It seems that most people who write about booze like to reflect on the year that was, rather than look ahead to the year that will be. I read (and wrote) many different takes on what 2012 meant to the world of whisky drinkers. It's fun to look back on all the special releases, the big news stories, the whiskies we bought or didn't buy (or couldn't buy), and try to summarize it all in one nostalgic piece of prose. However, I haven't read any resolutions, yet. Isn't that what the New Year is for? A fresh start? A new beginning? I'm currently wondering what 2013 is going to mean for the booze business, and I don't mean retailers, distilleries, and special editions. I'm asking what we're all going to do to in 2013 to improve the way we appreciate and enjoy our liquor collectons.

Here's what I'm going to try to work on:

- I'm going to buy booze that I need rather than booze that's scarce. If there's a limited edition bottle of Scotch out there that must be purchased immediately, yet I'm still sitting on thirty other open containers at home, I'm going to pass and get another bottle of gin instead. I don't need that pressure anymore. As a retail buyer, I'm going to try my hardest to alleviate this pressure from my customers as well. I'm planning to bring in so many different single barrel, limited bottle releases that absolutely no one can afford to get them all. That way the focus won't be on any one "must-have-it" whisk(e)y and we can all get back to buying booze when we need it rather than feeding the monkey.

- I'm going to organize tastings that promote socialization and conversation rather than analysis and note-taking. One of the biggest problems (in my opinion) with drinking whisk(e)y is that we seem to be doing it at home and we seem to be hoarding every last drop. I sell you a bottle, you bring it home to open it, carefully nursing it and taking inventory on the current levels. When we have tastings at K&L or at restaurants, they're always educational and promoted by one particular brand. We end up hearing a sales pitch or a history of the distillery, rather than just shooting the shit. Booze is meant to be a social thing. I want to organize parties or evenings where whisk(e)y drinkers gather to drink quality whisk(e)y and simply talk – about sports, life, relationships or current events, not just about whisk(e)y. Luckily, I may have found a partner who shares this vision and is willing to work with me. There's a bar near my house who may allow me to take it over once a month for just this type of get-together.

- I want to increase our business by helping people to form a quality relationship with alcohol, rather than slashing prices, monopolizing new releases, and trying to continually out-do last year's crop of single barrel expressions. It's getting tiresome and it's an outdated model. Eventually, we're going to plateau and what will happen then? Some younger, faster, smarter liquor buyer with technology we don't know about will emerge and make David and me look like two old farts. Alcohol isn't a competition. Business is. I want to keep these two worlds completely separate. It sets a bad example for those just getting into the hobby.

- I want to maintain an informative blog without forcing people on to one side of the fence. I have a pushy personality that can unconsciously present everything as a black or white choice. If something irritates me, I end up sharing it on the blog. While that has proved entertaining for a number of readers, it's presented in a way that I personally no longer enjoy because I'm embarrassed by my insecure motives. If I honestly analyze why I'm writing something so divisive, it's because I want readers to agree with me. I want them to like the producers I like and hate the ones that I hate, be offended by what offends me and take issue with what I take issue with. Doing so allows me to feel more comfortable about my feelings and continue my train of thought. While I think I'm creating a provocative new post, I'm really just looking for affirmation that my way of thinking is correct. Hopefully, making a case on the blog will bring readers over to my perspective, which allows me to further believe that I'm right. It's egotism at it's finest, yet I'm able to justify it as news or perspective. I'd like people to read what I write because it helps them to better enjoy their booze, rather than because it's controversial or funny.

What are you going to do in 2013 to be a better person and a better ambassador for the liquid you love?

-David Driscoll


What Ever Happened to....

Dear David,

I remember you once saying something about ________ in your blog and/or email newsletter. Is that still happening?

Ah yes. Mr. Othenin-Girard and I sometimes get so excited about a new project that we can't wait until it actually shows up to tell the public. We have to let everyone know right away! Then problems arise. The wheels turn slowly. Deliveries are missed. Connections are crossed. Months and months later, we've almost completely forgotten about what was once big news. Here's an update on all those vague K&L booze plans we had at one point.

K&L Exclusive Karuizawa Casks - These are on my desk as we speak. We secured these barrels almost a year ago. Getting them past the U.S. government has been a nightmare however. The importer has been asked questions like, "What was the original proof when the whisky first came off the still?" Really? The government needs to know these things? They'll get here eventually, but it's slow going. We still plan on being the first (and only?) store to offer Karuizawa in the U.S.

K&L Exclusive 11 Year Old Single Barrel Tequila - Yes, this is still coming. Jake Lustig and I are working on a label and the barrel has been selected. We decided to go with a 1999 vintage tequila that really showcased what more than a decade of slow-aging can do for the spirit. We still plan on being the first retailer (ever?) to offer a single barrel tequila of this maturity. Eventually.

