Pure Joy

When I found out yesterday that Westland had released two new expressions—a sherry-matured whiskey and a new peated whiskey—I was completely ecstatic. I'm head over heels in love with the Westland Single Malts from Seattle and I was very excited to get a chance at some single cask selections from their back stock recently. But, for some reason, despite my devotion to all things Westland, I wasn't aware these two new labels were hitting the market this week, so when my friends from Anchor walked through the door today with both bottles, I immediately did a happy dance. I smiled, wiggled, jumped up and down, and quickly popped both bottles to find out exactly what I was getting myself into. To no surprise, both whiskies were outstanding. The Sherry Wood is exactly what you hope it will be: the standard Westland flavor with more sweet, cakey richness and a hint of nutty goodness on the finish. It's young, but it's soft as all hell. The peated expression is actually a marriage of heavily-peated single malt with non-peated single malt; the result being a more mild-mannered version of the Islay style, more akin to something like Talisker or Springbank, than Lagavulin. It's round and supple, oily in the middle, but phenolic on the back end. I love it, and I don't care what anyone else thinks. I'm a total Westland mark, so I'm going to cheer for them no matter what.

There are moments in life where you're so excited that you completely lose track of social etiquette and you just surrender to pure joy. Like Westland's delicious single malt whiskies, professional wrestling is one of those things that just makes me lose all sense of decency, putting me into a frenzy of unbridled emotion. Take this magical moment in the year 2000 as an example. I was a 230 pound (I'm now about 175), chain-smoking, Jack-In-The-Box grubbing 20 year old, sitting in the front row at ECW's Heatwave event when I got the chance to reach out and hug one of my all time favorite wrestlers: Rob Van Dam. I didn't care about anything at that point in my life but instant gratification, so I just reached out on national pay-per-view television, grabbed RVD, and didn't let go until he said to me, "Dude, come on."

While I try to be a bit more mature in my old age, I really enjoy those brief moments in life where everything is right in the world and you can just let your guard down and be yourself. That's how I feel drinking Westland's whiskies. I'm not worried about age statements or anything regarding the specs or the details. I'm just drinking a spirit I really enjoy.

And, yes, if you go back and watch that event on the WWE network you can pause the television and see the above photo in all its pure, unadulterated glory. I was truly happy in that moment. 

-David Driscoll


It's Just Whisky = Wrestling is Fake

There are three words that drive every whisky fan crazy when they're deep in the midst of a booze-related soliloquy: it's just whisky. 

Why? Because when those words are uttered they're usually said in an exasperated or condescending tone, as if to deflate our excitement or put us in our place. They're used to combat levels of crazed enthusiasm, or to add a snarky accent on the end of a bewildered retort. When someone says to you "it's just whisky", they're likely a bit annoyed with your behavior. Your passion or your energy is probably getting under their skin. But why those words? It's not that we think whisky is actually something other than whisky. We just really like it. We obsess over it and spend half our day on the internet trying to learn more about it. Of course, many people just don't get how you could love whisky as much as you do, so they want to take you down a peg (likely because they're upset about something else in their life). It's no different than three other words that drive me crazy: wrestling is fake.

When I was about six years old, deep in the midst of a WWF binge, my parents told me that wrestling was scripted. I think I cried heavily for about three straight hours because, at that point, I did believe in the legitimacy of the sport. But after some serious tears and heavy sobbing, I went right back and started watching again. Very few people watch professional wrestling because they think it's real. Most of us watch it because it entertains the hell out of us; and the more we learn about how it actually works, the more we enjoy analyzing all of its intricacies. But when we try to share that excitement with others, to reveal exactly what it is that lights our fire, we often get rebuffed by the same three words we so often hear: wrestling is fake. Professional wrestling is definitely scripted, and the moves are obviously choreographed, but calling it fake is just misinformed. It's a quick synopsis based on five seconds of comprehension. That's to be expected, however, because the people telling you that wrestling is fake aren't doing so because they're trying to educate you. They're simply passing judgement.

There are a lot of people out there who find enthusiasm repulsive; especially when they don't understand the nature of that excitement. People like that often fear what they can't relate to, or at the very least feel left out. That resentment often causes them to spout off something quick and brash, much like they do with other hobbies or interests:

If you talk about your love of television: I don't watch TV. 

Yeah, right.

If you talk about your love of books: Who has time to read?

Who has time to do anything?

If you talk about your love of fashion: I'd rather be comfortable.

Because my Cole Haan shoes with Nike Air soles are uncomfortable?

If you talk about your love of food: People are starving. I'd rather give that money to charity.

Let's go donate some money together right now! Oh, you're too busy? Maybe next time.

If you talk about your love of whisky: It's just whisky.


If you talk about your love of professional wrestling: Wrestling is fake.

You got me. You win. I guess I'll head over to Levi's Stadium this Sunday with 70,000 other screaming fans and give them the bad news.

-David Driscoll


Wrestlemania Week

T-minus one week to wrestling's version of the Super Bowl: Wrestlemania. It's the biggest and most important pay-per-view of the year, with tens of thousands of fans packing into a stadium to watch the WWE's brightest stars perform on the largest of stages. This year's event happens to be right in the middle of Silicon Valley, and as someone who likes to write about booze and pop culture along the Peninsula, I'll be right in the thick of things. Inside the envelope pictured above are four tickets to the show, passes for the Hall of Fame ceremonies, access to other weekend activities, and much, much more. Not only will I be attending the official WWE sanctioned events, I'll be stopping by the numerous other independent shows that have sprung up on the local schedule. There will be photos, interviews (crossing my fingers on this), and wrestling/booze parallels all week long; all somehow tying our love of drinking into the celebration of sports entertainment's most incredible pageant. It's going to be a wild time. 

