Navigation
Sunday
Dec072014

Insomnia

After a long and busy Saturday during the holiday season, you take it for granted that you're going to sleep that night. Nine hours of lifting boxes, carrying wine out to the parking lot, running back and forth between buildings, emptying shopping cars full of booze onto the shelves, and talking with customers about the perfect holiday gift tends to take it out of a person. It's the type of day that usually knocks you out an hour before your regular bedtime. I killed a beer in the parking lot talking with my colleagues, ordered a pizza for delivery while driving home, and washed that down with a bottle of Champagne when I got there. I also took it for granted that the combination of high-acid bubbly wine with high-acid tomato sauce wasn't going to raise the acidity in my esophagus to intolerable levels of lava-like burning. But that's what happens when you simply erase your stress with alcohol, rather than come down naturally and deal with the day's events before passing out on the couch. That, plus the ping-pong ball bouncing around my head at two A.M. when I wake up dehydrated, my mouth like a desert, wondering if I put the right shipping address on that gift order before leaving. And what about that guy who got the wrong bottle in his delivery today? Am I going to remember to track down the right whisky tomorrow when I wake up? And what about the five bottles that the distributor forgot to drop off yesterday that I was expecting for special orders this weekend? I need to call them in the morning and make sure those get delivered Monday, otherwise we're going to go over our timetable. And now I'm wondering about the five people who asked me for a recommendation today, but at no point seemed convinced that I knew what I was talking about. That was uncomfortable, and I'm wondering if the Mortlach really was the best choice for that one dude's friend. And now I'm dwelling on the email that lady in New York sent me about finding the right Bordeaux for her husband's Christmas present. I forgot to check our inventory and send her a reply. Oh God, then there are the twenty customer service issues that got punted to my inbox because they were all whisky-related and I'm the only one who knows how to answer them. I forgot about those. Maybe I should get up now and knock those out while I'm awake. But if I get out of bed now I definitely will not be going back to sleep anytime soon. I'm supposed to get a haircut in the morning, then my nephews are coming to spend the day with my wife and me. Maybe I can sneak away for an hour to get some of this done while they're eating lunch. It's 3:34 AM right now. If I can pop a few Tums and get back to sleep I can probably make it to 8:00 and at least grab four more hours. Think about something else though. Not work, or you'll never get to sleep.

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Dec062014

People Be Shoppin'!

Man, we are getting pummelled. Lots of booze action in the sales queue. Just a solid 75 orders of nothing but liquor all in a row, all placed within the last hour or so. No time for blogs today. Gotta go get all those orders ready!

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Dec042014

Haig Club is Exactly What Whisky Needs Right Now

If you're someone who drinks casually, likes to have fun, and appreciates the aesthetic of flash, then you're going to love the new Haig Club Grain Whisky from David Beckham. If you're someone who hates fancy brand names, thinks all marketing is just a cheap ploy to convince you to buy leftover crap, and would never even think about drinking a Scotch whisky tauted by a major celebrity, then you're also going to love the new Haig Club. Those who have been waiting for a modern and updated take on Scotch—one that actually looks like fun, rather than a stale room filled with old men—are going to love Guy Ritchie's new trailer for Haig Club embedded above. It's almost Skyfall-esque; a Bondian scene of Highland glory, fancy cars, and good-looking actors all headed north to the great home of all things Scotch. Those who poo-poo gimmickry and would rather just get down to brass tacks, you're going to be pleased as well—none of your coveted single malt whisky was harmed in the making of this video.

In searching for the above media, I happened to find a few articles not too in favor of Beckham's latest venture. "This is exactly what Scotch whisky doesn't need," one exclaimed. I beg to differ, though. Most of the complaints I hear from serious whisky drinkers stem from the idea that big corporate marketing is attracting deeper pockets from less-experienced drinkers, thereby raising the competition and the prices for the whiskies they like to drink. Many Macallan whiskies, for example, have doubled (or even tripled) in price over the last year due to its respected brand name and global consumer recognition; much to the chagrin of long-time Macallan fans. The new-found popularity of once-insider Bourbons like Pappy Van Winkle and George T. Stagg has also aggravated aficionados in the American whiskey community. But Haig Club is a fancy take on Cameronbridge grain whisky. Who's drinking that right now? No one. Grain whisky is a genre that serious whisky drinkers could care less about, and that many casual drinkers don't really even understand. The fact that Beckham is taking up the reins for a much-maligned category (one that probably deserves more respect than it gets) is fantastic.

