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1988 Blair Athol 26 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


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Friday
May032013

Garageband

One of my favorite bands in the modern music scene is a group called Deerhunter from Georgia. Their psychotropic, melancholy, eerily-beautiful sound never ceases to inspire me, no matter how many times I listen through their material. When their first album Cryptograms dropped back in 2006 I was instantly a fan. I made it over to their tiny show at Bottom of the Hill in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, stood alongside a few dozen other admirers, paid about $10 for my entrance fee, and quietly sipped my beer while watching the show from about ten feet away. It was utterly fantastic.

When Microcastle was released in 2008, I was completely overwhelmed by how that album spoke to me. It's like the music was written directly for my inner soul and my deepest fears and anxieties. I'd never felt so terrified, yet so illuminated while listening to rock music. When they announced their San Francisco date for the tour it was for a larger venue than before: The Great American Music Hall in the Tenderloin. Tickets were $25 this time around and the crowd was much larger. Both shows sold out quickly and I needed to make sure I was at my computer at 10 AM the day tickets went on sale. There were about five hundred people at this show and it wasn't as easy to see from where I was standing. Nevertheless, I still had a blast and left the show totally invigorated.

Two years would go by before Deerhunter released their third album: Halcyon Digest - a brilliant mix of atmospheric mood with pop sentimentality. Their American tour would once again bring them to the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Tickets were still around the same price ($30), but the word had since spread about the band though the music world: these shows were not to be missed. I decided to pass this time around because the show I wanted to attend sold out quickly and I didn't feel like fighting the crowd. My previous experiences would be enough to sustain my current admiration for their newer material.

Since 2010, Deerhunter have been all over the world. They're currently planning a European tour with plenty of festival appearances in support of their soon-to-be-released album Monomania. I'll definitely be picking up a copy of the record when it's released, but I'm probably not going to make it to their next Bay Area show. Deerhunter has been on Conan O'Brien now and Jimmy Kimmel Live. They're becoming superstars in the independent music scene and rightly so - they're an incredibly talented, exciting, and interesting rock band. However, I know that the next stop for Deerhunter will be the Fox Theater in Oakland or the Fillmore in San Francisco. They've gathered enough of a following now to carry that kind of demand. Tickets will probably be about $40 or so and I'm sure they'll put on a great show.

At that show there will be tons of new fans. Fans who maybe just discovered them recently. Fans who will be thrilled to see Deerhunter play for the first time. They'll pack the floor, push their way to the front, and struggle to get as close as possible, the way most general admission shows work. Since I've already seen them twice, however, and I was lucky enough to see them when they were still starting out, I'm not sure that any new experiences with Deerhunter will ever be able to outdo my previous ones.

How did Deerhunter, a small, oddball band from Georgia, become a big player in the music scene? First off, they were good and their sound refreshing. More importantly, however, was the fact that they quickly became internet darlings. All the music blogs and indie sights like Pitchfork would gush about their music on a weekly basis. In today's new age of instant information, the word spread quickly. No one needed to pick up a magazine or hear about Deerhunter at a friend's party because the information was being spread by amateur music bloggers faster than any word of mouth could ever achieve.

That's the thing about the internet these days. When people like something, they write about it. They take pictures of it. They tweet it, Facebook it, Instagram it, and text message it. When a small army of enthusiasts begins spreading the word about something new, exciting, good, and fun, it's human nature for the rest of the world to want to share in with that experience. When the demand for Deerhunter's music went up, the ticket prices went up with it. The competition for those tickets made the availability more scarce.

One thing that hasn't changed with success, however, is the quality of Deerhunter's music. I'm hoping that their upcoming release will continue to challenge me and inspire me as the previous albums have done. However, there will probably come a time when I simply go back and listen to the ones I already have. Unlike whiskey, music can last forever no matter how many times I listen to it.

Personally, I'm excited for Deerhunter and their success because they've earned it. I've got no problem with their new-found popularity. If I had wanted to keep their music and performances to myself, I probably shouldn't have written a blog post about how amazing they are. I probably shouldn't have written internet reviews about how awesome their albums are. I probably shouldn't have taken Facebook photos of myself at their concert. It's funny how that happens. People spend all their time filling the internet with information about how wonderful something is and then get upset when the world takes notice.

