers searching for whiskies, for both pleasure and investment, as well as hosting dozen of private tastings. Moreover, Julien is always looking for new discoveries and believes whole-heartedly that sharing a new dram is the right way to taste.
Certified Cicerone®, level one wine sommelier, student of 2013 B.A.R. 5 day and whiskey enthusiast, Ryan embodies the culture of craft beer, wine & spirits through his approach, education and elevated hospitality. A 20 year veteran in the industry, Ryan's ability and understanding of both product and patron have awarded him accolades such as 'Top Ten Restaurant Beer Menus in the Country' (Esquire Magazine 2011), and 'Best Cocktail Menu in Denver' (5280 Magazine 2013). Ryan's talent for menu development, staff and product management, and high volume operation, is enhanced by his superior knowledge and passion for genuine guest experiences.
Freelance Spirits & Wine Writer
Paul Belbusti has worked in nearly every facet of the wine and spirits industry. He is a Certified Sommelier, a former wine and spirits buyer for one of the largest retail chains in the Northeast United States, and has worked with small importers of esoteric wine and spirits from around the globe. Paul is dedicated to seeking out, tasting and recommending honest, inspiring, and delicious spirits, wine, and beer. These beverages help fuel Paul's hyper-prolific artistic endeavors as he is a musician, writer, and visual artist.
Drink.Well. Austin, TX
Dennis Gobis is a professional bartender based in Austin, Texas. Prior to moving to Austin in 2012, Dennis was an assistant brewer and bartender for the Cleveland Restaurant Group. Once in Austin, he spent 2 years as the Bar Manager of drink.well., an award-winning craft cocktail bar and gastropub in Austin’s vibrant North Loop district. Since he left his position at drink.well. he has passed the BAR 5 Day Program held in New York City and has been hard at work on the pending opening of two new bar concepts in Austin for 2015. Once a pre-med student and self-proclaimed ‘chemistry nerd’, Gobis married his love of science with his passion for food & beverage hospitality — first as a professional brewer and now as a rising star in the cocktail & spirits community. Dennis’ focus has long been on using quality ingredients to create delicious, balanced and accessible beverages in an environment that is reminiscent of "being in the home of the aunt that spoiled you".
Spirits Specialist at Le Du's Wines
Duncan's fascination with booze was kindled at an inappropriate early age after thumbing through some of his dad's old (and sadly disused) cocktail recipe books, but didn't consider it as a vocation until much later, after plans for careers in music, academia, culinary arts, and music (again) fizzled out. After earning his spurs in one of the nation's most comprehensive and dynamic retail spirits programs, he finally found his niche at Le Du's Wines, one of New York's most prestigious retailers, where he curates the spirits selections, as well as his other alcoholic passion, the wines of Germany and Austria. Working in the wine and spirits trade involves wearing many hats, but Duncan has always viewed his most fulfilling role to be that of an educator.
Contributing Editor, Whisky Magazine; Contributor, Whisky Advocate
Liza Weisstuch is a writer, editor and educator. As the American Contributing Editor to Whisky Magazine and contributor to Whisky Advocate, she spends her time in hot pursuit of the newest booze trends, the latest whisky releases, the oldest cocktail recipes, and timeworn distillery tales. She spent a month doing an apprenticeship at a distillery on Islay, a stint she calls her “graduate work,” then returned to the island two years later to bartend at a local pub. When she’s not working the booze beat, Liza writes about a range of lifestyle topics, from travel to design to fitness. She’s a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. Her stories have also appeared in The Washington Post, Imbibe Magazine, USA Today and others. She has judged a variety of competitions, including the World Whisky Awards, the American Distilling Institute’s craft spirit awards and the American Craft Spirits Association’s craft spirit awards. Her favorite color is single malt Scotch.
