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Tuesday
Sep162014

Group Lessons

Sometimes customers tell me, "That's easy for you to say, David. You get to taste all this stuff for free," in response to my recommendation for an expensive bottle of whisky. I will admit: when you don't have to pay for the experience of drinking fancy booze, it does change the way you feel about it. Getting to taste all kinds of high-end single malt has definitely made my palate more difficult to please. That being said, I drink three times as much wine as I do whisky, and I'm in the same boat as all of you when it comes to one of my biggest passions: Burgundy. Pinot Noir from the Cote d'Or is fucking expensive. It's already where single malt is currently heading, and it's been there for quite a while. Prices continue to soar, supplies for the best wines are tighter than allocations for Pappy Van Winkle, and in Burgundy you don't have the option to simply make more. The best vineyards cannot be expanded or replanted, and yields can vary depending on the weather.

On top of all that, bottles can be wildly inconsistent and, on top of that, you can't nurse a $200 bottle of red wine over the course of a year; bringing it out for a special occasion sip every now and again. You have to drink it all in one night, andunlike whisky—wine changes in the bottle, so there's no guarantee that it will taste the way you want it to on the day you choose to open it. Buying an expensive bottle of red Burgundy can be a nerve-wracking experience for those reasons. But how in the hell are we supposed to learn about these incredible vineyard sites, these legendary producers, and these iconic vintages if we never bite the bullet and open some of these canons? Eventually you have to take a shot and see what happens. I decided to double-down this week, buy some super fancy bottles of Burgundy, and invite some of my colleagues to dinner so that we could all learn from the experience. My friends the Westbys offered to host the event, and some of my other co-workers offered to contribute some bottles of their own. So last night I swung by Pronto on El Camino Real (one of the Peninsula's best-kept secrets), picked up five chicken combination dinners, and helped get this Burgundy party started. The decanters were ready to rock when I arrived.

Much like with single malt whisky, you're never going to understand the depth or the potential of Bourgogne rouge unless you sample the entire spectrum. At some point you need to throw down and taste the high-end stuff, so that you can comprehend why certain things cost what they do (and if it's ultimately worth it to you). After a few years of drinking mid-range Burgundy, I really got the message last night (as did my colleagues): there's a reason the top wines from the best producers are expensive—they're on an entirely different level than the bottles I'm used to drinking. The colors, the aromas, the flavors, the complexity—all just incredible. The bottle of 2008 Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertain "Les Cazetiers" was out of this world, with crisp cranberry fruit and a finish of wild brush—sage, eucalpytis, and herbs of this nature. The 2004 Voillot Pommard "Les Rugiens" made our customer service manager Joel and I teary-eyed, reminding us of the excitement we felt when we first started getting into wine. It was aromatic, bright, and fresh in a way that only great Burgundy can taste. Pinot Noir from anywhere else just isn't the same sometimes.

I cannot stress enough the importance of group tastings, even if it's just to split the enormous cost of an expensive bottle or two. When you taste with friends who are also interested in wine or spirits the experience is always more rewarding. If you've always wanted to try Port Ellen, or Brora, or Pappy 23 (if you can find it), then you should get some friends together, split the cost, and have the tasting you've always wanted to have. While my head was a little fuzzy this morning, I woke up completely inspired and ready to face the day. I feel like a serious itch has been scratched and a longing curiosity has been satisfied.

Thanks to everyone from K&L who participated last night. I hope we can do this again soon.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Sep152014

Touch the Monkey

If you're in San Francisco next Wednesday then you definitely need to come by the K&L on 4th Street between 6 and 7 PM. For one hour only, we'll be giving away free pours of the highly-desired and not-inexpensive Monkey 47 Gin, so you can finally see for yourself what the fuss is all about without throwing down $45 of your own money. On top of that, we'll have the deutsche master from Black Forest Distillers in the house, signing bottles and telling you everything you want to know about what makes the Monkey taste so damn good. No RSVP needed; just come in, grab a glass, and get your Monkey on.

You can touch him, love him, und liebe die Affe.

FREE Monkey 47 Gin tasting with the master distiller: Wednesday, Sept. 24th, 6-7 PM in SF

Bis dann!

