Scotland – Day 1: Good Luck

We had an empty flight leaving San Francisco, which allowed both Kyle and myself to stretch out in the vacant rows, move the arm rests vertical, and get a few hours of shut-eye. Five hours later, I woke up, watched the rest of Elysium with Matt Damon, managed to power through the touching and solemn Nebraska with Bruce Dern, and before I knew it we were landing in London.

Even though David OG was supposed to arrive at Heathrow hours before us, his plane out of LAX was apparently delayed for almost two hours due to missing paperwork. He had to literally sprint out of his gate, fast-track it through customs, and high-tail it down through the terminal to make the flight. He did it, however, and his suitcase made the transfer as well. We arrived in Glasgow, picked up our rental car, and drove into downtown amidst grey skies and cool wind. We all managed to sleep on the plane, so all three of us are currently feeling quite fresh.

I hope this great momentum for the beginning of our journey continues on into the week. We're off shortly to our first appointment. I'll keep you abreast of any important news, of course!

-David Driscoll


Kilchoman Dinner @ Donato - April 1st

It's no April Fool's joke (even though some people think the prices for five year old Kilchoman are seriously funny): we are having a fabulous whisky dinner on April 1st with the founder of the distillery himself, Anthony Willis. For $45 you can enjoy a multi-course meal, dessert, cover your tax and tip, and ask as many questions as you want about this precocious little distillery. I'll be there (fresh off the plane from our trip) as will Val, Sam, and the rest of your friends from JVS. Both of our K&L Exclusive casks will be there, too, as will the entire portfolio of Kilchoman selections. It's going to be a wonderful evening, full of wonderful food and drink. We've only got 60 spots available, so make sure you reserve your place early. This is a great chance to learn why - despite everything we know about whisky and maturity - these malts from Kilchoman continue to get better and better at such a young age. Anthony will break everything down for those who want get seriously geeky.

You won't want to miss it. Especially if you don't feel like forking down $200 to try both of these K&L single casks.

We'll be taking over the backroom of Donato Enoteca in downtown Redwood City. Come join us!

K&L Whisky Dinner w/Kilchoman @ Donato, Tuesday April 1st, 7 PM - $45 - NOTE: There are no physical paper tickets for this event, your name will be placed on a guest list.

-David Driscoll


Scotland/France 2014 Preview

We're off tomorrow night -- taking the red-eye to London, catching the connection to Glasgow, and then heading right downtown for our first appointment. I'm getting tired just thinking about it! For the fourth straight year, David OG and I will be heading across the Atlantic in search of those wonderful spirits that seemed to have escaped American importation somehow. This time we'll have young Kyle Kurani with us, whose youthful exuberance we hope will keep us motivated and energized. We've got a packed itinerary with very little downtime, which hopefully means more booze than ever before.

What are we hoping to find? The same things you're all hoping for: hot deals.

Kyle asked me today about our expectations, but I told him that's like trying to plan a dinner party without knowing what you'll actually be able to buy at the grocery store. If you don't know what you can get, then you can't figure out a menu in advance. You just have to wing it and hope something great is available.

The real problem with the single cask market for value hunters is that single barrel cask strength malts are always more expensive. There's a higher taxation rate and a higher premium put on the time it takes to do one small bottling versus a larger volume order for the producer. There's not a lot of value in that niche, hence why most of what we're bringing are $100 bargains (if that's not an oxymoron). For $100, our money goes a long way in the single cask market. For $50, not so much. That's where big brands and big blends have the advantage (hence the post I wrote recently about the new Kilchoman casks). But with clever math and some bulk purchasing we might be able to find some deals. We were able to switch up a few things in this last shipment that allowed us to get the Glenrothes 8 year down to $50 and the Glengoyne 16 down to $79. Both of those are slam dunk deals in my opinion, especially when you taste the quality in those bottles.

But then there's the Catch-22 of the single malt world always staring you in the face: customers want value, but they also want fresh, exciting new products. Those two things don't go hand-in-hand very often, unfortunately. Nevertheless, that's what people want and we're in the business of giving people what they want (even the things they don't know they want....yet!). We need to dig, get creative, work hard, and make sure we use our connections to find some interesting options -- both with the single malts in Scotland and the brandies in France.