Founder, Thirsty in LA
Daniel Djang is the founder of Thirsty in LA, an award-winning cocktail and spirits blog based in Los Angeles. He is the co-founder of Art Beyond the Glass, an acclaimed annual event that showcases bartenders, their cocktails and their creative pursuits outside of the bar. He is also a member of the Advisory Board for Golden State of Cocktails, an industry conference and celebration of the historic and modern cocktail culture of California. When he’s not bending an elbow at a bar near you, Daniel is the Content Manager for Discover Los Angeles, the website of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
Spirits Journalist & Author
Before having a spirituous epiphany, Ron Bechtol was perfectly happy as a practicing architect working on projects in New York and Paris before moving to San Antonio, Texas. He has since divided his time between architecture and writing with work in publications such Martha Stewart Living, Texas Highways, The San Antonio Express-News, and Gayot.com. He has traveled to investigate the essential spirits of Scotland, Ireland, and Mexico and has even managed to combine his two loves through his design of several cocktail bars in San Antonio including The Brooklynite and The Last Word. Ron is currently working on the second edition of “The Fearless Critic”, a restaurant guide to San Antonio, and is a food, wine, and spirits critic for the San Antonio Current.
Whiskey and Spirits Writer
Jake Emen is a freelance whiskey and spirits writer who's been published in various online and print outlets, including Whisky Advocate, Eater Drinks, Tasting Table, and a range of others. When he's not drinking whiskey, he's eating food, watching boxing, or traveling, but either way, he's always writing about it. He also runs his own local food, drink and events site, ManTalkFood.com.
Canadian Whisky Author & Expert
Davin de Kergommeaux is the author of Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert, the definitive guide to Canadian whisky. This multi-award-winning book was published by McClelland & Stewart in 2012 and 2014, and is distributed in Canada and the U.S. by Penguin Random House. De Kergommeaux has also contributed to or co-authored three other books about whisky. An independent whisky professional, de Kergommeaux has been writing about, talking about, and teaching about all styles of whisky for almost two decades. His writing and tasting notes have appeared in multiple Whisky magazines and sites.
Bartender and Retail Spirits Specialist
Working within the alcohol industry for years, it became clear to Marcus that one day that it would become his livelihood. Many a late night has been spent at a bar, whether he was working there or not, discussing with anyone who would converse with him the benefits of alcohol, what makes it great, and picking their brains for knowledge. An avid fan of whisky, his love of studying the history behind the magic and how it has shaped the world is eclipsed only by his love for the drink itself, and his intimate affairs with beer. He shares his knowledge and passion both behind the bar and as a retail spirits specialist in Mount Eliza, Victoria; a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.
Spirits Buyer: Acker, Merrall & Condit NYC
Owner: BlueJ Syrups/ The Flavor Factory
Jason has spent 9 years in the wine and spirits trade, working as the spirits buyer for Acker, Merrall & Condit; the country’s oldest liquor store and the world’s largest wine and spirits auction house, based in NYC. With the responsibility of arranging off-site spirits education, appraisals, reviews, and keeping the shelves stocked with quality product from quality individuals, Jason keeps busy and up-to-date on new releases and old favorites alike. Recently, Jason started his own all natural cocktail mixer & liqueurs company, BlueJ Syrups. This unique retail and production background has placed Jason at the front-line of both consumer and industry trends with an ability and opportunity to taste just about everything. This is a task Jason appreciates greatly.
Author, Bartender, and Spirits Professional
Jacob Grier is a bartender, spirits and cocktail consultant, writer, and magician based in Portland, Oregon. He is the author of Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer, the definitive book on beer cocktails. He is the co-founder of the Brewing Up Cocktails events group and the founder of Aquavit Week. His Portland bartending experience includes The Multnomah Whiskey Library, Expatriate, The Hop and Vine, Metrovino, and the Carlyle, and his writing has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, Reason, The Daily Beast, and Eater. He also accepts credit and/or blame for popularizing the Bone Luge, a drinking ritual that Anthony Bourdain described as "extremely antisocial and against all standards of decency" before indulging in it himself.
