Navigation
Wednesday
Oct112017

A Beer Raffle to Help Our North Bay Friends

This is the first of a few different raffles to come, but with the smoke-heavy air in Redwood City this morning choking our lungs, our minds were 100% focused on doing something ASAP. We're starting today with a very special beer raffle put together by our buyer Jim Boyce. I'm going to post his notes below:

We, along with many others, have been thinking nonstop about family, friends, colleagues, and everyone else being hit unbelievably hard by the fires in North Bay. Sonoma and Napa have been the backbone of K&L for decades, in both the wine and beer categories, so to see these lives upended so quickly has been heart breaking. It will take years for families and businesses to rebuild and help is very much needed. After talking about ways to help, we thought it would be a great idea to dig into our cellars to find some incredible bottles, set up a raffle, and donate 100% of the proceeds to organizations directly helping the affected areas. On the beer side, we have two different sets going up:

A Cantillon raffle featuring one bottle of 2014 Vigneronne and one bottle of 2015 Fou'Foune

A Bottle Logic raffle featuring one bottle of 2016 of Fundamental Observation and one bottle of 2016 Darkstar November.

Raffle tickets are $10 each and each customer can buy unlimited tickets. The charity for these donations will be set up asap. Raffle tickets can be purchased through midnight next Tuesday (10/17), and the winner will be drawn Wednesday morning. (Winner will be charged a $.05 included in the purchase of a ticket). Pickup via Will Call to all three locations and shipping within CA ONLY. Thank you for helping! 

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Oct112017

Meet My New Best Friend David

I'll be clear from the beginning: I have no idea who David Nicholson was, nor what the back story is about his brand or non-existent distillery. I have no clue as to what the original "43" recipe is, nor I am interesting really in learning about it because the whiskey in both of these bottles didn't come from any sort of David Nicholson production center and it wasn't created according to any of David Nicholson's standards (but I appreciate the story). What I am interested in doing, however, is telling you all about how delicious these two whiskies taste because they're both absolutely dynamite for the dollar. Luxco's latest addition to the California market is going to be very, very popular with our customers. 

Let's start with the 1843 100 proof Wheated Edition. Just to make double sure, I put a few glasses in the hands of my assistants here at K&L and told them it was a sample from a new Weller 107 single barrel that I had just purchased. Their eyes lit up and not one of them assumed the whiskey wasn't what I said it was. In fact, they were downright stoked about the quality. Then I immediately confessed. Alas, it was not Weller 107, but rather a new 100 proof wheated Bourbon from Luxco, the folks behind Rebel Yell and Ezra Brooks. How much would it cost, they asked? A cool $26.99, I replied. 

The nose is an absolute dead ringer for Weller. If you poured it for me blind, that's what I'd say. Pencil shavings, sweet oak, and caramel. Big spice. 50% ABV booming right out of the glass. The palate has more of those three elements, but also a creaminess that's perhaps even more compelling. The finish has another flurry of oak spice, pepper, cinnamon and clove. It's basically a really great version of Old Fitzgerald BIB in a different bottle and for the price I'm backing up the truck. I'll have no problem selling every single bottle we have before the week is over.

And then I'll be backing up a few trucks after that. There's no amount of this whiskey that will satiate the current demand for delicious, high proof, wheated Bourbon right now in California right now. We have guys selling their souls for Weller Reserve, yet the Nicholson is far better.

Now let's talk about the Nicholson Reserve, a classic corn/rye mashbill Bourbon also at 100 proof. Basically, if you liked our 100 proof Faultline release from a few years back, this is like a baby version for a $12 discount. There are some great herbaceous accents, lots of pepper from the rye, and a gush of savory notes on the finish, but again the texture is the real star. The nose is brimming with toasted wood and the 50% ABV really dials up all that oak from front to back. The Nicholson Reserve at $32.99 is like the perfect middleground between the standard Elijah Craig and the Barrel Proof. 

Basically, you're gonna want at least one of each and there's plenty to go around. When I sell out of the first lot, I'll be heading back to Luxco for more. And more after that. And more after that. This is exactly the type of Bourbon I'm after right now: abundant, delicious, with no hype, and plenty of availability and no allocations.

