Shift 4

A friend of mine told me something quite funny the other day when I was telling him about all the emails I usually answer during the week. He said, "You should just start replying with $$$ as your answer. Just hit 'shift 4' and push 'send'." That cracked me up because it's basically true; depending on the way the questioned is phrased, of course.

For example, if someone asked, "Hey David, why did _______ discontinue the _______ label?" I could answer that with "$$$".

If someone said, "David, I'm noticing more young whiskey in the marketplace these days. Why do you think that's happening?"


"David, I don't think the _______ whiskey is as good as it used to be. Why do you think the quality may have changed?"


You get the picture.

You'll hear a lot of industry veterans say that the booze business is cyclical. They've seen ups and downs, gluts and shortages, and the same stale trends come back around a generation later. They usually site public interest as the main reason -- drinking is a fad, they say. But it isn't pop culture that's driving these cycles, in my opinion. It's greed.

-David Driscoll


Industry Revival

There are two polarizing ways you can look at the new Sazerac tequilas from Corazon -- as a total marketing gimmick looking to exploit the Van Winkle name for a quick profit, or as a clever way to help cross whiskey drinkers over into the anejo tequila category. The cynic will assume that the tequilas are shit, while the romantic might hope to taste a bit of that wheated Bourbon magic. The reality of the situation is this: no one knows how to market tequila right now. There's not one company doing it right in my opinion. It's either good tequila in a bad bottle, or bad tequila in a good bottle (or sometimes bad tequila in a terrible bottle); ultimately there seems to be a complete lack of understanding of what exactly tequila consumers want. That being the case, it makes total sense that Sazerac would begin to market its tequila the same way it markets its whiskey -- you might as well start with what works. Personally, I think it's a great idea.

What I didn't think was a good idea, however, was the price: $100 a bottle. I tasted these tequilas about five months ago and decided to pass; not because I thought they were gimmicky, but because they were too expensive. In my mind, the Van Winkle, Stagg, and Sazerac rubs were fantastic ways to garner interest for a brand looking to revamp itself. To me, however, these were $60 tequilas -- comparable in quality to the Fortaleza Anejo at $75 and the Ocho Anejo at $52. The marketing wasn't the bad idea, it was expecting consumers to fork over an extra $40 because the bottle said "Van Winkle" -- that was the bad idea. "I'm interested in the tequilas," I told Sazerac at that time, "but not at those prices."

This week, when the subject of revisiting the Sazerac Corazones came up again, I restated my position; but this time I was able to break through with my opinion. I managed to get the pricing down to $69.99 a bottle for each of the expressions -- for two year old tequilas of this quality, this is more than reasonable. I think getting people excited about tequila is always a good idea, but you can't exploit that interest because you'll turn that excitment back off again. The industry needs a shot in the arm, a revival of some sort, but the brands aren't sure if luxury or authenticity is the way to go -- the result is a mess of something in the middle. I applaud Sazerac in their efforts to bring interesting, barrel specific, transparent tequila to the market place -- free of artificial sweeteners or coloring. And now I applaud them for getting them down to the price they should have been originally.

This is an idea I can now get behind:

In 2010, Sazerac -- the company which owns Buffalo Trace distillery, home of many legendary Bourbons -- began a tequila project with distiller Miguel Cedeno Cruz, which would take tequila from Tequila San Matias distillery in Jalisco and age it in whiskey barrels from Sazerac's most famous expressions. They took barrels from their George T. Stagg, Van Winkle, and Sazerac whiskies and used them to mature tequila for anywhere from 22 months to two years, hoping to inflect the flavor from their boldest expressions into the spirit of Mexico. For collectors of rare American whiskey and lovers of fine tequila, this is a dream combination.

Not only are these three Corazon tequilas a fantastic project between great producers on both sides of the border, we’re now able to offer them for the best possible pricing. Whereas other retailers clock in somewhere between $85 and $100 a bottle, we’re excited to be able to offer these tequilas on special order for $69.99 a bottle – while supplies last.

Corazon Van Winkle Aged Anejo Tequila 750ml (Elsewhere $100) ($69.99)

Working with casks from the Van Winkle Bourbons, the most-coveted American whiskey of all time, Cruz aged this anejo expression for 23 months, producing a creamier and more supple expression with hints of toasted almond and vanilla. The finish goes on forever, meandering between spicy ginger and lemon tea. For any lover of both tequila and Bourbon, the new Corazon expressions from Sazerac are where passions for great spirits collide!

Corazon George T. Stagg Aged Anejo Tequila 750ml (Elsewhere $100) ($69.99)

Taking used casks from George T. Stagg, the powerful and over-proofed beast that has Bourbon collectors everywhere in a frenzy, the folks from Corazon aged this anejo expression for 22 months, resulting in a powerful and spicy tequila that starts with pepper and barrel char before settling down into notes of cinnamon and dried herbs. The finish shows hints of cocoa and bold barrel char.

