Just a quick note for today. Ardbeg did a private committee tasting of Ardbog today via the internet with Mickey Heads. I was lucky enough to get a sample.

Two words: it's delicious.

They're calling it the "most delicious Ardbeg private committee release ever." I know once this media blitz starts you'll all say to yourself, "yeah, right."

I can vouch, however. The manzanilla sherry influence on this whisky is absolutely delicious. Butterscotch and creme brulee. Lots of peat. 52% so you can drink it straight, but a drop of water is helpful.

Still no word on pricing, but it's coming June 1st. This whisky destroys the Galileo, Ardbeg Day, or Alligator releases. The best Ardbeg I've tasted since my last drop of 1990 Beist.

Stay tuned!

-David Driscoll


End of the Quarter Scramble

As you saw from David OG's depressing post yesterday, we're at the end of another financial quarter here in the booze industry and now is the time of the year when we're notified by the liquor companies about price changes. My box is currently full of emails that say things like:

David, just wanted to let you know that ______ will be taking an increase starting tomorrow. If you want to get the old price I need an order today. Please buy what you think you will need.

Guess what? EVERYTHING is going up in price. Then, as David OG pointed out, you'll send them an order for twenty cases of booze to buy in against that increase and protect your old retail price. However, that's when this email shows up:

David, it looks like we're out of _______ right now. ETA is 5/12. Sorry about that.

So you just sent me an email telling me that if I don't buy more of _______ today then I'll be faced with a price increase starting tomorrow. However, when I try to buy more of _______ from you there isn't any to buy. What we're dealing with here is brands covering their asses.

We told you about the increase. That's all we can do. It's not our fault that you didn't buy more earlier.

Everything from Macallan will be taking price tomorrow. Highland Park too. Fernet Branca is going up in price. I just got word that Louis XIII will be adding an extra $200 to its bottle cost. Basically, we either have to raise our prices or make less money.

And you wonder why we go to Scotland and France in search of different brands to sell?

Again, I'm fine with gradual inflation. It's a necessary part of the economy. However, this is happening four times a year in some cases. Like David said, there comes a point when a store like K&L will simply say "Enough" and start dumping brands. If you don't see your favorite single malt on our shelves it probably has something to do with price increases (Glenrothes, Talisker 18, Old Pulteney, cough, cough).

Part of the reason this is happening is the lack of supply and the huge demand. We all know that so let's not rehash a tired conversation. The other problem, however, is the lack of competition. Where's the motivation for brands to compete? The craft whiskey scene is only offering more expensive bottles of lesser quality. It's only giving brands an excuse to charge you more, rather than fight hard for your business. When brands see $60 for a one year old whiskey their eyes light up and their pulses start racing.

Until any craft distillery can make a 12 year old single malt for less than $50 there's no reason for the big boys to bring prices down. That's not to say that craft distilleries can't make a difference because they can. Competition with white spirits like gin has been fierce. Craft distilleries have totally forced the brands out of K&L. We don't sell Tanqueray anymore. We don't sell Bombay. We don't sell Gordons. Those guys are history and the brands are still scrambling to make up that market share. The same thing goes for tequila. Don Julio who? We don't sell that. Patron? What's that? Craft beer is doing the exact same thing to Budweiser.

Smaller whiskey distilleries, however, are unable to apply the necessary pressure. There's too much overhead and too much advance planning required. By the time any of these craft whiskies are 12 years old many small distillers will have spent so much money that the owners will be begging to sell. Please, Proximo, buy my distillery in Colorado and help me get out from under all this debt. Craft distilleries are popping up all over the place because the time to sell booze is NOW. If we can get this to market fast enough we can strike it rich! How many whiskey-focused craft distilleries do you know of that are biding their time, waiting for the right moment to release something tasty and affordable?

I can think of one. High West. When David Perkins finally releases a mature rye, Bourbon, and single malt I think he'll be ready to offer steady pricing, but that's only because of his incredible blending skills and his access to mature whiskey in the meantime. Not everyone was as early to the party as David, however.

Again, I find parallels to the world of professional wresting. Wrestling's golden era was from 1996 until 2001 - the time when three top-class companies were driving to outdo one another. Two of those three couldn't keep up with the top brand, however, and they were eventually co-opted by the WWE. Now we're right back where we started. For those of you looking forward to another renaissance, a time when all of these craft whiskies are finally mature, I envy you. I don't share that same optimism. I forsee a future of smart brands. Brands that made deals to buyout their competition. Brands that used their power and scale-of-production to squeeze out the little guys. Brands that used the high-prices and questionable quality of craft whiskey to double their own prices and triple their own profits. Brands that got so rich off of the rebirth of whisky drinking that they're now invincible.

Who's gonna stop them?

-David Driscoll


One Day....

