The Scotland Itinerary

This year our trip to Scotland should be quite interesting.  I mean, sure, rummaging through warehouses in Scotland is always interesting, but this year's economic issues are going to make things more difficult than ever.  Due to the current whisky boom (really just a brown spirits boom) the supplies are tighter than ever.  Bottlers who normally welcome us with open arms now seem to be just a bit hesitant.  How can they be expected to supply us with booze if they can't even get it for themselves?  The real question is: do they sell it to us in one fell swoop, or do they hold on to it and try to drag out sales over an extended period of time, hopefully waiting out the current drought in the process?  There are plenty of business decisions to think about and plenty of politics to be played.  I'm sure we could make a reality show out of it, but for now you'll have to make due with the blog updates.  We'll be flying out next Thursday and here's our itinerary if you feel like following along.

May 11th - Land in Edinburgh, visit Chieftain's

May 12th - Drive to Glendronach and taste

May 13th - Taste with Duncan Taylor and another mystery distillery :)

May 14th - Taste with Glenfarclas

May 15th - Taste with Edradour/Signatory

May 16th - Visit Oban, drive to Campbeltown, taste with Springbank

May 17th - take the ferry to Islay, cut peat with Lagavulin, meet with Laphroaig

May 18th - Morning tasting with Bruichladdich, PM tasting with Kilchoman

May 19th - Meet with Caol Ila

May 20th - Travel day

May 21st - Meet with Bowmore at the mainland warehouse w/ Rachel Barrie in the AM, drive to meet with another new mystery bottler :)

May 22nd - two meetings with two other mystery bottlers (sorry, can't ruin the surprise!)

May 23rd - Fly home

-David Driscoll


A Pair of Alchemists

Ever since the great Alchemist summer deal of 2011 we haven't seen much in terms of value from this once-great independent bottler.  Today, however, I tasted a few new arrivals at the distributor's office and these two jumped out at me.  While they're not offered at the closeout price that I was "pimping" last year, both represent outstanding value for the money.  We have a few bottles of each in stock at the moment for those looking to branch out a bit.

Mortlach 22 Year Old Alchemist Single Malt Whisky $129.99 - We never see enough Mortlach stateside, and the few bottles we do get aren't always great. One of the great sherried stalwarts of the Speyside, this 22 year old from the Alchemist bottlers is completely without sherry aging. Lean in mouthfeel, the entry starts off rather oily and herbal, but the vanilla richness really kicks in on the finish. Straw colored despite its age, this Mortlach has obviously been aging in refill hogshead quite gracefully. A wonderful peek at what the whisky itself tastes like without all the sherry.

Highland Park 19 Year Old Alchemist Single Malt Whisky $115.99 - While the Alchemist label does not specify, this 19 year old independently-bottled Highland Park seems to have been aged in a refill sherry barrel. Light amber in color, the entry is slightly rich with cakebread and fruit, before leading into some mellow phenolic notes. The smoke is just a whisper before the toffee comes hard on the finish, ending with a rich and warming flurry of flavor. This is one of the better indie HPs I've seen in some time, especially for the price.

-David Driscoll


The Next Big Thing For Booze

What could will be the next big thing for the booze industry? People ask me this question on a weekly basis.  In fact, I get asked this question so much that I've been thinking about starting a booze consulting business on the side.  $500 dollars for 15 minutes, Diageo!  I'm ready.  In all seriousness, the next big thing for booze is already in the works.  It's already waiting in the wings.  You don't need to ask me.  Every distillery in the U.S. knows what it is and I'll bet my bottom dollar there's a secret room at every one of them loaded with experiments containing it.  I've heard talk about it for years - in side conversations and jokes that aren't really jokes.  It's not a matter of making it, it's a matter of being allowed to make it.  The process just needs to be legalized and then....God help us.

The ban on absinthe in the United States had lasted for decades until 2007 when the moratorium came and the law on wormwood was finally changed.  St. George distillery in Alameda was ready for that one.  As soon as that ban was lifted, they became the first distillery in the U.S. to release a legal absinthe since God knows when.  Being first to release an alcoholic product that the country is excited for is a very big deal.  People will buy it whether it's good or bad because it's the first.  Luckily for St. George, their absinthe was and continues to be among the best, so they were able to lockdown some brand loyalty right from the get go.  To this day, we sell three times as much St. George absinthe than any other absinthe on the shelf.

