From The Archives: The Holland Block
One of the many exciting things about working at Pourhouse is spending much of my time in a neighborhood rich with both burgeoning culture and exciting history.
Vancouver was born right here on Water Street as simply a centre for lumber business.
It grew up on the back of the saloon, hotel, and prostitution.
It burned to the ground here (literally).
It rose from the ashes built anew in (non-flammable) brick.
Soon the downtown east-side became again the nexus of Vancouver’s early evolution: nightlife, crime, economy, and alcohol.
That’s some pretty exciting company to keep during a day’s work. The Leckie building itself is over 100 years old, originally a shoe factory, and while it’s been told to me time and again that the wooden beams and brick walls are original, it’s another experience altogether to see actual photos from eras past where you can clearly see this fact is truth.
I recently found myself hunting through the public domain photo archives at the Vancouver Public Library and found a series of very interesting photos of our beloved Gastown from as early as the 1870’s, and plan to share some of them on this blog for those of you as excited by this as I am.
If you’re like me and you walk from the skytrain station into Gastown, you pass the Holland Block at the corner of Water, Cordova, and Richards. If you had done the same thing in 1886, when downtown Vancouver was nothing but mud, lumber, and building frameworks, it looked something like this:
If you had made that same walk just ten years later, the neighborhood had developed drastically. The Holland Block at this point had just been built, serving as a commercial space on the ground floor and a hotel upstairs. The flatiron design allowed street presence for businesses on both Water and Cordova, and at the time would have actually faced the water to the North (before this area was filled in and developed). It is a good representation of the flourishing juxtaposition of business life and social life in the new city. Here is the Holland Block sometime in the 1890’s facing the same direction as above, at Richards with Cordova on the right and Water on the left.
Today in the Pourhouse Blog: a game of lost & found, cheap BC wine makes ‘plonk’ status, and make way for a new hard-hitting cab!
First up: plonk. Used the world over to describe table wine, the term plonk can be used to varying degrees of fondness or derision, depending on the tone and context. At Pourhouse its use is more playful, denoting an inexpensive wine we’ve brought in because of it’s great value. It’s also used as a disguise. Knowing that our entire wine (and beer, and food and cocktails) is centered on North America at the turn of the 20th century, a wine priced to $7/glass can and does exist in the states at good quality, but as soon as that wine crosses the border, it goes out of reach for us. A wine at that price point from BC, is almost less achievable at the quality level we expect, especially when compared to anything else from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Argentina, etc. etc. It’s funny for me to think that for a BC wine to achieve plonk status here is a big deal; knowing how much I love and respect BC wine for all that it is, I still giggle at the thought. But it is a big deal; for the first time in our history, Pourhouse has a glass of plonk from BC!
Second story: lost and found. Thank you to Tom Doughty for thinking of me when he found some cases of a wine he’d unintentionally let age for over a decade. Back in his days as sommelier at C, he’d brought in several cases of Claret from Washington State that he felt needed a few years to sit down. Over time, some job titles changed, and this little 2002 got lost in a quiet, dark corner of a cellar somewhere. Upon its unearthing, (or un-dusting certainly) he popped a cork, and was pleased to find this wine still showing some youthful aromas as well as lovely developed characteristics that you just don’t find in restaurants these days without a price tag most of us can only daydream about affording. I challenge you to find any information on Vierra Vineyards online, but I can assure you, that if you make it down here before we run out, we can tell you all about it; and with any luck share a bottle of this magnificent twelve year old gem. Soft corks and sediment to be expected and relished at $6.25/yr.
Third to the plate: new Pinot Noir, and Judgment of Paris legacy wine. Still waiting on delivery of two new wines, so I won’t speak too long on them, but I’m super excited to have them both on our list. A North American wine list isn’t complete without a Willamette Valley Pinot, and I found a new one (new to me) that is every bit as good as it’s predecessors. Also, for our big-ticket wine, our last two were both wineries that were in the original Judgment of Paris competition of 1976. And we are about to welcome the 3rd. It’s a wine that I tasted two years ago when The Vancouver International Wine Festival was still sponsored by the Playhouse, a single vineyard bottling by the famous Stag’s Leap (correct apostrophe placement). And it is still in my memory bank as a standout amongst standouts, can’t wait!!
“soft corks and sediment” photo credit ianjamieson©2014
The Tyrconnell – Our Newest Addition
It’s not often that Pourhouse acquires new spirits (something that will hopefully change in the near future), so when we put our newest addition on the backbar shelf I felt it warranted a small announcement. Please welcome to our collection The Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey.
Most Irish malt is used in blends, making it rare and exciting to try one bottled alone. This multiple award-winner is made with copper pot stills, yielding a very smooth and nuanced whiskey. Being labelled a “single malt” indicates that it is made from 100% malted barley at only one distillery – Cooley, an award-winner now owned by Beam. While a young company, Cooley has older sensibilities when it comes to flavour, only distilling their spirits twice rather than the usual Irish three times, which allows for a typically more rich and complex taste. Irish malt is not dried by burning peat as with most Scotch whiskies, but rather in kilns. This allows the flavour of the grain to dominate, giving a softer and more subtle tasting spirit. The Tyrconnell is aged in both used bourbon casks and second-fill hogsheads. These latter larger barrels reduce contact with the wood, giving a more subtle interaction and longer aging times. Did I say “subtle” twice?…
The Tyrconnell was originally made by the Watts distillery, dating back to 1762, and it was their most successful whiskey – particularly in the U.S. prior to Prohibition. The name “Tyrconnell” refers to a region in northwest Ireland where the Watt distillery was located, but also of a racehose belonging to the Watt family. In 1876, the horse won The National Produce Stakes race at 100 to 1, and the Watt family commemorated the win by putting the horse on their label, where it remains today. Tyrconnell achieved worldwide success and domestic expansion at the turn of the century, but ultimately suffered too much conflict and competition from rival Scottish distilleries and closed down in 1925. It wasn’t until 1988 that the brand was resurrected by Cooley.
The whiskey itself is a mild-mannered but well-spoken Victorian lady of stature with soft, gloved hands offering fresh tree fruit in a light, honey-coloured basket. The Irish single malt experience is a quiet, shy one if you’re a Scotch or American whisky/whiskey drinker, but at the least the smoothness of this pot-distilled whiskey warrants appreciation, as does the surprisingly dry finish.
Come give it a try.