The Select Few
When Yossi Schwartz, Founder of Single & Single, selects his drams, it’s an exercise in eliminative curation. The cask lists arrive on an almost daily basis, and the young ones are immediately scratched off. Single & Single is a small operation, so storing and holding out for the future is out of the question. It’s all about reading the zeitgeist and getting to market as quickly as possible, or as Yossi says, “If I buy a cask, I buy it to bottle.” Well aged and sherry matured are excellent indicators, and intriguing wine, port, rum and cask finishes are given the benefit of the doubt. The final consideration is the distillery.
But it’s the tasting where the real decisions are made. Or rather: the tastings. Yossi samples his samples before and after food, with and without water, alongside trusted companions, here, there, everywhere. He noses around for the experimental, but this adventuring has a limit. This is a business after all. Sometimes the attraction in instant, others take time to develop and fully reveal themselves. But once the heart has fallen, the mind steps in and does the maths, research, and financial forecasts. If it all adds up, it’s bottled and distributed to a small group of retailers: Master Of Malt for the UK, Whisky Foundation for the USA and Far East, and WhiskyBrother and Wild About Whisky for South Africa. This close group reflects both Single & Single’s desire to stay small and focused, and Yossi’s commitment to strong relationships. And that is another important aspect of why he’s here right now.
In the almost thirteen years since Yossi turned an appreciation into a business, the world has changed dramatically. The whisky industry too. But one thing that’s as important now as it always has and always will be, is relationships. There are loads of experts out there, all very good at what they do, but for Yossi it’s deeper than that. “I work with people I like,” he states, before continuing: “I’m not for everybody.” In a sense he’s admitting that his whiskies embody his world view and that, all along, he’s been bottling his own individualistic spirit: forthright, impassioned, unapologetic and honest. His expressions express who he really is, and he chooses each cask because of its affinity to his never-say-die spirit. Or because it’s an impossible dream. Or because nobody else will.
“You want to know more about me?” he asks. “I’m very single-minded.” And with that, the journey he has taken thus far with Single & Single takes on a new sense of purpose. It has been a fact-finding mission, a pure pursuit where truth is not necessarily the end-point, but a burning desire that drives the quest. Right now that motivation is sherry maturation, but as Yossi admits, “That’s easier said than done. There are so many temptations along the way.” And why not succumb to them and be lured by these sirens? In the past, it hasn’t all been rocky shores…quite the opposite. “I would love to bottle a nice Kentucky bourbon,” he muses. “Or a Kavalan.” And, in all likelihood he will. Because being single-minded is one thing, but being open to wondrous worlds, and emboldening these with a steely focus, is the thing. And as long as Yossi goes there, his growing fan base will follow.