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Friday
Jul102015

Pop It

I don't know how many of you are as obsessed with this commercial as I am, but I've watched it at least 100 times this week alone. 

As many of you know, K&L Redwood City is a dog friendly store, and now that I've bought some Beggin' Poppers for the front counter, we can "pop it" with your pooch while you shop for your hooch. Bring your dog! 

UPDATE: LATER IN THE DAY.....

We're already popping off in the store:

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jul102015

Absolut Uncertainty

When Pernod-Ricard brought this in for me to taste earlier in the week, I almost shit a brick. This new bottle of Absolut Oak—Swedish vodka aged in wood—is the like the Holy Grail of test materials for use in my studies of mankind's polarizing booze behavior. It tastes like Bourbon, it looks like Bourbon, it can be mixed into a delicious-tasting Old Fashioned like Bourbon, (you can also do what I did: hand it to people and tell them it's Bourbon, then watch them say, "oh, that's not bad!"), but it's really vodka—barrel-aged vodka, that is. Vodka, for Christ's sake!!!! The arch-nemesis of everything "real" whiskey drinkers hold true!! It's like Tommy Lasorda coaching the Giants, or Colin Kaepernick signing with the Seahawks. It's insanity! It's a total mindfuck of everything you think you hold dear as a whiskey drinker.

Are you a serious spirits connoisseur? Are you all about flavor? If so, then I think it would be difficult to denounce the new Absolut Oak vodka because—we all had to admit—it tastes pretty good. The whole reason they started putting whiskey into wood in the first place (in addition to transport) was because it softened up the harsh flavor of the spirit, right? So what if you just filled the new oak barrel with the softest, most-neutral spirit possible—a blank slate to soak up all that woody flavor? Wouldn't that create something even creamier and smoother? No one has dared to try until now.

Or maybe you're a whiskey purist. Maybe you're someone who appreciates the old-fashioned ways and the time-honored techniques, rather than innovation. If that's the case, then you'll probably start talking shit about the Absolut Oak before ever having tried it (and without planning to). "It's unnatural!" these people will scream. "It's an abomination!" others will yell. And you might be right. Should vodka be made to taste like Bourbon? Maybe it shouldn't. Maybe that's like making pizza taste like chocolate, or Skittles like M&Ms. But, as my friend Ryan told me last night, if Buffalo Trace can sell white whiskey, then why can't Absolut sell brown vodka?

So Pernod-Ricard has decided to give it a go, and I think the result is pretty exciting actually. I thought the Absolut Oak was going to taste like sweet vanilla and over-extracted wood chips, but it doesn't. It tastes like something in between young Armagnac and mid-range Bourbon. Plus, they're not trying to rob anyone here with some gimmicky gobbledygook. I think this will clock in on the retail shelf for somewhere around $20. That's cheap enough to justify giving it a go in my book. The real question is: if you do get the chance to try it, and you actually like it, will you then have the guts to actually say that you do?

Or will you pussy out when your whiskey nerd friends make fun of you for drinking vodka?

I don't know what's going to happen—if people are going freak out, or have fun with the idea—but I'm excited to sit back and watch the fireworks. I'll definitely be carrying it just for the sheer joy of having this entire conversation with customers.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jul092015

Agave Newsletter PDF

I know it won't be anything new for you blog readers, but I've started to re-edit some of my older travelogues into newsletters that help to educate and excite some of our non-blog readers (who make up the vast majority of our 1,000,000+ customer database). I figured that an agave-related edition would be a good place to start, so earlier this week we emailed out the final PDF to the big list. If you didn't find this sitting in your inbox Monday morning, you can download it here:

2015 Agave Spirits Special Edition Newsletter

People often ask me if I would be interested in writing a book about spirits, but I've never really wanted to charge people extra for simply doing my job. The blog is free. The info is free. I'm just grateful people actually care about reading it without having to pay! This 15-page free newsletter is as close to a book as I'll ever get.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Jul082015

Crisp Summer Deals From Down Under

I've been without my Canon Rebel for the past week or so, so you're going to have to settle for a few grainy, low-light iPhone shots every now and again. We snuck in a little New Zealand staff tasting this morning to sample the new vintages from our most-beloved direct import producers. Our man Ryan Woodhouse (who as you know from this blog is absolutely killing it at the moment) was on hand to take us through some of the selections. I finally gave up trying to rank my favorites about halfway down the list. "What's the point?" I whispered to my co-worker Joe, "They're all so ridiculous for the money."

