Living in Denial

If you're not familiar with the above clip, you should really just go and rent Midnight Run rather than ruin the surprise now. It's one of the greatest films of the past thirty years and it still holds up well today. I remember watching this in the Modesto theater with my dad in 1987 and this was one of his favorite scenes. I didn't really understand what made it so funny at the age of seven, but at the age of thirty-two I'm really beginning to get the gist of it.

There seems to be a lot of "living in denial" going on around us right now. Mitt Romney's advisers and strategists must have been living in denial.  They thought they were actually going to win despite dozens of polls in swing states showing them otherwise. Those are just the statistics of biased pollsters! Don't listen to them! Go out and buy $40,000 worth of fireworks because we're going to win this thing! By reading this morning, it seems that many NFL fans are living in denial. The fact that starting quarterbacks Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, and our own Alex Smith are out with concussions right now is just a funny coincidence according to a majority of poll participants. It has nothing to do with the fact that our football culture as a whole celebrates and worships the big hit at the expense of the players. In fact, if you read the comments, many fans think Alex brought a vicious helmet to helmet hit upon himself by sliding incorrectly! That's just part of the game - getting concussed by a helmet to helmet hit because you left yourself vulnerable. They'll be fine. Just walk it off. I don't want to miss out on the game I love because these guys are too whimpy to keep playing it. You need to think about me, Alex. I'll do and say anything to justify the status quo.

Before bed last night, I was watching Rehab with Dr. Drew and it's amazing to see what addicts will do to justify using. One of my best friends from childhood is still the same way with prescription pills. There's nothing you can do or say to make him understand that he's killing himself. The most chilling part of this particular episode was the presentation from Audrey Kishline, a former alcoholic who became famous for her moderate drinking program in the mid-90's. She wrote a book, landed on Oprah, and cultivated a following for her claim that alcoholics didn't need to be 100% sober in order to manage their disease. She was quite a credible source for this point of view, countering AA with her own MM (Moderation Management), until she relapsed, got behind the wheel, drove the wrong way down the interstate, and killed a father and his daughter in the process. It's not always easy to admit you have a problem with alcohol, especially when you really love the taste of it, but this had to be the worst possible way one could have it spelled out for them.

Going back to the scene from Midnight Run, what makes the dialogue between Jonathan Mardukas and Jack Walsh so entertaining is the tremendous seriousness with which Charles Grodin's character analyzes Robert De Niro's every move. He might as well be discussing concussions or alcoholism with the weight of his words, but in reality it's just a simple man trying to enjoy his plate of fried chicken. While Jack Walsh isn't the healthiest individual with his chain-smoking, high-stress lifestyle, it's not clear that this one act is going to forever doom his arteries. When asked why he would eat the fried chicken, despite the knowledge that it isn't good for him, he answers, "Because I don't think about it." When Walsh turns the table on Mardukas and asks why he would steal mob money and give it to charity, he says, "I didn't think I'd get caught." 

Ultimately, our unhealthy decisions in life boil down to the above logic. We either choose not to think about the consequences or we think the rules somehow will not apply to us. We can let our egos believe that we're the exception to the statistics, but the numbers don't often lie. We can act like concussions are not a big deal, but yet we sit back and watch as more football players commit suicide from trauma-related brain injuries. For those of us who enjoy and promote alcohol usage, we have to make sure that we don't live in denial of abuse and addiction. For as much as I imbibe, I'm very careful to watch for any warning signs of possible addiction - both in myself and in those around me. The decisions we make not only affect us, but they can affect others who have nothing to do with our enjoyment of liquor. Make sure you think about this before you get out your keys after the annual holiday party.

It's better to be living in denial than to be dead and realistic. 

-David Driscoll


Holiday Alert: K&L Armagnac Back in Stock

Just got our latest (and last?) load of 1973 Pellehaut.  We've been sold out for the last two months or so. This Armagnac is top notch - easily one of the best we've ever carried.  With the extra richness from the wood it definitely appeals more to Bourbon drinkers, with more rustic producers like Baraillon and Ognoas for the hard-core, country-style loyalists. Plus, if your special friend is turning 40 next year, this is the only affordable bottle you'll find that tastes this damn good.  We've bought everything we can so far, but this may be drying up soon.

1973 Chateau Pellehaut K&L Exclusive Tenereze Armagnac $129.99 - While Bas-Armagnac gets all the press, and the Haut-Armagnac gets completely ignored, the Tenareze region of Armagnac is quietly producing some of the best brandies in the world. Much like the Borderies region in Cognac, the Tenareze brandies seem to have more fruit and a bit more life than the more classic Armagnac style. We visited Chateau Pellehaut on our first day in Armagnac last January and were completely overwelmed by the quality of spirit. Using only new or first fill barrels for the beginning years of maturation, the Armagnacs have richness, weight, and spice. While Pellehaut has since switched to entirely Folle Blanche grape varietals, the 1973 vintage is composed of 90% Ugni Blanc. The palate opens with loads of caramel and a creamy richness the spreads quickly. The aromas are quite Bourbon-esque, with hints of soft vanilla and charred oak drifting out of the glass. The complexity of the brandy is astounding - candied fruit, stewed prunes, toasted almond, baking spices, and earthy warehouse notes, all swirling around at the same time. For an Armagnac of this quality, at an age of nearly 40 years old, the price we negotiated is amazing. I'm expecting this to be one of our best selling Armagnacs ever and I expect it to really put Pellehaut on the map stateside.

