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Friday
May302014

Friday Night Lights

At thirty-four years of age, I can begrudgingly admit that I'm now too old for most video games. I tried delving back in via the Xbox 360 a few years back, but that experiment failed miserably--there were too many new tricks to learn for this old dog. While the Nintendo Wii, with its remote control wand and motion-sensor magic briefly held my attention back in 2008, there wasn't enough substance to warrant the experience. However, when they launched the Wii U last year (with a new touch pad controller) and added in Super Mario World 3D, I was intrigued.

And I finally found the sweet spot.

It was a combination of things that brought me back to video games; a formula of: nostalgia + short learning curve + updated graphics. Super Mario World 3D wasn't only a fantastic experience; it might be the best video game I've ever played. While I enjoyed that experience immensely, the real test comes tonight when a package from Amazon will await me on my front porch; inside it, the newest incarnation of Super Mario Kart. The ability for video games to reach me on a deeper level will hopefully be revealed with this release. Let me give you a bit of context.

Picture it: the Roosevelt dorms at UCSD in 1997. It's getting near dawn. All is dark and quiet, save for a small room on the second floor of Earth Hall that has a flickering light coming out of the back window. Even from a distance, if you were to focus closely, you would smell a combination of cigarette smoke and bong water, and possibly hear some faint screaming. As you walked closer, the noise would be even more apparent. It wasn't a consistent noise, or a steady stream of rowdy voices, but rather a thirty second period of short grunts and giggles followed by one triumphant yell and a medley of moaning. It was the sound of five 18 year old punks playing Mario Kart 64 deep into the night.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I screamed.

"YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!" my roommate Kai exalted.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" chimed in the three other hoodlums.

The race had been run. Kai had won yet another round of Rainbow Road with Donkey Kong, coming back to win by securing himself a heat-seeking turtle shell at the finish.

We exited the room and spilled out into the main hall. A stomping of footsteps came up from the stairway and a mad, red-eyed woman came into the lounge. She stood there glaring at us, shaking with anger. It was our Resident Adviser, Kelly, who lived in the room underneath mine.

"Do you guys have any idea what time it is?" she said, biting down hard on her teeth.

"No, what time is it? I asked.

"It is 4:20 in the morning! I have to sleep!" she screamed at us. 

"4:20?" Kai asked, with a huge grin on his face. "Yeah!! Time to go smoke some more!"

We all burst into a huge fit of laughter and began yelling again. Kelly wasn't amused.

"I'm writing all of you up for this," she announced, heading straight back down to her room in a fuss.

There were many nights like this one over the next few years; laughing, drinking, yelling, screaming, and loving the competition that the Nintendo race vehicles brought out in us. Mario Kart wasn't just a game for us back then, it was a way of life. To this day I still share numerous inside jokes with some of my older friends that revolve around that game. If Mario Kart 8 can even come close to rekindling a bit of that magic for me, I'm probably going to spend many a teary-eyed evening in front of the TV.

So you know what I'll be doing tonight: I'll be grabbing some take out, a few bottles of wine, and heading straight home once we lock up the shop. The Wii U will be on, I'll be figuring out the new controls, and hopefully grinning from ear to ear as I remember the good old days of racing; likely texting a few of my friends about the experience. There are few things in life that go as well with drinking than a great video game.

Come 11 PM, I will definitely be drunk, and likely loud. Luckily, my wife can't write me up for that kind of behavior. That's the one good thing about growing up.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
May292014

Dramarama Deal #2

 

Drama, drama, drama! I loves me some drama!

But, really, how much drama are we really going to start by selling the Singleton 12 year for $27.99?

Some, but not a whole lot.

Let's turn it up a notch. Let's drop our Ardbeg prices. Let's drop them so low that we're even lower than those mom and pop stores that practically give it away just to get you in the door to buy something else. Let's drop it like we did when Ardbeg brought the new motorcycle a few weeks back. That seemed to make everyone happy. But instead of doing it "in-store only" let's open it up to the entire K&L customer database!

In celebration of the new Auriverdes and the fact that Ardbeg has remained one of the most consistent single malts in terms of quality and price, I'm going to make K&L not only the best Ardbeg retailer in the nation (because we're already that, if you didn't know), but also the cheapest (which we weren't until this moment). It's important to us here at K&L that some of the best whiskies on the planet remain affordable and within reach of all our customers; the fact that Ardbeg can taste this good, yet be this inexpensive is a pretty terrific thing for consumers.

I know my friends at Ardbeg are going to cringe when all this low Ardbeg pricing sends people into hysterics, but it's not because I hate Ardbeg that I'm lowering these prices; it's because I LOVE Ardbeg that I'm lowering these prices!

Don't you see?! I'm doing it because I LOVE YOU! WHY CAN'T YOU SEE HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU AND THAT WE SHOULD BE TOGETHER FOREVER???!!!!

All stalker-ish jokes aside, I want everyone to load up on the fantastic new Ardbeg Auriverdes and take some of the other expressions as well. These "dramarama" prices are only good, however, until midnight tonight! We can't afford to do this for more than a few hours, so at 12 AM PST I'm changing the prices back!