While everyone else is duking it out for their next two bottle allocation from Sazerac and the latest retro Nintendo from Gamestop, I'll be smiling over here with Mr. Nicholson and hundreds of satisfied customers.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Oct112017

Come Meet the Noninos!

One of my original guests on the long-defunct podcast series I used to run, the Noninos will be in the San Francisco store this afternoon to pour some grappa and talk Italian spirits with you! I'll be there as well to help guide the process along. We'll be in the bar from 4:30 PM until 6 PM when I have to whisk them away to another private event. 

Spirits tastings are always free of charge, so what do you have to lose? Hopefully I'll see some of you there.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Oct102017

Recovery

I touched down into Vegas late on Friday night after spending most of the day at K&L meeting with guys like Dr. Bill Lumsden from Ardbeg/Glenmorangie. The entire whisky making world was in the Bay Area this past week for WhiskyFest, but while the malt-thirsty hoards descended upon San Francisco to fulfill their longing desires, I was 35,000 feet in the air with my wife heading southeast. I was tired when we arrived having worked all day, but seeing that the airport rental car center is only about half a mile from Mandalay Bay, I forced myself to take a detour and head down Las Vegas Boulevard to visit the site of the shooting. I didn’t want to ignore it, or avoid it while I was here—I wanted to confront the anxiety immediately. As you pass the famous Las Vegas sign at the entrance to the Strip, you can see the flickering of numerous candles lining the various tributes and shrines to those murdered at the massacre. Then I saw the fifty-eight white crosses placed in a long row beyond the main gathering, each adorned with the name of the victim. I had read about the retired carpenter from Illinois who had made similar memorials after the Orlando shooting, but to see the markers in person had a somber effect on me. It was both moving and numbing simultaneously—sobering, yet surreal. There were hundreds of people gathering to pay their respects, moving down the center of the road along the divider across from the airport fence. A huge billboard flashed “#VegasStrong” above the in the distance. At the corner next to back of the concert area, a man pointed up at the thirty-second floor and made a motion toward the side of the stage, as if trying to decipher what happened with two friends standing nearby. I was stopped in the left lane at Hacienda Ave, waiting for the stoplight to make my way west back toward Summerlin, watching everyone around me attempt to reconcile the impossible reality with everything they’d seen and read.

Everywhere we went this weekend, the vibe was extra friendly and supportive. Vegas is already a friendly city as is—the kind of place where complete strangers say hello to you while shopping for groceries at Target in the early morning—but the mood was extra congenial. My parents were in town to visit, so my wife and I took them to all of our favorite spots: Echo & Rig, China Poblano, Grimaldi’s, Milk, topped off with happy hour martinis at the Red Rock Casino by the pool on Sunday evening. Our waitress ended up sitting down on the chair next to us for most of the evening, chatting with us about life as the hours went by. My mom remarked on how charming she was. As my wife and I waited to fly back yesterday afternoon, we had dinner at the pub toward the end of the terminal and ended up sitting next to two Las Vegas policemen who were finishing up their meal and waiting to pay their bill. When the waitress finally came by to drop it off, she thanked them for their service and covered their check. As the two officers thanked her for the kindness, they struck up a conversation about the white crosses we had seen on my way in and the waitress added that she had spent the last few evenings visiting the shrine after work, adding small decorations to each of the individual memorials. She said it brought her peace to spend time out there with others looking for collective comfort from the crowd. 

But no sooner does one region begin the healing process when another gets its own tragedy. The fires that have gutted parts of Napa and Sonoma, affecting many of our friends here at K&L, have crippled the California wine region and devastated thousands of lives up North. We met this morning in the Redwood City store to talk about some fundraising options to see what we can do to help, so look for some raffles and various other donation options in the near future. There's still more recovery work to do.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Oct062017

Future Plans

I remember back in the heyday of the single malt boom, a customer of mine who works as a venture capitalist here in Silicon Valley thought I should write a book about whisky. "You could be the next Jim Murray," he said to me. I thanked him and said that while I appreciated his confidence in me, I had no aspirations of that sort. Being a recognized whisky expert of any sort has never appealed to me personally. It takes a very special combination of ego and avarice to make it in the world of professional reviewers and while I may have had those characteristics when I was in my early twenties, I've shed most of that baby fat now in my late thirties.  

