Tim Ferriss Show: The Tattooed Heretic of Wine and Whiskey, Richard Betts

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Richard Betts: @yobetts

Richard’s Books:


  • On going to culinary school:
    • No experience and start peeling potatoes
    • Culinary school for 2 years, debt and start peeling potatoes
  • What Type of People Are Well Suited to Work in a Restaurant Kitchen (aka back of the house):
    • Handle stress and not freak out
    • Handle heat (it gets really hot)
    • Multi-task
  • Culinary Tips:
    • You need to develop a context for whatever you are doing. With food/wine/liquor you need a context and a vocabulary
      • Context: How things relate to each other
      • You need to have tasted oaked wines to understand the difference vs. those without oak, or various geographies, or types of grapes/grains
      • Always “Eat Eat Eat, Taste Taste Taste”
    • Starting on Wines: Go by different geographies to understand them by location and “terroir”
      • Terroir: Everything of the place that makes up the whine (soil, temperature, grape type, etc.)
    • If you want to learn about something passionately, if you go where everyone goes the competition might be too hard to get going, but going to a place with great people, but much less competition helps you get going and experience is the key
    • Tell which bread/drink to use at restaurant: Make OK symbols with your hands
      • Left hand = B = Bread
      • Right hand = D = Drink
    • Setting Table Tip: Number of letters in fork/knife
      • 4 letter in fork = 4 letters in left
      • 5 letters in knife = 5 letters in knife
    • The Inn at the Little Nell: Best place for serious wine drinking in Aspen
    • Wine is a grocery for every day, not a luxury (how Europeans do it every dinner)
  • Court of Masters Sommeliers Exam (4 levels)
    1. Intro Lecture and Exam: Pretty easy, meant to inspire
    2. Certified: Proficient in various types of service
    3. Advanced: Very hard, multiple days including
      • Part 1: blind wine tastings (e.g. pick out the country, region, grape and year), and a multiple choice test on anything you can eat, drink or smoke (ie cigars)
      • Part 2: Service with sommeliers live
    4. Master Sommelier cranked up to 11 with the theory section done in person/orally
      • Richard was the 9th person to past on his first try
  • Wine Tasting
    • Don’t Ruin Your Palate Before Tasting:
      • Don’t eat jalapeños before tasting
      • Don’t eat walnut, artichokes before tasting as they contain tannins that throws off your pallet
    • You need a method every single time when tasting (experiment with controlled variables)
      • Not about do I like/dislike it
      • Goal is to collect the same observations: Fruit, Earth, Wood
        • Observe what you smell, taste and see
      • Legs: Slower the legs falls, the higher the alcohol level
        • Germany you get thick legs by sugar, not the alcohol
        • Warmer places = riper fruit = food for yeast = more alcohol (zinfandels/malbecs)
      • Sight: Tip glass away from you with white background to look at color: indicate type of grape (varietal) and climate
        • Light red is prob. Not cabernet
        • Look for sentiment
        • Look for gas/bubbles
        • If brown on edge: potentially oxidative style (wine browns just like an apply in oxygen), or that it is older
        • All red wine color comes from skins
        • Look at legs/tears to think about alcohol (e.g. medium legs, but you need enough Context to know what medium is relative to other wines)
        • Color doesn’t impact taste/smell though
      • Smell: Smells have an incredible ability to bring up vivid memories (more so than any other sense including sight)
        • Fruit: Pick at least 3 fruits you taste (context needed)
        • Earth: Compare similar wines from other places to understand the difference (terroir)
        • Wood: The Oak, aged or new, charred or not, US vs. other countries, etc.
        • Smell Tips: Nose can be trainable, but you need the words/context. Like a radio, you have to “tune it in”
          • It’s ok to let you nose warm up, but also open your mouth as you’ll smell more, take a gentle pull with spirits (vs. wine)
        • Tim noted anecdotal data that if you eat less/fast, your smell ability will be increased
  • Taste: Sweet sour, salt, bitter, umami

Where to start building context for tasting?