Corazon Sazerac Aged Anejo Tequila 750ml (Elsewhere $100) ($69.99)

Utilizing casks from Sazerac rye, the more herbaceous whiskey that sets the standard for the industry, this anejo expression was aged for two years and shows the most inflection of the three available anejos. The intensity of the rye is instantly apparent in the tequila, with a distinct hint of charred oak and peppery sweetness on the palate. The finish becomes almost fruity, with butterscotch on the backend that softens the flavors and allows them to linger long on the tongue.

-David Driscoll


Under the Volcano: Mexico Preview

On Tuesday night I will board the red-eye from SFO to Mexico City where I will attempt to find the famed French legionnaire Nic Palazzi somewhere inside of Benito Juárez aeropuerto. I'm guessing we'll eat something greasy and delicious while we wait for Jake Lustig to finish his meeting and join us for an 11:15 AM flight to Oaxaca. Running on a mere few hours of sleep, I'm assuming the majestic views of the Sierra Juárez will rejuvenate us and give us the energy we need to slug through two solid days of mezcal before we fly back to D.F. and connect with our flight to Guadalajara.

Friday and Saturday will be spent at the famed ArteNOM distilleries: Rancho El Olvido in Jesús-Maria, Feliciano Vivancos in Arandas, and Enrique Fonseca's Tequileña in the town of Tequila. I'll be live blogging, of course, whenever possible and snapping photos the entire time. Look for a colorful assault on your senses next week. I'm hoping to capture the romanticism from some of the most honest and traditional distillers left on this planet.

-David Driscoll


Back in the House

Back in stock as of today! Our two lovely expressions from the wonderful Ragnaud Sabourin. We’ve been out for a few months, so Cognac lovers can now rest easy knowing we’ve filled the void.

Ragnaud Sabourin K&L Exclusive Reserve Speciale #20 Cognac $89.99 - The vineyards of Ragnaud-Sabourin stretch far over the hills in Grand Champage. 33 hectares of Ugni Blanc with a bit of Folle Blanche as far as the eye can see. This estate is known throughout France for having the goods and we couldn't have been more impressed after visiting the property this past Spring. Today the estate is run by Annie Sabourin, who is the daughter of the late Marcel Ragnaud, and she makes sure every drop lives up to the property's reputation. The collection of Ragnaud-Sabourin selections we tasted were spellbinding, easily one of the most polished portfolios we've ever come across. The Reserve Speciale No. 20 is a 20 year old expression with supreme delicacy and elegance. The fruit is dainty, but never faint or flat, while the vanilla and caramel provide the backbone of the brandy's structure. It's simply delightful Cognac, but never overly rich or sumptuous. It's not decadent, but yet it's memorable and haunting. I think it perfectly represents the quality for which Ragnaud-Sabourin is widely recognized.

Ragnaud Sabourin K&L Exclusive Reserve Speciale #35 Cognac $169.99 - The No. 35 is a 35 year old Cognac of immense quality and seamless character. It's named after a special property (Fontevielle) from where the fruit is sourced. Locals in the area say "the Cognac is perfect" and we couldn't agree more. It's rich, supple-fruited, and textural, almost luxuriously so, and the caramel comes in on the finish to warm your mouth. It goes on forever. I think it's easy to say that this is the one of the best Cognacs we've found from this year's trip and it should make many aficionados very happy. All it takes is one sip to realize why Ragnaud-Sabourin is widely respected throughout Grande Champagne. We couldn't be more pleased to represent them here stateside.

-David Driscoll


Wild Turkey Barrels Arrive

The first batch of our hand-selected Wild Turkey barrels have arrived. You may remember when we reported live from Kentucky last September and were allowed by Eddy Russell to go into the warehouse and pick out our own selections. Well, we were pretty excited back then and we're even more excited now that the whiskey is finally here. Check out the notes below:

These are all at 55%:

Russell's Reserve K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #13 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99 - Finally, the much-hyped barrels from last September's visit to Wild Turkey distillery have arrived. Our group of spirits buyers left the facility in Lawrenceburg, KY about as impressed as they could possibly be. There are some wonderful things happening with Jimmy and Eddy Russell's traditional American whiskey. We picked seven casks in total, but only the first three have been bottled at this point. Barrel #13 is the freshest and most lively of the three, bursting with baking spices, cinnamon, and clove, before returning to an oak-dominated flavor profile of charred wood. A small bit of ripe banana on the finish adds a fruity component and marries well with the high-proof of the spirit.

Russell's Reserve K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #14 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99 - Cask #14 shows sweet vanilla and burnt sugar on the nose with a blast of herbaceous rye and more oaky richness on the palate. The baking spices start to dance towards the finish before the 55% ABV kicks in and dials up all the peppery notes from the wood. Overall, the flavors are very traditional and straight-forward, just very well-balanced and finely-tuned. A fantastic whiskey for those looking to see what Wild Turkey does best.

Russell's Reserve K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #19 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99 - Barrel #19 is the oakiest of the bunch with aromas of pencil shavings, graphite, and oak spices on the nose. The finish is deceptive, however; it's a brooding undertone of concentrated caramel and creme brulee. At 55%, however, that creaminess is difficult to pin down, so a bit of water is recommended to tame this single barrel beast.

-David Driscoll