Thursday
Jul302015

More Casualties of the Whisky Boom

I normally try to avoid stories like this in the new age of whisky antagonism, but I figured since I can still do a bit of good in this realm I might as well give you the head's up: Glendronach 15 has been discontinued for the time being. The official word is this will only be a three year shortage, so in the year 2018 (if we're all still alive), when stocks catch up, we can enjoy the super-sherried delight once again. In any case, we still have plenty available so if the Glendronach 15 is one of your go-to whiskies, it might be time to load up. 

Because I get about thirty-five phone calls and emails about this subject every day, I figured I'd just post a few more here as well:

-Hibiki 12 is gone. It's now Hibiki "Harmony"

-Nikka 12 Pure Malt is gone. It's now just plain old Nikka Pure Malt

-Nikka 12 Miyagikyo and Yoichi 15 are not gone forever, but getting a bottle at K&L is now going to be a game of "who's trolling the K&L website at the exact moment when the product gets received?"

-Elijah Craig 12 is not quite gone, but the "12" has been removed from the front label, so it now reads "Elijah Craig Small Batch". The back label still states the whiskey is 12 years old, but this might be an example of what I talked about on the wine blog this past week: slow, subtle change. 

-And, yes, Black Maple Hill is still discontinued. I'm still surprised by how many people haven't figured that one out yet. But that's what we're here for. If you have a question about the availability of your favorite whiskey, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to send you into a day-long depression.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jul282015

Whiskey Lover's Cognac

A customer recently asked me in an email whether we had what I might refer to as a "whisky lover's Cognac". His goal was simple: he likes whiskey, he wants to try Cognac; which Cognac would be the best fit for a whiskey drinker?

What I ended up writing back was a prescription to try one of our new Armagnacs, explaining that the spice and the intensity of the Gascogne brandies are far more tailored to today's single malt or Bourbon fan. Cognac is often a spirit more suited for today's, well...Cognac consumer. They're blended to be smooth, soft, and seamless, rather than expressive and explosive. Most whiskey drinkers are searching for originality and individuality. They want to understand what makes each whiskey unique, so they look for different flavors and explanations as to why they exist. With Cognac, it's often about airbrushing away anything out of the ordinary in favor of the mainstream desire. It's about absolute harmony rather than artistic integrity. Not that one can't enjoy both sides of the spectrum (because I most definitely do), but rather that a Cognac bottle wouldn't be the first thing I reached for to put into the hands of a self-described Bourbon or single malt drinker.  But then I walked by the shelf today and I saw the 1996 Giboin Fins Bois Cognac that we just recently reloaded on. Actually....

Francois Giboin is an interesting guy. He's definitely not looking for uniformity and equality in his Cognacs (but I think he does sympathize with communism, so go figure). Unlike all other producers we deal with directly, Giboin is not located in the Grand Champagne or Petit Champagne; but rather in the Fins Bois—a region not known for producing a particularly fine spirit. But it was exactly because of that pre-conceived belief (that all the best Cognacs come from Grand Champagne) that we wanted to meet someone in the outer reaches of the Charentes who was actually bottling their own stuff. If Fins Bois was considered to be automatically inferior to the Champagne districts of Cognac, we wanted to at least know it for ourselves.

What I love about Giboin is that he's proud of his locale, so much so that he tells you all about it on the back label. There's a map of the six main crus, a sign that shows you his position, and an description of the property complete with family history. We liked him right off the bat. He definitely understood what we were looking for: a unique expression of flavor and place.

So we dug around Giboin's cellar and discovered the lovely little 1996 vintage, from which this most-recent batch was bottled in April of 2015. Still an 18 year old spirit, the earthy and leathery flavors, intermixed with the caramel and richness from the oak, make it one of the most rustic Cognacs I've ever tasted. Whereas almost all other Cognacs I've tasted showcase fruit and/or sweetness, you get neither on display in the Giboin. The nose is all caramel and vanilla, but it all instantly fades on the palate which brings forth a heavy dose of leather, savory spices, earth. It's a Cognac that is decidedly un-Cognac-like.

Whether it's for whiskey drinkers, I don't know. But if I had to pick one Cognac to put in a whiskey lover's hands, this is the one I'd pick. 

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jul272015

Cocktail Lore

When I was visiting with Erik Adkins at Hard Water last week, he was showing me photos from his favorite bar in London called Nightjar (which I have to admit looks incredible). I guess they did a pop up at this year's Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans that just blew people's minds (cocktails out of giant conch shells, things like that). I love pageantry when it comes to drinking (hell, when it comes to just about anything), but I also love simplicity and pure, uncomplicated flavor. In talking about London bars, Erik asked about my favorite cocktails in the city. The answer was easy because it's still one of the best drinks I've ever had: the Blue Moon from Rules; the oldest restaurant in London (they even go there in an episode of Downton Abbey). My wife and I dined there during our honeymoon and we ordered the Blue Moon because, at that time (around 2010), creme de violette was all the rage and we had been making pre-Prohibition drinks at home. It's a simple recipe: gin, creme de violette (Creme Yvette if you're being historically-accurate), and lemon juice; but something about this particular concoction was life-changing.

I love a little shake-and-bake out on the basketball court; a 360 dunk or an alley-oop from a behind-the-back pass. But nothing compares to the sweet swish of a Steph Curry three. That's part of the reason I love drinking at the Interval with Jennifer Colliau. There's something about her drinks that dissects everything else about the cocktail presentation and gets straight to the root of the flavor. That being said, look at the pictures from Nightjar and tell me you don't want to go there tonight. Are they still flying the Concorde?

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Jul252015

History Repeats

I had a conversation with a guy in the store today who said: "I feel like all the whiskies I usually enjoy drinking are going down in quality. They're all losing their age statements, or they're just not as interesting as they once were."

To which I said, "That's the nature of the whiskey business."

He kind of stared at me, a bit confused, until I said: "In the history of this industry, there have been consistent shortages and gluts. The shortages occur when the population rediscovers their love affair with whiskey and rapidly buys what's available. The gluts occur after the market reacts to that newfound popularity, waters down the mature supply, and ultimately lowers the quality in order to meet greater demand. It's inevitable."

"Why don't they just make more?" he asked.

"They are making more. But they have to guess how much more they'll need down the line, and they don't always guess correctly. They're trying to predict demand in 2025 and beyond. History has shown us, however, that strong sales don't last forever."

"If they just made more 20 year old Bourbon, I'd be fine with that," he replied.

"But they can't ever make enough 20 year old Bourbon for everyone without diminishing the quality of the product. That's why people eventually stop drinking whiskey: because sales ultimately take priority over quality. These people are running businesses. The nature of business is always to grow, sell more, and expand."

"So when's the next whiskey glut going to happen?" he finally asked.

"As soon as everyone stops drinking it and moves on to something else," I said.

"When will that happen?"

"As soon as you get tired of diminishing quality."

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jul242015

They're Coming...

Riddle me this, Batman: what do K&L Wine Merchants, St. George Distillery, Frontier Records, and Love & Rockets comic artist Jaime Hernandez all have in common? I'll give you a hint: they've all been changing the face of California's enjoyment since the early 1980s. I think it's time we celebrate that, don't you?

But, really, what could we possibly do (collaboratively, speaking) that would encompass clever retailing, creative distillation, loud punk rock music, and brilliant artistry? Hmmm......I'm thinking.

I'm still thinking....what if these came with matching vinyl? Oh man, what an idea! Spirits geeks, record geeks, and comic book geeks all fighting over the same limited edition merchandise. That might be too much. But, I've always been a fan of "too much". Coming this Fall. 

-David Driscoll