The Hype is Real

I haven't tasted it yet, so I can't speak to the quality (David OG tells me it's fantastic), but the hype is certainly real. With no press, no blog posts, no alerts of any kind, we sold through our SoCal allocation of the new Foursquare Criterion in less than ten minutes. I've got a sizeable stock coming into NorCal tomorrow, but since I'm leaving for Las Vegas tonight you'll all have to be on alert. I won't be here to give you the arrival notice, so if this is a bottle you're on the hunt for, I'd pay close attention to tomorrow. 

Many believe this will be one of the top spirits of the year and perhaps the most exciting new rum to hit the U.S. in some time. What we do know from today's response is that rum's newest cult superstar has genuine demand. Get ready to act fast. It appears the rum renaissance is upon us.

-David Driscoll


Wyoming Whiskey K&L Exclusive

Wyoming Whiskey is pushing the frontiers of Bourbon west. In the little town of Kirby a little distillery is putting out some world class whiskey. Kirby is distinctly out of the way. Smack in the middle of the Bighorn Basin where corn, wheat, and barley grow tall and pure limestone water runs beneath the bedrock, the Mead family has worked the land for over 125 years. One of Wyoming’s most prominent families the Meads been raising cattle and ranching in Kirby and Spring Gulch since 1890. When Brad and Kate Mead purchase a winter range for their cattle in Kirby, they realized that they had all the ingredients needed to make great Bourbon right there on the banks of the Bighorn River. The turned to their friend and colleague David Defazio to figure out how the hell to get it all done.

David knew how to run a business, but had no idea how to make Bourbon sought out the best minds in the industry to help make the dream a reality. David brought on bourbon Hall of Famer Steve Nally to develop the plan to build Wyoming’s first Bourbon distillery. Steve had been with Maker’s Mark for more than 30 years and very few people in the world were more qualified to build a distillery and a bourbon brand than he. The Meads spared no expense in the construction of this special distillery. The result was one of the most professionally organized and thoughtfully constructed craft distilleries in the nation.

This all started in 2006, back before the whiskey craze had hit its fever pitch. It may have been hard to predict back then how incredibly strong the market for craft whiskey would become and certainly it takes an incredible commitment to quality to produce anything nearly comparable in quality and price to the industrial distilleries in Kentucky. Furthermore, with the explosion in popularity of wheated bourbon, built on the backs of famous brands like W.L. Weller, Pappy Van Winkle, Old Fitzgerald, and Maker’s Mark, having good aging stocks of hand crafted wheated bourbon must seem like mana from heaven to a craft distiller in the midst of the current whiskey crazed climate. And indeed, this wonderful whiskey does seem to be anointed by a higher power. Very rarely have we come across craft whiskey of this quality. It straddles the line perfectly between being wildly familiar and approachable and offering a unique flavor profile that just doesn’t exist in their Kentucky competitors.

We’re very proud to be the only retail store to have a barrel of this special whiskey and if you’ve tried the Wyoming Whiskey before you’ll know that they’re doing something special, but nothing they’ve released on a large scale compares the wonderful complexity and delicious character of this special cask. Bottled at 113.8 proof with a classic wheated mashbill of 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% barley sourced from non-GMO crops all grown within 100 miles of the distillery, this 6.5 years old is the oldest craft whiskey we’ve ever bottled for the store.

Wyoming Whiskey "Private Stock" K&L Exclusive Barrel Strength Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey $54.99 - This spectacular single barrel from the exceptional craft distillery in Kirby, WY is easily one of the best single casks we've ever received from a true craft manufacturer of bourbon whiskey. Wyoming Whiskey and its Master Distiller, Sam Mead, really know what they're doing over there. They are able to source their grain from local farms, age it properly in full size casks and offer an extremely affordable price even compared to industrial distillers in Kentucky and Indiana. We've tasted these over the last few years and found incredible improvements in their standard release as the average age increase, but we've never come across a craft whiskey quite as special. The fine distillery in Kirby is making wheated bourbons very much in the style of Van Winkle, Old Fitzgerald, Weller, and Maker's, but of course WW is different for in one very particular way, they don't heat the warehouses. That means that the whiskey is subjected to incredible weather extremes that exist in Kirby. The winters are much colder than Kentucky, so you don't get the same intensity of sweet oak early stages; instead the long slow maturation means more complexity. They may not age as quickly as their KY counterparts, but Wyoming Whiskey is without a doubt in the top tier of the nation's craft distillers. We're lucky to be the only retailer in California to receive a single cask of this special whiskey and after 6.5 long years in Kirby this whisky is showing astounding depth and complexity.

