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Wednesday
Jun272018

End of Quarter Housekeeping

It’s been more than a month since our esteemed former colleague David Driscoll quietly bowed out from this space. He'd spent the last 10 years chronicling the growth of both the Spirits Department and his personal journey through the complex world of this industry. You may have noticed a lot of changes here including a few new voices. We’ve asked our dear friend SKU to help out with some interesting and informative pieces. Our new NorCal Spirits Buyer Andrew Whiteley has already been making waves, launching the new wonderful Woodinville whiskies (NorCal Exclusive), as well as securing loads of the elusive Hakushu 12 year for our customers. He’s been Driscoll’s right hand man in Redwood City for years, so he knows what’s up.
And while a lot has and will continue to change around here, some things will stay the same.

I partnered with Driscoll nearly 10 years ago to build the Spirits Department together. We had a vision of doing something better. The dream was to bring our customers something no one else could offer. We knew by going the extra mile we could offer new exciting products at exceptional prices as well as provide our customers with the best possible prices on brands they already know and love. We dreamed to do all of this while offering a level of expertise and attention that our competitors simply couldn’t match. Nothing about that mission will ever change, but it’s undeniable that David’s absence will be felt, especially for people who check the Spirits Journal regularly. I’ve spent the last decade happy to be behind the scenes, developing our game plan, working the SoCal market, connecting with new suppliers around the world and manning the logistics of our single cask program. Now I’m compelled to become a more public part of this special section of the K&L’s excellent website. It's a big change for me and I'm easing into it.

With that in mind I’m going to steal something from Driscoll that I always thought seemed really helpful for our customers. It’s time to BUDGET!

We have an incredible array of exceptional products racing toward us from every edge of the globe. Today I’m going to run down the long list of insane things we have coming:

ARMAGNAC

ENCANTADA – after tasting as many barrels as I could get my hand on we’ve selected 5 of the most incredible brandies you’ll ever have. These are full tilt, no additives, zero reduction, and pure Gascogne magic.

Midsummer/early fall

POUCHEGU – The wonderful Domaine in Castalnau d’Auzan was one of our best finds over the years. Pierre Laporte sadly passed and with him we thought we’d lost his incredible old brandies as well. But thanks to some serious sleuthing by our friend Charles Neal, we’ve located the stocks and purchased AS MUCH AS they’d sell us.

Fall

CARDINAT – The fun little estate is run by a young couple who doesn’t really have the expertise of the previous generation, but are learning and building around a great history. We’ve bottled a few vintages which will come through at the always reasonable price.

Fall

Chateau Vacquie– This new producer outside of Lectoure is not in the most renowned region for brandy production, but their little estate is so perfectly situated and the tiny calcareous outcropping is producing some extremely exciting Armagnac.

Midsummer

Cognac

Dudognon – The spectacular higher proof Napoleon which includes the ultra rare Montils grape in the blend remains the only Cognac producer I can guarantee has never used a single additive in any of their products. It’s just the purest Grand Champagne eau-de-vie, 15 years in the highest quality barrels, and a slow subtle reduction. Easily one of the most soulful, complex and valuable in the Cognac in our portfolio.

Next week

Bouju – We’ve secured a line on more of the classic Fine Saveur as well as the outrageous Royal and Tres Vieux Brut de Fut. The pricing should stay very close to previous offers, which makes no sense, but I’m not complaining.

Fall

Bourbon & Rye

1792 – No doubt this stuff will be gone in the blink of an eye, but after years of pushing our supplier, they’ve finally agreed to send us casks at FULL PROOF. Easily one of the best values in Bardstown, this insane cask strength 9 year old bourbon should retail for less than $50. Considering the recent disaster at the site, we’re not sure we’ll get another crack at these any time soon. Expect this in the next couple of weeks.

July

Heaven Hill – Finally, after a multi-year hiatus, Heaven Hill is back with an Elijah Craig barrel program. Still not Cask Strength, but it is absolutely delicious! We’re hoping to have this in the next couple of months and we’ll be back in KY in the fall to secure more.

