BTAC Whiskies Sold Out 

We ran our raffle yesterday for the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskies, so that's one less thing we have to worry about this holiday season. I still have to put in a few more orders for the winners, but then we're done. Congrats to those who managed to get a bottle.

To give you an idea of what we're dealing with numbers-wise, a store like K&L -- which buys a shit-ton of Buffalo Trace products throughout the year -- gets about two bottles of Weller, two bottles of Sazerac 18, two bottles of Eagle Rare, seven bottles of Handy, and about ten bottles of Stagg total. That's twenty-three combined bottles for a demand consisting of thousands of insider customers. Imagine how many raffle entries we'd have if we actually told the entire database about it! We only allow each winner to get one bottle total (and that then disqualifies them from future raffles) and we don't jack up the price -- we keep it at $79.99 -- but that still means that a lot of people go home unhappy.

I must get ten emails a day about the George T. Stagg and Pappy Van Winkle whiskies. The store gets about thirty phone calls a day on the customer service line. "Are you guys expecting any Pappy this year?" "How can I get on the list?" If we actually had a list for these products there would be no point in adding yourself to it. It would be ten miles long and your name wouldn't come up for allocation until the year 3067. Like my friend SKU wrote earlier this Fall: if you have to ask or do a Google search on how to get Stagg or Pappy then the odds of you getting one are pretty slim.

I can't imagine a situation where someone calls a retailer and actually gets "Yes, we have Pappy in stock, would you like one?" for an answer. It might happen somewhere in some netherworld I don't know about, but I honestly can't see it at this point. I tell people every single day: you'll never, ever, ever walk into a store in California again and see these whiskies on the shelf. Not for the standard retail price, at least. Maybe for a gigantic mark-up, but not for what they're worth. There are too many people after these products. There are people who spend their entire day calling around, hitting every store in the phone book, trying to secure a bottle. I can't speak for other stores, but at K&L there is ZERO chance of any new customer ever getting a bottle like that from us. We use them as raffle rewards for people who shop with us frequently and I have to believe that most other stores work the same way.

That being said, if you're still calling around to random stores, asking about these bottles and doing Google searches about how to get one, you're probably wasting your time. Based on what I know about K&L and other local retailers, there's simply no way that's going to work. Obviously, it might possibly work for someone at some point (and that person will definitely send me an email telling me how wrong I am), but the word is out at this stage. Many retailers are holding them back, buying the bottles personally at their staff discounts, and then heading out to the black market to quadrouple their money. People are charging thousands on Ebay. It's just not going to be as simple as calling a store and giving them your credit card. Not anymore.

-David Driscoll


Ealanta is Whisky Bible Whisky of Year....Ugh

When I wrote that post a few days back about the Glenmorangie Ealanta being on the short list for my personal 2014 favorites, I noticed a flurry of activity on our website the following day. The bottles started ticking away until we were out of stock. Just like that! Poof!

"Wow," I thought to myself, "people actually care about what I think!" This wasn't a new whisky we had just released, or a limited spur-of-the-moment thing, but rather something we'd had in stock all year long. We'd been sitting on a few cases and it appeared that my little plug (an honest one, at that) had finally helped move the last few along.

I should have known better, however. I'm not that good.

Of course, one day after I wrote that, Jim Murray came out and called the Ealanta the "official" best whisky in the world for 2014. And I agreed with him. The guy who previously called the Old Pulteney 21 and Thomas Handy as world's best for the past two years was in agreement with me. Ugh. I feel sick.

Can I take back my choice? I mean, I do think that the Ealanta was my favorite, but maybe I can just say that it wasn't?

-David Driscoll


Spirits Tastings Resume Tomorrow!

Tomorrow we've have spirits tastings back in the SF and RWC store. San Francisco will feature the Tullamore Dew Irish whiskies, while the Redwood City store will feature Glenfiddich single malt whiskies. The tastings will start at 5 PM and run until 6:30. They are free of charge!

We'll see you there!

-David Driscoll


Whiskey-Related Movie of the Month: Bad Santa

I think the best part of the holiday season is getting up early (or staying up late) to watch some classic holiday cinema. One of my all-time favorite seasonal films is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I've seen that movie so many times I can recite every single line in my head from beginning to end. As I got older, however, I started to realize that most of my enjoyment from that film was based on nostalgia, rather than a continuing appreciation of it. The older I got, the less I liked it. I watched it with my wife's younger cousins last year and they didn't get it at all. Even I had to admit it wasn't really all that funny anymore. That was one of the first moments in my life where I really felt old.

For those of us who grew up in the 1980s and like to drink, there is a new classic holiday film that, for me personally, has become my new go-to during the Christmas season. Bad Santa is by far the funniest Christmas movie ever made – period. It's so funny that I'll watch it in the middle of Spring or Summer, regardless of whether I'm in the holiday spirit or not, because there are so few movies of this quality. It's not for everyone, though. It's very, very dirty and wrong in so many ways, but that's my sense of humor. The more inappropriate something is, the funnier it is to me. And there's a lot of boozing. Like last month's "whisky movie of the month," Giant with Rock Hudson, Beam's Old Grand-Dad orange label plays a huge role. Within the first ten minutes of the film there are seven different scenes involving alcohol – three of which are centered around Old Grand-Dad orange label.

