The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2015

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Page 83 of 136

december 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  83 In the realm of Vegas mixology, there's no bigger headliner than Tony Abou-Ganim, whose time at the helm of the cocktail program at Bellagio put Sin City back on the mixology map, and whose expertise has been showcased across a series of books and television shows, making him as close to a household name as it gets in this industry. It's not such a stretch, then, to call Abou-Ganim the Sinatra of Spirits, the Director of Judging (at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition) to Frank's Chairman of the Board. One final thing these two icons have in common—aside from a seriously snazzy streak, of course—is a love of Jack Daniel's. Like kindred spirits, Abou-Ganim recalls that Sinatra's love of the whiskey ran so deep that he was buried with a bottle of the stuff. For Abou-Ganim, a love of Jack Daniel's is steeped in a long history with the brand: "From my early stirrings in the 1980s when I first got behind a bar, it's been a constant. It's been behind every bar I've ever worked in, and I can't imagine a bar without it. It's transcended the whiskey category," he continues. But Abou-Ganim is quick to point out that Jack is more than just a monolith mega-name with a cult following: It is an artisan- crafted spirit with soul. "I struggle with the term 'craft' all the time," admits Abou-Ganim. "And Jack makes millions of cases of whiskey a year, but they're still, in my eyes, a craft brand. They just make a lot of it because people like it." But classic Jack is only part of the part of Abou-Ganim's love story with the brand: "Introducing Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel's Single Barrel was one of the most brilliant things they ever did. When Gentleman Jack was released, it was like, 'Ok, now we have a cocktail Jack Daniel's to work with,' and when the Single Barrel launched, it opened up a whole new world of cocktail opportunities." Abou-Ganim recalls that his relationship with the Single Barrel release came in 1998 at Bellagio. "We were one of the first accounts to start in on the Single Barrel program," he recalls. The whole craft thing, the cocktail resurgence, was in its infancy—and who was there? Jack. The brand was there to provide a great opportunity to educate on whiskey because we have a huge platform at Bellagio to reach a lot of people. We developed an educational seminar program that allowed the entire Bellagio staff to understand and embrace Jack Daniel's Single Barrel. Through that program, and through sales of the Tennessee Highball, Bellagio was the number one Single Barrel account in the world when I left Bellagio in 2004, which just goes to show what kind of results you can get with a solid educational program in place." Abou-Ganim is also impressed with the release of Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select, a "perfect match" for the brand. "This expression shows the versatility of what is possible with Jack Daniel's," he says. "It is truly an amazing distillate, and when you can afford to make a cocktail with it, it makes a wonderful cocktail memorable. When I revamped the program at the lobby bar at Caesar's, which is a place back in the day Sinatra would've sat and drank in, we introduced a few Sinatra drinks on the menu: The Chairman's Manhattan elevates a wonderful drink to a new level of sophisti- cation and complexities that few whiskies can." —R.B. Through sales of the Tennessee Highball cocktail, Bellagio was the number one Single Barrel account. A Birthday Present Fit for a Legend Jack Daniel's Sinatra Century (SRP $500), the latest result of Jack Daniel's partnership with the Sinatra family, made it onto the shelves earlier this year. An ultra-premium, 100-proof whiskey, Sinatra Century is a limited-edition expression; only 100 barrels of Jack Daniel's Sinatra Century are being made available in individually numbered bottles. "At the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg, [Tennessee], we worked very hard to achieve a special flavor and aroma for Sinatra Century in order to give Frank a proper 100th birthday gift," says Master Distiller Jeff Arnett. "This meant working with the people who knew him the most, his family, and honoring the legacy that he has shaped with our brand. We have created a product that we know the public will love just as much as Frank did."

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