Macallan 12 Losing Age Statement?

Macallan has just announced that their 10, 12, and 15 year old whiskies will be losing their age statements, to be replaced with colors (a la Johnnie Walker): gold, sienna, and ruby.  That means no more Macallan 12, perhaps the most popular premium single malt in the entire U.S.  Granted, Macallan has announced that these changes will only be taking place in the U.K. so far, but I have to believe it's only a matter of time until they trickle down the entire market. Macallan 12 is consumed in large amounts stateside, so unless they plan on sending every drop here, we're bound for the color scheme sooner than later.

Why would they dream of doing something like this? It's likely because they don't have enough whisky. We've already been through two brief shortages of Macallan over the past six months, so removing the number allows them to bottle whisky younger than 12 to prevent further droughts (remember 12 is the minimum age). While some of anti-NAS people go on their tangents, I have to say that, personally, I don't have a problem with this move because I'm in favor of keeping whisky affordable. Not doing so would result in a shortage of 12 while we wait for younger stocks to age, and leave only one other option: price increases.  If Macallan sold 20 million bottles of Mac 12 last year and this year they've only got 10 million to sell, they're not just going to eat that loss.

I'm not a Macallan drinker, but if I had the choice between Macallan Sienna for $40 or a newly-inflated Macallan 12 for $60, I'd probably take the former, hoping that the blenders got somewhere close to the original flavor. It all depends on what the final product tastes like.  I happily drink Ardbeg Uigeadail and Corryvreckan, two outstanding NAS (no age statement) whiskies that use young whisky in large amounts.  I'd rather have the Uigeadail at an affordable $58 than an Ardbeg 15 that would run me $100+ due to the scarcity. While I respect the passion of enthusiasts who want to know exactly what's in their bottle, I don't see the importance of such details when drinking younger Macallan. This is one of those moments where I think it either tastes good or it doesn't.

Ultimately, the pressure will be on Macallan to deliver quality whisky regardless of the age. If it costs the same as the 12 year, but tastes significantly worse, then they're really in trouble. Secretly, I'm kind of looking forward to this happening in the U.S. because it will force more discussion about age statements. There's a running joke about Americans and whisky in Scotland, that we'd rather buy a number (age and points) than quality. I can't argue with that one bit. It's the way we've decided to determine quality or value. Hopefully, a NAS Macallan will force us to question more what we're paying for with whisky, especially if it's good.

-David Driscoll



I know I've been beating this subject like a dead horse, but this absolutely shocked me.  If you need evidence that even the biggest companies are running out of aged whisky, this is the ultimate proof.  I had to read it five times to make sure I was seeing it correctly.  I still can't believe it.  We, as a planet, are drinking a ton of brown water.  Good thing we're making more of it than ever.

-David Driscoll


How Do I Know What to Buy? Some Advice...

Now that it's time to start releasing our long list of single malt casks for pre-order, I'll usually wake up to about four or five emails each morning from customers and readers who feel overwhelmed by the selection we're offering. What if they wait on a particular whisky to see what will be available later, only to have it sell out by the time they've made a decision? I know some of you won't believe me, but I actually hate the pressure we're putting on people to buy things faster. That might seem contradictory considering I put statements like "only 300 available, buy it quickly" in my emails, but that's not to speed up the process!  It's literally because we've been selling spirits like crack as of late.  There's no amount we can buy to satiate the appetite of America right now. I have to warn people about the limited availability of certain items because there's nothing worse than when a customer drives to the store for a bottle that sold out days ago (and that's happened every day this week!). If anything, David and I have been trying to dilute the pool with multiple casks at once so that they take longer to sell, thereby giving those of you who want to think about things some time to actually deliberate. I want these whiskies to last! I want to have them on the shelf for Christmas time!

So how do you know what to buy and when? Honestly, I don't think there will be more than one or two casks that will sell out pre-arrival. If you followed the blog while we were in Scotland (jump back to May if you need to catch up), then you should have a good idea of what's coming. There are definitely some fun little secrets from unknown sources, but I think the most lucrative casks will be distillery-direct. There was a certain whisky we thought tasted like old, peated Brora. There was another whisky that was only being released for the Islay festival until we convinced them to sell the rest to us. Barrels like that tend to get people excited and sell quickly. The Laphroaig we released yesterday, however, isn't going anywhere. It will be here this Fall (albeit for $150 or more) and you'll definitely have the chance to taste it then. The biggest hits from 2012 weren't the big names.  The most popular casks were mostly overlooked by the general public (Bladnoch and Glendronach were probably the most beloved, although the Littlemill is really getting some love right now for some reason).

Remember, however, that we're excited about every one of these whiskies. Each of them wouldn't be making its way across the sea if we didn't think very highly of their value. Would I personally buy each and every one of them? No. That's not because I don't want to, however, it's because I simply can't. I can't afford it and I can't drink that much whisky. Please feel free to ask questions. If something interests you, then email David ( or myself ( and ask us about it. We're more than willing to help you understand each whisky in depth should you have the interest. Talking to us is a great way to save some money because I'll usually talk people out of buying whisky, rather than into it. It's not about the sale for me, it's about making sure each bottle goes to the right person.  There are many bottles on their way and some are not for everyone. 