-David Driscoll



Gotta keep on answering those emails, but at least I've got a friendly old dog keeping me company. My co-worker Ryan is away this weekend so I'm in charge of Buddy. We've made our way through some New Zealand Pinot Noir and a few glasses of Glen Garioch. He's pooped. I'm just getting started! It's gonna be a long night. 

-David Driscoll


Something Special

1983 was a pretty sad year for the single malt whisky industry. DCL, which would eventually become Diageo, found themselves with a bit of a whisky glut. There was too much money being spent on production. They needed to downsize. The fat would have to be trimmed. Belts would need to be tightened.

Port Ellen. Brora. Banff. Glen Albyn. Glenlochy. Glen Mhor. North Port. Saint Magdalene. All closed down, never to be reopened.

There was one more distillery that also shut its doors forever that year. Dallas Dhu.

We've been very lucky in our search for whisky from Diageo's lost legends. We secured a Brora cask via Chieftain's earlier this year. Duncan Taylor sold us a barrel of 35 year Banff on last year's expedition (that $179 pre-arrival price now looks like a joke). Glenlochy was the big surprise from this year's voyage (and the quality is simply divine). We also finally nailed down the elusive barrel of Port Ellen. In all of our searching, despite my eager attempt to locate one, we've never come across a cask of Dallas Dhu. 

I've tasted five Dallas Dhu expressions in my life. I've always enjoyed the whisky immensely, hence my desire to locate a barrel for the store. Situated between Elgin and Inverness in the the Highland region, the distillery today functions as a museum with all its equipment still intact. Diageo sold the building to Historic Scotland in 1986, who today operate the facility for visitors year round. The license to distill, however, was withdrawn in 1992, effectively ending any chance that Dallas Dhu would reopen under new ownership.

I've been very impressed with the Gordon & MacPhail line of mature single malts over the last year.  The Glenlivet 21, Macallan 41, Old Pulteney 21, and Longmorn 30 expressions have been absolutely top notch and reasonably priced for what they are. I finally tracked down about four cases of the 1979 Dallas Dhu, a whisky I had been wanting to sample for some time. It finally arrived today and it's every bit as good as I had hoped.

1979 Dallas Dhu 33 Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Single Malt Whisky $349.99 - Aromas of lemon zest, vanilla, oily wood that continue on into the palate. The finish warms up with a burst of richness on the back that stays with you for minutes.  The whisky is everything you want it to be.  It's graceful, delicate, elegant, and it tastes expensive.  It's very much the rare and shining jewel that we whisky romantics hope lost distilleries like Dallas Dhu will actually live up to. A fantastic aged Highland whisky that very much resembles our Banff barrel from a year ago, yet with more weight and texture.

I remember Tim from Scotch and Ice Cream saying he was planning a tasting of the entire list of 1983 Diageo closures.  If you've still got some Banff and Brora left, you can snag one of our Glenlochy bottles with a pre-order for the Port Ellen. Then grab one of these precious Dallas Dhu bottles (I've got 24 available total) and you're halfway there. 

Now that would be an amazing tasting.

-David Driscoll


The News for Today

Signatory pre-arrivals are processed and should be ready to pick up by today (Hollywood should get their's tomorrow or Thursday). The Glenlochy, Longmorn, and Benrinnes are all in stock at both NorCal stores as we speak if you want to grab yourself a bottle. The Glenlochy is unreal. It really is as good as advertised. So rich and butterscotchy with candied fruit and such a supple mouthfeel. It's one of the more sublime spirits I've ever had and it compares very closely to the Ladyburn we did last year, except maybe with more power. The Benrinnes is wonderfully fruity and playful. It's the kind of whisky we don't see anymore with super-peated, cask-finished, double-matured malts taking all of the attention. Ditto for the Longmorn. Everyone is going to be pleased. That's right! I've got single barrel Longmorn for $55. Deals R us. Check the right-hand margin for the links if you want to order. Call the store if you need us to ship your pre-order.

I also met with Mr. Bernard Boisson today from A. Edmond Audry Cognac and tasted through his line. His family purchases small estate Cognac and then blends them at their facility. These are serious brandies with spice, nuance, and power. No boise. No caramel. The goods. These should be coming in soon for all you super Yak fans.

Remember! No tastings this week. Gotta hit the restaurant scene all week with customers for private events.

-David Driscoll