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Wednesday
Feb122014

New American Whiskey Stuff

I met up with Diageo today to get an update on our three forthcoming George Dickel 9 year old single barrels. They brought me the final samples, which came with a nice little wooden box and an updated label. Things got a little hairy over the holidays, so we pushed back the delivery date, but we should expect to see our bottles in late April/early May. Keep these on your radar. They're really, really tasty with big candy corn sweetness and lots of spice.

Since they were in the neighborhood, the Diageo boys let me sample the new Orphan Barrel lineup as well, including this 20 year little gem called Barterhouse. It's tasty stuff, much better than I was expecting from other reports. It tastes like some of the better Jefferson's 18 Reserve bottles we had a few years back with lots of baking spice notes and a palate that hasn't lost much of its freshness over time. It's going to be a big hit.

The 26 year Old Blowhard was much more gentle and ghostly in nature (and the sample bottle came in this beautiful book for a case). It's much less intense with a subtle flavor profile that makes me think the barrel had some serious evaporation. It's going to make someone out there very happy, but it didn't stand a chance next to the fantastic Barterhouse. No word on when these will be available, but we'll keep you posted.

And, of course, let's not forget the latest incarnation of a straight rye and Bourbon blend: Jefferson's Chef's Collaboration $34.99. There's a lot to like in the Jefferson version. Bright barrel spices abound on the entry with a leaner palate that never gets too rich or flabby. The finish offers a hint of that sweet banana note, but it's entirely in check and balanced by more clove and cinnamon notes. All in all, it's well done and well priced for what it is.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Feb122014

PVW20 Cheap as Chips

Pappy 20 year old available at online charity auction

Well clearly the cheap as chips thing won't last for long, but it's for a good cause so instead of being selfish and coveting this link like a proper whisk(e)y freak, I'm going to share it with the world. My dear friend Mr. John Troia ask if I would help the whiskey world take notice of this little lot that he is offering to help his daughter's school. Despite my better judgement I'm sharing this link today to see if we can't get John's kid's school some much needed funds. Obviously, you all know where the market is for VW20, but I'm not sure any of the real crazy money will notice this post, so there might be a chance you get this at a "reasonable" price. Emphasis on might be. Happy bidding...

 

Help yourselves to some pappy...it's only $150 right now!

-David OG

Wednesday
Feb122014

New Wahaka Gift Packs

As many of you well know, we're not big fans of packaging or gift sets at K&L because they take up valuable space and they're a pain to ship. However, we will make exceptions now and again -- especially if it truly benefits the customer. In the case of mezcal, we know how curious many spirits fans are about the different flavor profiles and the various species of agave. Wouldn't it be great if a fantastic producer, known for making traditional and rustic mezcal, offered three smaller-sized bottles in a gift pack with appropriate glassware?

That's why we picked up a large chunk of Wahaka's new gift set, featuring the standard Espadin, the super rare Tobala, and the lovely Ensemble; which is a field blend of 50% Espadin, 25% Tobala, and 25% Madre Cuishe. You get three 200ml bottles and two old school tasting glasses for $84.99.

If you don't feel like blowing $215 to try a full bottle of each, why not get the gift pack and try them out first. It's a great way to get your feet wet and decipher between standard cultivated agave, a rare wild species of agave, and a blend of various cultivated and wild species together.

I'm pumped.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Feb112014

A New Comic Strip

In the tradition of other great whisky blog cartoon strips, like Pete McPeat and Jack Washback, I give you a new vision: The Plight of the Whiskey Blogger.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Feb112014

Fighting the Urge

I'm probably the humanistic manifestation of knee-jerk, off-the-cuff behavior. I'm impulsive, spontaneous, and impatient by nature. There is little forethought put into my blog posts, believe it or not. I usually just sit down and it all starts spewing out. While there are advantages to a quick-thinking, rapid-fire mentality, there are just as many drawbacks. You put your foot in your mouth constantly because you say things without thinking about consequences. You rush an important detail that needed more extensive planning. You continue to think about what's next, rather than focusing on enjoying the moment. When it comes to working with the public, these personality traits need to be suppressed and restrained because patience and listening skills are key. More importantly, when it comes to evaluating a wine or whiskey, rushing to a quick conclusion is the absolute worst thing you can do. In order to better understand distilled spirits, I've had to completely remake my personality and fight against all of my instinctual urges.

Despite my attempts to slow down and consider numerous view points, we're living in a society that continues to reward those who think quickly. The modern 24 hour news cycle is a gigantic panic attack of round-the-clock competition to be first. That's turned our internet culture into a similar phenomenon, with brownie points for the first person to post something to Facebook, the first to tweet on Twitter, and, of course, the first reviewer to blog about a certain whiskey. When people report quickly with opinions based on knee-jerk reactions, it usually results in a chasm of polarization, which is why most Yelp reviews about K&L either paint us as the best store in the history of mankind, or the worst place to ever spend your money. Very few reports are based on a history of multiple visits, but rather one quick trip that has not resulted in a balanced opinion over time.

I've rarely found that my thoughts about whiskey are conclusive after an initial sample. There are so many factors that can influence my feelings and my taste buds at any given moment, so it's difficult to know anything from just a few sips. New information or experiences can also change my perspective. A great example happened just this weekend at Anchor's distillery when we tasted the fermenting rye mash. I've never been a big fan of Anchor's rye whiskies, but after dipping my fingers in the tank and getting a taste of the sweet grain, I had a completely different tasting experience afterward. I understood the Anchor whiskies on an entirely different level because I saw how accurately and purely they reflected the flavors of the malted rye. It was similar to my experience at Glen Garioch when I realized how the whisky tasted exactly like the entire town of Oldmeldrum smelled.

One of my favorite customer stories at K&L involves a man who was absolutely livid with me for my review on the initial batch of Kilchoman's Machir Bay. He thought I had completely oversold the whisky and was very unhappy with his purchase. I wrote him back in an email, telling him to wait a few days, take a few more tastes, and if he still felt displeased to come by the store with the open bottle; I was willing to buy it back from him myself. A few days later the customer sent me an email, writing "I don't know if it was psychological or just that the whisky had changed, but I tried the Kilchoman again on Friday and I absolutely loved it. Am I crazy? Or can the flavors of a whisky change with oxidation? Thank you for bearing with me on this." No, sir, you are not crazy! Whisky can definitely change with oxygen, as it can change depending on what you've eaten that day, or the type of mood you're in. Rushing to a final analysis rarely results in any form of truth or helpful information.

Yet, I've sat on tasting panels where "experts" plowed through a trough of whisky samples like they were oysters, wrote down definitive notes, and awarded medals to brands based on an hour's worth of oversaturated sampling. This is no way to understand whisky, which is why it's often silly to purchase a bottle based purely on accolades and awards. But, of course, the market rewards the fastest buyer as well. We're becoming quick on the review, quick on the response, and even faster on the purchase. If you don't buy a hot new bottle when you see it, you might never get a second chance. It reminds me of my current experiences with house hunting. We've been unsuccessful with all of our bids because we're not willing to overpay and remove contingency.

"You've gotta move quickly," the expert realtors tell me. But that's exactly what I've learned not to do. Being first might initially get you what you want, but you may find out later that what you wanted wasn't exactly what you thought it to be. That's why I'm fighting all of my Pavlovian urges in favor of more careful consideration.  There's really no point in getting something if you're getting it wrong.

-David Driscoll