Most of you are likely unaware that David OG and I were also once signed by Wendy Williams Entertainment for an alcohol-related reality show called "Whisky Business" that ended up going nowhere (for good reason). It was around the same time my client suggested I write the book. Everyone was looking to capitalize on the momentum of whisky in the media world, both in visual and print form. What's interesting is that I heard back from one of the producers last year who wanted to potentially restart the project under a different concept. "All the feedback we're getting right now is anti-expert. Viewers don't want to be lectured to, apparently," he told me. 

I about fell over laughing when I heard that. No shit they don't want to be lectured to! Wine and whisky experts who use big words, write ridiculous tasting notes, and condescend to plebian tastes have always been a joke. That's exactly why I would never want to write a book of whisky tasting notes and it's exactly why no booze-related travel program has been successful since Bourdain began merging alcohol in with the food. In no way would I ever want to be lumped in with anyone like that!! The entire "serious" alcohol scene, in my opinion, is about to expire as we get to the end of a ten year cycle. After a decade of "drink this, not that," "sip it, don't shoot it," and "respect craft," I think experts, savants, and professional drinkers are going to have to hibernate for a while until the revolution comes back around in 2027. That tiny market has been flooded far beyond capacity at this point. 

My goals for the last few years have been purely fun-oriented in response. I realized around 2014 that we were at the peak of a major trend and that in order to survive the eventual decline we would need to attract as many customers as possible who were interested in the actual drinking of alcohol. I began focusing more on customer service than writing. I started throwing after hours parties for my best local clients, making them the focus, rather than attending fancy dinners with brand reps and distributors looking to butter me up. I stopped going to major tasting events with the latest drink fads and devoted all of my time to securing relationships with suppliers who would be vital to our existence once the demand faded. In an age where people are relying on social media to promote their businesses, I decided to remove myself from that realm and do as much as I could face-to-face or by direct email. I wanted a foundation built on actual outreach and a work ethic, rather than an image. 

I don't know how many of you have been following the story of how a troll factory in Russia managed to spread Islamophobia in Texas, but regardless of that specific example it's a business strategy being used by just about everyone right now: manipulate the internet and social media to make people believe what you want them to. I don't believe anything I read online anymore that isn't from a handful of trusted sources because just about everything today is a distortion. I don't mean that in a "the man is trying to control us," anti-authoritarian, wingnut-radical sort of way. It's just that most succcessful people in today's world have learned what they need to say in order to get what they want. A politician knows that he has to have an anti-abortion stance to get elected in a certain state, but that doesn't mean he actually believes it. That's an extreme example, but my point is that whether it's politics, news, business, or alcohol, I've learned the difference between an actual opinion and one that's designed for a certain purpose. While people debate what's put in front of them, the actual intent of those statements develops behind the scenes.

What does that have to do with whisky? Quite a bit, actually. I'm finding it quite difficult today to find business owners who actually intend to operate their own businesses for the explicit purpose of what their business is supposed to do. They tell people they're devoted to the cause, but in reality it's a different story. I know someone with absolutely no child development experience who opened a daycare because of a tax break loophole that allowed her to write off the investment. Wanna send your kids there? I know someone who wrote an autobiography simply because his financial adviser said it would help his image in the work place and increase awareness of his business. Want me to get you a copy of that page-turner ASAP? So you can imagine how many small distillery owners I've met who have no background in spirits, no real passion for spirits, but are hoping that their brand gets bought out by Remy, or LVMH, or Diageo, or some other large company so they can cash in and get out. Who actually wants to start a business and run it these days because it makes them happy? 

What I'm getting at here is that hardcore, serious, no nonsense whiskey appreciation was already getting stale. But on top of all these would-be experts, we've got thousands of people who aren't experts, but want you to think they are because of what it might get them. Then you've got the thousands of new whiskey brands who want the business of all those expert aficionados and are ramping up their production as a result. But does that business actually exist or are we all just playing "world's biggest whiskey fan" online in our free time? I'm curious to find out.

In the meantime, I'm busy trying to build actual business based on actual consumers who actually like to drink. I think that's the right strategy, but time will tell.

-David Driscoll