For some people sharing their enthusiasm is a wonderful thing - until other people start actually sharing that enthusiasm.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
May022013

Had To Share This With You

I was a big baseball card collector as a kid and, as I just sat down at home to read the New Yorker, I found the first article deals with the recent sale of a Honus Wagner baseball card – a piece of cardboard that recently sold for $2.1 million dollars. The Honus Wagner card was the Holy Grail of baseball cards in the 1980s when I was still collecting. Knowing what I now know about whisky, I can only imagine where the hobby is today. The article focuses on the fact that the most recent purchaser, a man named Ken Golden, bought the card for investment purposes, rather than any actual love for sports memorabilia. Read on:

"It's my belief that none of this is an investment," Jonathon Gallen, a sports-memorabilia obsessive who supports his hobby by running a hedge fund, said the other day. Goldin had invited Gallen to look at the Wagner – "like a drug dealer invites an addict to his party," Gallen said – but he wasn't interested. "Calling it an investment is just to rationalize your purchases to your wife," he went on. "I am in no doubt warped but not warped enough to pay two million for a baseball card."

Gallen once worked in the memorabilia business, and has spent some time thinking about the economics of the trade. The high-end memorabilia game, he said, has been overrun by "checkbook collectors" with little emotional attachment to the merchandise. The influx has sent memorabilia prices soaring, with a recognizable accomplice: Professional Sports Authenticators, the Moody's of the card world, which gives number grades to the goods, making it easier for untrained eyes to invest. Sound familiar?

Oh man, does it ever!!!!!!!!

"Both securities and baseball cards have attracted a great deal of money from people who really don't know the fundamentals of the securities or the cards," Gallen said. "In both my job and my hobby, I listen to my own voice. It's like having someone tell you whether your girlfriend is a seven or an eight. Well, does she make you happy? Is she pretty to you? What difference does it make?"

Just something to think about. Somewhere out there, baseball card geeks are having the same conversation on their own blogosphere, taking quotes from our writings, and using them as analogous antedotes for their own esoteric conversations.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
May022013

LVMH Giving You Some Love

Did I say that big brands were money-hungry vampires sucking the soul out of the whisky industry? Sorry, I forgot about Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy. I love LVMH. They're always there when we need them. They love making a deal.

Every time one big brand decides to take another price hike on their signature expression, the boys at the Glenmorangie Company are there to exploit that opportunity into their gain. That's what a good company should do: use the missteps of their competitors to create new customers for themselves. I do that every day at K&L. I will spend all day with a customer, explaining every detail of every bottle if that's what they want to do. For every snobby retailer that thinks the newbie customer is beneath them, I will be there to offer a full explanation and answer every question, patiently and willingly.

In the wake of another giant price increase for Macallan 18 year old, the boys at Glenmorangie have been able to offer some serious cushion on their own 18 year (easily the better whisky, anyway). In my opinion, the Glenmorangie 18 year old whisky is one of the greatest values in all of whiskydom. It's supple, soft, textural, exotic, and satisfying to both the beginner and expert alike. It's such a fantastic single malt.

We had this for $89.99 as of yesterday and we couldn't sell enough of it. I could keep this at $89.99 and continue to sell tons of it. But I like to shake things up a bit every now and again. In favor of the consumer, of course. In the wake of this recent Macallan price increase, I'm going to use this opportunity to create some new Glenmorangie superfans. Starting right now the price of the 18 year will be seven dollars less per bottle.

What can you as a dissatisfied whisky fan do to stop price gouging by whisky companies? Stop buying their stuff. Start supporting brands that will support you in return.

What can K&L do as a retailer? We can work harder to lower the price of good whisky on your behalf. We will support you if you help support us.

Glenmorangie 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky $82.99. Better than Mac 18, in my opinion. $100 less per bottle. K&L is now the lowest price in the country on Wine Searcher.

I'm going to keep doing my part. So is LVMH. Vote with your dollars, people. Money talks.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
May022013

The Whisky Industry Sells Out (like it's supposed to)

Let's see....

We've got the Whisky Advocate Blog talking about the current state of the industry this week with tons of comments from unhappy enthusiasts, lamenting the loss of affordable, quality single malt.

My buddy Tim over at Scotch and Ice Cream has decided he's going to stop buying whisky and drink what he has. There's some good commentary going on there as well.

Of course, the current talk is based off of SKU's article about the possible "Golden Age" of whisky being over. Steve wrote that article a year ago in July, however.

Steve and I were talking about price increases at that time after I wrote an article that June.

Even back in 2010 we were getting some guff from customers because we were changing our prices to reflect the new costs, while other stores will still sitting on older inventory and older pricing. People thought it was just K&L looking to make an extra buck.

