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


No More Packaging - A Plea to Producers

Please!  For the love of God, please stop putting whisk(e)y in cardboard boxes, tin canisters, felt bags, whatever!  We live in an age where more people are buying booze online than in actual brick and mortar stores.  Glass bottles must be protected by shipping in styrofoam sleeves that hug the bottle snuggly, leaving no room for wooden crates or fancy plastic gift boxes.  Because whisky has become so collectable, a bottle will lose its potential resale value if every little item that came with it orginally isn't kept in tact.  That means that when we ship someone a bottle of Bruichladdich and don't include the canister, the resale value of that Bruichladdich may be affected and that angers collectors.  When we buy casks from Scotland we purposely bottle them without any additional packaging for this reason.  No more tins, no more problems. 

If a bottle never came with any packaging to begin with then it's easier to maintain a collectable's full resale value - all you need is the bottle itself.  Most people don't know that when booze gets delivered by distribution there are all kinds of open boxes, damaged containers, and missing pieces.  When we get our six bottles of Pappy 15 only three of them actually have the red bag.  That means three possible collectors are going to go home pissed through no fault of my own. 

There's an easy solution to this - no more packaging.  Sure, purists could argue that whisk(e)y is for drinking, not for collecting, but that's an entirely different argument.  In today's global world, where people rely on shipping for delivery, the less packaging the better.  It's easier for the parent company, it's easier for the bottler, it's easier for the retailer, and it's easier for the customer.  Let's do it now.

-David Driscoll


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