I'm guessing these will sell very fast, so I wouldn't spend much time deliberating! We're already the nation's top account for Ardbeg without this pricing. I can only imagine what's going to happen now:

Ardbeg 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt Whisky (was $47) NOW $39.99

Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt Whisky (was $55) NOW $49.99

Ardbeg Corryvreckan Single Malt Whisky (was $73) NOW $59.99

Ardbeg Auriverdes Limited Edition Single Malt Whisky $99.99 - In the realm of what is now a bi-annual certainty -- these limited edition, get-them-while-you-can, special release bottles -- Ardbeg has almost always reigned supreme. They've brought more intensity (the Supernova), they've brought extra spice (the Alligator), and they've even played around with cask finishing (the Galileo). The thing about Ardbeg, however, is that their whisky is already perfect how it is, so why mess with perfection? Why tweak it or finagle with it? Why not just celebrate it? That's what this year's Auriverdes is all about -- a celebration of the 2014 World Cup with a new, softer, more supple version of its peaty goodness. Inspired by the Brazilian flag (Auri - gold, Verde - green), there's nothing weird or new going on with this whisky, just impeccable execution. It's also a whisky of green peat and golden oak with big, bold smoke and a soft mocha finish. The 49.9% proof intensifies the spice, but the vanilla wins in the end. More important than any of the marketing, however, is the quality. This is the best new Ardbeg in years -- period. No tricks, no gimmicks. Just good. That's reason enough to celebrate.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
May282014

Kavalan Whisky is...

To all of our Chinese-speaking customers out there, we have something to tell you about the new Kavalan whiskies. Our Taiwanese-born Angie An just told me:

K&L Wine Merchant 新貨上架, 是讓當台灣人的我驕傲的一天. 這瓶金車威士忌是讓蘇格蘭人都掉了下巴 前幾年在蘇格蘭威士忌盲飲比賽中得到冠軍! 噶瑪蘭 (Ka Va Lan) 這瓶威士忌是從台灣宜蘭生產出來的,   而他的名字也就是宜蘭早期的本名. 這瓶頂級指揮(從網站)  "投入雪山山脈純淨甘甜的天然水源,經過二次蒸餾,僅擷取10%酒心,以高規格、嚴謹的態度熟成。金車頂極指揮威士忌以單一麥芽之姿,精選八種不同風味酒桶,呈現複雜又乾淨的多層次風味。46度無冷凝過濾,無添加焦糖,原色純味" 喝下去口感真的很讚! 生為台灣人或威士忌愛好者在死前一定要試的一瓶!!!

If you need more information about our spirits and your preferred language is Chinese, you can email her at angiean@klwines.com

We're so excited about these new Kavalan whiskies we're willing to tell you in any language we can!

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
May272014

K&L Spirits Journal Podcast #27 – Lou Palatella

Lou Palatella is not only a football icon, he's a liquor legend in the California distribution business – the man is spoken of with supreme reverence in the local booze industry. Approaching his 81st birthday, Lou is still going strong, running his Campeon tequila company out of Burlingame, CA and living in the shadow of the team he once called home: the San Francisco 49ers. He's a natural storyteller and he has a lot of fun memories about the old days of whiskey in the U.S. Listen to Lou as he talks about turning down Vince Lombardi's offer to play for Green Bay, the decline of Bourbon in the face of vodka, and drinking on Pappy Van Winkle's porch.

You can listen to my conversation with Lou via the embedded media player above, or download the media file by clicking on the link here. You can also visit the K&L Spirits Journal Podcast page via iTunes and download the interview there. 

The archive of previous podcast episodes is archived in directory located in the right-hand margin of the blog.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
May272014

Kavalan Arrives!

The first Kavalan of the many expressions has arrived in the U.S. and I think we might be the first account to have it. While we're still waiting for customs to clear the rest of the portfolio, the classic Kavalan King Car is here and in the store. Here are the details:

Kavalan King Car Conductor Taiwanese Single Malt Whisky $109.99 - After so much time spent merely reading about the great single malt whiskies from Taiwan's Kavalan distillery, we can finally get our hands on them here in the states! The first release from Kavalan back in 2008 was their classic single malt expression that uses ex-sherry, ex-Bourbon, and ex-wine casks of between four and four and a half years of age for the marriage. The King Car uses that formula with twice the sherry, and it's this whisky that I suggest those who are looking to try out one selection from the Kavalan portfolio begin with. The first thing that strikes you as you taste it is how un-youthful it is. It might as well be a 12 year old malt from the Scottish Highlands, but with an incredible supple-fruited character. It tastes like well-made, mature, Scottish single malt with extra concentration. It's new and exciting, yet familiar and easy-to-place. There's a soft, supple, raisined fruit and sweet sherry flavor right on the entry and a long, rich finish that continues to bring toffee and caramel for minutes. It's the humid conditions of Kavalan's warehouse that allows the maturation to take place much faster -- and while I'm normally skeptical of such accusations, the proof is in the pudding here. This is real deal whisky from the next big thing.

-David Driscoll