How Do I Know What to Buy? Some Advice...

Now that it's time to start releasing our long list of single malt casks for pre-order, I'll usually wake up to about four or five emails each morning from customers and readers who feel overwhelmed by the selection we're offering. What if they wait on a particular whisky to see what will be available later, only to have it sell out by the time they've made a decision? I know some of you won't believe me, but I actually hate the pressure we're putting on people to buy things faster. That might seem contradictory considering I put statements like "only 300 available, buy it quickly" in my emails, but that's not to speed up the process!  It's literally because we've been selling spirits like crack as of late.  There's no amount we can buy to satiate the appetite of America right now. I have to warn people about the limited availability of certain items because there's nothing worse than when a customer drives to the store for a bottle that sold out days ago (and that's happened every day this week!). If anything, David and I have been trying to dilute the pool with multiple casks at once so that they take longer to sell, thereby giving those of you who want to think about things some time to actually deliberate. I want these whiskies to last! I want to have them on the shelf for Christmas time!

So how do you know what to buy and when? Honestly, I don't think there will be more than one or two casks that will sell out pre-arrival. If you followed the blog while we were in Scotland (jump back to May if you need to catch up), then you should have a good idea of what's coming. There are definitely some fun little secrets from unknown sources, but I think the most lucrative casks will be distillery-direct. There was a certain whisky we thought tasted like old, peated Brora. There was another whisky that was only being released for the Islay festival until we convinced them to sell the rest to us. Barrels like that tend to get people excited and sell quickly. The Laphroaig we released yesterday, however, isn't going anywhere. It will be here this Fall (albeit for $150 or more) and you'll definitely have the chance to taste it then. The biggest hits from 2012 weren't the big names.  The most popular casks were mostly overlooked by the general public (Bladnoch and Glendronach were probably the most beloved, although the Littlemill is really getting some love right now for some reason).

Remember, however, that we're excited about every one of these whiskies. Each of them wouldn't be making its way across the sea if we didn't think very highly of their value. Would I personally buy each and every one of them? No. That's not because I don't want to, however, it's because I simply can't. I can't afford it and I can't drink that much whisky. Please feel free to ask questions. If something interests you, then email David ( or myself ( and ask us about it. We're more than willing to help you understand each whisky in depth should you have the interest. Talking to us is a great way to save some money because I'll usually talk people out of buying whisky, rather than into it. It's not about the sale for me, it's about making sure each bottle goes to the right person.  There are many bottles on their way and some are not for everyone. 

That's where we're at right now. With thousands of people reading this blog everyday and another thousand+ on the insider email list, we can't buy casks for everyone anymore.  We need options, variety, depth, and breadth – whiskies for everyday, for special occasions, for the geeks, for the newly-converted.  We're here to help, so call us when you need us.

-David Driscoll


The 2012 Season Has Begun

As if our bombardment of K&L customers with fantastic deals like the Kilchoman Machir Bay, Hirsch Small Batch Reserve Bourbon, High West Campfire and Camut Calvados wasn't enough, now is when the real shit begins.  The 2012 whisky cask season is upon us.  It's the time when our whisky fanatics will have to peruse the list of K&L exclusive casks, decide which selections are worth investing in, and determine which whiskies are the "must-haves."  You'll save some major cash by pre-ordering, as we lower the price by a significant margin.  Plus, our casks will sometimes sell out in advance, meaning pre-ordering is the only way to get one (see our Clynelish 27, Ladyburn 36, and Brora 30 that never made it to the shelf).  The pre-order process is our way of thanking K&L customers who want to invest in our program – we simply lower the price to those of you who are willing to believe in us.  Starting now we will begin releasing new K&L exclusive casks every week here on the blog.  To see what we've acquired on the recent voyage check in here as often as possible, or just keep track of the right hand margin where I'll be adding the 2012 selections to the ongoing list.  Tonight we're kicking off with a fantastic malt that really began our trip on the right foot.  Behold, the first release of the 2012 campaign:

1994 Laphroaig 18 Year Old Chieftain's Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $124.99 - One of the great visits from our 2012 visit to Scotland was Laphroaig distillery, where we learned many new stories concerning its fascinating history. The whisky's special combination of sea, smoke, and brine has had a magical effect on people over the years. In 1908, manager Ian Hunter decided to make Laphroaig one of the first distilleries to market itself as a single malt, rather than sell it off for blends. What an idea! Shortly after that, a failed attempt to purchase Laphroaig (as well as a childish attempt to block their water supply with large rocks) led Peter Mackie to build the now-defunct Malt Mill with Laphroaig's exact specifications, hoping to recreate that unique flavor - he couldn't. Laphroaig was one of the first distilleries to have a female manager (Bessie Williamson) and they're one of the few today that still malts their own barley. Despite their reputation for forward-thinking, they continue to operate very traditionally, making only one type of spirit and filling into only one kind of barrel - first-fill Bourbon casks. While Laphroaig does not sell casks directly, we were able to broker one via Chieftain's exclusively for K&L. This 18 year beauty has everything we love about mature Laphroaig - medicinal notes, brine, and campfire smoke in a more subdued state, mixing brilliantly with soft vanilla and wood spice. It's classic in everyway and at full proof - no water added. A fantastic whisky from an iconic distillery's older stock.

-David Driscoll


More On Price Increases, Things to Think About

Many big name whiskies have gone up in price over the past few months: Macallan, Highland Park, Old Pulteney, Yamazaki, Bowmore, Glenfiddich, Laphroaig, and many, many more.  Most of these brands have also experienced shortages at some point during this period, leading them to seriously consider the amount of product they have available and what they need to charge in order to keep current profit levels sustained.  It's really just supply and demand - when the booze starts to run out and people still want it, can we afford to charge the same price?  Look at it this way: if you ran a company where you sold three hundred bottles of whisky per month for $25 a bottle, you'd be making $7500 a month.  What if, all of a sudden, you were only able to secure about 200 bottles a month?  Would you be content to make $5000 a month, or would you raise the price to $37.50 to cover your losses?  Would people still buy it if you did?

