Sunday
Jan132013

New Experiences?

For several years I had been bored. Not a whining, restless child's boredom (although I was not above that) but a dense, blanketing malaise. It seemed to me that there was nothing new to be discovered ever again. Our society was utterly, ruinously derivative (although the word derivative as a criticism is itself derivative). We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at the wonders of the world, dull-eyed, underwhelmed. Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building. Jungle animals on attack, ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can't recall a single amazing thing I have seen firsthand that I didn't immediately reference to a movie or TV show. I've literally seen it all, and the worst thing is, the thing that makes me want to blow my brains out, is: the secondhand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener, the camera angle and the soundtrack manipulate my emotions in a way reality can't anymore. I don't know that we are actually human at this point, those of use who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the internet. If we are betrayed, we know the words to say; when a loved one dies, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart-ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script.

- Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

I've already written four different posts about what this paragraph means to me, but in the end I deleted them all. I about choked up reading this part of Gillian Flynn's outstanding new novel Gone Girl. For me, as a child of the same generation, I couldn't agree more with everything said here. There's a lot of relevance to the booze world in these words as well. However, we've already established on this blog that booze is life, haven't we?

What happens when life becomes complete media mimesis? Do we even know why we like what we like anymore, or are we simply playing a part? A part we've seen numerous times on television or in a movie. What happens when we drink spirits because we want to be like other people who drink them? Will we even recognize quality then? More importantly, where will actual entertainment exist if entertainment is merely mimicing what others are doing or have already done? Will we even know when we're having fun or if we're actually having it?

Do you not drink Merlot because you don't like it, or is it because the guy in Sideways doesn't drink Merlot?

I'm freaking out.

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Jan122013

Big Tasting Tomorrow!

I just found out about this now, but it looks like an awesome opportunity for those of you who want to try a TON of hard to find Bourbon and single malt.....AND meet the people behind them. I would totally be going if I had known about this earlier. Maybe some of you can go enjoy yourselves in my place.

My friend Jennifer Seidman is throwing this little shindig at her Acme Bar in Berkeley tomorrow evening.

Come and enjoy some of the most rare, expensive, and exclusive whiskey in existence. Tickets are $150 per person, but look at what you're getting!!

Meet the distillers at a relaxed intimate event. This is a select, casual event where you will be able to talk to the creators and distributors of these amazing products.

All whiskies will be paired with New Belgium's beers including their barrel aged Sour ales, La Folie and Chocolate Stout.

Hors d'oeuvres served.

Tickets available for purchase at Acme Bar or http://meetanddrink.eventbrite.com/#

Acme Bar & Company

2115 San Pablo Ave.

Berkeley, CA 94702

510 644 2226

4pm - 8pm

Distillers attending:

Drew Kulsveen from KBD: KENTUCKY BOUBON DISTILLERY. Drew is the maker of many of the fine whiskies we will be pouring. He will be there to talk to you about the Michter's and Willett whiskies featured.

All of the Willett and Michter's products poured are unavailable and/or out of production. All products retail for $200-$500 or more per bottle.

http://www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com/home.php

Marko Karakasevic from CHARBAY WINE & DISTILLERY will be there to discuss his Charbay #2. Only 1500 bottles were released. It is now unavailable and if found retails for up to $500.

http://www.charbay.com/default.aspx

Dave Smith and Andie Ferman from ST. GEORGE DISTILLERY we be there to chat with you about the St. George 30th Anniversary whiskey featured.

St. George 30th Anniversary was released in extremely limited quantites. Nearly impossible to find it retails for over $400 a bottle.

 http://www.stgeorgespirits.com/

Chris Fu from ANCHOR DISTILLING will be there to talk about the newly released line of Japanese whiskies, Nikka. We will also be pouring Anchor Distilling’s Old Potrero Hotalings whiskey which is no longer distributed. If found it retails for up to $300 a bottle.

There are currently only 2 expressions of Nikka whisky available in the US. We will be pouring those, as well as sampling few others that have yet to be released. All bottles retail for $100 or more.

http://www.anchordistilling.com/brands/nikka

http://www.anchordistilling.com/

Steve Kosach from NEW BELGIUM BREWERY will be there to talk about their beers and brewery.

http://www.newbelgium.com/glass-that-gives.aspx

Featured whiskey:

Charbay #2 (Charbay Distillery)

Michter's 20yr Bourbon (KBD)

Michter's 25yr Rye (KBD)

Michter's 10yr Rye (KBD)

Michter's 25yr Bourbon (KBD)

Michter's 10yr Bourbon (KBD)

Willett 19yr Bourbon (KBD)

Willett 20yr Bourbon (KBD)

Willett 21yr Bourbon (KBD)

