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Friday
Nov172017

A Bit of Advice

I've got a bit of advice for both retailers and customers today:

Customers: don't pay the crazy mark ups (I've seen $199.99 already) for the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon now that it's been named the #1 whiskey of the year by the Whisky Advocate. It's a $60 Bourbon and there's plenty of it (plus all the subsequent batches are NOT the exact one that won the award). 

Retailers: you need to advocate and push for a whiskey BEFORE it wins the #1 whiskey of the year, not after. The former is called a partnership, the latter is called opportunism.

Wanna see what I mean? Watch the new product feed today and you'll find out EXACTLY what I mean.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Nov162017

The End of an Era

If you didn't catch any of my posts over the past year about Scotland's new distilleries and what they mean for the independent cask trade, I'll give you the one sentence version: the recent era of independent single casks as a reasonably-priced alternative to the main market is coming to an end. Why, you ask? Because the major players are having no problem selling their own casks of whisky right now, meaning they're cutting off the pressure relief valve they've been using as a safety mechanism for decades. No more filling contracts. No more access. What you have is what you can work with. That's why the prices for single barrels have begun to creep back up, access to interesting stuff is tighter than ever, and independent bottlers have begun looking for a new source of income: PRODUCTION. Any independent bottler that wants to stay in the Scotch business has either begun to build a new distillery, or purchased an already operational one. That's the new reality for the time being.

Is there a whisky glut coming down the road? Personally, I think so. There's a lot of whisky being made right now, and a lot of it is just sitting in bottles on the shelf, but even a future surplus of Scotch whisky doesn't mean we'll ever go back to the independent bottler model we've been primarily working with over the last decade or so. With most of the bottlers now focusing on their own distillation, the amount of working capital they have to devote to cask purchasing is far less and their attention is now elsewhere. I've seen the writing on the wall for years, which is why I bulked up and bought everything we could afford this past summer before prices really hit the ceiling. Come 2018, I'm not sure what will be left for us in Scotland's independent game. I've got plenty of casks tied up for the time being, but I'm weary of pricing as it currently stands.

That pricing, however, reflects the availability. There ain't nothin' to be had. Anything interesting has a premium. Anything luxurious is crazy expensive. That being said, I made one final play this past July for what I have to assume will be the last truly collectable, lavishly-priced single barrel of Scotch we buy for some time. As the spirits buyer, I stopped looking for luxury casks years ago. The Port Ellens and Broras of the world are far too expensive at this point to justify the thousand dollar prices and the amount of customers still looking for rare editions of lost distilleries has dwindled, especially for an entire cask's worth of whisky. That being said, every now and again I can pull a little magic out of my dusty old Scotch hat and find a barrel of something truly stupendous. While $600 for a bottle of Macallan may not seem like a deal to everyone, I would do a price search for the 25 year Macallan as a comparison and see what pops up. You're looking at a minimum of $1500-$1700 for a single bottle in today's market and that's for a blend of numerous barrels proofed down to 43% ABV. Can you imagine what the Mac 25 would cost as a single barrel at full proof? It would be at least $3000 if not more.

Even older independent editions like the one we're offering here are selling for $750-$1000 overseas. But in the spirit of the holidays, we're offering a pure, unadulterated cask of 24 year old Macallan from a single barrel at full proof for $599 (because I got creative with the math and found a way to subsidize the price). There's not much of it. Only enough for 190 lucky people (if everyone only buys one bottle), but like I've said before: Macallan is the only true first growth in today's single malt market and it's not often you get a deal on luxury. Aged in a refill hogshead barrel, there's no sherry influence here, just golden grains, soft vanilla, rounded fruits, and classic Macallan elegance. Getting the price down to $599 in today's competitive market was something of a miracle, but that's what the holidays are for, right? Those looking for something truly special this holiday season need look no further. We won't actually receive the bottles until January, so you might have to print out a gift receipt and place it in a card for your loved ones in the meantime, but it doesn't get more refined than this. This is the Chateau Margaux of single malt whisky casks. It's finesse in a bottle, from front to back.

It's also the end of an era for K&L. Unless we see an accelerated market move on a glut that I think is still four to five years away, you won't see anything like this at this price again anytime soon. The age of independent bottlers as a value alternative is coming to and end and a new era of booming production has begun. 

1993 Macallan 24 Year Old "Old Particular" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky $599.99 (Pre-Arrival) - Macallan is the only Scottish single malt distillery that has truly achieved first growth status within the industry, despite the fact that many others have tried. The distillery's multi-thousand dollar price points are reminiscent of Chateau Lafite (even DRC at times) and rare collections continue to drive the value of the heralded Highland distillery further into the stratosphere. The 18 year old has gone from $80 to $250 in the span of a decade and the 25 year old now sells for a minimum of $1500 a bottle when you can find it. It's for that reason that, despite the lavish expense, our buyers could not pass up the rarest of all opportunities when it happened upon them: a rare single cask of Macallan 24 year old, bottled at cask strength (no water added), unchillfiltered straight from the barrel for a price that defies the market forces. While normally full proof, single barrel editions sell for a premium compared to the standard editions, our team managed to pull off the deal for a fraction of comparative market prices. Full of vanilla, stone fruit, and classic malt character, this single hogshead edition captures the elegance of the perfectly mature Macallan distillate at an unbridled 51.3% natural cask strength. Bottled exclusively for K&L by our friends at Old Particular, there are only 190 bottles available. (Due to arrive 1/15/2018)

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Nov152017

A Gin Soirée Tonight in Hollywood

 

Join Fords Gin and Joseph Brooke on a curated journey through the cocktail ages! Gin and crafted cocktails have been close bedfellows throughout history, and their connection has endured the ebb and flow of drinking trends. 