An unexpectedly successful Haig Club isn't going to make your favorite single malt more expensive. It's not going to convince soccer fans around the globe to start paying exorbitant sums for collector bottles of Girvan and Port Dundas. It's not going to ruin the market for North British or Inverleven expressions, or convince Nikka to up the price for their wonderful Coffey Still whisky. Diageo isn't taking the last stocks of Port Ellen, dumping them into a crystal decanter, and then charging you $50,000 instead of $1,000. Haig Club is not going to do anything that could be perceived as negative to the general whisky market whatsoever, unless you're offended by modern packaging. If you don't want to like Haig Club with all of its posh (parden the pun) potential, then you don't have to buy it. As John Goodman's Walter Sobchak says in The Big Lebowski when Jeff Bridges objects to him bringing his dog to the bowling alley, "I'm not renting it shoes. He's not taking your fucking turn, dude."

I'm always up for a good time. Personally, I appreciate anything that can get me out of the same old rut. What I like about the Haig Club is this: it's simple, light, easy drinking whisky with marketing that focuses more on the drinking aspect of Scotch than the collectability. It's the type of whisky I could pour for my wife and even she could like (she generally hates whisky). It's a cool-looking bottle that I could bring to a party where my friends and I would pound it out over rocks in a matter of hours. Beckham's team isn't out there, rummaging through independent warehouses, asking: "What's the best whisky we can find and charge a fortune for?" They're taking grain whisky—something easy and fun—and they're marketing it as something easy and fun. Their approach is a welcome change from what I usually see behind the scenes; an over-infested mess of limited releases, once-in-a-lifetime chances, and expectations that are completely out of whack. What does the Haig Club taste like? It tastes like semi-young grain whisky. It's biscuity, grainy, basically-pleasing whisky with a hint of vanilla and a dash of that earthy, herbaceousness that you often find in single grain Scottish whiskies. I'd happily drink it if someone poured me a glass. I'll bet it's even better with ice (as grain whiskies usually are).

Is it worth $60? Not if you're a whisky collector, but you probably already knew that because there's nothing collectable about it. This is a whisky meant for the masses. There's nothing inside this square blue bottle that's going to blow your mind if you've been purchasing our single casks from Signatory, I can tell you that much. Haig Club is simply drinkable whisky that should only encourage young drinkers to branch out and explore the ever-expanding whisky universe. I'm all for that. The greater point is this: it isn't $100 and it isn't removing existing stocks of mature single malt from the market, repackaging them at higher price points, and preventing those of us who love really great mature whisky from an affordable and delicious alternative. I'm all for that as well.

Hate David Beckham's new whisky, if you so feel inclined. He's not a master distiller with hundreds of years of family tradition behind his long-standing company name. Personally, that's what I enjoy about it. Someone has to be out there encouraging people to drink this stuff, rather than simply hide it all away in their closet.  K&L is never going to be a big player for Haig Club, mainly because we cater to a clientele looking for brand alternatives, but I'm still going to carry it in solidarity with the message: Let's drink Scotch, let's drink it out of a fancy bottle, and let's make sure we don't touch the really good stuff while we're dumping glasses of it down our throats. Cheers, David.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Dec042014

Fresh In! Today's Catch

This time of year brings all kinds of fresh produce into our warehouse. Trucks start lining up in the parking lot, hand carts start moving up the entrance ramp; both full of booze reinforcements for the holiday shopping season! Our warehouse guys have a spring in their step, as they move quickly throughout the many avenues of hooch, stacked with boxes as high as the eye can see (or as high as state regulation allows). We just got an exciting new shipment in of K&L California exclusive products from our friend Nicolas Palazzi and our other friends in Utah at Beehive Spirits. Check out the latest!

Gourry de Chadeville 1er Cru Fine Champagne Cognac $129.99Our latest acquisition from Mr. Cognac himself, Nicolas Palazzi, is a cask strength, non-chill filtered Cognac from one of the old producing Cognac houses in existence: Gourry de Chadeville. Since 1619, when they first purchased the vineyard site, the Gourry estate has been distilling brandy, and continues to have reserves that go back near a century Made from Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes, the 1er Cru release is bottled at 64.3%, which is not something we usually see in the genre. The flavors are delicate, yet the mouthfeel is huge and powerful. Meandering between sweet fruit and cocoa before morphing into an earthy, spicier finish. Palazzi knew exactly what he was doing when he bottled this limited 330 bottle allocation: he wanted to court fans of high-proof American whiskey. And, trust us, whether you like Cognac or George T. Stagg, you're going to want a bottle of this. The Gourry de Chadeville is the type of Cognac that changes perceptions and alters points of view. It's a total game changer.