If you tried to play a drinking game with Bad Santa, maybe taking a sip every time Billy Bob Thornton drinks, you'd be drunk in fifteen minutes. There's hardly a second where he's not taking a pull off a flask, holding a bottle of beer, or pounding a shot at the bar. If he gets into a car, a pile of beer cans will ultimately fall out of the open space. If he's left alone for a few seconds, a pile of beer cans will litter the ground around him when the camera returns. Bad Santa is one of the most prolific drinking films I've ever seen – even more so than Barfly, the Charles Bukowski classic with Mickey Rourke.

Bad Santa isn't all raunchy jokes and liquor, however. There is some quality, quality acting going on in this film. It's John Ritter's final role and he's perfect as the uncomfortable mall boss. The pudgy kid in the film is unreal, he's so funny I almost can't believe it. The late Bernie Mac is also a riot, and Tony Cox as the elf is the perfect rational counter to Billy Bob's angry, drunken drawl.

Whereas Christmas Vacation reminds me of a happy time when life was easy and carefree, Bad Santa is a heavy dose of reality. It's a movie for people who find the holidays stressful, worrisome, and anxiety-ridden: you know.....for adults.

Watch it. But only if you're not easily offended.

-David Driscoll


You Think You're a Spirits Geek?

How into booze are you? I mean, seriously. You're into wine and whiskey, yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. But are you into Sherry? Because if you're not into Sherry then you're really not as big of a geek as you might think you are. If there's one thing that makes you a "geek" it's the adoption of an interest usually reserved for the old men of previous generations. Whisky used to be such an interest, but now it's so popular it's completely lost that association. Sherry, on the other hand, is still an interest that is far too esoteric and confusing to ever attract mainstream support. There have been attempts to popularize it, to proselytize people over to its merit, but it never really takes off. Sherry is, and will remain, the geekiest interest of the most geeky aficionados. Like me.

Sherry should interest you if you like single malt because that's were 80% of your flavor comes from when you're drinking something like Glenfarclas or Glendronach. Sherry completely shapes the flavor of almost any spirit aged within its vast wooden butts. Sherry can be barrel-aged like whiskey. It's made of both wine and spirit, giving it the ultimate crossover potential from wine over to spirits, or from spirits over to wine. But you already know all this. However, if you thought that simply being into sherry was geeky, you've underestimated us geeks. It's no fun being a geek if everyone else is into what you're into. You've got to remain one step ahead at all times to retain any credibility (Pappy Van Winkle? Please....that's soooo 2011).

Speaking of Pappy, if there were such a thing as the "Pappy of Sherry," it would without a doubt be the ultra-geeky, ultra-delicious sherries from Equipo Navazos -- a consortium of serious Sherry buffs and insiders that selects and blends barrels from the finest soleras for their own enjoyment. Everything from EN is expensive. Everything. That being said, everything from EN is also insanely delicious. Their "La Bota" finos are the stuff of legend amongst the initiated, but the only people willing to pay $45 for fino sherry are the most dedicated of sherry geeks. If you thought merely being into Equipo Navazos made you a "geek," however, you're totally underestimating the world of spirits geekdom.

What if someone were to take the empty Sherry barrels from EN and fill them with things like Spanish brandy or rum, creating a mature spirit from the best maturation vessels possible? Unlike a tequila aged in Pappy barrels, aging something in EN butts wouldn't be a total sales gimmick (because that would assume that anyone actually cared about sherry). The wine would still be soaked into the wood if you got the barrels fresh and, if they were first-fill barrels, there would be a huge presence of the wine's influence still left to play its part. But who would be willing to invest in that type of project? Who would be willing to go all the way, spare no expense, age these spirits, import them, and then actually try to sell the final product to the 47 people in the world who would actually care? Nic Palazzi, that's who -- the bold and daring Brooklyn-based Frenchman who has practically become an unofficial K&L employee over the years.

The Navazos-Palazzi EN-aged Spanish brandies are here! They're crazy expensive. They're crazy good. They're simply crazy. And we've got em. If you're a Glenfarclas fan, or you love that chewy Glendronach character, then these are for you. AND.....they're only $70 to $80 for half bottles, which is great because we must have fifty people in here everyday asking for esoteric Spanish brandy in half bottles for $80. In all seriousness, they're quite spectacular, but they're not for everyone. Only the most die-hard, dedicated of spirits geeks will truly appreciate what it took to make these bottles happen.

Equipo Navazos-Nicolas Palazzi Single Fino Cask Spanish Brandy 375ml $69.99

Equipo Navazos-Nicolas Palazzi Single Oloroso Cask Spanish Brandy 375ml $69.99

Equipo Navazos-Nicolas Palazzi Single Montilla Cask Spanish Brandy 375ml $89.99


And if you're totally geeking out on rum, why not go for the $150 bottle of EN Oloroso-aged bottle? It's expensive, but again it's waaaaaay better than any other sherry-aged rum we have. It is a full bottle, at least!

Equipo Navazos-Nicolas Palazzi Oloroso-Aged Cask Strength Spanish Rum 750ml $149.99

Personally, I think this project by Nic is awesome and I love that Nic is only filling Spanish-distilled spirits in the casks, keeping a sense of place within the portfolio. Kudos to you, Palazzi.

Now we just need to call all 47 people who geek out for both Equipo Navazos and Spanish brandy to see if they want a bottle. Maybe they'll buy two!

-David Driscoll