K&L Exclusive Royal Lochnagar - This is still happening, but we're working on importation. No, this is not via Diageo. Ha! "Via Diageo," as if there were such a thing!

Faultline Bourbon - Labels are done. Booze is ready to go. Just need government approval and we're on our way. We're looking at a marriage of two different LDI whiskies to create our own unique small batch whiskey. It will be here. Eventually.

K&L Exclusive Glendronach 19 year, Benriach 27 year, Glen Garioch 14 year? Should all be ready on Monday!

Am I forgetting anything else? 

-David Driscoll


New Stuff

It's been so long since I've done my actual job I've almost forgotten what it entails. Tasting products, making notes, and posting photos on the blog? I haven't had time to do that since late October! Here are some new things that might interest y'all.

Duncan Taylor returns! They're now with my man Val over at JVS so we'll be expanding our selection. The stocks at Duncan Taylor are of serious quality. There is very little in their portfolio that doesn't measure up to the best independent bottles on the market. These selections are no different. We've got a few more on the way, but these are the first three to have landed.

1996 Longmorn 16 Year Duncan Taylor Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $115.99 -
Delicious, classic, unsherried Speyside whisky from perhaps the best distillery in the region. This Longmorn is full of sweet malted barley with accents of fruit and flowers, finishing with hints of vanilla and spice. Another reason to love Longmorn, as we continue to mourn its scarce availability and long for it here in the States.

1993 Glen Keith 19 Year Old Duncan Taylor Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $139.99 - Currently out of production, the Glen Keith distillery has been lying dormant since the mid-90's, but the whisky continues to live on in the independent world of single malt barrels. This is a spectacular example of what the distillery can offer - soft fruits, heather and flowers, sweet grains, and a pleasantly rich finish. The low 50's proof makes this quite drinkable right out of the bottle.

1996 Macallan 15 Year Old Duncan Taylor Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $139.99 - Unsherried, but full of round, supple, malty goodness. A nice break from the normally Oloroso-saturated style of the venerated Highland distillery.

Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch Bottled in Bond Straight Kentucky Bourbon $44.99 - I was bit on the fence about this Bourbon at first, but something really clicked after tasting it again yesterday. At first I thought it was just Old Weller Antique, but at a higher price. After another go Tuesday night, there really is much more to like about this whiskey. The richness is really quite lovely and it stays with you longer into the finish. After drinking it next to the OWA, there's really no comparison. The Taylor Small Batch isn't a hot deal, but it is a lovely Bourbon. I'm probably good for one after my next paycheck.

Glenfiddich Malt Master's Edition Single Malt Whisky $79.99 - This is Glenfiddich's answer to Balvenie and Aberlour - a double-matured single malt that began in oak and was finished in sherry. What I have to love about this whisky is that it's a total sleeper. Not one of us (and you know you're included in this) is really too excited about this release, but I've found the limited editions from Glenfiddich over the last few years to be quite good. This is far better than Balvenie's 17 Year Doublewood. Given the lack of an age statement, I'm sure it's not nearly that old, but it still tastes better than 17 year old Balvenie. At $80, it's far less expensive as well.

1985 Bruichladdich DNA Single Malt Whisky $599.99 - I'm nervous for people to buy this whisky because of the expectations that come with $600 booze. People assume it's going to be some amazing new flavor that completely surpasses anything that would normally cost $100 or even $200. That's not this whisky. The DNA is old-school, classic, no-frills, wonderfully-balanced, gentle, delicious Bruichladdich. They haven't released anything like this in the last five years that I can remember. That's why it's expensive. Whereas the Legacy release represented a marriage of whisky barrels about to go over the hill, the DNA is as fresh and alive as anything I've tasted recently. Imagine an old 27 year Stitzel-Weller Bourbon that wasn't overly wooded and was brimming with fresh whiskey spirit. It would be worth at least $300 to $400 if not more. This is the Bruichladdich version of that.

-David Driscoll


You Can Continue to Enjoy Your Drinking Relationship

It's not always easy to keep the relationship between you and booze interesting. She can be a difficult wife. An annoying husband. An inconvenient responsibility. An overburdening nag. Yet, we love alcohol and our goal is to keep the burning fire of romance strong. It's only natural after so much time with booze to start letting your guard down. You don't always put on make-up before mixing a cocktail. You let a fart slip out while you nurse that Bourbon rocks. Such is life the older we become. I not only live with booze, I work with her too. It can be a challenging interaction, but I work hard to make sure we keep things hot and heavy.

