I've always had very vivid dreams since I was a kid and I usually remember them quite clearly (even the ones from when I was a small child). Not only are my nocturnal activites fantastically detailed, they're also incredibly potent. They sit with me for days sometimes, or they'll instantly pop into my head when the events of real life intersect on that somnambulistic plane, like some kind of quasi-deja vu. I don't often find much symbolism in my dreams, however. While I'm sure they're trying to tell me something unconsciously, I don't find the message very often. Usually it's just a five-hour romp through the dead of night with the Halloween killer Michael Myers on my trail; that, or maybe I'll hangout with an old friend I haven't seen in a while. Basic stuff. Last night, however, I had an experience that was like something out of the old Herman Hesse novel Steppenwolf.

I was sitting in a movie theater packed with people. The lights were dimmed and there was a highlight reel being played on the screen, full of tribute clips meant to celebrate certain members of the audience. It was like something they play before a baseball player gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, or when the Academy Awards pays homage to the actors and actresses who have died over the past year. As soon as a new person's tribute would appear on the screen, that person would stand up in the audience and take a bow as the rest of the theater cheered and applauded. After a few minutes it turned into a roudy celebration of hip-hip-hoorays. I was sitting on the right side of the room and I was thinking to myself, "Maybe they'll put me on the screen and I'll be able to have my own moment in the sun." But as the plaudits continued I was not included. It made me very sad and also very anxious, sitting there watching dozens of others get their recognition while I was being left out. That's the last emotion I remember feeling before I woke up in a sweat.

I like to think that were this somewhat-Orwellian awards ceremony to occur in reality, I would shake my head and want no part of it. I would head for the door and get away from such a self-aggrandizing spectacle. I like to hope that today I can simply be satisfied with my own sense of accomplishment and not rely on the praise of others for my own self worth.

I hope that's the case.

-David Driscoll


Dr. Bill on the Walk of Fame

Join us this coming Tuesday for a private night with LVMH's Head of Distillation & Whisky Creation, Dr. Bill Lumsden. He’s incredibly knowledgeable, inviting, and occasionally extremely raunchy. The private event space can only accommodate 30 guests, so I imagine it won’t take long before these seats are sold out. Parking is available through the restaurant’s valet or feel free to park at the store and walk the three blocks up to the restaurant. Don’t miss this people! The dinner is $50 all inclusive, no tip or tax or any of that jazz. Just buy your ticket and show up at the restaurant. Also, keep an eye out for other events coming up in SoCal over the next month or so. A meet and greet/tasting with the distillers of the magnificent new Monkey 47 Gin (September 25th) and a Bruichladdich  Portfolio Tasting at Ago at the beginning of October. Both of those events will like be free or VERY affordable.

6250 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 798-1355
If you have any questions or have special dietary restrictions please let me know in advance and I’ll be happy to coordinate with the restaurant to make sure you get something that you can actually eat.
-David Othenin-Girard

Last of the 40 Year Olds

I was originally planning to send my friend Steve (who did some wonderful write-ups of our brandies this week) a sample of the 1973 Pellehaut for his blog, but the bottles sold so damn fast I wasn't able to!

Every now and then you get a feeling in your gut about a purchase—you say to yourself, "Maybe I should double that order." That's what happened with the 1973. I called Charles Neal up about a week after I had given him the final tallies and said, "Let's double that order of 1973."

"OK," he said, "but we've already got the first batch done, so it will arrive on a later boat."

And now that second shipment is here. But not for long. If you even remotely like old Bourbon, you owe it to yourself to try these Pellehaut brandies, which I think offer many of the same great flavors. I saw a bottle of Elijah Craig 23 fly out of here yesterday at $250. Same with the Redbreast 21 at $250. Yet, with little old Armagnac and it's lack of a proper marketing department, you can have almost double the maturity for about half the price.