-David Othenin-Girard


Michter's Expands its Range

I spoke with Michter's head honcho Joe Magliocco yesterday to discuss two new limited releases from the Louisville-based distiller, the Bomberger's Declaration Bourbon and the Shenk's Homestead Sour Mash Whiskey, both tasty additions to our spirits shelf (if they ever make it that far!). To ensure that both products don't sell too quickly, Michter's is allocating only a few cases per week to each retail location, which means that we'll be applying one bottle limits until the demand eases up a bit. We received a bit into the San Francisco location today and we'll have more in San Carlos and Redwood City tomorrow, then we'll reload next week when the allocations begin a new. Here's a quick rundown on each one based off of my conversation with Joe and my own tasting:

Shenk's Homestead Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey $32.99 - The name is an homage to the original founder of the original Pennsylvania distillery, John Shenk. It's a release that to American whiskey fans should resemble something in between Old Forester and George Dickel in terms of flavor. You get the rich and unctuous texture of Brown-Forman with the sweeter, corny flavors of a traditional Tennessee sour mash, and the two intertwine to form a long and complex finish. It should be said, however, that the age and contents of the Shank's are a mystery. But that shouldn't prevent whiskey drinkers from enjoying its incredibly delicious flavor! What we do know is that the Shenk's has a higher rye content than the Michter's Sour Mash. It's quite soft and smooth on the finish.

Bomberger's Declaration Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey $42.99 - Bomberger was of course one of the brands of the original Michter's distillery in Pennsylvania, so this 54% high proof limited edition bottling pays homage to one of Bourbon's lost brands. While the age and contents of the Bomberger release are unknown, the whiskey uses a different yeast and a different mashbill than the current Michter's Bourbon releases. The nose is incredibly rich and oily, loaded with oak and a heaviness that is reminiscent of recent releases like Old Forester's excellent 1920 Prohibition expression. That heavily-oaked character continues onto the palate where it becomes entirely concentrated and all-encompassing. Those who like their Bourbon bright, zesty, and full of cinnamon and cloves will find the polar opposite here. The Bomberger is more herbaceous, brimming with heavier and richer flavors like brandy-covered prunes and polished wood. It's clearly using whiskies of some maturity, making it one of the more intriguing releases from Michter's thus far.

You can grab what's left today, or wait for more tomorrow. I've also got a few bottles of the Michter's 10 Bourbon and 10 Year Rye in stock if you're feeling flush!

-David Driscoll


Stay In Your Place

I never met an OG who never did shit wrong. –Eazy-E

As I alluded to a while back, there's been a full scale effort in the Bay Area as of late to unseat some of the stalwart retailers with lost-liter pricing and costs that clearly reflect negative revenue just to get a few heads into the door and grab some attention. As I mentioned in the posts about Lagavulin and Laphroaig, we can do that too—it's just that we've got the clout to actually do it without losing money. 

You see—when you run that kind of stupid pricing, you can only afford to do it for so long until the losses add up and no longer outweigh the benefits. Unless you do it with tact and planning, of course, with which you can maintain that price for as long as necessary. You know how you do that? By working constructively with suppliers rather than by making their lives miserable by consistently and purposefully ruining their market value. There's a reason every person in the booze business hates this type of stuff and reacts accordingly when people like us take a stand. 

As expected, the levee broke under the weight of lost profit and as of today I see that prices are back up to more reasonable levels. But, to teach someone a lesson, I'm not going to raise ours—at least not yet. It's like having a contest when you're a kid to see who can hold their breath underwater longer. I've got another five minutes in me, at least, and I'm going to rub it in. Lagavulin 16 will stay at $55 and Laphroaig 10 at $32 until I'm done proving my point.

Once again, to paraphrase the late, great Eazy-E: learn a lesson from David D: stay in your place and don't step to real muthafucking Gs. 

-David Driscoll


Drink & Watch: The Color of Money (Updated)

I've covered the joys of drinking Bourbon while watching "Fast" Eddie Felson blow through glasses of J.T.S. Brown before (and Heaven Hill was nice enough to send me a bottle afterward), but after sitting down this afternoon as a bachelor, my wife out of town, with nothing to do but drink heavily and watch TV, I found myself re-watching The Color of Money, half-saddened by the nostalgia of a world gone by and half-heartened by my resolve after finishing it. If you're a real Bourbon drinker—and by "real" I mean someone who doesn't just happen to prefer wheated whiskies—you'll love the opening minutes where Newman talks Old Grand Dad, Wild Turkey, and the beauty of six year old bonded with the bartender. It's a great introduction to a great drinking movie.

But if you're cynical about the modern age of instant connoisseurship, you'll chuckle when you take a closer look at the sequence where Felson gives Vincent use of his vintage George Balabushka pool cue. One minute Tom Cruise is learning about what a Balabushka is, the next he's out in the pool hall bragging about it to his friends, telling them: "Hey, do you know what this is? It's a Balabushka." One minute we're learning, the next minute we're showing the world how cultured we are. 

To me, it's a scene more reminiscent of Bourbon than the actual, literal Bourbon dialogue during the film's opening. Felson's pool hall era of American whiskey appreciation is dead. Class, understated experience, and slow playing is gone. We're living in Vincent's world now. 

As Eddie says: "Today everything is 9 ball because it's fast; it's good for TV." The irony of his nickname!

But as Vincent says: "Even if it's just for bangers, everybody's doing it. And if everybody's doing it, that's a lot of guys doing it."

Man, am I getting old.

-David Driscoll