It's Good to Know What's Best!

I've been digging my way out of emails this morning, coming into work an hour and a half early just to get back to everyone who takes the time to write (by the way, if my answers are short, it's not because I'm being curt, but rather because I'm trying to reply to each and every one!). Many of the emails I've received so far this morning are from customers interested in securing Jim Murray's top whisky selections of the year.

For those looking to sample Jim's top picks, I've got some good news and some bad news.

Let's start with the bad news.

The "Best Whiskey in the World" is all gone. I had tons of Handy Sazerac Rye a few weeks ago.  Why you might ask?  Because the Handy rye is the Ringo Starr of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  It's the whiskey people will buy only if John, Paul, and George aren't available (Beatles analogies always seem to be quite useful to Jim's selections). If you're new to whiskey drinking and you don't know what I'm talking about, Buffalo Trace Distillery releases five special edition whiskies every Fall - George T. Stagg, Weller Larue, Thomas Handy, Sazerac 18, and Eagle Rare 17.  The Stagg always goes first, followed by the Weller Larue, then the Sazerac, then the Eagle, and when those four are gone, people usually say, "OK, just give me the Handy." However, to those who passed, you were all totally wrong to do so.  That was a very dumb move.  You all just passed on the Best Whiskey of the Year!!  How foolish do you feel now?

The point is, even though we can usually get a few leftover bottles, my entire supply of 2011 Thomas Handy is completely sold out. If Jim is referring to the upcoming 2012 Handy in his review, then I'm likely to only get six bottles, all of which will be sold via raffle to the few thousand people on our whisky insider list.  That makes the odds of getting a bottle from K&L about .001 percent.

As for the Weller Larue, whiskey number two on Jim's list, I usually get about three of those each year, making the odds of getting that bottle about .00001 percent.  I really like the Weller, much like I enjoy the Old Weller Antique, so at least I wasn't wrong about that one.

Ballantine's 17, Jim's number three selection, is definitely available at many fine retailers across the United States.  We don't really dabble too much in blended whisky, so I'm happy to let my wonderful competitors cash in on this one.  You can do a quick Google search and I'm sure you'll find one close by. I do feel foolish for not carrying it now, however.  I should have made an exception for that one. Dang it! I'm such an idiot.

Best Single Malt of the Year was the Ardbeg Day, a limited-edition whisky we sold earlier this year.  It's gone and you probably won't find it anywhere (maybe an overpriced bottle on the East Coast, here or there). I love Ardbeg.  I love the Corryvreckan and the Uigeadail.  I even like the Galileo, which some people thought was too weird.  I did not love the Day.  However, it's now officially the best single malt of the year, so I was incorrect in my opinion.  I now indeed love the Ardbeg Day and, if you ask me, I will tell you that it was the best single malt I tasted all year.

Best Irish Whiskey of Year went to Redbreast 12 Cask Strength.  We've got plenty of that (for now).  While I love Redbreast, the cask strength was my absolute least favorite whiskey of 2012, so it's nice to know how wrong I was. 

Thank goodness I now know what the best whiskies of the year are!  I was trying to help a few people find some interesting booze outside of these selections, but they responded with "these are the best though, right?" Have fun finding one! Please forward this information to anyone you know who is looking to find a bottle off this list.

-David Driscoll


Get Some Wood

It's finally here.  All the hype, all the build-up, all the glory.  We're in the middle of Whisky Season and the big guns keep on delivering.  With the widespread appeal of Balvenie's 12 year Doublewood, the new 17 year brings all the flavor in an even more decadent expression (if that's even possible!).  I was very fast and I got a pretty large chunk of the California delivery.  I've heard it might be mid-November before we see this again.  Big email goes out Tuesday, so you've got a few days to make up your mind.

Balvenie 17 Year Old Doublewood Single Malt Whisky $125.99 - Hot on the heels of the tremendous success from the Doublewood 12, Balvenie is reaching further into its wonderful aged stock and releasing a double-matured single malt from 17 year old casks. First aged in ex-Bourbon casks then finished for another spell in ex-sherry casks, this is the richest, smoothest, most supple expression from Balvenie we've seen. Big flavors of cakebread, fresh baking spices, butterscotch, and fudge that ooze over the palate at a slow crawl. It's decadent stuff and we expect it to sell VERY fast. Demand has been pent up for the last year once word of its release became imminent. Don't wait on this one. It's very good Balvenie.