Spirits & Cocktail Blogger
Matt Pietrek is a Seattle-based spirits and cocktail blogger, writing at CocktailWonk.com. Starting in software development in the 1980s, he is well-known in the tech world for his hundreds of articles and columns for magazines such as PC Magazine and Byte, as well as using his free time to reverse engineer Microsoft Windows code and then writing three books about it. He later turned his analytical skills and focus to spirits and cocktails, which is way more fun than Windows code. Although he collects all manner of spirits in his ever-growing home bar, rum is the undisputed backbone of his collection. Matt and his wife, Mrs. Wonk, travel extensively all over the globe, and left to his own devices, he would fill every trip with distillery visits and bars. He documents his daily spirited journey on Instagram as @cocktailwonk.
Wine & Spirits Sales, Haus Alpenz Portfolio
John’s affair with spirits started long before his 21st birthday while he was a stockist in the alcohol liberal state of West Virginia. Although he wasn’t legally allowed to taste the bottles, the variety of labels, styles, and levels of quality greatly intrigued him. Shortly after moving to New York, he landed at a premier wine store that was in need of a spirits specialist. Looking through the field of distillates with the lens of an oenophile, he quickly became attracted to booze that showed a sense of place and tradition. Scotch, Rum, and Tequila all have this in spades, but for value and terroir France’s brandy regions take the cake. He does his best to promote Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados as fantastic alternatives to more trendy brown spirits. John now works with a small, craft wine and spirits portfolio with a focus on aromatized wines from the Alps. This is a great platform to view the history of spirits in Europe.
Spirits Writer & Educator
Josh is a spirits writer and educator, but Rum Evangelist is what Josh prefers to call himself. He is the founding editor of the rum blog inuakena.com, and a passionate independent promoter of cane spirits. Convinced that there is a rum for every palate, Josh is continually converting lovers of other spirits to rum through his writing, presenting, and training. Apart from a personal rum collection north of 200 bottles, Josh’s bona fides include a U.S. Bartender’s Guild Spirits Professional certification, BarSmarts, and an MBA. Note: Photo is Josh at the St. George Spirits lying on a stack of sugarcane.
Katrina M. Niemisto originally hails from Michigan where she got her feet wet in the craft beer scene in Grand Rapids while getting her undergraduate degree. After a ten year career in the arts industry as a craftsperson and stage manager, she decided to go back to her spirited roots and is currently working on an MBA in marketing for alcoholic beverage companies at the University of Denver. A lover of all spirits that come from a barrel, Katrina spends most of her time dreaming up new cocktails and thinking of what she can infuse next. You can stalk her Instagram where you will find out what she's drinking this week as well as what sort of trouble her cat is in.
Wine & Spirits Explorer and Educator; Cider Maker
Kelley’s passion for products that express their true sense of place (aka terroir) has been the driving force in her work and career. While in NYC bartending and teaching wine & spirits classes, Kelley had the opportunity to travel to places both near and far. She toured Oaxaca, Mexico to study mezcal and then was off to Jerez, Spain to see the soleras of sherry. She returned back to Mexico to visit Guadalajara with the Tequila Interchange Project touring distilleries and meeting tequila makers and farmers. Visits to wine regions both well-known (California and Italy), and relatively unknown (New York, Texas and North Carolina) have all been inspirational. This travel moved her to create Farm to Glass Tours in an effort share a similar experience with people outside of the food and beverage industry. Through her explorations, Kelley has tasted it all which has led her to her latest adventure: making hard cider for Orchard Hill Cider Mill. She is continually influenced by her experiences and is driven to share her knowledge by educating on the subjects of food, wine, and spirits.
Wine & Spirits Consultant
Following his love of food, Omari found himself seduced by the world of wine and spirits. While working as a consultant and blogger for one of the largest and renowned wine and spirits retail and educational centers in the world, he rekindled his love and enjoys sharing his knowledge with his customers towards spirits that are off the beaten path. Gravitating toward the flavors and aromas of agave, sugar and fruit distillates, he possesses a passion for the classics but is also excited by innovation and progressive-thought that focuses on making the best product possible. Note: Photo is Omari in Río de Ejutla, Oaxaca standing by an arroqueño agave, June 2015.
Freelance Spirits Professional & Writer
Paul Senft is a freelance spirit professional and writer who loves sharing details of his exploration of sugarcane based spirits. He is the founder of RumJourney.com and he travels the Americas and the Caribbean visiting rum companies & distilleries to find out more about their production. He holds multiple certifications from The Rum University and his writing has appeared in online outlets as well as several print magazines.
