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Monday
Dec122016

Westland's Peat Week Comes to K&L

Westland's 2016 edition of "Peat Week" - a limited edition malt made in celebration of a week-long event the Seattle distillery holds each year in October dedicated to the joys of peated whisky - was a originally a prize for whisky pilgrims who made the voyage to the Pacific Northwest this past Fall. Luckily for us, however, we have friends in high places at the distillery. We managed to get our hands on an exclusive allocation of the 100 proof smoky single malt delight and we think fans of Westland and Islay both are going to be pleased. The 2016 Peat Week commemorative bottling drinks like a smokier version of Talisker, in that it's equally as fruity as it is peaty. There are gobs of creamy banana on the palate that blossom into peaty and smokier notes of campfire framed in sweet barley and vanilla. Think of Caol Ila with less intensity or Kilchoman with more finesse. Or maybe put the Peat Week into its own category as a whole. We've certainly never tasted a peated American single malt this delicious. And, believe me, it's delicious. I can't stop sipping on it because of all that luscious fruit on the entry that sends me back in for more. The finish is a flurry of cinnamon, cloves, and oak spices that come into focus as the peat begins to fade. Westland continues to impress with its precocious line-up of single malt whiskies and the 2016 edition of Peat Week is one of the best releases yet. 

You can secure your own bottle here if you'd like to taste this lovely limited edition malt:

Westland "Peat Week" Limited Edition Single Malt Whisky $99.99

...or you can buy a ticket for tomorrow night's festivities at Hard Water on the San Francisco Embarcadero where we'll host Westland's director Matt Freerks for a fancy cocktail party with a full flight tasting (and food!). I just heard from the gang at St. George that most of their distillery will be there as well (considering they're HUGE fans of Westland), so expect a solid crowd of swell folk. 

We've still got a few tickets left here:

Westland Peat Week Party @ Hard Water, Weds, Dec 14th @ 7 PM - $50 - Erik Adkins and the Hard Water staff will be bringing out seafood towers packed with smoked clams and Texas toast, shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell, and scallop ceviche. There will also be crabby patty bites with Old Bay tartar sauce, fried chicken and waffle bites, along with single bite tarts for dessert (pumpkin custard with Abbott's Bitters-flavored whipped cream and lemon cream with mascarpone, streusel, and satsuma). Of course, the real story here is the whiskey and Matt Freerks is the perfect person to walk you through a guided tasting of the entire Westland whiskey collection - including the new Peat Week release which will only be available at K&L during December. There are 50 spaces available. There are no paper tickets. Your name will be on the guest list as you arrive at Hard Water.

Either way, you'll be drinking mighty fine!

-David Driscoll

Monday
Dec122016

Last Minute Shopping

I woke up this morning to a barrage of emails about some of our recent single cask whisky releases. Here's a quick Q&A that might help you with your last-minute shopping at K&L:

David, when I looked at the K&L webpage last night there were thirty bottles in stock. This morning when I woke up they were gone. What gives? Did those bottles really sell out overnight?

Yes. This is December. People everywhere are shopping for gifts. The lower the inventory gets on a product, the more it motivates people to buy now rather than wait because they're witnessing the bottles disappear right before their very eyes. Hence, when the inventory of an item dips below thirty or so remaining bottles, there tends to be a rush of last-minute orders. Which leads into our next question...

David, when I got my order in yesterday there were six bottles left, but I got an out of stock email this morning from K&L saying there were no more bottles. How could that have happened?

If you place an order for one of the final bottles of a single cask whisky and those last six bottles are in our main warehouse, you're probably safe. However, if those last six bottles are in one of our retail stores, then they're likely on the shelf. That means that from the time you place your order, to the time it's received, to the time it's picked off the shelf by one of our staff members, those bottles are available for any customer in the store to purchase. Given that there will be thousands of people passing through K&L on any given day this holiday season, the likelihood that those bottles will get snagged by an in-store shopper is high. It can be a six to eight hour delay between you placing a web order and us actually facilitating it this time of year. If our website says the last six bottles of whisky are in Redwood City and it's a hot-selling item, there's a good chance they're going to picked-off before your order gets processed. 

David, I put a few bottles in my online shopping cart last night, but today when I tried to check out today it said the product was sold out. Why did that happen?

Placing an item into your online shopping cart does not pull the items from stock, it only prepares to do so once you provide payment details. You need to actually check out and complete the order before the items will be removed from inventory. See the previous two questions for additional details about the speed of product movement in December and the potential for mayhem even after you've placed your order.

