Using Online Consumer Reviews

I have to admit that when it comes to finding advice concerning dining, shopping, or specialized services, I definitely do a quick Google search or read some Yelp reviews to help guide my decisions.  Sure, it's nice just to find out what's nearby in the area, what's conveniently located, what the business hours are and whatnot, but I always read through the comments as well.  Last week my wife needed to fix a gold necklace and a silver bracelet, so I scoured through jewelers on the peninsula and finally settled upon the store with the most positive reviews.  After dropping off the items for my wife, she made sure to pick them up when they were finished, but there was a problem: the necklace wasn't quite fixed the way we had asked.  When my wife brought this to their attention the store employees laughed at her and told her she was wrong (then continued speaking about her in Spanish, without realizing she's a first-language Spanish speaker).  My wife left angrily and we had to find another jeweler to finish the job.

Out of the fifty-six total reviews on Yelp, there were only two negative ones – both from women complaining about the same type of belligerent behavior towards them from the owner.  I tend to discount a couple negative reviews, believing that the customers from time to time might be a bit difficult to deal with, but these minority opinions aptly described the experience of my wife as well.  It turns out that, despite the multitude of five-star reviews, this place can definitely rub some people the wrong way. At least, that was our experience.

Despite the attitude of the jeweler, I'm willing to accept that we might have caught him on an off day.  Maybe he was upset that we were questioning his expertise.  I've read some negative reviews about K&L online where customers vent their frustration about an inattentive staff member or crabby cashier and sometimes that's probably an accurate description.  I can't say that I bring my "A" game to work everyday, as much as I hope to.  There are times when I've lost my patience or I've just had a long week and maybe I didn't give a customer the experience they should have received.  However, on an average day in the Redwood City store, I'd say it would be difficult to leave unhappy if you were looking for quality service.  Every now and again people have rough days and that's the reality of being human.  We're not robots, we're not without our own egos or emotions, therefore it's difficult to summarize the overall quality of a particular business through a five-star rating system, especially if it's your first and only visit.  There are times when we perform better than others and that's just life.

I don't plan on leaving a Yelp review for the jeweler because I don't think it's necessary.  There are obviously plenty of other people who have done business there and received great service.  There are probably several different guys who work there as well.  What I want to state is that basing one's decisions on the mass aggregate opinion of the internet is no guarantee of anything.  Not that anyone has ever claimed it should be, either.  It just seems that people are quick to hand out either five stars or one star without taking much time to consider some very basic human elements in the equation.  I wouldn't summarize an athlete's ability after watching him perform in one game.  I wouldn't write a whisky review if I had only tasted the malt once.  Yet, I read reviews where someone stops to pick up a taco, waits five minutes, and hands out one star because they were in a rush.  We need to slow down and think about things before we put information out into the internet that people use to make business decisions.  I'm talking about myself here as well. 

-David Driscoll


Shortages, Price Increases

I've been having this conversation with our customers for some time, but for those of you who don't come into the store here's the issue: the planet's rediscovery of brown booze is causing some serious shortages.  How many American whiskies are we down right now? Rittenhouse Rye, Sazerac, Wild Turkey Rye, Elijah Craig 18, Black Maple Hill, Vintage 17, and the list goes on and on.  Cognac and single malt producers are also feeling the heat, running short on big name expressions that customers have drunk freely for years.  I've gone on about this issue in previous posts, so I'll spare you all the back story - just get ready for more shortages and more price increases as a result of the current drought.

When an older whisk(e)y sells out (i.e. Old Pulteney 21) do we really expect the producers to bring it back for the same price?  Wishfully thinking, we would say yes.  However, with demand for the "whisky of the year" as high as it is, why take $100, or even $120 a bottle when they know people will happily pay $160? I'd expect a substantial price increase the next time we see this whisky again.  To make matters worse, I just found out this week that Yamazaki is now tightening its belt and will immediately be allocating its whiskies to top accounts.  That means we'll likely get about one case of 12 year each month, while the 18 year old looks to be completely wiped out for the foreseeable future.  The question again here is: do they raise the price in response to the shortage?

Why do I expect InverHouse to raise the price on Old Pulteney 21?  Because I just got word that the 17 year old will be going from $85 to over $100 per bottle early next month.  To me, the 17 year old is the better whisky, but it has nowhere near the demand of the 21.  If they think they can get $100+ for the 17, due to the new-found success of the 21, then there's no telling how much they think the 21 is actually worth in today's market.  If you're a fan of these malts, now would be a good time to grab what's left before the price goes up any higher.  I just cleaned out California, so we'll be able to sustain the old price on OP17 once the delivery comes next week.  Yamazaki 18 fans, however, need to snatch up what's left immediately.

