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Wednesday
Jun242015

Steven Singani XXL

Last night was our highly-anticipated Singani 63/Steven Soderbergh dinner at Delphine on Hollywood Blvd; an event I was hoping would showcase the passion behind the product and the versatility of the spirit itself, rather than just function as another educational seminar. I can safely and proudly say that all goals were accomplished. Not only were Lindsay (Singani's brand manager) and Steven completely prepared and ready to rock, but so were our wonderful customers. Last night might have been the best K&L spirits-related party I've ever attended. Everyone was happy, talkative, friendly, excited to drink, andmore importantly—completely open-minded to the experience ahead of them. There were some serious whisky guys in the house, more than happy to step outside their comfort zone and give this whole Singani thing a shot. Seeing that willingness in person was exhilarating for me. I live to break down booze barriers.

Steven's Singani team again had a number of clever marketing materials scattered around the outside patio, where we met to begin the evening. Since day one the primary focus of Singani 63 has revolved around fun. Don't take this too seriously. Sure it's good, but let's not geek out about it. Let's recognize it for what it is, enjoy it, and then have some fun. I'm completely on board with that media plan. It's everything I believe in when it comes to booze, and if a recreation of the Sistine Chapel with Steven and Singani doesn't put a smile on your face, then hopefully you didn't buy a ticket to last night's dinner!

The man of the hour was there early helping us set up and plan out the night's events. Before starting the Singani 63 brand, Steven had a meeting with Dan Aykroyd (who's also in the booze biz), where the actor told him: "If you're not going to show up and be a part of this thing, then don't bother doing it." Mr. Soderbergh took that advice to heart. He was right there, front and center, ready to be the biggest Singani cheerleader in the world. He's currently lobbying the TTB to give Singani it's own separate classification, for God's sake! Since retiring from directing, I think Steven needed a new mission in life, and Singani is definitely the focus of that mission. He's here to change hearts and minds, and he believes in the product so deeply that he's convinced Singani will succeed. His energy is infectious.

Our ticket-holders arrived, we greeted them on the patio, we passed out ice-cold Singani sours with lavender and maraschino liqueur, and we basked in the warm Hollywood evening. The weather was perfect, the mood upbeat, and the atmosphere cool and relaxed. You could tell right from the beginning that we were going to have some fun. 

I have to say my favorite part of the night was meeting all the SoCal customers whose names appear in my email box each week. "Yes, I know exactly who you are!" I would say as people introduced themselves. Putting faces to names is always such an enjoyable experience for me, and I was truly moved by the commitment those folks displayed to the K&L cause. It was humbling, to say the least. And what wonderful conversations I had! Everyone down here is fascinating! Is this always what it's like?

Dinner included a series of cocktails designed by Eric Alperin and Max Seaman, using input from Steven's time in Bolivia. They gave a few quick introductions when each new drink was served, and explained the significance of the origin. They were all super tasty, including the Season Finale made with lime cordial and Champagne. It was a fancy take on Singani and Sprite; a Bolivian national favorite. 

Dinner was also delicious, and the energy from the patio carried right over into the dining room. Communal tables kept the conversation flowing, but people were comfortable moving around, dropping by Steven's spot to say hello, and passing plates from end to end. David OG spoke, I spoke, and Steven did a presentation in between courses, but we kept our talks brief and basic. We were more there to thank everyone for coming, than lecture about specifics. 

I got the honor of being the left-hand man for the evening. The first thing I said when we sat down was, "Steven, I'd like to start by asking you about your early career, the making of the Yes documentary, then move right into Sex, Lies, and Videotape, before taking a detailed look at each of the Ocean films. Sound OK?" I laughed, and patted him on the back.

"Listen David, you give me enough Singani and I'm up for anything," he replied with a smile. And that he was.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jun232015

Sneak Peak

I was just minding my business, hanging around the Hollywood sales floor today, when in walked these two charismatic ladies carrying a bag full of records. Oh wait! I know you! It was Frontier Records owner Lisa Fancher (part of our D2D interview series) and the label's general manager Julie Masi. They were there to say hello, grab a glass of wine at the tasting, and let me see the goods. What goods, you ask?