While we've been geeking out about pre-Phylloxera legends and ancient 100-year-old selections from our smaller producers, we need to find more solid $50 options from both Cognac and Armagnac. We've got a good thing going with the Bouju Fines Saveur and the Pellehaut L'Age de Glace. They've been excellent gateway brandies for the uninitiated (we'll have more Pellehaut soon). The 1996 Pellehaut has been huge hit as well. We need more vintage Armagnac in that style to keep this movement going.

Can we find it? Will we find it? Will we cause more international incidents? Will we make it back alive and with our sanity?

There's only one way to find out: stay tuned into the K&L Spirits Blog.

-David Driscoll


Plight 2.0

You've gotta love the internet. I make a crappy little comic called Plight of the Whiskey Blogger and all of a sudden I have readers sending me their own versions of it. Graphic illustrator Scott Lafleur is a K&L customer and Spirits Blog reader. He sent me his take on the Whisky Expert character this weekend. He's waaaaaaaay better than me at this.

-David Driscoll


Weekend Observations

- The more I learn about the women's fashion industry, the more I find it resembles the booze business. My wife and I were shopping at the Nordstrom downtown when she saw some black Mary Jane flats by Miu Miu (a Prada spinoff). She asked to try them on, but they didn't have her size. We checked every other Nordstrom in the U.S. -- sold out. Possibly other stores? Nope. These particular shoes were "Nordstrom Exclusives" meaning the designer, in this case Miuccia Prada, had created them specifically for the retail chain. This trend is becoming more and more the norm in the women's retail fashion world: commissioning products in small quantities from exciting designers to add unique and interesting options unavailable to other competitors. Neiman Marcus might approach Kate Spade or Ted Baker and say: "Hey, we'd like to work together with you on an exclusive dress or jacket. What do you say?" Sound familiar? It's a model that's obviously working for both the retailer and the producer. The Miu Miu shoes were from the recent Spring release and they were already completely cleaned out.

- We spotted Suns center Emeka Okefor going for a stroll down Mission Street with his Ukranian teammate Alex Len. They were heading over the bridge to take on the Warriors later that evening. Man, are they tall!

- I'm really fascinated by curation right now. Museums don't really interest me these days, but I am always captivated by a beautiful layout. I'll look at art, but I want it presented in a way that makes it interesting and engaging (explain to me why this is important or groundbreaking while I'm taking it in, don't just give me a small card-sized descriptor). I'm finding better artistic curation in retail outlets as of late than I am in museums. The Bloomingdale's at the Westfield in San Francisco is one of the most incredible stores I've ever visited. It's huge, the layout is expansive and impeccable, and the music is atmospheric and super hip. The Anthropology on Market Street is the same. You don't need to buy anything to enjoy either of these places, just walk around and take in the view; enjoy the creativity they've put into each section and soak in the mood. I wish there was a more sensual way we could present the spirits at K&L -- a way that was fashion-forward and artistic, combining music and imagery, yet practical and easy-to-navigate. Like flying on Virgin America.

- Speaking of curation, the way in which we present wine and spirits to one another (in person, not in a retail outlet) has a big impact on how we enjoy those beverages. Too often in the United States will you find bottles taken completely out of context, stripping them of their intended usage and therefore their magic. Buying a bottle of red Burgundy to drink on the patio isn't going to maximize the flavor potential of that wine. Pouring a glass of single malt while you and your friends eat tacos and watch the game might be fun, but there's nothing particularly special going on. That's not to say that all experiences with alcohol need to be curated and memorable either, but like anything in life the details make all the difference. Taking the time to comb your hair right, tailor your pants, or shine your shoes can completely change your appearance. Taking the time to pick the right vegetables, light a candle, or decorate the dinner table with your finest glassware can heighten the experience of your meal. The right couch or painting on the wall can make or break the interior design of your living room. These details may appear effortless or minor, but they're not. Effortless chic isn't actually effortless. Drinking a glass of Ardbeg at Duffy's in the town of Bowmore will never be the same as drinking it at my house, but I can at least try to get the mood right. I wonder how many negative experiences with alcohol could have been more positive had it been presented differently?

-David Driscoll