If you're in need of some patio pounders, these wines are begging to be refridgerated and consumed immediately:

2014 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough $16.99 - This is made by the guy who founded Cloudy Bay. It's basically a better version of Cloudy Bay for $10 less a bottle. Nuff said, right? Super crisp, lots of citrus, and all bio-organically farmed.

2014 Alkoomi Estate "Old Vine - Black Label" Riesling Frankland River Western Australia $16.99 - Unbelievably racy with tons of flinty, petrol notes. You would think this is classic German-style trocken, but it's not. It's a crazy deal from Western Australia, a region that lately has been making more good white wine than just about anywhere on the planet. Bone dry. So dry your teeth will hurt.

2014 TWR (Te Whare Ra) "Toru" White Blend Marlborough $18.99- Made from aromatic varietals (predominately Gewurztraminer) this little blend refreshing white will wash away all your troubles. Sauvignon Blanc and Gris round out the backend. We've been waiting for years to build up TWR enough before bringing this in. A staff favorite.

2014 TWR (Te Whare Ra) Chardonnay Marlborough $24.99 - The TWR Sauvignon Blanc has been the best SB we've carried for the last year. Now the 2014 Chardonnay has arrived, and I think it might be the best Chard we now carry. Crisp, with minerality and a bit of richness from oak, it drinks like a fine white Burgundy. Absolutely stunning.

Those are just my four favorites! Then you've got all the reds, too! If I had to choose one it would be the Te Mata "Awatea". It's like a $50 bottle of Bordeaux for $25.

2013 Te Mata "Awatea" Bordeaux Blend Hawkes Bay $24.99 - Lush and soft, like it's already been matured for a few years, with dark-fruited goodness and textures of earth and spice on the mid-palate. If you're going out for steak and you need a well-priced bottle that drinks perfectly right off the bat (no decanting) then this is the guy for you.

You have to try these wines to believe them. It's getting difficult for me to drink anything else than what Ryan Woodhouse tells me to drink. Click on the links and read the press. It's not just us.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jul062015

West Side

In a lot of ways, going to an art museum is like going to a fine wine store. There are lots of people looking stoically at the wall; some who understand what they're looking at, and others who do not. There are quiet students with backgrounds in art history, taking in the subtle nuance of each piece, while loud tourists with no patience say things like, "I don't get what the big deal is" and grumble to one another. There are professorial pedants working the room, announcing their interpretation to anyone who will listen, while others check self-consciously to see what the "experts" are looking at, in constant fear of missing out on something better. It was quite a scene at the new Whitney Museum this morning (now located in the super hip Meatpacking District). I saw a guy looking at this black square in the modernist section and he was just baffled. "This is art?" he asked his wife incredulously. It sounded a lot like an email I received from a customer earlier in the day about one of K&L's many delicious (or not so delicious, in this customer's opinion) spirits. Everyone has different tastes!

There's a great bar and cafe on the top floor that looks out over the Hudson, all the way down to the Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty. It's a great place to get a drink on a warm summer day.

While wandering our way back down Bleeker Street, we sat down on a bench (mainly due to exhaustion) while we tried to figure out a place to eat nearby. Right across the street was a cute-looking patio where a pair of women seemed to be greatly enjoying a meal. They were oohing and ahhing away. "Let's just go there," I said to my wife, not wanting to spend much more time on the search. How bad could it be?

Baker & Co. advertises itself as a "wine and beer house", but to me that's a gross understatement of what's really going on there. Sure, there's a pretty good wine and beer list, but this place is all about the food. Our lunch was like a fucking fireworks show of hit after hit; a veritable explosion of flavor in each bite as we moved through the courses.

The croquettes on the appetizer menu are to fucking die for (that's two F-bombs already). Fried rice balls with mozzarella inside, topped with black truffle purée, and a bit of watercress for a garnish. We about fell over ourselves. It's not like we've never had arancini before, it's just that these were on another level. I'm seriously considering going back in a few hours just to order another plate with a glass of prosecco.

We did salads and pasta courses as well—all fucking fantastic (that's three! My new rating system: three F-bombs = can't miss). That's why you've just gotta let life come to you every once and awhile. I never would have looked this place up on Yelp or a list of West Village hits. Now I can't wait to go back. Next time you're in New York, make the effort to come here. You're talking $10-$12 plates of sheer heaven and a view of Bleeker Street that will entertain you for hours, plus plenty of great booze.

-David Driscoll