St. George 30yr Anniversary whiskey (St. George Distillery)

Old Potrero Hotalings (Anchor Distilling Company)

Nikka line of whiskies (Anchor Distilling Company)

A sneak peak at the Ichiro line which is yet to be released in the US; samples of the impossible to find

Ichiro Chichibu will be poured

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jan112013

Three Gifts of the Magi

Not long after Christmas, three wise men rode into the parking lot of the K&L storage warehouse, guided there by a bright light in the sky. They had heard about a shortage of great whiskey on our shelves and had ridden thousands of miles to bring gifts for one retailer; one they had heard would save mankind from its Bourbon drought. There would be no frankincense, gold, or myrrh in these gifts – los regalos de los tres Magos. Instead, three barrels of incredible Bourbon from one of the best distilleries in the world: Four Roses. The gifts of the Magi will not last long. They can only feed so many mouths, unlike the loaves and fish. Sacrilegious, you say? How about sacrelicious!

Four Roses K&L Exclusive OESF Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon $59.99 - The first gift from this year's Magi was not gold, but rather a rich, full-bodied, and dark-fruited Bourbon, brooding in its intensity and long on the finish. This marks the first time we've selected the OESF formula from Four Roses, which uses a 75% corn mashbill and a yeast known to create a supple fruit character. Peppery flavors of spice and mint are hidden between layers of wood and vanilla with a powerful accent of heat on the finish. This Bourbon is not playing around and will make any whiskey lover incredibly happy this post-holiday season.

Four Roses K&L Exclusive OBSF Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon $59.99 - The second gift from this year's Magi was not frankincense, but rather a refined and sweet-spiced, cask strength Bourbon from Four Roses. This second barrel is completely different from its two bretheren, with a nuanced palate of fresh pencil shavings, soft vanilla and cinnamon. The high proof is completely in balance with the delicate flavors of the whiskey, and the Bourbon drinks beautifully even at cask strength. Formula OBSF uses a 60% corn mashbill with a higher percentage of rye, which adds that bit of peppery herbaceousness on the finish. This is a lovely sipper, but also a cocktail contender. Your sweet vermouths will be lining up, begging to get a piece of this whiskey.

Four Roses K&L Exclusive OBSK Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon $59.99 - The third gift from this year's Magi was not myrrh, but rather the most classic and revered of the Four Roses Bourbon recipes: OBSK--the 60% corn mashbill that adds the lovely baking spice character to the standard Small Batch whiskey. Whereas our first cask offers bold richness and our second an heir of grace, the third barrel brings us perhaps the most balance of the three. Those already familiar with the Four Roses recipes will be always be on the lookout for something outside the box, but newcomers may want to start here. This whiskey has everything we love about Four Roses Bourbon: lovely richness, hints of clove and cinnamon, accents of spice, and the perfect amount of vanilla from the charred oak. This is the best Four Roses whiskey I've tasted this year since the 2012 Small Batch, which sold out in less than a day.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jan112013

Letters to the Editor

Wow! I missed some drama while I was gone! David OG just tore Diageo a new A! You can see how difficult it is to be both a whisky fan and a whisky salesman. We're torn between our livelihood and our own personal emotions. Sometimes we just can't take it and we have to blow the whistle. Has Diageo just reached its Netflix moment by almost doubling the price of Talisker 18? The only people who can decide that are the customers buying their products.

In other news, I received this thoughtful email from a man named Weston Renoud who just started reading the blog. He was responding to the post about "haters." I thought this was quite insightful:

...on to your discussion of "haters." I feel you focused a bit too much on perception and presented a veiled argument for persecution. Perceptions often originate from experience, and I think you brushed under the rug the behavior of the wider scotch, wine, and food enthusiast communities. Frankly I think any community that doesn't make a concerted effort to be accessible will involuntarily become exclusionary. I think a better discussion to have than categorizing misconceptions of scotch drinkers (which is preaching to the choir) would be to discuss inclusionary behavior.

Too often I get irritated by fellow scotch drinkers who are drawn to the cachet of scotch but have little appreciation for it. They often have no idea how it's made (which is why they'll buy based on color) but are happy to extol it's qualities. This is not unique to the scotch community, this is the syndrome of the "newly initiated," which lives in the spectrum of the fanboy/fangirl.

I think there are a couple simple steps that could improve the situation of the persecuted scotch drinker.

1) Don't preach to the heathens. If someone isn't interested you can't convince them to get interested. Sit back and enjoy your scotch. This is like the evangelicals putting the bible on their lap to witness. If someone engages you in conversation with a question they'll likely be much more receptive to your story.