Why were they holding three different 45 RPM, 7-inch vinyl copies of famous Frontier punk bands, with adorning imagery that corresponded to a Bourbon, gin, and absinthe? That's a very good question, actually. I might have more information about that query as the summer goes on.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jun232015

Giving Help/Getting Help

You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. You’ve heard that before, right? No matter how hard you try to make someone’s situation better (which sometimes isn’t what people want you to do), good intentions do not always prevail. There have been numerous times in my life where I’ve tried to help friends or family members with problems, only to have my efforts thrown back in my face. There have been occasions when I’ve tried to give very detail-oriented customers the exact service they’re asking for, only to discover that bending over backward sometimes still isn’t enough. And there have been plenty of situations where a brand or company has asked me for my professional input, only to realize that the advice I had for them wasn’t necessarily what they wanted to hear. Sometimes you have to know when not to help someone, and just take a step back; understanding that no one on either side stands to gain from your potential inclusion into the fold. That’s been a big lesson for me lately. I’m learning to to distance myself from certain scenarios, even when I think I might have a solution to the issue at hand. 

Not everyone wants to admit they have a problem either; especially large booze companies with millions of dollars already invested in an idea. When you mention to a whisky producer that some of their whiskies can maybe, sometimes, every-now-and-then—you know?—taste a teeny-weeny, little-bit like sulfur, it’s not always a message that’s received with open arms. When Berry Bros & Rudd took over the Glenrothes label from the Edrington Group, I was curious to see what might happen. I’ve always had a soft-spot in my heart for the big GR because the Select Reserve was the first single malt I ever purchased. There are times when I find the distillery’s sherry-matured whisky a godsend, and there are other times when I find them to be a bit funky. When the boys in London took control of the reigns, I was interested to see which side of the Glenrothes coin they would embrace: the old world, or the new. Only a few years after the reboot I have my answer. I got a chance to try the new Sherry Reserve this past week and I was really taken aback. 

“WOW. That’s fantastic,” I said to Chris Fu, my Anchor rep; with eyes widened and a smile on my face. Our old manager Doug Davidson happened to be visiting that day, and he and I had cut our teeth on Glenrothes together back in 2007. I invited him back to the bar for a taste.

“That’s really, really good,” he exclaimed. “That’s much better than the Select Reserve I remember having.”

“Right?!” I added on.

Glendronach 12 and Balvenie Doublewood have a serious new competitor, even without the age statement. The Glenrothes Sherry Reserve is full of that sweet, brown sugar-laden note of fresh Oloroso sherry right on the first sip, and it rounds out beautifully through the mid-palate, all the way through to the finish. It’s clean, malty, chewy, and full of classic Glenrothes character; just without any of that old style funk. I think it's just as good as Aberlour 12 Non-Chillfiltered, softer than Glendronach 12, and just plain better than Balvenie 12 Doublewood. I might make this my new house whisky for the next few months. A reminder of the olden days, but with a steamlined and polished new finish. Well done, Glenrothes. Well done, indeed.

Glenrothes Sherry Reserve Single Malt Whisky $49.99

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jun222015

It Begins Again

Did you watch the second season premiere last night? Oh man. Lots of drinking. I've never wanted a glass of Johnnie Blue so badly. Colin Farrell made it look so delicious. Sunday nights are going to be filled with blended whisky at my house.

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Jun212015

Summer Officially Here

It's Sunday, June 21st: the official start of summer, and the best time of the year for drinkin' as far as I'm concerned. I'm off to Modesto for a dual Father's Day celebration, then back later tonight to get ready for my trip south. I'll be working in the Hollywood store all week with my partner David OG, as we get ready to welcome director Steven Soderbergh into the K&L fold with a series of different events. We'll be hosting a dinner Tuesday night (already sold out, I'm sorry!), and then I'll be sticking around to cover the premier of Magic Mike XXL and all the Singani party action surrounding it. There will be cocktails galore and plenty of pictures. It's shaping up to be a helluva time.

