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Tuesday
Mar042014

New Cognacs From Esteve

Of all the Cognac producers we've worked with over the past few years, Esteve is by far my favorite. I love the family, I love their estate, and I love their Cognac. They're located right on the border of Petit Champagne and Grand Champagne and most of the brandy is stored underneath their house (check out our first visit back in 2012 when we went spelunking). We get a lot of requests for 50 year old spirits around here, but the price tag of the standard 50 year single malt scares people off pretty quickly. That's why we're pretty excited about the new Propriete. For the serious baller, who only drinks mid-19th century spirits, there's the lovely Plentitude.

Jacques Esteve K&L Exclusive Tres Vieux de la Propriete Cognac $179.99 - Our relationship with Petit Champagne producer Jacques Esteve continues! This time we really went for, bringing in the family's esteemed Tres Vieux de la Propriete: a 50 year old expression that really brings the rancio along with the caramelized fruit. Even with five decades in wood, the brandy hasn't lost its freshness. The fantastic freshness of Esteve's base wines is still on full display, but quickly turns into a savory and oak spice flurry of flavor. The caramel becomes more of a burnt sugar note and the wood helps balance out the sweetness. This is a cigar lover's brandy if there ever was one. If you want 50 year old single malt, get ready to spend at least four figures. But 50 year old Cognac? Straight from the source, grower/producer-direct, from a single estate on the border of Petit and Grande Champagne, aged in a warehouse on the estate itself? Try $179.99. Now you see why we're so anxious to get back to France!

Jacques Esteve K&L Exclusive Plentitude Cognac 375ml $799.99 (these are half bottles) We've slowly built quite a following for the Jacques Esteve Cognacs here at K&L -- the small producer we began importing directly two years ago following our spirits expedition to France. On our last visit, the family brought down one of their closely-guarded treasures: the Plentitude expression, made from pre-Phylloxera brandies distilled in the 1800s. The Cognac used to create this very limited edition were distilled by Esteve's great-grandfather on the same estate more than 150 years ago. The flavors are very concentrated, rich and decadent on a level that cannot be replicated even with 40 and 50 year old expressions. We're not simply dealing with older brandy here, but rather Cognac distilled from an entirely different era when the winemaking and distillation practices were much different. Bottled in 375ml containers, these twelve bottles represent a piece of history as much as they do an extravagant spirit. Drinking the Esteve Plentitude is as much an homage to the past as it is to your palate. Only 12 bottles available.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Mar032014

The Plight of Plight

I've had a great time writing the Plight of the Whisky Blogger comic strip and an even better time emailing with people about it – primarily other bloggers. One thing that's surprised me however is how many of our online allies thought I was spoofing them! Let me be clear: this comic is about no specific person. I'm not going around the internet, reading blogs, and looking for new material. If there's any inspiration for the Whisky Expert blogger it's the comic book store guy in The Simpsons. Disgruntled collectors and obsessive superfans are going to be the same whether you're talking about whisky, comics, wrestling, music, or movies. It's always the same anger being unleashed towards the system they secretly love with a resentment for their own lack of importance within it. It's a pretty simple observation.

But it's been interesting to see what other whisky fans thought the motivation was. Do I hate bloggers? Why am I acting aggressively towards whisky fans? Those types of questions. The reactions hinged on whether you consider me a blogger who works retail, or a retailer who happens to write a blog. If you don't see me as a blogger then it might seem a little like bullying, but I consider myself a blogger, for sure. That's why I feel right at home mocking my own hobby. I'm the guy who sits in his underwear each morning with his cup of coffee. That's me. The fact that the Whisky Expert is even a blogger at all is because that's the only way the comic strip works: he has to make his views known somehow. The jokes, however, aren't specific to bloggers whatsoever. They're particular to a certain type of personality that all of us recognize, so if you're a blogger and you don't behave that way then there's no need to take offense!

I love whisky blogs. Like I wrote a few days ago, it's because of the work that whisky bloggers do (myself included, thank you) that we're able to enjoy the educated clientele we now cater to. Do you think True Detective could be a show today if it weren't for all the groundwork laid by Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, and The Wire? Hell no! It's way too detail-oriented, slow, long, and drawn-out. "Get to the point!" the TV executives would have screamed. But today's viewer is much more sophisticated and has a higher level of expectation. The same goes for today's whisky fan. We couldn't sell fifteen casks of Miltonduff, Mortlach, Bladnoch and other lesser-known single malts if there weren't people out there writing and blogging about them every single day. It's because of whisky bloggers (both professional and amateur) that we are where we are.