Stay tuned.

-David Driscoll


Agave Angst

The world of agave spirits is becoming much like the world of television: the quality keeps getting better and every day there's something new to discover. There's so much good TV right now that I find myself wondering when I'll have time to watch it all, and that doesn't even count internet programming! When am I going to find the time for Peaky Blinders on Netflix or Transparent on Amazon? It's making my skin itch! Along the same line, it seems like every day I'm hearing about a new mezcal or a new tequila, or how everyone's expecting the agave spirits business to be the next big boom. I'm getting samples in the mail, phone calls from vendors all over the country, and emails from producers in Mexico asking if K&L would be interested in supporting their brand. It's so exciting!

However, much like my dilemma with television, there's only so much time and so much bandwidth I can devote to tequila and mezcal. It's not that I don't want to expand the department and start romping through Oaxaca in search of the next big thing; it's that I don't know how much new agave information our customers can handle (or have time for). While I set my mind to figuring out the answer to that equation, here's one new mezcal that you absolutely cannot miss. The partnership between California's Craft Spirits and Oaxaca's Los Danzantes is the Breaking Bad of the agave spirits world: every episode is so good you can't help but wait in angst for the next one. The Mezcalero series has been—for me—the top prize in the mezcal world year after year, and Batch No. 10 continues that level of quality with a remarkably suave spirit.

Distilled by Rodolfo Juan Juarez from Sierra Negra agave, the Mezcalero 10 is the most graceful iteration of the series to date and the most accessible. It begins with a potent dash of tangy, roasted agave flavor before slowly melting into a delicate, stunningly soft palate of baking spices and sweet fruit with a faint whisper of smoke. I don't know much about Sierra Negra agave, but from what I was told by the folks at Craft Spirits it's known for making the most suave of all mezcales. If that's what it's known for, then this is a textbook example because this mezcal is smooth as silk without sacrificing flavor or intensity.

Of course, you might be reading this and thinking to yourself: "David, this all sounds quite interesting, but who has time for all the whisky you bring in, let alone fancy mezcales from the rural backwoods of Mexico?" I wouldn't blame you for thinking such a thing. Perhaps you shouldn't read more about the Mezcalero series if that's the case because—let me tell you—once you sit down and start watching, you'll be hooked. Cancel your weekend plans and order a pizza.

-David Driscoll


Variance - Part II

I've always driven a Honda since the time I learned how to drive. My parents drove Honda Accords, I drove a Honda Accord in high school, my first car in college was a 1999 Honda Civic, and when I first started working at K&L I bought a 1995 Honda Accord to make the commute. It wasn't until a few years ago, when one of my co-workers moved to the East Coast, that I bought his amazing 2003 Volkswagen GTI. The car was seven years old and only had 8,000 miles on it. It was in absolute perfect condition because the guy I bought it from was completely OCD about keeping it clean and beautiful. That being said, never during my time owning a Honda, used or new, did I need to bring either car in for anything other than an oil change. Yet, in my fifth year of VW ownership, not a year has gone by when I haven't needed to replace something or fix a rather pricey issue. While picking my car up last night at the garage (I needed a new thermometer in the engine), I asked my mechanic Andrew (who I trust with my life): "So am I needing constant repairs because the car is old despite the mileage, or is this indicative of a larger problem?"

"Honestly? It's because it's a VW. German cars need constant maintenance. It's part of the deal," he replied.

"So I'm trading power and speed for more time in the shop?" I asked in response.

"Exactly," he said.

It all made perfect sense to me, so I wasn't the slightest bit upset at the reality check. If you like to wear nice clothes (which I do), then you can't just throw them in the washer when they get dirty. You need to take them to the dry cleaner, which can cost you upwards of $60 a week if you go often (which I do). That's part of the maintenance. If you like to drink expensive wine (which I do), then you can't assume that just because you spent $200 on the bottle that your satisfaction is guaranteed. There are no guarantees with wine, which is why guys like me shouldn't be buying $200 bottles. If you can't afford to dump $200 down the drain, then you can't afford to drink $200 bottles of wine because you have to assume that one out of every ten bottles is corked, past its prime, was stored incorrectly, or is spoiled in some way for some other reason. That's why people (not me) buy cases of $200 bottles of wine: to protect against the bad beat. You'll probably get at least ten good bottles from a case.

Then there's the maintenance that goes along with wine collecting: wine storage, wine coolers, temperature controls, etc. By the time you're done, you've probably spent another thousand or more just making sure your wine doesn't go bad after you've bought it. That's why you have to pick and choose your battles. I'm not in for the long-term wine game. I can't afford the upkeep that a serious wine cellar requires and it isn't worth it to me ultimately. Clothing, on the other hand, is. Cars? I don't know. I don't know if I care enough about German speed and precision to justify the upkeep, but I completely understand the concept. It's no different than most luxury items, which require all kinds of extra responsibilities. It's never just about the price of admission (see the film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels where Michael Caine teaches Steve Martin about the responsibilities of having money and class). Enjoying nice things often means spending far more money than you were originally expecting.

-David Driscoll