Gamlin Restaurant Group Proprietor
Lucas Gamlin spent years working in the Portland, Oregon, bar scene before returning to his hometown of St. Louis to help his brother Derek grow the family business, Gamlin Restaurant Group. Following the success of Sub Zero Vodka Bar, they fulfilled a lifelong dream of opening a whiskey establishment. When Gamlin Whiskey House opened in 2013 it burst onto the national scene as a top whiskey bar. The restaurant’s 250+ whiskeys make it a can’t-miss venue for whiskey connoisseurs throughout the region and across the country. Lucas is integral in the restaurant’s single barrel bourbon project, which involves hand-selecting bourbons available exclusively at their Central West End location. Along with Derek, Lucas works to give guests the opportunity to explore the incredible variety of flavor profiles available in the wide world of whiskey. He helped co-found the Missouri Whiskey Society, a group of over 200 whiskey enthusiasts seeking unusual, fun and educational opportunities featuring their favorite spirit.
Gamlin Restaurant Group Proprietor
Derek Gamlin solidified his place as a leader in the St. Louis bar and restaurant scene when he and his brother Lucas opened Gamlin Whiskey House in the fall of 2013. An experienced restaurateur, Derek launched Sub Zero Vodka Bar in 2004, where he built the largest collection of vodkas in the country. Building on this success, Derek and his brother were able to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening a whiskey establishment. Within months of opening, Gamlin Whiskey House began receiving national acclaim, including being named one of the nation’s top 10 whiskey bars by USA Today. Derek and his team have collected more than 250 whiskeys from across the U.S. and around the world to satisfy the tastes of their guests. He enjoys sharing his whiskey knowledge with others, and learning from industry experts, through the Missouri Whiskey Society, an organization he and his brother Lucas founded to bring together whiskey enthusiasts seeking unusual, fun and educational opportunities featuring their favorite spirits.
Wine & Spirits Consultant
Sam’s passion for spirits started at a very young age (he was 10) when he asked for a sip of the whisky in his father’s glass. That experience spurred a great curiosity that he nurtured through four years of restaurant school. After graduation, Sam honed his palate by managing, buying, and writing for some the best wine and spirit retail shops in New York City. He has traveled to visit distilleries around the world to soak up more knowledge (and tasty whiskies) along the way. Today, he finds himself at home at the prestigious Astor Wines & Spirits educating and helping people find whiskies they love. Photo: Sam on one of Laphroaig’s malting floors.
Spirits & Lifestyles Writer
Blair Phillips is the first Canadian to forget how to skate. But he never forgets a good drink. Blair is a spirits & lifestyles writer who has contributed to Whisky Magazine, Drinking Made Easy and several other magazines and newspapers. He is also not afraid to take a puck in the face if it means discovering something unexplored as a writer and always manages to find the humor in any situation. Blair is also on the panel for the Canadian Whisky Awards and World Whisky Awards.
Writer, consultant, spirit specialist and Minister of Culture for Haas Bros.
Forrest has been a waiter, bartender, cook, trainer, quality inspector in restaurants, cafes and bars; he has been a spirits buyer and expert consultant for one of the largest, most respected liquor stores in the U.S.A.; he has been called upon to judge International Spirits competitions, cocktail competitions, lead workshops, do tastings / training's, create cocktails, pairings for bars / restaurants / events / menus and a bunch of other "stuff". Forrest works as a 'Minister of Culture' for Haas Brothers and as a liquor specialist/consultant for hire while writing spirit focused articles for multiple magazines. Forrest is a Member of the Ministry of Rum Connoisseurs Cabinet, a Charter Member of Rum XP (Expert Panel) and he also participates on multiple Liquor / Spirits / Cocktail forums. Forrest is also a founding (board) member of the Bartenders Cabinet (OCBC, LBBC); he is a Society of Wine Educators Certified Spirits Specialist (C.S.S.); he is Bar Smarts Certified and he is a member of the Compagnie des Mousquetaires d'Armagnac.