1973 Chateau Pellehaut 40 Year Old K&L Exclusive Tenareze Vintage Armagnac $139.99 - While Bas-Armagnac gets all the press, and the Haut-Armagnac gets completely ignored, the Tenareze region of Armagnac is quietly producing some of the best brandies in the world. Much like the Borderies region in Cognac, the Tenareze brandies seem to have more fruit and a bit more life than the more classic  Armagnac style. We visited Chateau Pellehaut on our first day in Armagnac last January and were completely overwelmed by the quality of spirit.  Using only new or first fill barrels for the beginning years of maturation, the Armagnacs have richness, weight, and spice. While Pellehaut has since switched to entirely Folle Blanche grape varietals, the 1973 vintage is composed of 90% Ugni Blanc. The palate opens with loads of caramel and a creamy richness the spreads quickly. The aromas are quite Bourbon-esque, with hints of soft vanilla and charred oak drifting out of the glass. The complexity of the brandy is astounding - candied fruit, stewed prunes, toasted almond, baking spices, and earthy warehouse notes, all swirling around at the same time. For an Armagnac of this quality, at an age of more than 40 years old, the price we negotiated is amazing. I'm expecting this to be one of our best selling Armagnacs ever and I expect it to really put Pellehaut on the map stateside.

Speaking of blogging, someone sent me this awesome (because it's sooooooo true) chart yesterday and I think you could apply all of these attributes to successful bloggers out there like Steve. I find that people who operate from the left side of the chart usually write fantastic blogs. I find that people who operate from the right side of the chart write hackneyed, boring, stale blogs.

-David Driscoll


Supernova Sneak Peak

I got my little sample pack of Ardbeg's new 2014 Supernova release yesterday—complete with foam space shuttle. At 55%, I'm utterly taken aback by how gentle the whisky comes across on the palate. There's so much peat that everything just kinda evens out, then turns into a lovely butterscotch candy on the finish. You would think it was 47%—maybe 48%, but definitely not over 100 proof. It's an incredibly balanced whisky considering that its purpose is to blast you with smoke and peat.

As the nation's top Ardbeg account we will be getting plenty of Supernova, but there will be a one bottle limit upon launch—no pun intended—so if you're looking to stock up you'll have to get more elsewhere. Watch for the notice around September 15th.

-David Driscoll


Black Maple Oregon

I've been busy lately. With the hectic schedule I've been operating, I had simply forgotten about CVI Brands in San Carlos (just down the street from our Redwood City store); especially after the Black Maple Hill relationship transitioned from Kentucky to Oregon. Paul Joseph, who owns the Black Maple Hill label, had been working with Kentucky Bourbon Distillers for years—churning out a number of now-legendary Kentucky Bourbon expressions (and now long, long gone as well). We’ve been doing business with Paul for more than a decade, but for some reason tasting his new whiskies just fell off my radar of things to do. Then I noticed that David OG had already started selling the new BMH selections out of Hollywood and they were selling like wildfire (even at double the old price). I made it a priority to go see Paul this week and see what the situation was with the new label.

The first thing I asked him was, “How long did it take to find a new supplier for Black Maple Hill once you learned that KBD was terminating the relationship?”

“Fortunately, not long,” he said. “But it had to be the right fit, so I was willing to look forever if need be.”

I took a sip of the Bourbon, and then the rye. My eyes widened. They were way better than I was expecting them to be.

“These are quite good!” I said, not hiding my surprise. And I was surprised.

“Of course,” he replied. “We wouldn’t put the Black Maple label on anything that wasn’t good. I would have waited ten years before releasing more whiskey if that’s what it would have taken.”

Paul had already been distributing the Stein Distillery whiskies in California, but they were all two year old expressions that didn't "wow" me. Tasting them again side-by-side, the BMH selections were decidedly better. Way better.

“Are these older?” I asked.

“Yes, they’re both a minimum of four years old, but there are older whiskies married in. That was my first question for them,” Paul said, “’Do you guys have anything older we could use?’ And it was clear upon tasting them that the guys at Stein knew what they were doing. It really starts improving at four years in wood.”

The Bourbon is terribly deceiving. It smells super “crafty” on the nose, but the palate is soft and rich, mellowing out beautifully with a flurry of baking spices. The rye is the same, but with more herbaceous notes and a bit more oak and a hint of sweet cherry on the finish. I know very little about the Stein distillery, but I’m now suddenly curious to know more. Paul is a very resourceful guy, so I don’t know why I doubted his ability to regroup with Black Maple Hill after the KBD relationship ended. I saw Oregon and just assumed: “craft”, but there's more going here than just new oak and white dog.

Seeing that Black Maple Hill has always been more about the “unknown” rather than the “known,” I’m sure these new expressions will continue to intrigue whiskey drinkers in search of something new. The mystery has always been part of the appeal.

Black Maple Hill Straight Oregon Bourbon Whiskey 750ml (1 bottle limit) $79.99

Black Maple Hill Straight Oregon Rye Whiskey 750ml (1 bottle limit) $79.99

-David Driscoll