Few people love spirits as much as Scott Spolverino. After earning his Masters Degree in Brewing and Distilling, he picked up a job at a top New York distillery, began writing for industry magazines, and started the blog In With Bacchus. We talk to Scott about his favorite drinks, starting a blog, and what exactly one does (and does not) wear when working in a distillery.
Where did your love of brewing and distilling – the finer things in life – come from? Funny story, actually. My first beer was a Milwaukee’s Best Ice (Beaster) at 19. Don’t tell anyone though. As soon as I tried it, I knew I could do better. I’d been smoking cigars since 18 and had already developed a taste for tasty/expensive things so it kinda went from there. I was the weird kid shelling out $40 during liquor runs for a bottle of Glenlivet while in undergrad. I didn’t drink a whole lot but what I did drink was pretty quality. Except for that one night with a body temp bottle of Jim Beam White. That was pretty rough.
Why did you start your website, In With Bacchus? I was trying a whole lot of things and completely forgetting what I liked about them. I’d write down notes in notepads but I’d lose them or tear the pages out because I needed to do calculations or something. Six months later I’d buy a new bottle only to discover I’d had it before. So I decided to document it somewhere where I wouldn’t lose it and if people decided to read what I had to say, all the better.
It also came about during a time in my life where I needed something to focus on. I had been having medical problems in my later years at college and it culminated in me having to go in for two surgeries with a three and a half month recovery time in-between. I was in a decent amount of pain and I was also very bored so I spent quite a bit of time setting things up and feeling out how I wanted to approach things.
You’re also a consultant for the beverage industry. What kind of expertise do companies come to you for? My postgraduate work was in barrel maturation of spirits, so mainly that. I spent three months studying that intensively and then put it to practice when I got a job at Tuthilltown Spirits out of postgrad. I do a lot of work with small barrel maturation, maturation programs, setting up maturation warehousing, spirit blending, and quite a bit of research and development. It’s still not a completely mapped out science, what goes on in the barrel, so I can’t say I’m an expert. I don’t think I’d ever say that anyway.
Could you tell us about a few of your all-time favorite spirits? Favorite beers? Oof, this is a hard one. My all time favorite beer….uhh…y’know, I think I might have to go with Genessee Cream Ale. It’s not the most fancy and there’s certainly BETTER beers out there but it’s consistently tasty, fairly cheap, and I can drink it out of the can. A close runner up would probably be Belhaven’s Scottish Ale.
Spirits, well. I can’t pick an overall one. For American whiskey, I’d say it’d be a tie between Old Grand Dad, Booker’s, and Rittenhouse. Old Grand Dad is cheap and versatile, Bookers is barrel proof and delicious, and Rittenhouse is probably my favorite rye at an affordable price. I like my gin to be Plymouth, my tequila to be Espolon, my mezcal to be a Del Maguey product, and my vodka to be far, far away. I haven’t met a vodka I like. Yet.
Where would you recommend the gent who wants to branch out from cans of PBR and Natty Light to something more sophisticated begin? There’s no shame in liking what you like so if you like PBR or Natty Light, go for it. But if you do want to branch out, go to a store that sells single beers. Or even better, go to a local brewery and get a beer flight. Basically…just try a whole bunch of stuff. It’ll be scary at first when you run into things like Chocolate Pumpernickel Guava Porter but just dig in. Try something new each week and the rest of the time reach for what you like. A little taste of adventure every week is fun. Besides, making your own six pack is a hell of a lot of fun.
I know you mentioned that fashion wasn’t your thing, but I’ve got to ask anyway – how would you describe your style? I keep imagining you drinking scotch while wearing a blazer and an ascot, but I have a feeling nobody actually does that in the real world! To be truthful, I’m really happy you asked this question. My style is “utilitarian”. I tend to wear an undershirt with a button up shirt over top. The shirt MUST have one pocket but two is preferable. I keep my fountain pen, notebook, cigarettes (shhhh, I know), and about a million other small things in them.
Almost all my clothing is cotton as well. Synthetics, when on fire, melt to the skin instead of burn and since I tend to work around highly flammable and/or very hot things, it’s a must. I wear carpenter jeans because I need the pocket room and the hammer loop for when I’m knocking around in rickhouses opening barrels. I have a pair of Red Wings steel toes that have been through the ringer (i.e. having a 150+ lb. barrel roll onto them) that I always keep well oiled and cleaned. I also wear a lab coat a lot. Like I said, utilitarian. My only problem is my jeans. I have thighs like tree trunks but normal-ish calves so I have to buy a bunch of sizes up just to fit them. I should really look into jodhpurs or something.
As for the ascot and blazer thing, while I don’t do that…I’d kill for a decent smoking jacket. And I much prefer ties to ascots. I’m not amazing at tie knots and I don’t own any nice ties but I like them. I’ve been intrigued by bow ties lately, too. Alton Brown did a fantastic job selling me on them and I’ve been eyeing some hook + ALBERT, specifically Alton Brown’s “Old Fashioned”. The name is fitting and I like the pattern and color.
I’m also looking into maybe wading into the suspender game at some point as well. I tried it for awhile and liked it but wasn’t thrilled with the X-backed suspenders I tried. Definitely would want two separate ones. And they were clip-ons, which I’m usually pretty against any men’s attire that’s “clip-on”. But getting pants with suspender buttons would probably buying brands that I’d feel really, really bad about bringing into a distillery.
The taste for clothing is there. I’d just need someone to match colors.