K&L Spirits Journal Podcast #25 - Dr. Bill Lumsden

I received an email from Dr. Bill Lumsden yesterday that contained two important pieces of information.

1) He was very sorry that he would not be around for our visit to Glenmorangie this weekend.

2) He had finally opened that bottle of 2001 Lanessan I sold him last year and it was delicious.

I said that, since we won't see one another, we should talk on the phone instead. He said that sounded fine. I said we should record it, too. He said sure. I said we should do it right now. He said how about tomorrow? I said OK.

Listen as the man behind Glenmorangie and Ardbeg talks shop on the new Ealanta, upcoming releases for both distilleries, and the pressure of constantly trying to outdo last year's whisky.

You can download this episode of the podcast here, or by visiting our page on iTunes. You can also listen via our embedded player above. All previous episodes are archived on iTunes as well as the link on the right-hand margin of this page.

-David Driscoll


Karuizawa Sold Out

I wasn't at work yesterday, so I didn't watch the numbers tick by as more and more customers responded to our big email, but I knew the Karuizawa bottles must have sold out around 5 PM because that's when the "waitlist" questions began pounding my inbox.

When an item sells out at K&L, the "add to cart" option is replaced with "add to waitlist." The waitlist is actually a very useful thing because it will notify you via email when the product you're looking for comes back into stock. It does not, however, reserve or guarantee you a bottle. In the case of the Karuizawa, these won't be coming back into stock because we only had limited amounts to sell, so the waitlist isn't going to be of much help. I had to break that news to a number of customers who thought by adding to the waitlist they had reserved their bottle, but that was not what had happened.

If you didn't get a bottle of Karuizawa there is still a chance. We don't put every bottle of booze on sale via pre-arrival just in case something happens – a bottle breaks, something is mis-sold, or a mistake is made. We need back-ups in case this happens. However, I won't know if there are any extra bottles until we're all done processing pre-orders which may be late August. If you still want one then please check back with us at that time.

What a crazy day yesterday was! I'm sorry I was at home missing it!

-David Driscoll

UPDATE: I just checked and saw that there are a number of CC declines in the queue, so the waitlist may inform you of a few bottles that go back into stock as a result. Stay vigilant!


Deciding What to Drink

This sounds like a completely stupid title - the type of problem that only hoity-toity aristocrats might ponder. Nevertheless, it's the scenario that pays my salary. The question that we get asked forty to fifty times a day on the K&L sales floor is:

"What should I drink?"

There are all kinds of ubiquitous answers to this query.

- "Drink what you like!" Straight-forward and charming, but not really helpful.

- "Drink what tastes good!" How do I know if something tastes good when I've never had it before?

- "Drink $7 to $10 wines during the week and something special on the weekends!" What if you don't drink during the week? (I know that sounds crazy, but some people do save themselves for Friday night)

Those are the in-store variations of this dilemma when dealing with customers and I've got all the answers to any possible combination of them. However, what if your problem isn't related to a lack of ideas or information? What if it's simply a matter of time? That's the issue I'm facing. I've got the opposite problem from most of my customers. I know what to drink, but I want to drink too many things! I have a list of selections that, like our universe, is in a constant state of expansion. I need help finding the time to actually sit down and enjoy it. As someone who thinks about booze all day long I've got about twenty things I want to open by the time I get home from work each day. Eric just brought in a bunch of new Loire and Alsatian whites. Joe just tasted me on a new inexpensive garnacha from Spain. We've got some great Bordeaux deals right now on older vintages. Plus, I've been stockpiling Champagne in my refrigerator - can't forget about those bottles!

And that's just the wine! We haven't even talked about the 100+ open bottles of booze sitting in my living room cabinet.

As someone who tries to drink responsibly I don't want to overdo it on any one night. That means roughly a half bottle of wine with dinner if I'm going to keep it under control. If we're doing cocktails, that means roughly two drinks. Friday or Saturday night might mean a beer, a cocktail, and a half-bottle of wine with the possibility of brown water after the meal (if I don't pass out while watching Kickboxer for the 875th time). Even with that extensive menu of libationary (I thought I had just made that word up, but it does appear in the Urban dictionary) delights, that still limits me to one beer, one cocktail, one wine, and maybe one brown spirit. I can only handle volume like that maybe once a week, so at that pace I will never, ever, ever, ever get even close to drinking all the hooch I have planned out in my head.

