Writing Every Day

If you're not embarrassed about something in your past, then you're either an incredibly careful and precocious person, or you're very inwardly-focused. I was formerly the latter (at least I like to think "formerly"), but today I feel a strong sense of resentment for my younger self; mainly, because I despise the qualities I once embodied when I encounter them in people today. I listen to people talk sometimes and I think, "Jesus, did I really sound like this at one point?" and then I remember the parties in high school, the desperate ploys for attention in college, and the clumsy encounters of my early twenties. There can be no embarrassment when you think everything you say is important.

I may be overly hard on myself at times about this issue, but at this point in my life I cannot stand listening to people babble on and on about their achievements, or about an award they won, or about where they graduated from, or how if it weren't for them...blah, blah, blah. Needless to say, that was me for most of my late teens and early twenties. I thought that when I told people something about myself they would inevitably see and admire the person I was describing. If I told them I was good at sports, they would think I was good at sports and nothing more. If I said I was smart and had read many important books, they would without a doubt believe that I had an intellectual mind. They would of course take all of my words at face value, and follow every minute detail I was describing, never for a second straying from the message I was broadcasting, because that's how the world worked for me back then: I talk and you listen.

Little did I know.

Today, when someone talks my ear off about how many trophy bottles they've tasted, or about how they've visited every major winery in Napa, I'm definitely not thinking about what a masterful grasp of wine this person must have. I'm thinking, "How much longer do I have to listen to this guy talk until he shuts up?" But that's not what they think I'm thinking. They think by telling me all of this impressive information that I'm internally wowed by what they have to say—that I'm hanging on every wordjust like I believed was the case concerning my own accolades all those years ago. But I'm not impressed, nor is anyone else for that matter. We're just politely waiting for you to finish. That's what people are really thinking when you talk about yourself in that manner. The fact that it took me almost thirty years to realize that is embarrassing.

So when people ask me today, "How do you find the time to write so often?" I say: it just comes naturally. But really what comes naturally is the internal fire that burns inside of me to distance myself from the past. Each post that I write is a chance for me to move beyond the selfish naiveté of my youth and into a more outwardly-focus. It's the reason there are no pictures of me on this blog. It's the reason I don't have a Twitter account or a Facebook page. It's why I so often write about manners, the attitudes on the internet, or terrible conversations I've eavesdropped upon.

I told someone earlier today, "We can never fully mature into adults until we remove whatever chips are on our shoulders." I have a giant chip on mine concerning my past, and it's that weight that motivates me to write this blog every day. I'm hoping that the spotlight my writing ultimately generates will force me to think about my remorse, and that each instance will serve as a reminder of what I am working towards.

Each day I log in and hope I can think of something to say about my personal experiences without the desperate need for validation from others.

Oh, I'm sorry, did you think this was a blog about alcohol? :)

-David Driscoll


Retro Seagram's 7

...and, yes, if Diageo can continue to give me cheap things in awesome packages, I will buy them. $12 Seagram's 7 in a 1960s art deco bottle? Yes, please. The kitsch factor is off the charts!

-David Driscoll


Out and About

I finally made it over to Trou Normand the other night with David OG—the new restaurant from Bar Agricole owner and K&L friend Thad Vogler. However, this iPhone photo is about as grainy as my memory of the evening. Luckily, I do remember the one outstanding Jersey City cocktail I had (made with Calvados, as the entire place was inspired by Thad's visit with the Camut brothers and Charles Neal) and the awesome meat board that I stuffed my face with, hoping to soak up some of the high-proof pool of hooch swimming in my stomach. It's a fun place that offers a unique dichotomy of meats and rustic French spirits and you can walk there easily from the Embarcadero, so it's in an interesting spot.

The other place you HAVE to go if you're in Las Vegas is China Poblana, located in the Cosmopolitan, but it seems like I was late to the party on this one. Everyone I've told about it said, "Yeah, I've been there. It's awesome." My wife and I were there a few weeks ago and we can't wait to go back. It's not for everyone, but it seems like it was tailor made for us. Chinese food and Mexican food (not a fusion, mind you) on one menu, and only our favorite dishes cooked in a fancy, yet very authentic fashion. Even the drink menu is divided into two countries.

And I ordered every drink on that menu. No joke. All of them. Even the $18 gin and tonic with cilantro and marigold (it was worth it), and the Empress made with sochi, rice wine, and yuzu (Chinese restaurants, take note). The biggest treat was probably the "air salt" magarita that uses salty air in a canister to create a salty froth on top of the cocktail. Incredible. Salt is apparently "in" right now in the cocktail world, and this drink used it in an effective and creative way. 

We also ordered just about every food item on the menu. We stuffed our faces and drank like it was our last night on earth. The twenty-vegatable fried rice was incredible. As were the chilaquiles, the BBQ pork buns, the shrimp mojo with roasted poblano peppers, and the fifteen other small plates we gorged upon. 

An absolute must on any trip to Vegas. 

-David Driscoll


POVs — Part II

Buffalo Trace released this week a very well-crafted response to the internet rumor mill concerning what's going on with their whiskies. Basically, they said this:

-We told you there was going to be a shortage.

-The conspiracists and angry anti-authority people called bullshit.

-But it wasn't a gimmick or a publicity stunt to increase sales.

-Now we're all dealing with the fallout, which is leading to more rumors and conspiracy theories.