Gin shares a relationship with more classic cocktails than any other spirit, some receiving just a fleeting moment of fame, others enduring timelessly. The history of these drinks charts a rich course, one which we look forward to sharing with you. Expect to travel through time via your bartender's deft wrist and developed palate.

Enjoy shared plates paired with the following drinks and an educational tour of their history and relevance: Limmer's Punch, the Ori-Gin-al Cocktail, the classic Gimlet, the Dry Martini, the Negroni, the Bee's Knees, the Gin Sling, the Bramble, and the London Calling.

The Pikey is located at 7617 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046 and David OG will have the entire back room. 

You can purchase tickets here

Tuesday
Nov142017

Surprising New Speysides

It's whisky season, folks! We're ten less than ten days away from Thanksgiving and I know a number of you finicky drinkers out there are getting your selections together for the big holiday feast. I've got two new ones for you today that might be of interest, fresh from Scotland's Speyside region. First off, a new single cask of 22 year old Miltonduff; a gristy malt that packs quite the punch.  

Miltonduff 22 Year Old "Old Particular" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $89.99 - If you're tired of the same sweet vanilla and soft stonefruit profile of your typical Highland malt, I invite you to check out this 22 year old single barrel release from Miltonduff: a Speyside distillery that sees most of its malt go into the Chivas Blended portfolio. At 57.6% ABV cask strength and with a malty, gristy note, this is a robust and heavy whisky that very much tastes like malted barley smells, but with added notes of dark chocolate and cacao that carries over from the malting process. Intermixed with the malt and mocha notes are hints of toasted nuts and new oak with a classic Scotch whisky finish that is again accentuated from the huge proof. Mixed nuts and roasted cocoa flavors are the calling card of Miltonduff and this 22 year old cask offers both of those profiles with a bold and assertive character. It's definitely not your typical gentle, graceful Highland malt. This is big time stuff.

Then there's the new Macallan "Classic Cut" 2017 Limited Edition, a 58.4% ABV distillery release that drinks much like Macallan's version of the Aberlour A'Bunadh: big sherry, big proof. This is dark and unctuous on the finish. Sherry heads will be pleased.

Macallan Classic Cut "2017 Limited Edition" Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky $79.99 - This limited edition Macallan harkens back to an older and much lauded regular release, The Macallan Cask Strength. Adopting the royal crimson colored label -a color made famous by its predecessor - a warning of the impending intensity of this exceptional Highland Single malt whisky. The Macallan Classic Cut is aged exclusively in sherry seasoned oak from Jerez and bottled without the addition of any water prior to bottling. This preserves the extraordinary character of this most exalted of Highland malts. The higher proof adds texture and depth, highlighting the quality sherry and bold malt flavors produced at the Macallan. Like all Macallan single malt, the Classic Cut is bottled without the use of color additives.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Nov142017

Slow Rye

For most of my life I've been a music collector. It started with a Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet tape in 1986 and it peaked in 2002 with a 1,000+ CD collection and a job at the Castro Street Tower Records that was pretty much a wash in terms of income. It was a fun process building that library, one that was incredibly rewarding over time, but it was also crippling. Collections like that take over your life. You can't get away from them. You end up buying things you don't really need just because of some completionist idea in your mind that tells you: "your Sonic Youth collection will never be comfortable without the Made in U.S.A. soundtrack." I was one of those guys for many years. 

It wasn't until I moved to Germany that I digitized my entire collection. That was back when the first iPods came out, so I bought the biggest one possible and brought my entire collection abroad with me in the palm of my hand. It was liberating, to say the least. When I got back in 2005, I went straight to Amoeba and sold every CD I had. I didn't need the actual discs anymore, just the music. I had a hard drive full of thousands of albums at this point, all easily accessible whenever I wanted them. This was the future and I was going to embrace it. Everything was digital and available. There was no need to ever fret about jewel cases, scratches, and rare editions ever again.

But then something happened that I never expected: I stopped caring about music.

For a long time I thought it might be just an age thing. As we get older we have less time for the hobbies of our youth. However, I began to realize over time that it wasn't me, it was the format. Over the last fifteen years, music has completely lost its value in the eyes of the general public and I think the digitization and pirating of MP3s and ACCs has everything to do with it. It took away the ceremony, cheapened the commodity, and destroyed the idea of the album. Music became something I enjoyed while doing something else: driving, working out, cleaning the house, etc. It wasn't until I started getting into vinyl that I rediscovered that feeling of happiness from my youth. Putting on a record helped focus me. I had to sit down and listen to an entire side straight through, rather than skipping around through my iTunes collections or a thematic playlist. It also helped me to better appreciate whiskey. Today when I listen to records, I usually pour a glass of something with it and I limit myself to one option. Last night it was Leopold Bros. Maryland rye with Love & Rockets Earth, Sun, Moon (because I know that's exactly what Todd Leopold would have wanted).

I was talking about this idea yesterday with my co-worker Sal who's going through a similar rediscovery with vinyl. He said to me: "Not only am I listening to the songs that I normally skipped over, I'm actually enjoying those songs the most." I felt the exact same way. About ten years ago I picked up a copy of Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual for a dollar at a garage sale and had that same epiphany. There's a Prince cover of "When You Were Mine" on that album that I had never listened to before because I had skipped over it. Today it's easily my favorite Cyndi song and I have vinyl to thank for that introduction.

Giving any hobby of appreciation the time it needs to present itself is paramount to the enjoyment of that hobby. Sometimes ease and accessibility is actually more of a burden. I've found that slowing down my consumption has helped me to better appreciate whiskey as well, but I never would have taken those steps had it not been for the vinyl. 

-David Driscoll