In summary, if you see something you want and it sounds good to you, buy it. I know it's fun to watch the inventory drop from 500 to 400 to 300 to 100 to 50 to 20 before you decide to pull the trigger, but you're playing with fire there. Anything can happen in December. One phone call from a local law firm can wipe out an entire item (as happened last week). It goes something like this:

"Hey, do you have a whiskey you like that we can use as presents for our staff this year?"

"Sure, how many bottles do you need?"

"About eighty-five." 

BOOM. There goes the Four Roses OESK. It happens that fast.

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Dec102016

King of the Mountain

When it's rainy outside and we're in the thick of holiday retail madness, I take comfort in knowing that no matter how crazy things get, no matter how frazzled my nerves, no matter how tired I am at the end of the day, I can count on my friend (and childhood idol) Dean Cameron to text me hilarious photos of himself picking up his bi-monthly beer shipment at K&L. Do you know how happy this makes me? I probably can't put it into words, so I won't even try. 

Just watch this little blurb from The Movie Channel instead. That way I can "have a nice piece of fish and just relax," instead of having to do this.

Thank you, Deano. 

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Dec102016

We're Just Getting Started

There's a giant smoking crater in our San Carlos warehouse where the pile of Glenallachie and Dailuaine used to be yesterday. I'm glad we got your attention with that deal! I've had to pull everything left for the two NorCal retail stores today as we head into another busy December retail weekend. NOTE: if you've ever wondered why things pop in and out of stock sometimes, it's likely because they're being transferred between the stores. For example, we'll probably run out of the Hepburn's Choice Glenallachie within the next forty-five minutes, but you'll see a few more bottles pop up later today when the remaining inventory gets received into San Francisco and Redwood City. The same thing happened with our Four Roses OESK yesterday. A few people sent me emails wondering why the last thirty bottles had disappeared so quickly. "We are transferring the last few cases into our retail locations," I wrote back, "but it's also December: the other 200 bottles of OESK sold in less than eighteen hours. Things can vanish quickly around the holidays." I had a lady come in on Wednesday and buy forty-five bottles of our Kavalan single cask right off the shelf. POOF!

Speaking of the Glenallachie, thank you to whomever sent me their blind taste test against Aberlour A'Bunadh on the K&L Instagram last night. That was reassuring. Now I know there are at least two of us who think this is pretty good stuff. While that particular sherry bomb and the much more balanced sherry-matured Dailuaine are my two favorite barrels we've purchased this year, that doesn't mean I saved the best for last. "Best deal" is a lot like "best whisky": people can have different opinions about what constitutes value for their own personal tastes. For me, getting the chance to sell dark, sherry-aged whisky at cask strength for $49.99 was exciting, namely because I know how much people like that style of whisky. I knew people were going to be pretty happy, so that in turn made me happy. But that's not to say that one of our forthcoming casks from Hepburn's Choice might not make you happier! You might think getting 24 year old cask strength Strathisla for $89.99 is more exciting because you  personally prefer 20+ year old, classic Highland single malt whisky to fiery sherry bombs. Or, like another customer wrote to me last night, you might be more impressed with our young Caol Ila casks (there's another one coming next week) because you like the bold and brash Islay flavors of smoke, salt, and peat. That's why I try to buy as many different things as possible when I head over to Scotland. No one is more aware than me of how many different tastes there are in the whisky world. We're catering to as many corporate business guys who just want something smooth and round as we are super whisky nerds who critically analyze and breakdown every single component of the whisky. I have to have plenty for both groups and every one else in between during December. I'm often not sure customers understand how many people shop here. It's a lot.

Someone told me in the store yesterday: "I didn't think the Golden Devil Jamaican rums were as funky or weird as you described them; I thought they were really good and easy to like." That's fantastic! Says the experienced spirits drinker, however. Fortunately he wasn't there one hour earlier when the guy who clearly didn't read the description berated me for five minutes about how rum shouldn't taste like that and how we should be ashamed for selling such a product. You have to laugh. It's the only way you won't go crazy between the yin and yang of curating a booze department. For every one guy who loves what we're doing, there are ten who hate it, and vice versa. When a guy writes to me to tell me how terrible my taste is (which happened on Wednesday), I try to take comfort in the other emails I received that were complementary and appreciative. I had another person write to me this week, asking for my opinion on a particular whiskey we didn't even carry. "Should I buy this or not?" he asked. I told him I had never tasted the whiskey, but from what I knew about the producer I thought there were more interesting options on the market, which I then kindly laid out for him. He responded by angrily condemning my taste and telling me he would never shop at K&L again. I had to read it four or five times just to make sure I wasn't missing something. See what you get for having an opinion? Even when you're personally solicited for one via email!