One day, no one will drink Macallan. Not because they've lost their touch, not because they've stopped using Golden Promise, not because Michael Jackson is no longer with us to espouse the distillery on the hill, people will always pay attention to it. Simply put, no one will be able to justify spending the money on this stuff. Today I received the price increases for the brand effective May 1st. You may remember that we were forced to raise our price on Macallan 18 year for the first time in quite a while after eating incremental price increase over the last couple of years. Macallan feels perfectly justified to raise their prices simply because of laws of supply and demand. Who can blame them? They've raised their prices once a quarter for as long as I can remember and we still can't keep it in stock. Let's not beat around the bush. Despite seeing no slowdown in sales due to price increases, Macallan is also feeling extreme supply pressure from the Asian market. The number of wealthy individuals in China, Singapore, Japan, Korea, who are willing to pay whatever it takes to own this prestigious product is unfathomable. Regardless of what they charge in Asia, the savvy world traveler will find that the prices in the US are significantly better than back home. That means that unless the prices normalize worldwide, we will not see any sort of reduced demand domestically. In fact, I'm convinced that the vast majority of Macallan 25 and 30 year sold in the US is finding its way in suitcases or through various exporters into Hong Kong, Macau, or any number of other destinations where wealthy individuals are willing to pay tenfold the retail price just to secure a bottle of the famous distillery's rare offerings. But, what does that mean for us? People who might like to actually drink Macallan? It means we're screwed. Today, the price of Macallan 18 year went up $206 a case. That means my cost is above my retail price (again)! Expect Macallan 18 year to be $200 in no time. That's not even the worst of it. The Macallan 30 Year Old Fine Oak, given it has been VERY unavailable over the past year, has just increased $1700 a case or nearly $300 a bottle. This is not even the highly prized Sherry Wood 30 Year. I'd buy in, but of course they're out of stock until after the increase. Big surprise. Take comfort in the fact that the Macallan 25 year is only going up $401 a case. So what was a few years ago an $800 bottle (and an expensive one at that), will easily go for $2000 today if not significantly more. But, can it still be undervalued? How about $2600 in Hong Kong? You can buy it today! So yeah, it's over man. One one will drink Macallan.

-David Othenin-Girard


Top Value K&L Brandy Back in Stock

We just had a boat hit the Oakland port last week and upon that container was a gigantic drop of 2000 Domaine d'Ognoas Bas Armagnac $55.99 - the single most successful brandy we've yet offered from our French spirits direct import porgram. We've sold more than three hundred bottles of this super value over the past year because customers have taken a chance on this unknown and found it to be exactly as advertised. At 30% Folle Blanche and 70% Ugni Blanc, this Armagnac offers rich, raisiny fruit with spice and power simultaneously. Made at a small co-op distillery, it's a label we've had a tough time keeping in stock. Never to fear, however, beacuse we just brought in another 500 bottles. That should last us through the summer. For sipping, for rocks drinking, or even mixing a high-end Sidecar, there's nothing on this level for this price. If you're looking to discover Armagnac or even want to distinguish it from Cognac, this is a great starting point. No one would ever mistake the Ognoas for soft, vanilla-laden Cognac. I can't imagine anyone not liking it either.

-David Driscoll


Lighting a Fire

I woke up this morning to peruse the internet and maybe write a quick blog post, but I just wasn't feeling the vibe. I was bored. Jaded. I needed something to inspire me. I wanted to be excited about whisky, but I wasn't. Maybe I could coax some inspiration out of someone if I lit a fire under their ass. Maybe I could call someone out and get them to call me out in response. We don't have comments on the K&L site, but I knew that anyone with enough motivation to respond would email me if I used my provocotive tone. I wasn't interested in knee jerk reactions anyway. I wanted someone to write something with thought and feeling. Something that would really provide some substance. So I called out whisky bloggers, including myself. We're all egoists, I said. Someone prove me wrong.

I got a lot of emails today. Some really great ones. They made me feel great about blogging. They made me feel like there were real people out there writing something from the heart.

This was the best one:

Dear David,

I want to start by saying I have an enormous amount of respect for you.  The Single Cask work you and DO’G have done is incredibly generous.  In person, you are warm, brilliant, and honest.  Your blog entries are tremendous; in fact I am quite jealous of your well-written, educational, and candid posts.  But I disagree on a major theme in your recent post about whisky blogging.

Here’s the first paragraph that caught my attention: 

Do we really need this much information about whisky, however? Is it filling a need? Why do so many people feel compelled to start a weblog about alcohol and share those opinions with the world? Most of it is pure ego, which is why I was ready to give it up a while back. My ego got me into this game and it was making me write things to boost its self-absorbed nature. Sure, K&L didn't have anyone writing about spirits so it did serve the customer base a purpose, but that wasn't what motivated me to do it. I wanted to create a reputation for myself and that seemed like a good way to do it. Anyone who writes a blog about whisky is in the same boat. Anyone who tells you they're not is lying. I'm not saying that blogs written by egoists aren't useful (because I think this blog can be useful at times), but I am saying that the rise of the ego is beginning to replace actual news and journalism. It's not much different than the twenty-hour news cycle – one hour of actual news, twenty-three hours of people talking about that one hour.