I loved their detailed, line-by-line response, which clearly showed their perspective and explained why the situation is where it is. Whisky consumers, by nature, see the situation from their point-of-view: they're pissed off that the Buffalo Trace Bourbons are harder-to-find and more expensive than normal. That's to be expected, so it's nice to a see a distillery lay things out in clear, honest terms.

Since we're talking POVs, however, let's discuss rumor #8: Buffalo Trace's prices have remained relatively unchanged and any mark-ups are at the discretion of the retailer. Let me give you the retailer's perspective.

What they say is true. Buffalo Trace's wholesale prices are mostly the same; however, since we are now on strict allocation (one case per month or two) there are no longer discounts for large volume buys. The reason that stores like K&L have such competitive pricing on Buffalo Trace whiskies is that we buy in bulk. It's no different than what Costco offers: buying power. However, take away our ability to buy deep quantities and you take away our ability to offer low prices. We've had to raise our Buffalo Trace prices a few bucks and it's not because we're being greedy. It's because the prices have indeed gone up by $3-$5 per bottle due to the allocations.

That's no big deal.

Here is the bigger deal, however. Let me start by saying this clearly: in no way am I justifying price gouging or jacking up prices for exploitative purposes. What I am saying is this: consumers in the United States enjoy free-market capitalism. They have the right to shop where they want to. By the same token, retailers have a right to mark up prices due to increased demand. They name the price, you decide if you want to give them your business. That's the way it works. Obviously, we're not exploiting the current shortage because we want our customers to know we're looking out for them, but at the same time you can't be someone who shops around for the lowest price, finds the retailer with the best deal, but then gets mad when a shop exercises that same essential capitalistic right (actually you can be that person, but just know that it's blatant hypocrisy).

But here are more telling figures:

-In July of 2013 we sold $2,172.14 worth of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Bourbon. In July of 2014 we sold $1359.32: a decrease in sales of $812.82

-In July of 2013 we sold $1649.38 worth of Eagle Rare 10. In July of 2014 we sold $1000.60: a decrease in sales of $648.78

-In July of 2013 we sold $1079.64 worth of Elmer T. Lee. In July of 2014 we sold nothing because we couldn't get any: a decrease in sales of $1079.64

-In July of 2013 we sold $1430.12 worth of Weller 107. In July of 2014 we sold $572: a decrease in sales of $858.12

You can see where this is going. With the success that Bourbon is enjoying, and the extreme popularity of the Buffalo Trace whiskies, our sales numbers should be going up not down. However, we can't get the whiskey we need because Buffalo Trace doesn't have enough to sell us. When you throw in Blanton's, Weller 12, Rock Hill Farms, Sazerac rye, and all of the other limited releases that we sell from the Buffalo Trace portfolio (not to mention single casks) you're talking thousands and thousands of dollars of sales being taken away each month due to lack of inventory.

Again, it's not the end of the world for K&L because we have so many other products that can help pick up the slack. And we're not blaming anyone for the issue because it's nobody's fault! However, if you're a mom-and-pop retailer who happens to rely on your Buffalo Trace sales to help pay the bills (let alone the 75 other whiskies that have gone on allocation over the last year), then you're going to need to make up those losses somewhere. After years of depending on the profit generated from those products, it can be a shock when they're suddenly taken away (and frustrating when the demand is still there!).

There are obviously some exploitative practices going on out there, but raising the price on a Buffalo Trace whiskey by $10 isn't always the result of some "greedy" retailer looking to screw you over. It's the result of a situation that sucks for everyone involved. The lights at your local retailer don't magically stay on and the employees don't pay themselves, so each retailer will need to decide what they have to make for their own particular situation. If that makes you upset, then be upset. But please don't blame the retailers who have spent years supporting Buffalo Trace, building that brand with their consumers, only to see their hard work come to a screeching halt.

Not everything is an elaborate scheme to make the life of a whiskey drinker miserable. Some things are simply the result of supply and demand.

-David Driscoll


Young Americans

A few new things that just showed up for us that continue to expand our American whiskey selections:

Sonoma Distillers (formerly 1512 Barbershop) have moved their distribution arm over to my friend Val, so I'm jumping in to support their new relationship. The whiskies are solid for what they are and are more reasonably priced than previously. Plus, their packaging is great (as always).

Sonoma Distillers California Rye Whiskey $52.99 - Distinct, fresh rye bread flavor with just enough new oak to balance out the heat. It's a bold, pure grain flavor with hints of pencil lead and char from the barrique aging.

Sonoma Distillers 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey $52.99 - Matured in refill American oak, these is a wheat-distilled whiskey that offers mellow, creamier flavors of vanilla. Fun stuff.

The guys behind Ransom Old Tom Gin also have a new Oregon Bourbon they've distilled from a standard corn, rye, and barley mash. It's also quite intriguing and not at all new-makey or quarter-casky.

Henry of Yore Straight Bourbon $46.99 - It tastes like young Kentucky Bourbon, which is a sign that they're doing good things up North. Like a bold, young Heaven Hill whiskey.

And, no you're not seeing things: Jack Daniel's is back at a NorCal K&L for the first time in over ten years (no, we don't carry the basic Jack, so don't freak out on me now). Their new "rested" rye is finally available to retailers after a brief stint as "bars and restaurants only".

Jack Daniels Rested Rye Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey $49.99 - It's sweet, just like Jack should be, but it's also clearly a rye whiskey. It's a sweeter rye whiskey, but I could definitely see putting down a few glasses of this.

Of course, after all the booze that David OG and I put down while partying in SF on Monday night, I'm in dire need of a night off.

-David Driscoll