There's been plenty of whisky blogging over the past few years about the increasing cost of whisky. I think I went on a month-long rant about it at one point. But this isn't a secret that's now being discovered and it isn't something new. It's been happening steadily for the last five years. Whisky is hot. Whisky is popular. It's all the rage. Now it's getting too popular and people are getting upset. True whisky fans have called it a bubble. Long time drinkers have said that it won't last. Collectors have raged against whisky companies for selling us younger whisky with a higher price tag. Connoisseurs have complained about newbie drinkers buying what they're told is good, thereby making it harder to get things like Pappy Van Winkle.

More and more people are voicing their displeasure as of late, likely because things are only getting more expensive and the values are becoming harder to find. Since the whisky industry is facing absolutely zero competition in terms of upstart distilleries or newly-formed businesses, it can charge whatever the public is willing to pay, which has yet to find a ceiling if you look at the Bonham's auction from a few days ago.

While it makes sense for consumers to complain when prices rise (gas, taxes, etc), should we really blame the whisky companies? If you're in the business of making whisky isn't this scenario exactly what you want to happen? More money for less product? Huge gains? A market that can't get enough with emerging markets on the horizon to increase this demand? Isn't this exactly what you're supposed to do when people want to buy your product? Raise your prices?

To lambast the whisky industry for doing exactly what it's supposed to do (make as much money as possible) seems a bit misguided. Whisky companies are not politicians. We didn't vote them into office. They're not using public money to make their whisky. They didn't issue us any promises about "no new taxes" or "no price increases." Yet, because we feel so passionately about their products we feel like we should have a say in their directions (much like my co-worker Alex feels about the San Francisco Giants).

When Bruichladdich sold to Remy Cointreau we were all pretty bummed, even though nothing has really changed since the sale took place. It was more of a symbolic sadness because it meant that even the best independent distilleries were for sale. It's how A's fans felt when Jason Giambi signed with the Yankees and shaved his beard. It's how hip-hop fans felt when Ice Cube started making movies like "Are We There Yet?" It's how punk rockers felt when their genre became co-opted by middleclass, suburban Americana with three-chord anthems delegated to soda commercials.

Why shouldn't Billie Joe Armstrong become a millionaire, however? Did Green Day ever promise their fans they would never sign lucrative record deals? Did we really expect inner-city youths who for years had used rap music to express their pain and suffering not to cash that ticket towards a better life?

What about your street cred? Doesn't staying true to yourself and your fans have any meaning anymore?!

Not to whiskymakers. Well, maybe a few. Springbank comes to mind. But outside of a handful of proud moralists the answer is a resounding:

ARE YOU F&%$ING CRAZY????!!!!!! HELL NOOOOOOOOOOO!

Lagavulin isn't a small, proud, family-owned business run by traditional Scotsman using techniques passed down from generation to generation. It's owned by one of the largest, most powerful corporations in the world. Corporations exist to make money! As much of it as possible. As fast as possible. As cheaply as possible with as much profit as possible.

If you don't like Ice Cube's music anymore, do you think he cares? If you post on a message board that Green Day's last good album was Dookie, do you think they're losing sleep? Those guys are sitting on a beach somewhere drinking a cocktail and thinking about how great life is. They're not worrying about what you think.

The same goes for whisky companies. They're all selling out because that's what they're supposed to do - SELL, SELL, SELL. Just like any sellout artist they've got an entirely new legion of fans who never "got into" the old stuff. Fans who have never heard any of Jay Z's early albums. Fans who don't know that Dave Grohl used to be in a band called Nirvana. For every old school fan who loses interest in the updated product they're creating ten new ones to take your place. That's how Bon Jovi continues to fill arenas around the world. He can't sing "Living On A Prayer" anymore, anyway.

Unlike an aging artist, however, who might like to play a small club every now and again to recapture the nostalgia of the old days, whisky companies do not have a conscience. They're not worried about their legacy in the eyes of true connoisseurs. They don't give two shits if customers say, "Man, they don't make 'em like they used to."

They're making money hand over fist right now. Just like they're supposed to.

Why do we expect them to do otherwise?

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
May012013

Ardbog

Just a quick note for today. Ardbeg did a private committee tasting of Ardbog today via the internet with Mickey Heads. I was lucky enough to get a sample.

Two words: it's delicious.

They're calling it the "most delicious Ardbeg private committee release ever." I know once this media blitz starts you'll all say to yourself, "yeah, right."

I can vouch, however. The manzanilla sherry influence on this whisky is absolutely delicious. Butterscotch and creme brulee. Lots of peat. 52% so you can drink it straight, but a drop of water is helpful.

Still no word on pricing, but it's coming June 1st. This whisky destroys the Galileo, Ardbeg Day, or Alligator releases. The best Ardbeg I've tasted since my last drop of 1990 Beist.

Stay tuned!

-David Driscoll