New (and some old) Goodies From Pac-Edge

My old buddy Rich from Pacific Edgethe Springbank of distributors (hence, why he's the importer and distributor for Springbankboth are independents going up against huge corporate giants)stopped by last week to have lunch and remind me about all the new stuff he had coming in that week. I was super pumped about it. All that new stuff has now been delivered to us this week. Check out all this new booty! Plus, some old faces returning in new packages.

(I would have taken photos of all this stuff, but it's selling so fast there's no time!)

Willett 7 Year Old Single Barrel Rye Whiskey $89.99 (one bottle limit) – I haven’t had it, but it’s Willett single barrel rye, so what more do I need to tell you? Not much available. 60.4%

A.D. Rattray Cask Islay Blended Malt Whisky $52.99New packaging, a fancy new bottle, and a better product! This is a blend of various Islay casks, this malt is smoky, yet light, soft and easy-going. It tastes like a lighter version of Laphroaig.

Rattray's Selection 21 Year Old Batch No. 02 Cask Strength Blended Single Malt Scotch Whisky $129.99A marriage of 1989 Tamdhu, 1991 Strathmill, 1991 Cragganmore, and 1992 Mortlach Bourbon barrels put into Oloroso sherry butts and extra matured. 56.4% ABV

Stronachie 18 year old Single Malt Whisky $79.99Back in stock! This fabulous recreation of one of Scotland's closed distilleries used to be sourced from Benrinnes Distillery in Speyside. I think it still is, but I'll have to double check. The Morrisons of A.D. Rattray originally compared samples from the original Stronachie Distillery, distilled in 1904, to the Highland and Speyside's finest malts until they located a stylistic match. The 18 year is bottled in small batches, using both bourbon hogshead and sherry butts.Truly a great value from A.D. Rattray.

2002 Cadenhead's Guyanan 11 Year Old Rum $72.99Light, unsweetened, uncolored rum from DDL distillery in Guyana. Very pure and still bringing all the funk. Lovely. 46%

2004 Cadenhead's Haitian 9 Year Old Rum $72.99Unadulterated rum from Barbancourt. Really fruity and lively stuff; deceiving considering the incredibly pale color. It would be fantastic for lighter cocktails or rum-focused drinks where you really want the character to shine through with minimal ingredients.

Laird's Straight Bonded "Apple Jack" Brandy 100 proof $29.99 (two bottle limit) – Laird’s didn’t think they would have problems in the new era of whiskey shortages, but they were wrong. People are drinking their apple jack again like its Rittenhouse. Now we have shortages. This is the real deal and is 100% aged apple brandy, none of the neutral stuff. Apple Jack is America's Calvados. This is a necessity for anyone creating an authentic bar. And if you don't have what it takes to make a delicious Jack Rose cocktail, or a Calvados Cocktail, then you don't have an authentic bar. Laird's is the Rittenhouse Rye of apple distillates.

Elisir Novasalus Amaro $24.99Super bitter stuff, in the vein of the Varnelli Amari. Lots of gentian flavor, but not big or tannic or powerful on the palate. Just an incredibly bitter finish that goes on forever.

We’ve been slacking with the bitters and mixers section in Redwood City for the last few months, but we’re back on track now. More bitters and fun cocktail ingredients just landed:

Bittermilk #4 New Orleans Style Rouge 8.5 oz $15.99- Our Old Fashioned Rouge is strong and bittersweet packed with licorice and spice. Wormword, fennel, and gentian root imply flavors of absinthe and bitters. A traditional coloring technique using Cochineal, a red beetle from Peru gives this Old Fashioned it's "Rouge" naturally. Aged in Willet Family Reserve Rye Whiskey barrels. Add 1 part No.4 + 4 parts rye, stir with ice, strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Bittermilk #5 Charred Grapefruit 17 oz $15.99 - Not your typical tonic, the No.5 combines lime and lemon juice with cinchona bark, the source of quinine for tonic. We peel fresh grapefruits and char the skins to help bring out bitter yet refreshing notes. Just a bit of local Bulls Bay Saltworks sea salt helps pull savory caramel notes and rounds out flavor. Works well with any light spirit. Build over ice equal parts No.5 + vodka + soda water in a tall glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Scrappy's Bitters Classic Mini Gift Pack $18.99 - This is a sampler of 4 bitters.  Perfect for the home bartender.  Gift pack #1 includes 1/2 oz bottles of orange, lavender, aromatic, celery, as well as a recipe card.

Scrappy's Bitters Exotic Gift Pack $18.99 - Looking for a gift to give to your favorite home mixologist?  This gift pack from Scrappy's Bitters will get them fired up! It includes 2-ounce bottles of their grapefruit, cardamom, lime, chocolate bitters.

Rejoice in the sea of new booze!

-David Driscoll


Anchoring Down

Last night we had to let loose. With the holidays coming soon and the chaos ratcheting itself up a notch, we needed to get together as a company and just blow off some steam. Some Anchor Steam? Yes, we needed Anchor Steam, too. So that's where we went: good Old Potrero.

Anchor has completely renovated the top floor of the brewery into a bar with a balcony over looking downtown San Francisco. Yesterday was the first real Fall day we've had where grey clouds and cold winds finally overtook the warm Indian summer, so we took advantage of the scene. Where's my beer? Oh, over there by that breathtaking view.

Pizza, tacos, beer, and pretty much every bottle in the vast Anchor portfolio open to sample. Every Glendronach, every Benriach, every Nikka, every Glenrothes, fifty different rums, all the Anchor stuff (obviously), crazy Westland whiskies, and more Luxardo expressions than you even knew they made. Some of our staff members were overwhelmed by the opportunity.