I've heard some people say, "Since I don't drink as much as I used to, I'll drink something nice if I'm going to do it." I thought about that for a while – I could eliminate the less-expensive selections from my life, scale down my drinking, and just sip the fancy stuff for the rest of my days. That doesn't work for me, however. I love drinking Bank Note. I love drinking $10 bottles of German riesling. I love drinking large glasses of Campari with soda. I love dumping huge quantities of Four Roses Yellow into a large glass of ice. I rejoice in the post-work bottle of Jever Pils. There's simply too much pleasure to be obtained from the working class heroes of hooch. I'm the same way with food. Have fun with your bone marrow, I'm getting tacos from the truck parked out front.

If I'm not willing to trade quantity for quality, then how am I ever going to make it through those cases of Bordeaux sitting in my locker? What about the vintages of red and white Burgundy I have dating back to 2005? When am I going to drink this stuff?!!

I've recently realized that this problem I currently face isn't a matter of tolerance. It's not a matter of health or of capability either. It's a matter of friendship! I simply need more friends to drink with. When you drink with people there are more mouths to handle more booze. The more mouths you are feeding, the more booze you can open, therefore enjoying multiple glasses of various wines and spirits rather than working solidly through one open container. Having a dinner party results in three to four bottles of open wine as well as a smattering of whiskies once the meal is over. I simply need to be more social.

Now I just need to find the time to hang out with people! It's still a matter of scheduling, isn't it?

-David Driscoll


1983 - A Dark Year for Single Malt

Many of us whisky supergeeks have a serious fascination with closed distilleries and, more specifically, the load of now-famous names associated with the Distillers Company (DCL), now known as Diageo after a merger with Guinness and Grand Metropolitan. 1983 was the year the industry's whisky glut doomed the fate of Port Ellen, Brora, Dallas Dhu, Glenlochy, Banff, and a string of other distilleries that would permanently silence their stills. These closures continue to be a source of inspiration to aspiring whisky collectors, much like the rock stars who died too young live on in our romantic ideals. I always thought that a tasting of the 1983 closures would make a fascinating and exciting theme for any whisky drinker. Now Tim Read over at the blog Scotch and Ice Cream has decided to make that dream a reality.

Read along with Tim as he tastes through each distillery and documents the experience. He just began the other day with St. Magdalene. I'm excited to see how it goes!

-David Driscoll


Understanding Pre-Arrivals @ K&L

I wanted to write a quick blurb so that everyone who has purchased their own bottle of Karuizawa understands how the process works. I'm assuming we're getting a lot first-time customers with these bottles and the pre-arrival process isn't always clear. We always assume everyone purchasing at K&L has been doing business with us for years, but that isn't always the case. Here are some quick things to remember when purchasing on pre-arrival with us:

- The pre-arrival process was designed for our Bordeaux futures program, so we use the same structure.

- You pay for the product up front which reserves your bottle(s) in advance. The order is then closed and you are sent a confirmation email that says your order is complete. This does not mean that your order is ready to be picked up or shipped.

- When the product shows up we will send you a letter in the mail. The system is NOT set up to notify you by email.

- Because we don't want to ship you your booze without your prior knowledge, K&L will hold the product in our San Carlos warehouse until you notify us and tell us what you want to do (either ship or pick up at the store). There is a way to have your profile default to "in-store pick up," but you can't do that yourself online. You'll have to call us up to make that happen, or send me an email.

- When you order a pre-arrival online your selection of shipping will not carry over. You may have selected "2-day FedEx," but we just delete that and change the status to "pre-arrival." Again, you'll have to contact us later when the product arrives to schedule shipping.

- Because I know that none of you want to wait any longer than necessary to schedule your shipments, I will post here on the blog when the bottles arrive and are ready, therefore you won't have to wait for your snail mail letters to arrive.

I think that covers it. If you have a question please let me know. Thanks!

-David Driscoll