Whisky Wisdom will (hopefully) be an ongoing series of interviews with whisk(e)y luminaries in our current locality, with the potential to branch out geographically when the possibility arises. The brands/distilleries are not the only ones who have expertise, after all. Sometimes a local guide is closer than you might think, and this series looks to showcase them. Where can whisky wisdom be found? In many places, with many people, who have many viewpoints and opinions when it comes to the world of our favorite spirit.
Interview with Louis Dachis, owner of Ace Spirits.
Hopkins, MN. June 16, 2016.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Ace Spirits?
Louis: Ace was born a couple years ago now in 2014. It was sort of a natural progression for me. I had been in the business for 12 years. I had started with a discount liquor store, an acquisition that wasn’t really wanted at the time. And through expanding that chain, my personal interest was moving more and more toward whiskey. First bourbon, then scotch. So the last store I built was like a mini version of this. It was a whole lot of whiskey, a whole lot of scotch, bourbon, Irish- everything, but not to this extent obviously. The store reflected where my heart was. We started buying individual barrels, those barrels started selling. We stocked a bunch of whiskey at that store, but it was still a standard retail location. This idea for something more was percolating when I took a trip out to New York City and saw this place called The Whiskey Shop which was exactly what I was thinking of- compact, library style with an emphasis on experience. It was exactly what I was thinking of and moved me to take action and get this concept out of the drawing board stage. That’s how Ace Spirits was born.
The mission of Ace Spirits is to stock every single whiskey available in the state- Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Irish, Canadian – all of it. We started with everything we could get our hands on, but we’ve modified the plan to exclude many of the flavored whiskies and moonshines as space became tight.
Q: What makes Ace unique?
Louis: Number one, we stock stuff you can’t find anywhere else. There’s no one that has the selection that we have, certainly not in the state. I haven’t found another shop in the country with our selection, but who knows what’s out there? The other thing that sets us apart is our extensive Exclusive Barrel program. I don’t know of anyone else who has as many private barrels available as us. I think that’s something that makes us unique.
Oh, and our tastings. We host some really unusual events where we open bottles you would never see in a tasting lineup. Like our Van Winkle tasting where we open the entire lineup or our upcoming Laphroaig tasting where we will have the distillery manager on hand to open the 25 year, the 32 year and other crazy expressions. These events are certainly unique to Ace Spirits. We try to keep the events affordable so people can try incredible stuff that they’d never normally get to try. The bonus is – we get to try it too!
Q: You mention offering private single barrels. How many do you have open?
Louis: I think we have 12 or 13 currently. Something like that. In the 12 – 15 range. It’s a lot.
Q: How do you rate the local whiskey culture here?
Louis: First of all, I think you are a bit unusual in that you like scotch. For Minnesota, that’s not the norm. People here are really into American whiskey, bourbon and rye especially. Scotch for us is a bit slower, though we certainly stock much more of it. But there are fewer people coming in for it, percentage-wise; far more people are interested in bourbon. It’s at a lower price point and people are more familiar with it. From the standpoint of the Minnesota market, more than half are looking for American whiskey like bourbon and rye. They’re looking for the Booker’s Rye, they’re looking for the Van Winkle’s, they’re looking for all this stuff you really can’t find. We fight for those bottles. Fortunately, because we sell so much, we typically get more than other shops. But with more and more people asking for it, the shop in the middle of nowhere wants some of that Pappy too, the suppliers have to try and make everyone happy so there’s less and less to go around each year.
Q: There’s been a movement over the last few years against the law banning the sale of liquor on Sundays. How have you been involved?
Louis: I’ve been a vocal proponent for years to repeal the ban, even testified at the capital. But this year, I’m sick of fighting. If it happens, it happens. I’m not going to bang my head against the wall to force the issue even though I think the Sunday Sales ban is ridiculous. I think it was much more important for me in my last store than it would be for Ace Spirits. As a discount liquor store, being open Sunday would have been very important for us. At Ace Spirits, I know it would be one of our most important days, but I would likely elect to reduce hours on Mondays or Tuesdays. For me, it’s a moral opposition to Blue Laws which I think have no place in society. For the retailers opposing this, I think they are crippled from fear of touching any of the liquor laws, but I think it’s short sighted and disingenuous. I’m opposed to that whole mindset.