Midsummer

Four Roses – Last month I did two quick nights in Louisville. We had the extreme pleasure of picking casks out with the illustrious Al Young. Tasting with all is crazy because he insists on tasting the whiskies blind. 5 of the best Four Roses we’ve seen in years are the result. Three being bottled in July and two more in August.

August & September

Maker’s Mark – Obviously we’re doing more of this. Too good to ignore. One in the classic style (that sweet spot we've developed over the last two years) and a total oddball selected and blended by our SoCal Assistant Manager and resident Kentuckian Illya Haase.

Late summer

Whistle Pig – Lots more of this delicious full strength Canadian magic coming. These casks fly because our people know that to find high proof rye at this age and quality level is impossible elsewhere. These will be arriving over the next few months and likely last as long as the last casks.

Every few months!

Russell's Reserve - We've taken a HUGE position on the incredible single cask whiskies from Wild Turkey. We have 8 new single casks coming in the next month or so. Two of those were casks bottled 2+ years ago and lost in the distributor’s warehouse. I don't know if people realize how special the current stocks in the Russell's program really are, but considering the old distillery was torn down in 2010 and these whiskies are around 9-10 years old, they represent the some of the last barrels we'll ever have access to from that special old distillery (Old Ripy). Yes the new distillery is cranking out excellent stuff, but it will never be exactly the same as the Old Ripy stuff. Sure they'll sit on plenty for Master's Keep projects etc. but they won't be that bold Russell's 10 Year Old style. The real WT. That makes these final stocks the equivalent to me of what the Jefferson/Willett/Van Winkles had from Stitzel-Weller in the early 2000s. No one seems to really appreciate how special they are, but I certainly do. Of course once they're gone everyone will want them. I can hear it now, "Do you have any Old Ripy WT?" "No, it's long gone."

July or early August.

RUM

Velier/LMDW (LM&V) – While my dream of being their exclusive retailer in California is dead, I’m nonetheless extremely excited to have the incredible spirits from this European duo in the market. Expect Clairin and Caroni in the coming weeks.

Next week

Foursquare – the elusive special releases are done for now (in particular the Dominus, which seems to have been caught up in a trademark dispute), but we’ve just secured a single cask of the wonderful Bajan distiller and will be selling it under the Faultline or Golden Devil Label.

Fall

Hampden – LM&V (That's Le Maison & Velier's international partnership) has exclusive rights to export the distillery's brands, although someone else has the Rum Fire in the US right now. Expect those exceptional products soon. Nonetheless, we’ve secured a 16 year old single cask that might be one of the most exceptional rums from Jamaica I’ve ever tasted through our suppliers in Scotland.

Early fall

Single Malt

Old Particular/Sovereign/OMC/Hepburn’s Choice – We’re loading up an astounding amount of incredible Scotch right now. Some old Glories from Teaninich, Springbank, Bunnahabhain. Tons of old grain. Some fabulous values in the sherried 20+ year range and some stupidly delicious young and middle aged whiskies at ridiculous prices. We’ll continue to offer some insane values out of Scotland as long as our government doesn’t stick some stinking’ tariff on the glorious golden nectar of the north.

Fall

Balblair – An often underappreciated little distillery near Glenmorangie, they’re finally offering a proper single cask program at not ridiculous prices. We’ve bought a gorgeous 2005 vintage cask that should clock in at 56%+ and sell for around $70. It’s an absolute dream whisky for those who love pure highland in first fill bourbon casks.

Late summer

Couvreur – We’re getting the only 60 bottles of the coveted and ultra rare single cask peater in PX Sherry. The half liter sells in Europe for €200 and we’ll have 750mls for about $275. It’s fancy stuff, but only 60 people in the entire world will ever get to own one and it was hand selected by the widow of Mr. Couvreur herself.

Mid July

That’s just a tiny slice of what’s to come, but nonetheless a little road map to help you plan the next several months of booze spending. I’m a strong advocate in the power of budgeting, but I also only spend money on booze, food, and travel so my priorities are bit lopsided. I guess some people have other hobbies, but I still don’t get why.

-David Othenin-Girard