You might be thinking the following two whiskies are too similar to warrant buying one of each, but they’re totally different animals. One is distilled from corn, the other from malted barley. Both are 100% Spanish grown and distilled (which was an eye-opener for me). The sherry is ultimately king, however, and Palo Cortado is a type of sherry cask we never see used. What is it, you ask? Palo Cortado is a rare variety of sherry that is initially aged under flor to become a fino or amontillado, but inexplicably loses its veil of flor and begins aging oxidatively as an oloroso. The result is a wine with some of the richness of oloroso and some of the crispness of amontillado. While I'm sure it's probably happened at some point in the history of spirits, I've never seen, nor heard of a whisky being aged in Palo Cortado casks. The flavors are so fine and oxidative that I can't imagine they permeate the whisky all that intensely. Yet, as we've seen with the Kavalan Fino Cask, warmer climates can make a difference in extracting some of these nutty, almond-like flavors. Spain's warm summers and cold winters have had a Kentucky-like effect on both of these whiskies. Both are at 53.5%.

Navazos-Palazzi Palo Cortado Single Barrel Cask Strength GRAIN Whisky $99.99The light and fruity flavors of the grain whisky marry beautifully with the Palo Cortado sherry components. I've never tasted anything like it. But I know I want more of it. I know I want more than the 60 bottles we were allocated from the 300 total bottles Palazzi made. You'll want more, too. More please! You hear me, Palazzi?

Navazos-Palazzi Palo Cortado Single Barrel Cask Strength SINGLE MALT Whisky $99.99 – The rich and malty flavors of the Spanish single malt (yes, they make some in Spain!) are the perfect canvas for the Palo Cortado's delicate brushstrokes. Creamy barley with almondy Palo Cortado at full proof? YUM!!!!!

And in the holiday spirit, we bring you a new barrel reserve version of our fantastic Beehive Gin!

Beehive Distilling Barrel Reserve Aged Utah Gin $39.99In the holday spirit, our friends at Beehive Distilling in Salt Lake City had sent us a special batch of their new Barrel Reserve gin in thanks for being their sole California outpost. Made with "wood, fire, and patience", the barrel maturation brings out the baking spices and softens the sage into a delicate and easy-to-drink flavor. We've seen this type of thing before with the Rusty Blade and Ranson Old Tom, but never has it been this inexpensive and this tasty. A real holiday treat for gin fans.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Dec042014

Wary of the Roads

My daily commute is nothing compared to some Bay Area residents, but in the last few days I've seen things on the road that make me wonder how certain people can exist in this modern world. I've seen some temper tantrums in my life (the child version while I was an elementary school teacher, and the adult version while working as a wine retailer), but sometimes I think the freeway is where the world's great freakouts tend to happen. It's where grown men often show you what gigantic babies they really are, capable of all the solipsistic insecurity usually only seen with infants. If things don't work out their way, they're going to scream, and cry, and whine, and do everything in their power to make you pay.

This morning was truly exceptional. I was cruising down 101 when I noticed a guy merging behind me in an attempt to move towards the exit lane. He was cutting it awfully close, shaving my back bumper by a few inches, to the point where I could see the lines on his face in my rear-view mirror. In doing this maneuver, however, he was not only dangerously assuming I had no need to brake, he was also pushing his way in front of another driver who was none too pleased. That driver expressed this frustration with a quick honk of the horn, which instantly sent the man sandwiched between us into a hysterical frenzy—"You dare honk at me?" he seemed to be screaming, suddenly taken over by convulsions and finger-flipping. He began beating his steering wheel like a doctor attempting to reinvigorate a still heart. He punched the ceiling of his BMW, his mouth moving like a Glossolalia victim speaking in tongues.

Then, out of nowhere, he simply hit the brakes. In the fast lane, in the middle of flowing 70 mph traffic, this joker decided to brake check the man who dared honk his horn. Luckily for the horn-honker, he managed to switch lanes right as this despicable, child-like behavior was taking place, and sped off down the right side of the freeway in disgust. It didn't end there, however. The man, upset that his attempt to hinder and/or hurt his foe had failed, decided to also speed up and gun it down the embankment after his perceived opponent; a 95 mph dash that should have been taped and sent to the highway patrol. Luckily, the man exited and went into traffic before the jerk could catch him (and do what?).

This is the fourth time I've seen something like this happen in the last two days. It's sooooooooo stupid. It's pure ego in its most embarrassing form. I see wine and whisky guys act like this every now and again, but never while controlling a solid ton of metal moving at murderous speeds.

But I guess this is what people say about holiday season stress. Watch your back out there! Stay safe and take a deep breath! Be wary of the roads.

-David Driscoll