  • German Riesling: Oak free, some residual sugar, and should be balanced by acidity vs. California Chard: Will have oak, no earth and no sweetness vs. French Sauv. Blanc: with Oak, earth, but not sweet
  • Pick dolcetto from Piedmont in Italy: Red wine usually made in steel, no oak vs. Barberesco which is in oak with same Earth vs. Zin from Napa where the oak is different (new American vs. old Euro)
  • Richards Favorites:
  • Underrated Wines:
    • Granache (warm climate = to Pinot Noir), look in Spain (Rioja is Granache with Tempranillo)
    • Wine Myths:
      • More expensive is not true at all (more driven by supply/demand, not taste necessarily – like fashion) – Same goes for Liquor/Whiskey
      • $15-$20 is sweet spot for finding good wines
        • Mosse (loure): Chenin Blanc (10-$15)
      • Under $10 is probably not good, not real wine
    • Buy scratch and sniff wine book
  • Whiskey/Whisky = Distilled Beer
    • Fun Facts:
      • WhiskEY, if country name or origin has an “e” in it, WhiskY if not
        • Whisky in Scotland
        • Whiskey in America
      • Fruit (grain): Corn, wheat, rye and malted barley (sprouted grains that where that is arrested with eat)
        • America: Corn is king, Rye is growing
          • Rye = at least 51% corn
          • Bourbon: Must be from US (not only Bourbon Country, KY)
            • At least 51% corn
            • Aged in charred new oak barrels
          • Scotch Whisky: Whisky from Scotland
          • Irish Whiskey = Ireland
        • Tim Whiskey/Whisky Tasting:
        • Jack Daniels : New charred oak, America with Corn
          • Whiskey: Must be made in Tenn and have gone through Lincoln County Process (filtered through 10 ft. column of charcoal to remove impurities and make it smoother)
          • Smell: Spicy
          • Taste: More viscous, caramel due to corn and wood used
        • EH Taylor Rye: new charred oak, America, but RYE
          • Smell: Varnishy is from protracted time in a barrel
            • Can smell like a rye bread
          • Taste: Hard to drink, 10% more alcohol, Rye also gives it a bite
        • Jameson Irish Whiskey: Distilled 2+x, the more you distill the more you remove towards pure alcohol (aka vodka), but it also becomes smoother, subtle
          • Very different vs. Scotland
          • More flexible and easier to drink from the process
          • Taste: Just a little, enough to get it down your throat as there are taste receptors throughout beyond your mout
            • Not a lot to say beyond the alcohol
          • Nikka Whisky(17-year-old) – Takesuro – Japan
            • Single malt: Malted barley like Scotland, but the place factor will be bigger
            • Smell: More floral: “Old Temple” like incense/sandalwood
            • Taste: Amazing, silky smooth, “sip it for hours”
          • Edradour Distillery (10-year-old)
            • Mainland Scotland vs. Japan, as others are the same
            • Smell: Rich, malted milkshake (same malt!), oak, chocolate, round
            • Taste: Really nice, words are failing me- Pretty and rich which is hard to balance.
          • Ardbeg Uigeadail
            • Scotland, but on an island, Same process. Highest alcohol content
            • Place= Peat is used as a heat source (peat is a biofuel a stage short of coal)
            • Smell: Brine/salty from seaside where it is aged from
            • Taste: Will put hair on your chest, fills you up with perfume/smoky
          • Bullet Bourbon: Higher rye content, more subdued vs. Jack that might be easier for new drinkers
          • Mescal: Authentic agave spirit of Mexico with more full flavored, Tequila is the bastardized version
            • Sombra Mescal (Richard’s own)
            • Tequila: Mezcal with a law requiring you use blue agave which is easiest to mass produce
              • Recommendations: Siete Laguas, Tequila Ocho, Astral (what it was before 1860 made by Richard)
            • Agave: A starch turned to sugar with heat, traditionally done with fire in hole, add rocks and roast agave for days and it makes sugar with smoke added
            • Richard’s Mescal is made in Oaxaca Mexico
              • Travel Tips for Mexico/other countries:
                • Get an international driver’s license so you don’t need to hand over a passport to any cop, if you give a passport, you will NEVER get it back…
                • If being shaken down by state police in a third world country ask they “if there is a way to pay the fine right away” – expect to now pay more than the fine
              • Oct 2015: Succet – Wine by Richard
                • Nichon– white whine
                • Essential Rose
                • Sombra Mescal from Oaxaca

Lightning Round:

  • Advice: “Love Yourself”
    • Getting context of other people/lives
    • Show people who are happy regardless of wealth is important for children
  • Rich People who are unhappy: Misplaced goals
    • Chasing $ simply for $ is not the way to do it (same with awards, etc.)
    • Forget to take care of your health
  • Success: Finding your way to happiness
    • Richard’s parents
    • Anyone who makes their own way (e.g. Chris Sacca)
  • What is Failure: Not achieving what I want to achieve (work for myself
    • Time is everything and having control of my time is everything – losing that is failure
  • Books:
    • El Luna: Book the Tim sent out during a Quarterly
    • A Fan’s Notes (Fred Exley): Brilliant guy who messes up his life over and over again, this is such a lesson
      • “I get resolve from it”
      • First, second and third favorite book
    • Fitness is paramount: I’m nicer and think better when I’m healthy
      • Best Hotels: Don’t have a gym, they have relationship with gym across the street
    • <$100 purchase: Donation to Donor’s Choose

In Praise of Shadows: On Architecture and aesthetics


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