But as every interest grows and evolves into a heightened state of self-awareness, it will attract rigid, detail-oriented personalities who use their knowledge as a self-esteem booster. It's that personality that I'm ribbing in the Plight comic strip. It's not a personality specific to whisky bloggers, whatsoever, or even to whisky as a whole. It's a personality specific to life, and when you're writing a comic strip, life is what you take your inspiration from. The broader the understanding, the funnier it is.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Feb282014

Retro Weekend

It's not easy to get your prices down to a competitive level nationally. There's always someone out there who managed to get a better deal than you from a sales rep that needed to move some units. But, seeing that David OG and I are absolutely exhausted right now and on the point of a complete mental breakdown after processing all these pre-orders, we thought a nostalgic trip to the past might be just what we needed. Remember when Talisker 18 used to be reasonable? It wasn't averaging $145 across the country, but was around $100 or less? We do, too. So we thought we'd lower some prices and remember those heady days....

Talisker 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky $109.99 (was $130) - It's not quite sub-$100, but it's as close as we're going to get. Let's keep pushing and maybe we can get the folks in charge to come to their senses again.

Bulleit 10 year old Bourbon Whiskey $31.99 (was $45) - I'm much more comfortable with Bulleit 10 at this price. I liked it before, but for a little more than $30 I feel much better about putting it in your hands.

Zaya Gran Reserve 12 Year Old Trinidad Rum $22.99 (was $30) - We’re in a very rum-centric place right now. We fell in love with Guyana. We also have to thank the fine people of Trinidad for introducing us to the unforgettable Hot Doubles and Potato Pies that truly made our 8 hour layover in this odd little country bearable. Enjoy this sweet little number from the island.

Cadenhead's 20 Year Old "Creations" Batch #1 Blended Scotch Whisky $79.99 (was $100) - Twenty year old, sherry-aged Bruichladdich, Mortlach, Cameronbridge, and Invergordon. It's quite special. And now it's quite affordable!

Let's start with those for now. Who knows what else we might find to add to the pile? We're definitely in the Spring cleaning mentality right now, so keep your eyes peeled for more hot deals.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Feb282014

Education Goes A Long Way

Some of the old guard in the liquor industry aren't used to the new era of consumer information. They're not prepared for the fact that the people calling often know more about the products than they do. They don't realize there are thousands of blogs, message boards, social media groups, and 24/7 updates about wine, whisky, and beer available online these days, going much further in-depth than what's typically available from the basic promotional sales sheet. They're used to the old days of people asking them questions about what's good, about what they should buy, and what they should be looking for. The fact that they're now often just facilitating orders for an educated public can be tough to accept, but many of our customers today already know what they want. The consumer has already researched, read the reviews, and made up his or her mind in advance of our solicitation. As retailers, we're simply the middleman in many situations.

I watched the two hour NXT event on the new WWE network last night and I saw the same thing happening with the live audience. This was meant to be a coming out party for young, up-and-coming wrestling talent, but the crowd already knew everything about these fresh faces. They were chanting various phrases like "Match of the Year" before the match had even started because they knew what was about to happen. Twenty years ago people thought professional wrestling was real!! People thought that Andre the Giant really did betray Hulk Hogan -- in real life, not as part of some scripted storyline. Today's fans, however, not only know it's a script, but also what's going to happen before it actually does. They're glued in to the rumor mills and the updates. You can't surprise anyone anymore.

While some folks are getting their egos bruised at the idea of the "smart" consumer, feeling that their knowledge isn't as valuable as it used to be, I'm overjoyed by their presence (being one of them). The more we educate people about whisky, the distilleries, the business, and how we do what we do, the less we have to explain ourselves. We don't have to play the hype man as much anymore because people already know what we're talking about. We can simply sit back and let the whisky speak for itself. The word will spread organically via the many web outlets available to discerning consumers. It's already happening for us, so why not put your feet up and enjoy it?

This is the moment we've been building towards as retailers -- the point when intelligent consumers would come looking for us, rather than the other way around. I can't help but laugh when I watch some of the older guys in this business try and guard their knowledge, like it's something that couldn't be Google-searched and learned in seconds. There's no point in fighting the future.

Embrace it.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Feb272014

Plight #4

-David Driscoll