Deutschland Über Alles

I always got that growing up as a kid—"So you're German, huh?" No not really.

Yes, my mother is a high school German teacher. Yes, I speak German. Yes, there are always German people staying at our house. Yes, I have a master's degree in German Literature. Yes, I can enjoy the music of David Hasselhoff, but no—I am not German.

I think there's a little Swiss-German action on my mom's side of the family, but there's no real heritage. Culture, however, is more about familiarity and nostalgia than it is purity; it's really a sense of identification and comfort, in my opinion. And when it comes to soccer, I identify with the Deutsche Nationalmannschaft more than my own American counterparts. In 1986, I was in staying with my parents in Mainz—a small town in Germany's Rheinland near Frankfurt—watching a tiny television set when Argentina beat West Germany in the cup final. I remember eating gummy bears and playing with Playmobil toys while the screen flickered away. In 1990, we celebrated with our German friends from Iserlohn when West Germany exacted its revenge on the defending champions and hoisted the Weltmeisterschaft trophy into the air; it was my first real taste of sports-related excitement (something I wouldn't really feel again until the Giants won the World Series).

The party at the Berliner Tor in 2006

In 1994, when the tournament was in the states, our friends Lilo and Dieter came to visit for the summer and we watched Brazil go all the way through (Dieter seemed to know Germany stood no chance against the South American giants). In the summer of 1996, I was a high school exchange student in Germany and I stayed with my mother in a small youth hostel (or jungendherberge) in Bacharach, high upon the riesling-terraced cliffs, sitting in the heat of the common room as thirty or so sweaty Germans cheered their team past the Czech Republic in the Euro Cup final. That was a night I'll never forget.In 2006, when Germany finally hosted the World Cup again, I was there—working on my masters degree at the Freie Universität in Berlin—singing this song before every game:

...and sitting with a devastated crowd in the local Biergarten when Italy defeated the Nationalmannschaft and went on to be the world champion (although my wife and I did travel to Italy the next day and it was a giant party).

For my entire life I have rooted for the German national soccer team—in Germany with Americans, in America with Germans, with a beer or without a beer, as a kid with my parents, and as an adult with my wife. My relationship with the country and the language has continued to forge new relationships in my post-graduate career (a German artist created my wife's wedding ring after I sent him an email in German, and we got the jump on the Monkey 47 gin because I had communicated auf Deutsch with the Black Forest Distillery long before anyone knew it was coming to the states). Even though I rarely speak the language these days, I still keep up with friends I made while abroad and I still love reading Der Spiegel.

Today I am heading over to Modesto with a huge box of wine (magnums only, because Germans like big bottles), some sausages, cheese, and various other snacks where I will join my parents for another Germany/Argentina showdown. And it will be just like old times.

German or not, I'll still be wearing the jersey.

-David Driscoll

My lunch at the Goethe Institüt in 2004


The IKEA Home Bar

I just had a customer in the store today who wanted to build a quality, well-stocked home bar with all the basic necessities, but with one small caveat: he only wanted to spend around $100. Because many of you spend $100 on one mere bottle of single malt every month, it might seem crazy to think you could create an entire collection of spirits—good ones, nonetheless—for the same price, but it can be done. I did it today and the guy left with a big smile on his face (and he'll still have one when he gets home and opens everything because they're good products).

What did we go with? Here's the quick rundown based on today's inventory if you're on an extreme budget:

Vodka: Green Mark (Zelyonaya Marka) Russian Vodka $12.99 — A total steal. No one knows what it is in the U.S., but it's the third biggest selling vodka brand in the world (because if you're third in Russia, you're third in the entire world). It's clean and neutral in the best possible way.

General whisky: Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian Whisky $12.99 — Today's upgraded version of Seagram's VO. Perfect for a number of uses and quite tasty on its own. I've been buying this for the past year just for my own personal drinking. At this price you should buy a case.

Gin: City of London Gin $14.99 — This is from the same distillery portfolio that imports Hayman's Old Tom and the Royal Dock London gins. It's clean, dry, and it's the personal home bar gin of both myself and Champagne buyer Gary Westby. Another unknown gem.

Bourbon: Old Bardstown Black Label Straight Bourbon Whiskey $18.99 — Black Maple Hill at half the price. You could do the Four Roses Yellow too, but since we're being super stingy I'll take the extra dollar.