Our job at K&L is to make sure that your relationship with booze stays fresh and exciting. We can't always do it alone though. It takes an effort on both sides. You need to bring an enthused energy to the equation, while the liquor companies continue to challenge your conventional thinking and give you considerable options. My job as matchmaker is to help you decide which bottles are your best match. However, it's not always about what's in the bottle, but rather how you use it. Here are some tips that I've been thinking about lately to keep your relationship with booze strong:

1) Be Honest With Yourself. You can't continuously lie to yourself. People will eventually see through the facade and alcohol always knows the truth. In fact, the more you drink, the more you will be confronted with this reality. It's best to avoid any embarrassing, wasteful, or overindulgent experiences by knowing exactly which type of drinker you are before hand. Use your experience to guide you and don't be swayed by basic opportunity. If you don't like high-proof Bourbon then it doesn't matter that the George T. Stagg is sitting in front of you on the shelf. I know – you may not ever get the opportunity to buy it again. However, purchasing booze that you don't need (and don't even like!) is the fastest way to ruin a strong relationship. Eventually, you'll look at your bottle collection and say, "What the hell am I doing?" That's no good.

2) Spice Things Up a Bit. Forget Victoria's Secret or a romantic walk on the beach. Nothing strengthens a friendship like diversity. Go outside your comfort zone. Do something spontaneous. Grab a bottle of Scotch you might normally never purchase - like Scapa 16, Edradour 10, or Stronachie. If you like to buy unique, off-the-beaten-path spirits, then get a bottle of something totally basic. Buy some Booker's. Get some Maker's Mark. Make a date with Glenlivet. Find solace in the classics or expand your horizons with the unknown. I've been doing this with wine lately and it's been a complete blast. It forces me to re-examine my opinions and preconceptions about what quality means and - ultimately - why I value my relationship with booze. This leads into my next point...

3) Loosen Up. We don't all have unlimited means. I know that not everyone can afford to be loosey-goosey with their income. However, that isn't any excuse to be a cheap, spend-thrift, tightwad jerk who complains about every purchase and painstakingly analyzes every single review to make sure he never makes a mistake when buying a bottle. There are TONS of great options for affordable prices and I don't mean just at K&L. I went to Trader Joe's yesterday and they have an 18 year old private Speyside bottle for $25! That's crazy even if it tastes like shit! You can still drink interesting, exciting, thought-provoking, delicious booze on the cheap. Weller 12. Old Weller Antique! Buffalo Trace. Elmer T. Lee. Eagle Rare 10. Bulleit Rye. Old Forester. Larceny. Great King Street. Isle of Skye. Ferrand Ambre Cognac. Bowmore Legend. Campari. Cocchi Americano. Blue Ice Vodka. Tariquet Armagnac. I could spend two bucks a day and drink well for a month: A Bottle of Four Roses Yellow, a bottle of Bank Note Blended, and a bottle of Citadelle Gin – BOOM! I could live off of that if I had to. It's like a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter. If pressed for cash, I could still drink very well on $60 a month. But I don't have to. I'm guessing that neither do you if you're reading this blog. Despite the recent price increases on liquor we can still drink well all year long. Girls don't like guys who stress over every dollar. Booze feels the same way. The key is knowing how to spend your money well rather than complaining about it. You don't want booze to get fed up and quit liking you. At the same time you don't want to feel like you're spending too much money on it.

4) Make the Effort. You don't try hard enough anymore! You're satisfied with going home, plopping down in front of the TV, and drinking the same damn thing every single night. You're boring the hell out of yourself and your partner! Read up on something new. Go to the library and checkout a book about whiskey. Subscribe to the Whisky Advocate. Go get a drink at the Slanted Door and have Jennifer Colliau make it for you. Pull up a barstool at Heaven's Dog and talk to Erik Ellestad about obscure cocktail recipes. There is plenty of fun out there to be had with booze, but it's not always going to come to you. Sometimes you have to make the fun happen and your effort will usually be rewarded. It's amazing how envigorating a little interaction can be. If you can't afford a night out on the town, then invite some friends over and make some drinks on your own. Use your "Spice Things Up" or "Loosen Up" tips to surprise them with something out of the ordinary.

These are four easy steps to spicing up your booze life. Don't be worried if booze starts to overwhelm you or stress you out or make you agitated. These are symptoms of any healthy relationship. What's important is that you address these issues and take the necessary steps. I'll always be here to help you if you get confused or frustrated.

-Dr. Driscoll


No Spirits Tasting Tomorrow

Just a heads up to those of you in the area. We're having trouble keeping these tastings informative, interesting, and enjoyable on a weekly basis. Vendors are starting to use the opportunity as a way to hold us hostage for new positioning, i.e. "I'll do the tasting if you promise to bring in these new products."

Not really what I have in mind. The other problem is that we cannot (by law) conduct any part of the tasting, so if the rep doesn't show up for some reason then we're totally screwed. If it were a wine tasting I'd just jump behind the bar and do it myself, but we can't do that for spirits. We might move to a less consistent schedule, but offer more exiting tastings on a more sporadic timeframe.

We'll see how it goes.

-David Driscoll