Today we got the tragic news that Gable passed away in his sleep two nights ago. We are gutted, simply gutted. For the industry, this is a massive loss. He was too young. We send our deepest condolences to his family.
Even though we are still in shock from the news, it seems right to us to share a little bit about what Gable meant to us and our whisky journeys.
Gable was the first person we ever took a picture with in Groucho Marx glasses. Tuthilltown was the first distillery John, Bill, and I visited together as Malt Impostors, and we had the silly idea to bring Grouchos with us for the visit (they were already a part of our logo by that point). I should note that many people in the whisky industry have been less than thrilled to be invited to don the Grouchos for a photo with us. But not Gable: he was immediately game for it and even encouraged the idea.
But that first distillery visit was extraordinary in a number of ways, most of them having to do with Gable and the grace and ease with which he moved through the world. First of all, I emailed the distillery out of the blue to arrange the visit, and Gable welcomed us as warmly as you’d hope a seasoned brand ambassador would (he was all of 31 at that point, I think). Then when we arrived, an employee told me Gable was in a meeting and that we should wait outside and that he’d be with us in 10-15 minutes. We wandered around the grounds of Tuthilltown Distillery, which at the time featured a deliberately rustic building fashioned from corrugated metal for welcoming visitors. Next to this building, we noticed a large black Mercedes parked with a large man dressed in black behind the wheel. We wondered, half-jokingly, if we had arrived while the owners of the distillery were getting shaken down by the mob. Soon, Gable and a group of people emerged from the building. Gable saw us (and to be clear, had never laid eyes on us before that moment) and immediately waved us over to meet Mr. Charlie Gordon, great grandson of William Grant and at that point the honorary life President of William Grant & Sons. Gable and company had just sealed their initial distribution deal with William Grant, and he introduced us to Charlie Gordon as if we were old friends. We were a bit starstruck, but Gable was cool and self-assured as all hell. Gable saw Mr. Gordon off and then proceeded to show us around the distillery for the next few hours, including all the little tidbits: the speakers they had set up next to the barrels to blast them with music, the apple vodka he was ridiculously proud of, his dad (he so respected his dad and all they had accomplished), every detail of the barrels they’d had Black Swan Cooperage make for them, and even the cat who roamed over those barrels once they were full of whiskey.
From then on, whenever we saw Gable, it wasn’t a handshake, it was hug that greeted us. He was such a dude–and sweet as a dude can be, really more so. A couple of years after we visited Tuthilltown, Gable was responsible for one of the best nights in our whisky journeys. We had seen him at WhiskyFest Boston, and got another pic of him in the Grouchos with us (I tend to try to get people to do this with us only one, maybe twice, but I realized going through a lot of old pictures that we have more photos of Gable in Grouchos than we do of any other whisky professional). Afterwards, my girlfriend (now my wife) was driving all of the Malt Impostors home, and we saw Gable on a corner when we’d stopped at a traffic light. We rolled down the window, and he insisted that we come over–right away–to Eastern Standard, a glorious seafood restaurant with an amazing whisky menu, rather than go home. My wife loved Eastern Standard, so even though she was the designated driver, she acceded quickly. Next thing we knew, we were in a back room at Eastern Standard with other William Grant folks, the guys from Julio’s Liquors, Craig Bridger, and others, devouring platter after platter of oysters while the whisky flowed freely. It was truly an epic night, the likes of which we’ll likely never have again.
We were fortunate enough to see him at events, some of which he went out of his way to invite us to, many times over the ensuing years. We even did an interview with him and then Hudson Brand Ambassador Han Shan (and it was one of our better interviews, as they both came to play). We hadn’t seen him in recent years, though, thanks in part to my family’s move to Norway, and we were sad when we thought about that over the last few months (one occasion for thinking about how we missed seeing Gable was the announcement in February that Eastern Standard had closed its doors permanently). Now, we’re considerably sadder. We will miss you, Gable. We were privileged to have been your friend.