Let me introduce myself.  I am Michael Kravitz. My blog Diving for Pearls is amongst that blur of names on Sku’s blog list.  I am a whisky blogger by accident.  My site was originally started in 2007 to keep my friends and family up to date when I was moving back to LA from the East Coast.  I posted mostly about personal stuff, film (my educational background), music (not my educational background), travel, and maybe a little bit about baseball.  Those posts drifted to a stop in 2008.

I restarted the blog in 2011 to chronicle my (then) new career as a full-time writer.  That career didn’t go as planned, so instead of complaining every day I went back to posting about the stuff I enjoyed (music, movies, sports, etc.).  The newest addition was The Single Malt Report.  I’ve loved whisk(e)y for some time and thought it would be a hoot to do little reviews once a week.  Somehow, through the miracle of Google algorithms, people started finding my site.  Many more people than I’d ever expected.  And they were coming for the whisky.

This was an unexpected joy.  People were reading my stuff!  So the whisky posts took over.  As a number of things went sour in my offline life, it was comforting to have folks from around the world regularly tuning in to read my generally unprofessional whisky musings.

Soon, the whisky blogging started to become more personal.  I started talking to readers, bloggers, and other malt geeks who were trying to break through the cold separation of the online life.  On Twitter some of these folks started a hashtag #WhiskyFabric.  On Facebook, the Whisky Bloggers group began.  We realize we all have so much to learn, so we share whisky news, knowledge, and samples.  Sometimes we talk about our families and work.  I’ve even gotten to meet people (in person) I would never have known had I not whisky blogged on Diving for Pearls.

Though I’d like to speak for everyone I’ve met, I shouldn’t, so I’ll speak for myself.  I’m not in it to build my brand.  I’m in it for the communication, people, and sensory exploration.  I know you truck on bigger roads than I do.  So perhaps you see things I don’t.  If some currency has evolved via Reputation, then that means there is a whisky blogging Scene.  I suppose I haven’t been invited to the Scene, which is okay with me.  I’ve found that most Scenes bring with them a sense of decay since the members of the Scene aren’t actually contributing anything.  Instead it’s a bunch of preening, rehashing, or oneupsmanship.

I can tell by your post you’re reaching a level of whisky-blog-reading burnout.  In the current whisky blogging world, there is certainly repetition in subject matter.  That’s one of the reasons I’ve resisted commenting on the big news stories.  People with better insight and deeper knowledge often beat me to it with better content.  And yes, sometimes there seems to be a bit of a glut in the number of sites.  I’ve stopped reading about half of my usual blog roll, specifically those blogs that seem to be industry-cuddle-happy.

But I still go to my usual blog haunts (your site is one of them) with the same joy as I had two years ago.  The Internet is an endless lifeless ocean, but great sites run by great people provide little islands of recreation.  Since I enjoy those little respites throughout my day, I will try to continue to run my own island to the best of my ability while working a 60-hour-a-week desk job.

Finally, per your paragraph:

Back in 2009, you couldn't be up to date with the whisky scene unless you were reading the whisky blogs. Nowadays, I'm not sure there's much more they can offer besides breaking news. The blogs have always been there to help educate newer consumers about the alcohol they're drinking, but there's so much information out there now that everything just seems like a rehash. We're recycling stories, travelogues, ideas, opinions, and rants like Lady Gaga recycles old Madonna schticks. There's nothing underground or cool about a whisky blog anymore because there's nothing underground about whisky. Whisky is the hottest thing out there. It's being pushed and sold at max capacity. It's so cool we can't get enough of it. You can't stay relevant, however, by following the current trend. You stay relevant by spotting the next one before it arrives.

What we can try to offer is the human experience.  Corporations can’t do this, no matter how much they pay for marketing.  Personal experience is relevant, chasing trends is not.  If a blogger does the latter, I promise you he’ll lose to someone doing the former.  And if many bloggers are really shedding their voices to grab for trends, then The Scene has begun and Whisky Blogging is indeed in decay. 

But I don’t see this in the blogs I read and I’m doing my best to keep my voice.  I have nothing to gain by building a whisky blogging reputation, so I’m not trying to.  You can call me a liar for MANY other things, but not for this.

Please continue sharing your voice on your spirits blog.  Reputation or no reputation, you’ve established something great there.


Michael Kravitz

BRAVO! This is what I wanted to read today. I wanted to know that there were people out there who value the human relations element of the blogging. Blogging to reach out and meet people. Blogging to share information with people and to receive information in return. Blogging to make this hobby something communal and people-oriented, rather than another round of tasting notes. This is what putting yourself out there can result in. I, like Michael, have exchanged countless emails with people who have benefited from what I have written and have inspired me in return. When you write something controversial you get a lot a quick feedback, most of it defensive or reactive, but there's always someone out there who takes the time to write something beautiful.

Today was a great example of what blogging can accomplish. Not for the people reading it necessarily, but for me, the person writing it. Not every blog needs to be read by the mass public. Small communities can be built around a blog site and operate on their own small scale. That's the future of blogging. Bringing people together through words and common interest. Creating new ways for people to interface with their hobby that adds to the enjoyment.

Big tents are where we should be headed. Soapboxes are getting passe.

-David Driscoll