You really understand how crazy December can make people when you drive home in traffic. As I was heading down Woodside Road to 280 last night, patiently waiting in the right hand lane's queue to merge on to the freeway two miles ahead, I watched over fifty people speed past me on the left and attempt to force their way in at the very front of the line. Sometimes they were successful via the kindness of a fellow holiday driver. Other times the rude and arrogant gesture drew an appropriate response of vicious honking and yelling. As I got closer to the on-ramp I saw that an accident had occurred due to one of these instances, and the people were screaming at one another on the side of the road as a result. That's when I thought to myself: "Is it really worth it?" I mean that from both perspectives. Is it really worth trying to teach some asshole a lesson by not letting him cut the line if it's going to result in damage to your vehicle and a miserable experience dealing with your insurance company? At the same time, is it really worth saving five minutes on your commute by trying to speed your way through a parking lot, stepping all over the other folks who are simply trying to get home the same as you? I know it will never change. I know I'll see the exact same thing on the road for the next few weeks, but I'm hoping that the warming thought of drinking a little Hepburn's Choice single malt will mellow the nerves of a few folks out there.

We've got more than just single malt coming, however. More than just Auchentoshan 19 for $79.99. More than just Royal Brackla 18 for $69.99. More than just Bunnahabhain 27 for $159.99. We've got another large batch of Cuban....I mean....Caribbean rum on the way. We've got a single barrel of cask strength agricole rhum from Clement. We've still got plenty of surprises to show you before Christmas officially hits. And we've got plenty more to show you in the New Year as well. Like I said in the title, we're just getting started.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Dec092016

More Holiday Deals

The more I acquire precious and limited bottles of single malt whisky, the more I find myself unable to decide what to drink on a Thursday night. That very debacle happened to me last night. I finished off my serving of 1999 Barde Haut along side my grilled meat sampler from Tannourine, and found myself not quite ready to quit drinking. I moseyed over to the Driscoll bar to have a look at my current open selection of Scotch. The Naked Grouse was gone. I'd dusted that off a few nights back. I had plenty of Compass Box 5th & Harrison, but I didn't want anything that expensive (or smoky). I had a limited edition bottle of Bruichladdich that the boys had given me at the distillery this past September, but I didn't want to touch that. There were a few rare Japanese selections, but I try to save those for guests. I ended up going to bed, but not before promising to address the issue the following day. 

Today, my answer to that problem arrived. The three standard editions of Glenrothes showed up with all new pricing and supreme drinkability for my increased holiday consumption requirements. I've always loved Glenrothes as it was the first bottle of single malt I ever purchased, but I hadn't bought a bottle in some time. After re-tasting the Peated Cask, Bourbon Cask, and Sherry Reserve selections, I couldn't make up my mind as to which one I wanted. They're all so creamy, supple, and easy to love. So I bought all three. For these new holiday prices, I can afford to:

Glenrothes "Peated Cask" Single Malt Whisky $34.99 (previously $49.99) - Not peated, but aged in casks that once held peated whisky, the Glenrothes Peated Cask expression is a soft and creamy Highland malt with soft and subtle overtones of campfire smoke that undulates between waves of caramel and sweet barley. Fans of Talisker and Highland Park might want to look here for a value sipper.

Glenrothes "Sherry Reserve" Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky $34.99 (previously $49.99) - Glendronach 12 and Balvenie Doublewood have a serious new competitor, even without the age statement. The Glenrothes Sherry Reserve is full of that sweet, brown sugar-laden note of fresh Oloroso sherry right on the first sip, and it rounds out beautifully through the mid-palate, all the way through to the finish. It’s clean, malty, chewy, and full of classic Glenrothes character; just without any of that old style funk. I think it's just as good as Aberlour 12 Non-Chillfiltered, softer than Glendronach 12, and just plain better than Balvenie 12 Doublewood. I might make this my new house whisky for the next few months. A reminder of the olden days, but with a steamlined and polished new finish. Well done, Glenrothes. Well done, indeed.

Glenrothes "Bourbon Cask" Single Malt Whisky $34.99 (previously $49.99) - Classic Bourbon aged single malt in the manner of Glenmorangie 10 year or Glenlivet 12, but with more richness and texture than both of those whiskies and now for a similar price!

-David Driscoll