Many thanks to Anchor for making this happen. This was just what we needed. I'm ready to get back to work today. I know which products are fresh on my mind now!

-David Driscoll


Two Barrels of Rye Hit Hollywood

Rye is once gain the hot ticket at K&L, after years of scarcity for special bottlings and single cask selections. On the back of our recent Rendezvous acquisition, the DOG just snagged two cherry MGP barrels from our friend John Little at Smooth Ambler. Get 'em while they're hot. They won't last long. His notes are below:

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year Old K&L Exclusive Cask Strength Single Barrel #793 Straight Rye Whiskey 750ml $54.99 - This barrel, yielding a paltry 102 bottles, shows all the dusty grain that you'd expect from this Indiana distilled rye, plus tons of fresh fall fruit. Persimmon? Walnuts? Honeysuckles and cinnamon! As it aerates, the dustiness takes a back seat to the exotic wood and spice notes. The nose almost reminds me of some of the finest Armagnac. At just under 57%, it just purrs on the palate. Not bitter or cloying in any way, just the perfect combo of sweet candied fruit and drying spices. Clove infused chocolates, wood lacquer on raisins, other things. We really can't tell you how affordable this whiskey is for what you're getting. Snatch it up.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year Old K&L Exclusive Cask Strength Single Barrel #849 Straight Rye Whiskey 750ml $54.99 - There’s no doubt that this is full strength LDI at its finest. We picked up two casks from the excellent stocks aging at Smooth Ambler in West Virginia because they are absolutely delicious and thoroughly unique. This barrel shows much more power and richness on the nose than #793. It's darker and higher proof than its sister cask, clocking in close to 62% abv. The nose is shockingly soft despite the higher alcohol. At first nosing, it's as if someone has added maple syrup to your Peach Flavored Southern Sweet Tea! Black tea and peach liqueur anyone? Then in the background the green woodsy rye, fall underbrush, and dried spices, begin to poke through. The strong suggestion of sweetness continues onto the palate, however, moving toward more confit peach with maybe some cacao dusted espresso beans. We’re off the black tea from the nose, but on the back that spice powers back in to keep it lifted. What a special cask. Don't even think about skipping this.

DOG always makes it sound delicious.

-David Driscoll


The Devil Drinks Whisky, Too

I was actually at the Prada store in Livermore yesterday while shopping for winter clothes. Because it was the factory outlet and not one of the fancier flagship stores, this incredible men's leather travel bag was only $1750, rather than $3200. Even still, I was honestly tempted. Laugh if you want, but fashion and booze go hand in hand. You think you'll never spend big money on them until you start to understand what makes them work, then all of a sudden you're spending insane amounts on big name products. Think I'm kidding? Think you're too smart to be swayed by advertisements, reviews, or Parker points? That's what young intern Anne Hathaway thinks too, until Meryl Streepplaying her best Anna Wintourreads her like last year's trashy beach novel. This happened to be on TV last night, so I sat through it again. A really good movie, especially if you care about your clothes.

-David Driscoll


And Still More on Customer Service

There was an article in the Chronicle this morning about how the new Levi's stadium in Santa Clara hasn't helped to reduce the bad element at 49ers games. The author suggests that high prices have lead to more secondary market buyers, due to the fact that season ticket holders can no longer afford a season's worth of tickets. Because it now costs an arm and a leg to attend a game, you have people who are frustrated and/or trying to get the most for their money (possibly pounding a case of beer in the parking lot before the game starts to cut down on costs).Ultimately, the case is made that the push for more moneyfrom ticket sales, merchandise, and alcohol consumptionhas lead to more problems with behavior. You can read the piece for yourself and see if you agree. There's a bit of classism at work, but there are some interesting points.

What I found more interesting were the points made by some of the commenters: namely, that the 49ers need to do more to screen out the troublemakers and prevent them from attending. Some even suggested that capitalistic desire may have ownership looking the other way; just taking the money and turning a blind eye to the hijinks that follow (if you haven't kept up with this story, a fan was recently paralyzed after being senselessly beaten by two thugs in the restroom). While trying to run a business and provide good customer service, the 49ers are stuck between two difficult choices: either screen your fans and decide who can and cannot enter your stadium, or risk irritating long-standing fans don't want to put up with the riff-raff.

I thought about this story a great deal today, as I received a few emails this week from readers who didn't think it was any of my business what K&L shoppers did with their bottles after purchasing them (this was in reaction to my piece about bottle flippers and us trying to prevent their prevail). As someone who publicly strives to provide good customer service, these folks felt the need to remind me that good service consists of making the sale, providing the product, and keeping my opinions to myself. Each reader definitely had credible points of view. Because who wants to be lectured by the people you're giving your money to, right? Just STFU and give me my Pappy, jerk.

However, while I am a huge 49ers fan (going to the Stick at least twice a year) and was initially excited about the new stadium in nearby Santa Clara, I don't plan on attending a game until this problem gets addressed. As someone running a business, I believe it is entirely your job to look out for your core customers and make sure that they're protected from outliers who could ultimately ruin their experience. In my case, that means making sure that bottle flippers and cherry pickers don't snag all the most desirable bottles before I can allocate them to my best K&L customers. It's absolutely my business who does and doesn't get a bottle of Pappy at K&Lliterally. If I don't make sure the right people get the right bottles, I'll lose the business of those who count on me to do so. In the end, I'm not willing to sacrifice my core constituency (or my core principles) for the prospect of a larger crowd.

I know a lot of 49ers fans who are only watching from home these days. They don't feel like dealing with the drama. I don't ever want our best K&L customers to feel like they can't count on us. Every day is gameday in the retail world.

-David Driscoll