There's a Wall Street Journal article behind a paywall that says nice things:
- The contents of the second snifter gave me pause. It shared hints of licorice and apple with another whiskey in the tasting (which turned out to be Balvenie DoubleWood 17), but this one was significantly sweeter and more floral, almost like a fortified wine. It was Endless West’s first product, Glyph, as in a typographical symbol. “Each of the molecules is a symbol,” says Lee, who is Endless West’s CEO, “and each has its own meaning, and collectively they tell this story.” According to Chua, the hint of fortified wine is intentional; Glyph was modeled in part on whiskeys that have been aged in casks first used to make sherry. It will be available at select bars and retailers by the end of the year and sold for $35 to $50. It seemed to be missing some ineffable, essential whiskey quality—I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what—but I liked it.
- There are obvious comparisons to be made between Endless West and startups like Impossible Foods, which uses a molecule derived from legumes to give its plant-based burger the look and taste of ground beef. “The core thesis of what we’re doing is very similar,” Lee says. But Patrick Brown, the founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, set out to replicate ground beef because of the damage cattle farming inflicts on the environment. “The whole mission of this company is to make eating animals unnecessary,” he told the Journal in 2014. “I think very few people ask Impossible Foods, ‘Why are you doing this?’ ” Lee says. “It’s obvious in today’s culture. But a lot of people ask us, ‘Why are you doing this?’ No one is crying about people picking innocent grapes.”
Lee maintains that, first and foremost, Endless West is interested in adding to the art form of spirit making using a different and broader set of tools. He compares his product to electronic music: “People hated the idea that you could make art on a computer for a while, like, ‘What’s going to happen to all the artists?’ But all those things are now art. There are still people who play violin.”
Yet in every conversation I’ve had about Endless West, I’ve heard some version of the Silicon Valley cliché of disruption and, more specifically, the democratization of a luxury product. When Michael Black, the owner of Sebo, a beloved but now-closed San Francisco sushi restaurant, tasted Glyph, he thought immediately of high-end Japanese whiskies—Hibiki in particular, which sells for anywhere from $70 to tens of thousands of dollars per bottle. Glyph, Black says, “doesn’t have a huge amount of that super-deep, peaty or oaky kind of quality but more of a subtle fruit-and-floral quality. It’s a little smoother.” At the price Endless West is aiming for, Black sees potential for it “to gain exposure in a market that [highend whiskies] don’t currently enjoy,” he says.|