The ban on marijuana in the United States continues, however.  We were very close to a possible legalization in California recently, but that movement seems to have stalled.  While there continues to be a general leniency towards medical usage, we're still a ways from full-blown legalization.  Nonetheless, I can promise you that the next big trend for booze will be marijuana-infused products.  Once that day comes, the day when the government finally decides that marijuana can be more profitable as a taxable commodity, the day that D.C. lobbyists line up to get the jump on a new billion-dollar industry, we're going to be seeing marijuana-infused everything, and I can guarantee you that there are a ton of producers out there who want to be ready when that happens.

I can already see it now. Absinthe and gin with weed finally listed as one of the botanicals!  Herbal liqueurs with actual herb in it!  And the cocktails!  The Stony Negroni!  The Lazy Manhattan!  If you think this isn't already being done privately all over the continent then you're fooling yourself.  I can promise you that there are plenty of projects in the works right now by companies who want to be the first to release. You can even cater to the geeks by indicating who grew the marijuana, whether it was organic or not, and you can make different gins with different types of weed for those looking to learn about different varietals!  The possibilities are freaking endless and the money will be there in droves.  People of the booze industry looking to get rich, hear me now: you had better be ready for the legalization of marijuana, whether it's in five years or twenty five years.  It will change the liquor industry the way caffeine changed the energy drink industry.  We may not talk about it on this blog, but people are still drinking Red Bull and vodka every day in every city across the country.  Caffeine and booze continues to be very profitable for a number of companies.  I can only imagine the possible profits when marijuana finally comes into play.

Just a few thoughts for your morning.  Diageo, this one's on the house.

-David Driscoll


Tastings Tonight!

Tonight in Redwood City we'll have the man himself, Charles Neal, pouring our exclusive K&L brandies.  We should have both Lassaubatju Armagnacs and the Raymond Ragnaud Cognac available to taste.  This is your big chance to talk yak and see if our new way forward is for you!  You may hate them, or you may end up with an entirely new addiction!  Come find out. 

San Francisco will host the Henry Wine Group who will pour some of their very exciting new additions like the Calisaya Bitter Orange liqueur and the Imbue vermouth - both of which will be permanent additions to my home bar.  Cocktail fans won't want to miss this one. 

5 PM to 6:30 PM.  Free as always.  See you there!

-David Driscoll


Bacanora Fiesta

My wife's family is from Sonora, Mexico - a northern state that specializes in flour tortillas and beautiful women.  They also make a fantastic agave spirit called Bacanora - a substance that I was only able to taste previously when my mother-in-law would smuggle it back during her visits.  There has been almost no Bacanora available in the United States and what has been available has been terrible.  Finally, thanks to the increased awareness for craft spirits, a fantastic, quality Bacanora is being imported to the states and we've jumped all over it.  This has been my nightly sipper for the past week, every day bringing new flavors and more enjoyment to my mouth.

Cielo Rojo Bacanora Blanco $42.99 - The finest of Sonora's traditional spirit, Cielo Rojo is made from the exquisite and rare Silvestre Agave, which is harvested in the wild, arid deserts of Sonora. These elusive plants grow on the steep canyons of the Sierra Madre Mountains, and after labor-intensive hand harvesting they're packed out on burro. This wild agave is then roasted in ovens carved out of the clay and rock soils of the Sonoran desert. After roasting, a slow fermentation is achieved with exclusively wild yeast before small batch distillation in small alembic pot stills. Bacanora spent the better part of the last century as contraband, but its tradition dates back centuries. Somewhere between Mescal and Tequila, Bacanora has truly its own style and Cielo Rojo is the finest available. Soft smoke mingles enticingly with this herbaceous spice. It's all held together by this forward agave fruit, which just begs you to take another sip. Certainly a must have for any agave lover, but smooth enough for any spirits drinker to appreciate.

-David Driscoll