“What ever happened to just having a good time and enjoying your drink?” Seriously. These days it seems like most of us are more worried about how drunk we can get, not caring about the hole we’re burning through our chest or passing up drinking all together for other less painful recreational drugs. There was once a time where drinking was treated as a luxury and a sport. When the pure taste and quality of your drink actually mattered. Don’t get me wrong, We’re all about $2 wine during the weekdays but the pure enjoyment of a great liquor is something most of us have yet to experience. Virginia Black Decadent American Whiskey, created by Brent Hocking and Drake, is here to cater to those of us who want to experience quality Bourbon at a feasible price and with a unscathed tongue. We sat down with Brent Hocking at his West Hollywood office and found out more about Virginia Black, his partnership with Drake and the future of the brand.
LC: When did your passion for high quality spirits begin?
BH: Around 1993 I was going to Vegas a lot. I was earning some money and I used to get comps a lot. I didn’t drink a lot back then, I only drank when I got there and [once] I was given these bottles of wine as comps. I was drinking them to get drunk and someone was like “What are you doing? Do you know what that is?” I said “No” and he [tells me] its a ‘61 Chateau Margo, which is a very high end bottle and I was drinking it like a beer. I started to pay attention and what’s interesting is [even though] I wasn’t a drinker growing up I noticed I had this crazy nose for it. And all of a sudden within like days of just starting to drink I was really into it. Not just to get drunk but I started noticing things like “this one is really good” and “What’s in that cognac?”
Being the son of a preacher from Compton, CA, I was not allowed to drink. I got a late start but when I did [start drinking] it was more so for the enjoyment. Mostly wine initially but I drank for a few years then one day I just decided that I was going to make my own tequila. I created a brand of tequila called Deleón and I started that back in 2007 then sold it to Puff in 2013.
LC: What was the inspiration for VB? What motivated you to create this brand?
BH: What really inspired me about VB and what I think Drake and I connected on was that I grew up in the 70’s in Compton, there was a way back then, a lifestyle. I always tell this story… I remember growing up and my friends and I would be in a room and you could literally be married to a girl and one of my friends would come in and be like “hey baby you wanna go out tonight?” and then if she would say no he would immediately turn to the next girl and say “would you like to go out tonight?” The whole purpose of everything was just to be with a gal and go out for the night. It was more innocent back then than what most people’s intentions would be today. It was all about going out and having a good time, dancing and enjoying the evening.
I noticed in the whiskey industry that they were getting higher and higher in proof. They were really hard to drink. So I wondered what ever happened to just having a good time and enjoying your drink? So I brought the proof down to 80% so that it could be enjoyed. I want everyone to be able to enjoy good whiskey, so I made it easier to drink and made the packaging more attractive. We also priced it reasonably at $34.99 a bottle and gave it a very 70’s feel. We want people to get a fun, smooth and sexy vibe from the brand. Whiskey drinkers seem to always be part of their own group, we wanted to broaden that.
LC: How did the collaboration between you and drake come about?
BH: About 5 years ago we met. He approached me at a party and he said “Are you the Deleón guy?” He told me that he loved the brand and that he wanted to do something of his own. So he took my card and I was thinking that I wasn’t going to hear from this guy again. A couple weeks, maybe a month later we start hanging out and he was still interested in getting into the business. We connected over things like basketball and drinking and a friendship really started to grow. He would come over and hang out and I told him the story that I just told you about when I first began working on the whisky concept and he told me that he could relate. That 70’s persona was him.
LC: Has VB been officially released? Where can we buy it?
BH: Yes. We released it in CA, NY and NV on June 1st. Drake is starting his tour on July 20th in Houston so we will be releasing that same week in Texas. And the same goes for each state he travels to. We will be rolling it out as he tours.
LC: I heard a rumor that VB is actually only the beginning to a series you’ll be doing with Drake. Is that true?
BH: Yes… a series. A series. Ha ha, I can’t really reveal that. Drake and I work well together and it’s a great partnership.
LC: How do you prefer to enjoy your whiskey?
BH: I’m a purist for sure but our in house bartender created this cocktail called the Harlot Saint that’s become my favorite.
The Harlot Saint
2 oz Virginia Black Whiskey
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz Black Pepper Syrup*
3 – 4 Fresh Italian Basil Leaves
Preparation: Combine 3-4 basil leaves and 0.75 oz fresh lime juice into shaker tin. Lightly press basil into fresh lime juice with a muddler. Do not muddle. Add 2 oz Virginia Black Whiskey and 0.5 oz black pepper syrup into shaker tin. Shake with ice and double strain over fresh ice into rocks glass.
Glassware: Rocks Glass
Garnish: 3 Whole Black Peppercorns
*Black Pepper Simple Syrup Preparation: Classic Simple Syrup (1 part water: 1 part sugar) with 2 oz. of fresh cracked black pepper added and simmered on low heat for an hour and a half. Fine strain out the pepper before bottling.
Curious about where you can find Virginia Black Whiskey near you? Visit the website and check out their store locator at www.virginiablackwhiskey.com