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Sep132014

More Booze From the Old Preiss Warehouse

Seriously—the old Preiss Imports warehouse is the gift that just keeps on giving. You remember Henry Preiss, right? The guy who helped make Springbank a household name, and worked with a number of now-defunct products like Deret Cognac (which we also discovered a backstock of just a few months back). Well it appears that Springbank bottled a bunch of their Cadenhead's Green Label Caribbean Rum for Preiss years ago and it had just been sitting around untouched since the merger with Anchor Steam (to become Anchor Spirits, along with Berry Bros & Rudd). 

Guess who just pulled that hidden booty out of the old treasure chest and into his retail warehouse? That's right! Lil' Davy D.

There's about two hundred bottles of this incredible 100 proof rum left. It's big, intense, funky, not-at-all sweet, totally unmanipulated, Jamaican-style rum that is easily the coolest thing on the shelf at this very moment. I bought a six pack to squirrel away because I plan to be mixing with this five years from now. It's a cherry batch of rum from Springbank's incredible stocks and it's not something I want to live without at this point.

A lost relic from the old days of booze importation. Get it while you can.

Cadenhead's Classic Green Label Rum $39.99 

-David Driscoll

Friday
Sep122014

The New Age of Distillery Promotional EMails

We have our own email notification list here at K&L. There's the general one that everyone goes onto when they register an account with K&L. Then there are more specific ones that customers can add themselves to depending on their interests. There are, of course, secret lists like our insider whiskey email list that customers cannot find out about, but must be discovered through their own leg work (those are fun ones). These are all ways that we help to keep our customers informed about what's coming into stock and what's new.

These days, however, the distilleries are helping us out by sending their own notifications. For example, St. George sent out an email this week letting consumers know their new Lot 14 single malt had been released. We promptly sold through all our inventory within five minutes of that email being sent (before we even got a chance to tell anyone ourselves). Today we had Ardbeg send out an email telling customers to call their local retailers about the new Supernova, which has had our phone ringing off the hook all morning. There's only one problem: we don't have any yet.

I'm not sure what to tell people when this happens. 

"Can I get a bottle of Supernova?"

"No, sorry we don't have any yet."

"Well, can I reserve one?"

"No, I'm sorry we can't reserve these in advance."

"Well, can you call me when it comes in?"

"Even if I could the bottles would be sold out by the time I got around to doing so."

"So how do I get a bottle?"

"Unfortunately you'll have to just check back with us next week and keep monitoring the site. We have a waitlist function, but I have a feeling the Supernova is going to sell so fast the waitlist might not send the email before it sells through."

"So you're basically telling me that you can't do anything and you don't know if I'll be able to get a bottle?"

"I can add you to the insider whiskey list and do my best to notify you, but you'll need to respond within minutes of that email if you want to get a bottle."

"So I have to sit around all day waiting for an email and cancel all my plans once that email hits?"

"Yes."

That's a fun conversation to have for both parties.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Sep112014

Sticker Shock

It's really getting crazy behind the scenes right now. I'm just starting to get the numbers for all of the highly-anticipated Fall arrivals—those hard-to-get, must-have, limited edition bottles that we get twenty emails about every single day all year long, even though they're only available at K&L one day out of the year. I've done everything I can do over the past few years—with blog posts and emails and customer interactionsto get everyone up to speed for what's about to happen, but I'm still afraid that it's not going to be enough. I don't think most hard-core consumers who enjoyed the salad days of the mid-2000s are ready for this new market.

For example, the new cask of Willett 10 year that we picked out two years ago and finally will see this week will run you $120. Believe me, that's not us doubling the pricethat's just what Willett 10 year old Bourbon costs in 2014. And the Diageo limited edition releases? I hope you're ready to pay at least $4000 for Port Ellen (if we're even lucky enough to get one single bottle). Talisker 30? Close to $1000. 

And people are going to pay it, trust me. We'll have people begging us just to let them pay that much. It's never been crazier than it is right at this moment. I'm getting emails 24/7 from collectors all over the world who are hoping that K&L can get them the bottles they desire (and I'm sure we're just one of many stores these folks are corresponding with). The demand is simply insane.

But don't worry. Seeing that the distilleries started increasing their production around 2009, we'll only have to wait until 2024 before we start seeing 15 year old Bourbons again at more reasonable prices. That's just around the corner!

-David Driscoll