Tequila: Cimarron Blanco Tequila 1L $15.99 — That's right! Enrique Foneseca makes a clean, delicious blanco that comes in a liter and costs you a mere $15.99. Watch for the email next week going out to the big K&L database — this shit is going to FLY out of here.

Rum: 10 Cane Barbados Rum $13.99 — We've still got a bit left from the previous Dramarama deal, so might as well take advantage of it. Barbados quality, mega-discount price.

Subtotal: $89.94

CA Tax: $8.32

Total: $98.26

-David Driscoll


Dramarama Deal #5 — Lexicon

We got anooooo ARRRRRRGGGHH.............whiskey.........graptyhrraaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhHhhhh!!!!!!!

.........................blooooof................gimme gimme your hands, gimme gimme your minds........gimmeee..


Dramarama deals, push and shove, drink drink drink, wreck this club! ARGGGGHHHHH!




Royal Canadian!!! $$$$$ (shhhhh...what we do is secret!)


gimme gimme your hands, gimme gimme your minds......

1792 Ridgemont Reserve $$*&(&(^$^ (SEEEEEECRET!)


Whiskey here, whiskey there, giving you the power, to dhoopp hiiiiiiiiiiggggg YAAGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!


............thank you!

The punk rock lexicon of Darby Crash was very different from yours and mine, but it was nevertheless effective. And Pat Smear went on to be in Nirvana!

-David Driscoll


French First Wave

It's going to get hot and hectic—fast. There's a ton of new K&L Exclusive booze coming in this month and I really think people are going to freak out; mainly because they're going to want all of it and it's simply too much for any one person to handle. Let's start with two old favorites and one long-awaited newcomer:

(for a refresher on Pellehaut click here, and for more info on Pouchegu click here)

1973 Chateau Pellehaut 40 Year Old K&L Exclusive Tenareze Vintage Armagnac $139.99 - NOTE: This is the end of this vintage for Pellehaut. We drained the barrel for this last batch. While Bas-Armagnac gets all the press, and the Haut-Armagnac gets completely ignored, the Tenareze region of Armagnac is quietly producing some of the best brandies in the world. Much like the Borderies region in Cognac, the Tenareze brandies seem to have more fruit and a bit more life than the more classic Armagnac style. We visited Chateau Pellehaut on our first day in Armagnac last January and were completely overwelmed by the quality of spirit.  Using only new or first fill barrels for the beginning years of maturation, the Armagnacs have richness, weight, and spice. While Pellehaut has since switched to entirely Folle Blanche grape varietals, the 1973 vintage is composed of 90% Ugni Blanc. The palate opens with loads of caramel and a creamy richness the spreads quickly. The aromas are quite Bourbon-esque, with hints of soft vanilla and charred oak drifting out of the glass. The complexity of the brandy is astounding - candied fruit, stewed prunes, toasted almond, baking spices, and earthy warehouse notes, all swirling around at the same time. For an Armagnac of this quality, at an age of more than 40 years old, the price we negotiated is amazing. I'm expecting this to be one of our best selling Armagnacs ever and I expect it to really put Pellehaut on the map stateside.

Chateau de Pellehaut K&L Exclusive L'Age de Glace Tenareze Armagnac $27.99 - Chateau Pellehaut has been one of our top direct imports for the past year here at K&L. We've visited the Tenereze producer twice over the past few years, always finding something new to bring home for our brandy fans. What really excited us this year, however, was a new project they were working on called L'Age de Glace: a young brandy meant to drink on the rocks (hence the name "Ice Age"). The fruit of the Armagnac takes center stage here, melding wonderfully with the small hint of vanilla from the wood. It's all distilled from Folle Blanche fruit and it's soft, round, and aromatic, but it still has that little bit of rustic brandy flavor that I associate with old school Armagnac. At 41%, it's light and easy going, but there's still a lot of character. I have a feeling I'll personally be going through bottles of this. Bottles.