I almost fell over when I saw that Paddy's was available again! I had told so many disappointed customers not to expect it, thinking that the importer must have dropped it from the portfolio.  Then, all of a sudden, there it was! I bought a few cases, along side the new Knob Creek Rye that I had yet to bring in.  There's nothing wrong with Midleton Irish in a liter bottle, along side some high-end Beam rye.

-David Driscoll


Punk'd in LA

Just having a blast stocking David OG's shelves (he has a waaaaaay better selection that I do, and he has floor stacks!) while chatting with the lovely LA faithful.  Gotta share a quick story with you briefly - I got totally punked on the sales floor today.
I was emptying a shopping cart of booze into the liquor section when a tall, red-headed man came and started asking me about Pappy.  I explained the sad state of affairs and what we now have to do with our raffle system and he was perplexed.
"Really? Because I heard Costco and BevMO have it in stock right now."
Ahh.........sigh.  I was beginning to sweat.  This guy was nice enough, but he really wasn't getting what I was trying to tell him.  I began my little schtick about how there's a shortage of great Bourbon right now, so he countered with, "I just need something that's like 98-100 points. Isn't there anything here in the store?"
I had to take my jacket off.  Heat from both my exasperation and the flu were beginning to set in. Finally, he gives me a ten dollar bill and says, "Call me when the Pappy comes in."  I take his business card, but I hand him back the ten and tell him that I can't do that. 
"How about twenty?  Com'on! Twenty bucks, help me out!"
I refused but I told him I would do everything I could to help him out when the time came. I finally looked down at the business card he handed me to make sure his email was on it, and.....BAM.....there it was: Steve Ury - my longtime email and blogger penpal, there in the flesh.  We had never seen each other before so we didn't know what the other looked like.  He had figured out that I was me, but I didn't expect to get punked in my own store! The man behind Sku's Recent Eats is as funny in person as he is on his blog.  A very well-executed practical joke.  Nicely done!
-David Driscoll


I'm invading the LA store today and I'm bringing the NorCal mojo with me. Hopefully the Giants will take game five while I'm landing at Burbank. That will give me the sufficient energy I need to beat this goddamn flu and sell some booze today! Come by and say hello! I should be there from 12:30 on.

-David Driscoll


2012 Flaming Heart is Here

Always one of the most anticpated bottles of the year, the Flaming Heart is now in stock!  The Fourth Edition is no slouch, comparing very favorably to the Third (which I just sipped on last night to do a comparison). Anyone who likes Talisker 18, peated Brora, or any combination of oily, fruity, waxy flavors combined with peat and brine should jump in - fast! It's got all the sweetness, texture, and smoke in perfect balance.  Glaser always delivers with this whisky and this edition is another notch in his belt.  We've got a healthy supply between our NorCal and SoCal allocations, but this whisky will never make it to the big K&L email.  We sold a bunch yesterday via the insider's email list and I expect this blog post to put it over the edge.  I'm in for one - at least!

Compass Box Flaming Heart Fourth Edition Malt Scotch Whisky $89.99 - Here we go! The wildly popular Flaming Heart Series is back with one of the years most anticipated new blends. Coming from  four of the official Scotch Malt regions, we all know that our dear friend Mr. Glaser tends to knock this out of the park. Serge Valentine writes, "Colour: dark straw. Nose: impeccable start, on a rather more refined peat than elsewhere (I mean in youngish single malts) and touches of agave and cane juice on top of an elegant Laphroaigness. Beeswax and seawater, antiseptic and overripe apples, bandages and damp clay, Japanese green tea and linseed oil. Then fresh mint, lime, oysters and just touches of diesel oil. Lovely lovely lovely. Mouth: the first thing I like here is the strength. Sounds odd, I know, but these 48.9% work extremely well, it’s nervous and big but approachable and, well, drinkable. Other than that, it’s a superb combination of pink grapefruits, shellfish, olive brine, marzipan, lemon, touches of fresh coriander, lemon balm, some kind of waxy citrons and plain green olives. Passion fruits, cough syrup, liquorice... It’s very smoky too. Finish: great as well because it remains elegant, zesty, even kind of ethereal despite all the oomph. Leaves your mouth a fresh as a baby’s! Comments: no, really, this is truly excellent. The bottle’s lovely too, it’ll be hard to throw it away once it’s empty (which will happen fast). Potential lamp stands? Nah, too narrow" 91 points

-David Driscoll