-David Driscoll



How ridiculous is this?

It's here until 7 PM.  Queue Def Leppard.  I've embedded it below.

"We just got to fly!"

-David Driscoll


The Hits Keep on Comin'

I told all of the Whisk(e)y Email insiders to start saving their money about two months ago.  I knew that May, June, and July were going to be non-stop excitement, packed to the brim with new releases, deals, closeouts, and a few surprises.  How do you decide what to spend your cash on when there's something fantastic you've just got to have on a daily basis?  It's not easy.  As if those G&M bottles from earlier weren't tempting enough, now there's the new High West Campfire....and it's really good.  I thought this was going to be an oddball whiskey – something you try once, appreciate the experience, but never really want to drink again.  It's not.  I could drink this all night long, and into the early morning hours.  I loaded up big, so grab it while we've got it.

High West Campfire Whiskey $53.99 - You read correctly – High West is mixing Bourbon, rye, and smoky single malt to make the Campfire – a mix of three different whiskies that tastes wonderfully balanced.  It’s rich, spicy, and just a little smoky, but it’s totally drinkable.  I know some of you out there are on the fence, not needing another oddball in the bar, but this would go down fast at poker night or any other get-together.  I’m buying a big batch of it because I think it’s going to be a hit.  All the rich wood and spice of Bourbon & rye, with that smokiness of an Islay malt. It's definitely in the style of American whiskey, rather than single malt, so the smoke almost ends up like BBQ flavor on top of the sweet wooded flavor..  Delish….

-David Driscoll


The Return of G&M to K&L

I've been really tough on Gordon & MacPhail over the last year.  Every time they've come by the store I've grilled them on both the lackluster quality of their newer releases and the higher prices they expect me to pay for them.  However, I was looking forward to Thursday's visit because their list of recent acquisitions looked promising and, if the prices were in line, I could envision several new selections finding a place in our store.  Most of the malts delivered as expected and the pricing definitely seemed better this time around.  I had a few holes to fill so I'm happy to announce that G&M is now back on our shelves with the following new selections:

Arran 8 Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Single Malt Whisky $35.99 - I've always admired the fact that G&M is not afraid to bottle some of their whiskies quite young.  This 8 year old Arran has much of the same lively fruit and vanilla character as the distillery bottling, and offers tremendous value for those looking for something under $40 that isn't Glen-something or other.

Longmorn 30 Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Single Malt Whisky $169.99 - Longmorn has become one of my absolute favorite distilleries over the past few years (expect a barrel or two in this year's direct cask program) and the value provided by Gordon & MacPhail for this thirty year expression is dynamite.  It's everything we expect from the Speyside institution known for its incredible consistency of quality: big, rich textures, creamy vanilla with lots of oil and resin, earthy components on the mid-palate, and a chewy finish that goes on forever.  Given that we only see the 16 year old stateside (which runs at a very high $100+ per bottle), I'd grab this one while it's hot.

1984 Convalmore 22 Year Old Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $135.99 - This whisky has been kicking around since 2007 when it was bottled, but I just got a good price for it on closeout and had to pull the trigger.  I think, given the new cost and the recent interest collectors have found for slient distilleries, this should move quickly.  Convalmore, located directly next door to Balvenie, has been closed since 1985 - one year after this whisky was produced.  The malt itself is fruity and full of sweet grains at a drinkable 52.5%.  A dash of water really opens it up and gives us a peek at what the distillery was capable of.

Old Pulteney 21 Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Single Malt Whisky $135.99 - Remember that this is not the "whisky of the year" distillery version, but rather a less-sweet and far more complex expression from refill-Bourbon casks.  Almost herbal in its litheness, the absence of sherry allows the delicate fruit and subtle vanilla to shine through.  The fact that G&M owns the rights to so many original vintage distillery labels makes this bottle even cooler - this was the actual OP label from the early 1900s!

1970 Macallan 41 Year Old Speymalt Gordon & MacPhail Single Malt Whisky $699.99 - Quite possibly the best Macallan I've ever tasted.  The concentration of sherry is absolutely unreal.  It's almost impossible to tell where the sherry ends and the whisky begins - it all gets lost in a seamless flavor of rich toffee, syrup, and caramel.  I have to believe that anyone who is willing to pay the price will get exactly what they expect from this bottle.  It tastes expensive, unlike so many pricier malts that get you on rarity or collectibility only. 

-David Driscoll