1986 Domaine de Pouchegu 27 Year Old K&L Exclusive Vintage Armagnac $109.99 - NOTE: The back label for this Armagnac says "37 year old." It wouldn't be the typical K&L French harvest without a few label errors. Pierre Laporte, the proprietor of Domaine de Pouchegu, believes that new Limousin oak is essential to producing top quality Armagnac and strives to fill only freshly-constructed barrels. The Pouchegu Armagnacs are also bottled at higher alcohol percentages, which helps to balance out the richness and the power inflected into the spirit from the wood. Like most Armagnac producers, Pierre does not own his own still, nor does he carry out his own distillation. It's important to remember that most Armagnac producers are farmers first, and rarely do they have time to get around to a second title or position. Pouchegu, like many producers, hires a traveling stillman to drive an alembique on a flatbed to the property when the fermentation is done, and distill everything for the year in one fell swoop. His property is planted solely with baco grapes. When we visited Pierre in 2013 he hinted that distillation might be done at Pouchegu for the foreseeable future—he feels he has enough back stock to retire at this point and doesn't have any kin looking to carry on the tradition. What's currently in the barrel at Pouchegu is likely all that will continue to exist at this point. The 86 is a flurry of spicy rusticity, savory and herbaceous, but everything after that initial note is dark caramel, brandied fruit, and fudge. Imagine the best parts of an ultra-mature Bourbon with the soft candied fruit of grape distillate and that's what the 27 year old Pouchegu offers. It's decadent.

-David Driscoll


Drinking to Drink - Part V

Last year I wrote a series of posts called Drinking to Drink and since then I have been emailed non-stop about these articles from readers. Apparently they resonated with a number of folks.

I thought an update on the subject might be in order.

2014 has been an interesting year for whisky at K&L. I feel as if the transition from an older generation of whisky fans to a newer, more-hungry group of drinkers has finally taken place. Many of our long-time customers (who used to email me every single day) have seen their orders dwindle, while new names continue to populate the order queue each day. Guys who used to stop by every weekend are no longer coming in, but they are being replaced with fresh faces that introduce themselves to me on a weekly basis. There was a rough patch in 2012 when prices started to skyrocket and availability began to decline—the grumbling began, the bitter annoyance with newbie naivete was everywhere, and everyone kept harping about a bubble, but nothing ever gave way. Sales never slowed, prices never plummeted—the whisky machine just kept churning and we kept growing.

People talk about cycles in the industry—ebbs and flows, busts and booms—but no one ever mentions the cycle of the serious whisky collector; the guys who discover single malt, become obsessed with it, and then burn out in a supernova of passion resulting in total liquidation. It's what happens when people stop purchasing with the intention of drinking and start looking beyond the spirit, deep into the vast world of cache and cool. Their curiosity to taste more whisky becomes an all-encompassing obsession, and the more they buy, the faster they explode. But as one star comes to the end of its life, another is born to take its place in the night sky of whisky consumerism—and many of these new stars do not care about blogs, the way things used to be, or the fact that when you were a kid Yamazaki 18 only cost a nickel.

Because highly-revered bottles like Port Ellen are so expensive, and must-have bottles of Pappy impossible to find, there's an acceptance of the idea that cult whiskies are out of reach. This new mindset has helped to refocus our gaze back towards what we can actually afford to drink and what's actually on the shelf. Instead of hearing, "I'm slowly sipping my last few bottles of Brora and Stitzel-Weller," I'm hearing, "I'll probably never taste those whiskies, so I don't really think about them." Seasoned whisky veterans are skeptical about the marketplace because, in their experience, most of the value has vanished, but the absence of these consumers—the ones who are sitting on their backstock and waiting for the old days to return—isn't really being felt. In my humble opinion, this is because the consumption of boutique spirits is no longer a side hobby for the super geeks—it's at the point where a greater proportion of the general populace is involved and the liquid is actually being consumed.

Today's spirits customer is more excited about drinking than collecting—at least today's K&L customer is. Most of the new drinkers I've met over the last year are buying bottles, emptying them, then coming back wide-eyed for more. I have become one of these drinkers, and I've been taking my queue from the passion this younger generation is bringing. I'm still interested in old whisky, rare whisky, and new whisky—it's just that I'm interested in drinking it and then moving on to something else. I don't pine for the old days, I don't wish things were back to the way they used to be, and I do not give a flying fuck about batch numbers. I simply look forward to the next glass and I love that more and more drinkers are adopting this mentality.

The bubble for collectables might still be forming, but there is no cap for new enthusiasm or new boutique consumerism. We're continuing to find new products that inspire us and more people than ever before are drinking them. When you drink for the sake of drinking, there is no collector burn out; there are no cycles.

-David Driscoll