My question is this: when production on these whiskies catches back up, and supply once again balances out the demand, are prices on these whiskies going to go back down?  I ask this because, when prices on a brand go up, we retailers have to make our own decisions based on the same factors.  Do we raise our prices in response to their price increases?  If customers come into the store and see that Laphroaig 10 is no longer $35.99 but now $39.99, who are they going to blame?  Are they going to say to themselves: "What the hell?  K&L raised their prices!  I'll have to go somewhere else more reasonable," or are they going to make the connection that we had nothing to do with these changes?  I can tell you one thing - we are making a whole lot less per bottle this year than we were making last year because we don't want to raise prices on customers if we can help it. 

I'm betting, however, that once the market runs its course and the public comes to the realization that Highland Park 18 is now a $100 whisky, there's no way in hell it's going to go back down again.  Why would you lower it if sales don't slow in response to the increase?  Are people going to continue paying more and more each year for their favorite whiskies, or are they going to say "enough is enough" and look elsewhere for value?  I'm wondering when the "Netflix effect" is going to transpire.  How high can you go before the bubble bursts?  I'm still seeing tremendous value in the single malt whisky market: Bruichladdich 10, Benriach 12, Glendronach 12 and 15, Aberlour 12, Ardbeg 10 and Uigeadail, Kilchoman Machir Bay, and many other malts that are among the best we carry for the price.  Not to mention the return of great blended values like Great King Street, Bank Note, Highland Chief, and Islay Mist. 

I'm not trying to say that whisky isn't worth paying for because that would be foolish.  We all know there are some very special bottles out there in the world.  What I'm saying is that you can't pay $85 one day and then $105 the next.  That's what's happening right now, however.  It's not K&L and it's not the other big liquor stores either.  We're not raising the prices, we're simply reacting to the market. 

-David Driscoll


Tastings Tonight!

We'll have the dynamic Tequila 916 pouring in SF tonight (a big crowd favorite last week in Redwood City) while David Ferguson from Bruichladdich will be making his way from Islay to the tasting bar in Redwood City.  Both tastings start at 5 PM and run until 6:30.  Both are free as always!

-David Driscoll


The Most Special of the Special

Guess what just landed in our warehouse?  Twenty-five cases of the most amazing bottle we've ever acquired for K&L.  There's really no way that I can truly convey how special this bottle is.  What if I said that Camut has never bottled a 15 year old Calvados expression before?  What if I told you that Camut has never before bottled a special cuvee for a retailer, let alone an American one?  What if I told you that this was the best Calvados in the world?  Would that be enough to get you excited? I'm so pumped up about this bottle I can hardly contain myself.  Here are a few reasons why:

- Camut makes the best Calvados - bar none.  There's no other spirit in the world where I can easily pick out one producer as being the very best.  That's how good Camut is.  They leave every other apple brandy producer in the dust.

- The Camut brothers do not need the money they make from Calvados - they are farmers and land owners.  Therefore, they don't profit off of cider primarily and then distill what's left over.  All of their cider is for making Calvados and they do everything the hard way.  When you see how much time it takes them to grow the apples the right way and the dedication they put into it, you can't help but respect the hell out of these guys.

- Camut allows Charles Neal, their importer and our friend, only a tiny allotment for the entire U.S.  Our 300 bottle batch is more than Charles gets of all the other expressions combined.  This is very limited and very special, not to mention entirely collectable.

- The Camut brothers are so geeky about their craft it's insane.  We lost Emmanual for over an hour before we realized he was across the street lurking in a barn full of his new obsession - barrel-aged vinegar.  There were over 200 barriques full of vinegar in this building that had been aging for years.  "Who are you selling these to?" I asked curiously.  "Sell?" he replied.

- Read our blog post from January if you want to see some pictures are learn some more about their operation.

And that's that.  If you're not excited about this Calvados now then you either don't like Calvados or you're a robot.  If it's the latter, then you shouldn't be reading this blog anyway because robots can't drink alcohol.  If you don't like Calvados, then that's just too bad because this bottle just arrived:

Adrien Camut 15 Year Old K&L Exclusive Pays d'Auge Calvados $115.99 - The Camut brothers have fully dedicated their lives to making Calvados just as their grandfather did - they believe in their craft and they get a sense of pride from doing it. In sports, there are athletes with raw natural ability and others who succeed through sheer hard work and determination. When you combine both of those elements you get Michael Jordan, or, in the world of fine spirits, you get Camut Calvados. There is no doubt that Camut is the DRC or Chateau Lafite of the Calvados world - they are the very best, hands down.  Getting them to make us a special 15 year old Calvados, an aged expression they have never bottled before, was not something that came from discussions of money or sales margins.  Our exclusive K&L bottling came after a long night of food, drink, and brotherhood at their country farm - talk of the Americans storming the beach at Normandy and the special bond between our two countries ever since.  This 15 year is the perfect Calvados and showcases exactly what defines greatness in distillation - the elegant essence of apple on the nose, subtle vanilla and wood on the palate, and warm cider on the finish.  It's impeccable and perfect in every way, quite possibly the best spirit we've ever acquired for K&L. It's a very big deal for our store and those who love Calvados will understand how special this is. The Camuts do not make special blends for people, but they have done so for us.  Only 300 bottles available.

-David Driscoll