2) Demystify. If someone does express interest explain the process of making scotch. It is not that much more complicated than beer (leaving subtleties aside). Empowering someone with knowledge is a quick way to make friends.

3) Use straightforward language. Language can be powerful in more ways than one. Using language or meanings that someone isn't familiar with is a quick way to run them off. My father-inlaw likes scotch but isn't well versed in the language used to describe it. Discussing a heavily peated scotch I said it smelled like a campfire and he was instantly grinning. He felt empowered with language he not only could understand but held strong associations with. From there we started to discuss peat and the malting process.

I just realized this is sounding preachy. Really, I appreciate your blog and your passion. You sound like a great guy to sit down and have a scotch or dinner and some conversation with. I will looking forward to your future posts.

I think what wasn't implied enough in my original post was the idea that whisky connoisseurs can be victims of their own community's exclusionary behavior. I think point 2b covers the issue of the everyday Scotch guy who wants to drink something nice, but is getting lumped in with the pedantic know-it-alls. Believe me, if there is anyone who is more vehemantly against his own community, it's me. I hate all the wine snootiness, the bullshit pairing rules, and the people who use their knowledge as a way to make themselves feel superior. If anyone should be persecuted, it's these people, not the haters who are simply reacting to what they're feeling. However, I think it's important to understand why haters hate if you're going to avoid these confrontations. What I think Weston explains very well is how to appease these haterisms. 

 -David Driscoll

Wednesday
Jan092013

This is the end...

So I usually leave the incredulous ranting to Driscoll, but today I just can't help myself. We've all heard talk about whisky prices going up. Old & rare prices are astronomical. Old Pulteney 21 year went up $20 in a matter of weeks after winning Best Whisky of the Year. Every few months our Macallan rep informs us that the range will be taking a price increase. Sometimes $3 sometimes $5, occasionally we'll see larger price jumps $10-15 a bottle on the high-end.  But today, I've just seen the beginning of the end.  It is truly sad day for all single malt lovers and a clear picture of how the whisky companies plan to move forward. I would call it abuse, but they call it business.

Today, I tried to buy Talisker 18 year. This is a moment I look forward to every year, it only happens once or twice. Talisker 18 year has long been considered one of the finest values in Single Malt. It may not be an A+ whisky, but it's really very good and for under $90 it is a true "value." That’s its thing, the whole shtick, a lot of whisky for not a lot of dough. So, of course when it comes around we buy as much as we can fit in our small warehouse. While we've seen price incremental price increase on this product over the years, the market has happily absorbed them without much trouble, until today. The order went through as normal price quoted at the same rate we received last time, but when the product was actually delivered, my operations guys were confused. Had they shipped 6 packs instead of 12 packs? What's going on with these prices? My problem is not that no one told me the price had doubled, which is what the distributor assumed, my problem is that anyone think that this whisky is worth $150. It’s a freakin’ travesty. Their excuse is the whisky shortage. For years, whisky companies have relied on the so-called whisky shortage to justify price increase, but today the gouging has officially begun. The truth is there is no whisky shortage. The shortage is of whisky that's actually worth what you pay. There’s plenty of crappy cheap whisky out there. There’s a deluge of super expensive choices that only a select few can afford. There is, however, a shortage of good whisky that is not wildly overpriced. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something that is well…overpriced. I mean I'm trying to sell you something too, but this is honestly not a moral quandary. We just WON’T do business this way. We’re not going to sit here and say, “well this whisky used to be one of the best values in the store, but well now it’s just good whisky that’s super overpriced.”

 At a certain point, these companies are going to stifle the business that they’ve come to rely on, but we’re not going to sit here and help them with it. They say, “Hey guys, we’ve raised the price every year and no one has stopped buying. Why don’t we just take the next ten years of price increase now and take those profits immediately? There’s a whisky shortage after all. People will pay anything for this stuff. I mean we're still making less money on this than when we dump it into Johnnie Walker. No one will notice.” Unfortunately, we HAVE noticed. I mean I was literally prepared to buy nearly 200 hundred cases of Talisker 18 year. I'm not sure who is going to be able to sell this stuff at this price, but I can assure you that I will be laughing at whoever does. The only way to move this product at this price is by ripping off your customers. Eventually, every bottle of Talisker 18 year at the old price will be sold, if it hasn’t already. All that will be left is this new product at an outrageously high price. It will all seem like a normal thing, “Talisker 18 for $150. Well, Macallan 18 is $180, so this seems like a deal!” But it’s not. In the end you’ll still be getting ripped off. I love Talisker 18 year. I really enjoy it. Now I'm sad because it is dead to me.  And it should be dead to you too. Please find and buy all the 18 year you can at the old price because anyone who buys it for $150+ is a sucker.