Will Edwards & Salvatore Malatesta Talk Blasphemy
First up, how did the idea for a coffee whisky come about?
WILL: The idea for a coffee whisky came up quite a while ago, but it just didn't have a good enough reason to exist because it didn't have any grounding other than the fact that I thought it would be delicious. The way we approach products is that we often come up with lots of interesting ideas, but we're pretty tough on the ideas as they get discussed—they almost have to earn their right to exist. But when we were introduced to ST. ALi and started chatting to them about how they work and what excites them, we found that there were enough similarities in how we both approached production, design, branding and new product development that we knew ST. ALi was a company and a group of people we'd love to work with. We went back into our catalogue of ideas, and the idea for a coffee whisky was sitting there and it was a perfect fit.
Sal, for those who aren’t familiar, can you tell us about ST. ALi?
SAL: ST. ALi was founded in South Melbourne in ‘05 and we’ve been kicking goals and pushing boundaries ever since. Many people think of our iconic South Melbourne cafe when they think of ST. ALi, but we are much more than that. ST. ALi is an industry leader in direct relationships with farmers, in-house roasting, and expert coffee brewing. We’re a stand-alone brand that’s hard to replicate and always a little rock & roll.
WILL: ST. ALi embraces innovation more than a traditional coffee roaster—you can see it in the branding, you can see it in the breadth of their product. They're a non-traditional business fundamentally, and that fascinated us. They look to do things differently, just like we do. But it wasn't a perfect alignment and that's even better because when you find brands that are perfectly aligned, it's almost less interesting because you’re not going to push each other.
SAL: 100%. We’re both premium brands in the spaces in which we work and both have a passion and love for the arts. From a production point of view, distilling and roasting follow very different processes, but the passion and approach are the same. I think we complement each other very well.
ST. ALi's Salvatore Malatesta
Why did you want to make a coffee whisky, Sal?
SAL: As a whisky drinker and admirer myself, I’ve always wanted to see ST. ALi coffee blended with a Single Malt, so when the opportunity to work with Archie Rose came about, it was time to bring this to life. Lucy, our Green Buyer, has been very influential in this process, working with the distillers at Archie Rose to ensure we select the right blend and roast profile and that the notes of the coffee are working in harmony with the Single Malt.
WILL: That's one of the reasons why we thought this product would be a good fit. If we just had a stock standard, traditional whisky mash bill with a pale malt and that was it, the opportunity for the two liquids to work together as well as they have wouldn't have existed. We were hoping to find something that was better than the sum of its parts. I'm not saying that Blasphemy is better than a pure single malt or a cup of delicious coffee, but the prominent flavour notes from the coffee actually complement and accentuate the prominent flavour notes in the whisky to create something unique.
Why the name Blasphemy?
SAL: Specialty coffee and Single Malt Whisky typically attract a purist mentality and following. There are unwritten rules about messing with either, which made us want to do it even more. Sourcing, roasting and supplying damn good coffee is at the heart of what we do. But we’re not coffee snobs. Blasphemy is the perfect summation of what this product and collaboration signifies.
WILL: We're talking about two products that are steeped in tradition and often have a very strict approach to their production and consumption. If you're a purist coffee drinker, you have an espresso or a long black and if you're a whisky purist, then you have it neat or maybe with some water. We wanted to slightly subvert that feeling, strip it all away, and the name Blasphemy is trying to convey that while also being a little tongue in cheek.
What would you say to someone who isn’t quite on board with combining coffee and whisky?
WILL: I think that there's more to the product than you would suspect at first glance. From a whisky fan's perspective, if you're interested in malts and you're interested in mash bill and you're interested in the production process, what you'll find quite interesting is how the roasting process and profile of the coffee actually interacts with the mash bill and the production process of the whisky. So, I think for people who are really into their whisky, you'll be surprised to what degree the coffee influence actually accentuates and changes the whisky drinking experience.
SAL: True coffee purists appreciate boundaries being pushed. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t be enjoying the magnitude of coffee options we have today. Blasphemy is a boundary-pushing product on steroids and although some might doubt it, we welcome you to come to ST. ALi for a Blasphemy cocktail and you’ll soon be convinced otherwise.
Both ST. ALi and Archie Rose like to push boundaries!
WILL: For me personally, that's why we do things. We always want to experiment and create things that are different—we want to push the traditional boundaries to see where genuine progress can be made.
SAL: Those who don’t push boundaries rarely succeed, especially in such competitive industries and it’s one of the biggest factors of our continued success. We push the boundaries in everything we do, from sourcing to roasting through to new product development. We’re always thinking, always searching and always working on new and exciting offerings.
Archie Rose Founder Will Edwards
What’s special about Blasphemy?
WILL: You couldn't replicate the whole package because you're not going to get the complementary raw ingredients and processes and the complementary businesses, or producers and ways of operating. I think that is part of what makes it unique.
SAL: The coming together of our products and processes have created the unicorn, a delicious and rare pairing!
Finally, how are you going to drink Blasphemy?
SAL: Neat, in front of a fire with a blues record on loud.
WILL: The coffee is going to add a lot of depth, particularly in winter, so it’s going to be a very cool cocktail ingredient. I'll play around with it in a Boulevardier or Manhattan.