That's where we're at right now. With thousands of people reading this blog everyday and another thousand+ on the insider email list, we can't buy casks for everyone anymore.  We need options, variety, depth, and breadth – whiskies for everyday, for special occasions, for the geeks, for the newly-converted.  We're here to help, so call us when you need us.

-David Driscoll


The 2012 Season Has Begun

As if our bombardment of K&L customers with fantastic deals like the Kilchoman Machir Bay, Hirsch Small Batch Reserve Bourbon, High West Campfire and Camut Calvados wasn't enough, now is when the real shit begins.  The 2012 whisky cask season is upon us.  It's the time when our whisky fanatics will have to peruse the list of K&L exclusive casks, decide which selections are worth investing in, and determine which whiskies are the "must-haves."  You'll save some major cash by pre-ordering, as we lower the price by a significant margin.  Plus, our casks will sometimes sell out in advance, meaning pre-ordering is the only way to get one (see our Clynelish 27, Ladyburn 36, and Brora 30 that never made it to the shelf).  The pre-order process is our way of thanking K&L customers who want to invest in our program – we simply lower the price to those of you who are willing to believe in us.  Starting now we will begin releasing new K&L exclusive casks every week here on the blog.  To see what we've acquired on the recent voyage check in here as often as possible, or just keep track of the right hand margin where I'll be adding the 2012 selections to the ongoing list.  Tonight we're kicking off with a fantastic malt that really began our trip on the right foot.  Behold, the first release of the 2012 campaign:

1994 Laphroaig 18 Year Old Chieftain's Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $124.99 - One of the great visits from our 2012 visit to Scotland was Laphroaig distillery, where we learned many new stories concerning its fascinating history. The whisky's special combination of sea, smoke, and brine has had a magical effect on people over the years. In 1908, manager Ian Hunter decided to make Laphroaig one of the first distilleries to market itself as a single malt, rather than sell it off for blends. What an idea! Shortly after that, a failed attempt to purchase Laphroaig (as well as a childish attempt to block their water supply with large rocks) led Peter Mackie to build the now-defunct Malt Mill with Laphroaig's exact specifications, hoping to recreate that unique flavor - he couldn't. Laphroaig was one of the first distilleries to have a female manager (Bessie Williamson) and they're one of the few today that still malts their own barley. Despite their reputation for forward-thinking, they continue to operate very traditionally, making only one type of spirit and filling into only one kind of barrel - first-fill Bourbon casks. While Laphroaig does not sell casks directly, we were able to broker one via Chieftain's exclusively for K&L. This 18 year beauty has everything we love about mature Laphroaig - medicinal notes, brine, and campfire smoke in a more subdued state, mixing brilliantly with soft vanilla and wood spice. It's classic in everyway and at full proof - no water added. A fantastic whisky from an iconic distillery's older stock.

-David Driscoll


More On Price Increases, Things to Think About

Many big name whiskies have gone up in price over the past few months: Macallan, Highland Park, Old Pulteney, Yamazaki, Bowmore, Glenfiddich, Laphroaig, and many, many more.  Most of these brands have also experienced shortages at some point during this period, leading them to seriously consider the amount of product they have available and what they need to charge in order to keep current profit levels sustained.  It's really just supply and demand - when the booze starts to run out and people still want it, can we afford to charge the same price?  Look at it this way: if you ran a company where you sold three hundred bottles of whisky per month for $25 a bottle, you'd be making $7500 a month.  What if, all of a sudden, you were only able to secure about 200 bottles a month?  Would you be content to make $5000 a month, or would you raise the price to $37.50 to cover your losses?  Would people still buy it if you did?

My question is this: when production on these whiskies catches back up, and supply once again balances out the demand, are prices on these whiskies going to go back down?  I ask this because, when prices on a brand go up, we retailers have to make our own decisions based on the same factors.  Do we raise our prices in response to their price increases?  If customers come into the store and see that Laphroaig 10 is no longer $35.99 but now $39.99, who are they going to blame?  Are they going to say to themselves: "What the hell?  K&L raised their prices!  I'll have to go somewhere else more reasonable," or are they going to make the connection that we had nothing to do with these changes?  I can tell you one thing - we are making a whole lot less per bottle this year than we were making last year because we don't want to raise prices on customers if we can help it. 

I'm betting, however, that once the market runs its course and the public comes to the realization that Highland Park 18 is now a $100 whisky, there's no way in hell it's going to go back down again.  Why would you lower it if sales don't slow in response to the increase?  Are people going to continue paying more and more each year for their favorite whiskies, or are they going to say "enough is enough" and look elsewhere for value?  I'm wondering when the "Netflix effect" is going to transpire.  How high can you go before the bubble bursts?  I'm still seeing tremendous value in the single malt whisky market: Bruichladdich 10, Benriach 12, Glendronach 12 and 15, Aberlour 12, Ardbeg 10 and Uigeadail, Kilchoman Machir Bay, and many other malts that are among the best we carry for the price.  Not to mention the return of great blended values like Great King Street, Bank Note, Highland Chief, and Islay Mist. 

I'm not trying to say that whisky isn't worth paying for because that would be foolish.  We all know there are some very special bottles out there in the world.  What I'm saying is that you can't pay $85 one day and then $105 the next.  That's what's happening right now, however.  It's not K&L and it's not the other big liquor stores either.  We're not raising the prices, we're simply reacting to the market. 

-David Driscoll