For me, summer is all about nostalgia; those moments that seem unimportant at the time, but later become your memory's definition of happiness. Sitting around, not a care in the world, listening to the stereo or watching MTV with my friends. Music defined those moments for me. When I hear some of these songs today I get teary-eyed thinking back on those times. Whereas today I associate recent experiences with what I was drinking, my younger self did the same with rock and roll. I thought it might be nice to bridge that gap a little bit, so without further ado I present to you my top five songs of summer, but with explanations that could also describe my top five favorite whiskies. You'll understand when you read them:

5. The Late-Life Relevation: "Good Vibrations" - The Beach Boys

It's not like I didn't grow up hearing this song my entire life. I remember Sunkist using it for their television spots back in the early 80s, and my aunt used to listen to the Beach Boys driving my cousins and me around as kids. But you don't really understand how great of a track "Good Vibrations" is until you're much older. You need more experience, more understanding of harmony and layers, and simply more time to appreciate the intricate nature of what you're enjoying. It's like a whisky you know to be good, and that you've always enjoyed, but never truly appreciated until later on down the line. One day it just clicks, and you say, "Holy shit! This is the best thing ever!", even though it's been there right in front of you all along. Good Vibrations is the muscial version of mature Bordeaux for me. I enjoyed them both five years ago, but now I experience them both at this point in my life, and I say, "Jesus, that's just incredible."

4. The Timeless, Award-Winning Classic: "The Boys of Summer" - Don Henley

It's funny because I hate the fucking Eagles (when I first watched the Big Lebowski, I screamed with laughter when the Dude said the same thing), but I love most of Don Henley's solo stuff. We all know what his best song is. It's the Grammy Award-winning, 1985 MTV Music Video of the Year, "Boys of Summer". Everyone loves this song. It's a critical darling. It's as good as everyone says it is, and it still stands up thirty years later. It's the Ardbeg Uigeadail of summer songs. Always great, tons of accolades. Always satisfying.

3. Timeless Cool: "Enjoy the Silence" - Depeche Mode

Some songs are so cool, so ahead of their time, and so timeless that they can epitomize style and class for decades after their release. I remember watching this video just about every single day during the summer of 1990. It never got old, and Anton Corbijn's direction still inspires me today. Dave Gahan's walk through the Scottish Highlands, interspliced with the group stepping into and out of the light, decked out in leather, looking like fashion models, still looks just as badass as it did twenty five years ago. Depeche Mode is still cooler than any group to have emerged over the last two decades. This song destroys anything that's been released since. It's the epitome of awesome, maybe one of the ten best pop songs of all time (and maybe number one on that list!). It's the Berry Bros Rudd No. 3 gin of the music world; a gin that still dominates my bar four years after having first tasted it. Once you get a taste there's no going back.

2. The Nostalgic Wave of Happiness: "Head Over Heels" - Tears For Fears

I have an uncanny recollection of my earliest elementary school days, right smack in the middle of the 1980s new wave MTV cultural revolution. My favorite music video at that time (1985) was "Head Over Heels" by Tears For Fears and I remember singing it with other kids on the playground in first grade. When Donnie Darko came out in 2001 and Richard Kelly used the track for an incredible slow-motion pan through your typical 1980s high school hallway, I was practically balling with nostalgic sadness. It brought back so many memories of being completely happy and carefree; watching Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties, that kind of stuff. Sometimes a great bottle of booze can do that, or even a not-so-great bottle. Last summer I bought a 12-pack of Miller High Life and drank it on the patio with two of my best friends in Modesto, and it might have been the best time I had all year. The memories make everything. This song reminds me of summer happiness, never-ending.

1. The Best Whisky is the One that Tastes Best to You: "Believe" - Dig

I don't believe that quality is subjective. That's always been a total bullshit statement to me: "the best whisky is the one that tastes best to you." Maybe your favorite whisky is the one that tastes best to you, but just because you like something doesn't mean it's good. It just means you like it. And that's the important part: that you know what you like. I know what my all-time favorite summer song is. It's not even a question. It's "Believe" by Dig, a song that dominated my life in 1993, when MTV debuted its "Buzz Bin" and moved the grunge music era into full swing. I have strong memories of blasting this song on my stereo, looking out the window at the steaming Modesto streets, heading out to the pool for a dip, and then blasting it again when I got back to my room. I can't ever listen to this song without being overcome by a wave of emotion; a reminder of how happy I was as a kid during the summer months between school. I don't pretend that "Believe" is "the best" summer song ever because I like it. It's just my personal favorite because it means something important to me; kind of like whatever your favorite whisky is. It doesn't matter how many points it got, or if other people like it. You like it. That's all that matters.

-David Driscoll