Since I won’t be able to delve into the amazing experience everyone will have at Gil Firth’s closed distilleries workshop this week, I’ll dive into a different topic…

Last week, we lost Astrud Gilberto, the Brazilian singer who brought samba and bossa nova to us in the most accessible way. For me, Astrud symbolizes the pinnacle of femininity with her soft and gentle power, a symbol of freedom and enjoyment.

In 1997, I worked for a year and a half at Super Zeus—the largest CD chain in the country at the time—in the jazz and “world music” section at the central bus station. The central bus station was a fascinating place to work because it was a hub for everyone coming and going. From people traveling from city to city, homeless individuals, mentally ill people, to handsome soldiers returning home for the weekend. I chose to work in the jazz and “world music” section to learn more about a music genre I didn’t know much about. I worked with Keren Malka, who later became an amazing soul singer, Mati Gurion, the bassist and son of Israel Gurion, whom I was deeply in love with, and a few other young people who passed through the store like a temporary train station. It was the job I loved the most—selling music to people, recommending new and hidden gems. Fridays were special days dedicated to two artists, always. Keren taught and educated me, and as you know, I’m a good and loyal student, so I applied her teachings every Friday. Fridays were tough because it was a long shift ending at 4:30 PM, bringing an end to a busy week. The music had to be special. We would play Jaco Pastorius, the eccentric fusion bassist, followed by Astrud. To put things in context, this was a time when grunge was at its peak, and I was convinced that Southern Comfort was the best whisky ever! I once drank an entire bottle of it at a wild party, lost consciousness, swallowed my tongue, and was saved. But that’s a story for another time. Hopefully, my daughter will be wiser…

One Friday, Micah, a musical genius, stayed with me. It was a busy morning, and around 2 PM, things quieted down. The store emptied. The station emptied. It was just Micah and me in the store, with Astrud playing in the background. I was sneaking glances at the central part of the store, searching for Mati the bassist’s eyes. Ah, the innocent crushes of being 20… Nowadays, it’s all Snapchat… Anyway, there was a Friday beach vibe inside a dark, small store at the central bus station. Then Micah told me Astrud’s story. The story of João Gilberto’s little wife, the beloved and great musician, who recorded an enormous and famous bossa nova session with saxophonist Stan Getz. The session became legendary over time. Astrud loved it so much and asked to sing too! João didn’t like the idea of someone overshadowing his talent and fiercely opposed it! Stan Getz noticed and clearly saw the talent of the beautiful woman in front of him and told João, “Forget it, Gilberto!” and gave her a stage, leading to a passionate affair between Stan and Astrud. Astrud lived her life in New York, just 2 miles from me, until she passed away last week at 83. A Brazilian, gentle, sexy, and flirtatious woman. I wish for that!

In memory of the sexy Brazilian, I’m drinking Balvenie 16 finished in Pineau des Charentes—a kind of cognac. As The Weeknd said, “I feel it coming!” Oh my, what is this?! Sexiness drips from every sip. Grapes fermented—or not—mixed with cognac, placed in a cask for about a year, then emptied, and the 16-year-old Balvenie is added for a few months. Correct me if I’m wrong, Omef Ganor and Ishai Kleiman, who taught me about Balvenie. A light and playful distillate, just like Astrud. Flirtatious but not taking responsibility—him?! He just passed by… It’s you who got excited about him/her! Not his/her fault. Sweet, stormy, intoxicating, light, and heavy together. The cognac is noticeable and pulls me to know it personally, the cheeky one. There’s a fruity sweetness, alcohol, and sweet sharpness. The soft and sweet cognac knows its job, just like Astrud’s bossa nova, caressing and seemingly non-threatening, then—you’re hers!


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