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Wednesday
Aug022017

Summer Continues!

Not even the horribly bad photo lighting in our Redwood City tasting bar can spoil the vibrancy of these two new summer arrivals. One of them is a perfect summer whisky and the other is literally called "summer!" In writing the news and notes from yesterday's post, I realized I never did a formal blog for another of our great summer whiskies from Old Particular: the Fettercairn 21 year. Unfortunately, that one is already destined for the history books given the rush of sales this week, but I'll throw the link in above. It's a delicious bottle, but I'm on to the next one now; especially since it's from my favorite Highland distillery!!

I'd highly recommend picking up a bottle of each of these for your August drinking needs. They're both sensational spirits that perfectly reflect the weather outside. Plus, they're both really well priced for what they are.

2005 Benrinnes 12 Year Old "Old Particular" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $49.99 - Over the last four years we've completely fallen in love with Benrinnes distillery, one of Diageo's Johnnie Walker satellites that rarely sees the light of day as a single malt release. There's something inherently joyful about the whisky from Benrinnes; there's a freshness and a vibrancy that sings from the glass no matter the age, proof, or type of cask that it's been aged in. Their staff members are much the same. Upon our last visit to the facility, we showed up unannounced and were welcomed with such incredible hospitality and friendliness that we left Benrinnes even bigger fans than we already were. Since that time, we've purchased almost every single cask of Benrinnes that's come our way and our customers have responded with a similar enthusiasm. This 12 year old edition from the Highland distillery is brimming with sweet grains, vanilla, creamy malt, and round summer fruits on the finish. At 56.7% ABV, those characteristics are dialed up and intensified, but the whisky is still quite drinkable without water. Rocks drinkers will be thrilled, however, as a couple of cubes don't dilute any of the potency. There's very little that can diminish the unbridled Highland malt character of Benrinnes, which is why we're head over heels in love with this whisky.

Leopold Bros. "Summer" Limited Edition Gin $27.99 - Part of a new season series of gins, Leopold's "Summer" Gin is a 47% ABV limited release from the Colorado brothers who have paved the way for artisanal distillation in the U.S. Made with their trademark blending process, in which each botanical is distilled individually into its own spirit and married afterward, the Summer recipe includes juniper, blood oranges, lemon myrtle, and coriander. It has the freshness and the spice of a classic London dry gin, but the citrus and fruit of something like Four Pillars. It's the perfect ingredient for your summer gin and tonic, for as long as we can manage to stock it! Highly recommended.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jul312017

News & Notes

Just a few things to keep you all up to speed with for the upcoming week. Let's go down the list:

- It turns out that even with the allocations put on both the Bomberger and Shenk's releases from Michter's, it wasn't enough to ration out the rush. Both whiskies are already sold out in CA and there are no reinforcements scheduled for the time being, so ignore what I said previously about ongoing allocations. There's nothing left to allocate, so be happy if you managed to snag a bottle!

- There will be a few more bottles of Whistlepig's "Black Prince" landing up north this week. At $500 a pop you might not expect these babies to move all that quickly (at least I didn't), but that shows you what I know. We blew through the SoCal allocation in minutes. 

- We'll have a special Tuesday night spirits tasting in the San Francisco store next week, in addition to our usual Wednesday night affair. Luxco's Steve Beam will be in the house to taste you on the Rebel Yell wheated Bourbons and talk all things whiskey. That's a freebie, of course, as we cannot charge for spirits tastings, so if you want to taste delicious Bourbon on the house make sure you stop by on August 8th from 5 PM to 6:30.

- The email for the Fettercairn 21 year from Old Particular went out this morning. We tore through about 100 bottles in the first few hours, so don't sleep on that deal if you were eyeballing that whisky. I don't think it will last the week.

- The Leopold brothers are stepping up their game with a new series of seasonal gins, the first of which is called "Summer." This should be popping up on the website mid-week and it's a steal of a deal at $27.99. As you may or may not know, Todd Leopold distills each botanical individually, then blends the spirits together to make the final product. There's a heavy proportion of blood orange in this new concoction and it lit my taste buds up. Totally yummy.

- I'm still in Vegas until tomorrow, but I'm working remotely today. I spent the whole weekend shopping in the casinos and analyzing the retail trends of fashion first growths like Gucci, Prada, and Ferragamo, doing some comparative analytics. Gucci in particular has seriously stepped up its game, as has Kate Spade, and both designers are doing limited edition garmets, shoes, and clothing selections based on location. The Caesar's Gucci location was spectacular—like an art distillation. It was awe inspiring, and I'm not normally a Gucci fan. There were loads of foreign tourists hoarding in to get the exclusive merchandise, which made me think back to a time when customers would email me angrily about how difficult shopping for whiskey had become.

"I have to work, dammit! I can't just spend all day online shopping for hard-to-find bottles!" people would write.

Women, however, have always known how competitive shopping can be and many consider it a sport as a result. It's only now that the men are beginning to understand the concept, with Bourbon, and retro Nintendos, and various other manly must-haves becoming difficult to source.

Welcome to the show, guys! Shopping is most definitely a competition. That's what makes it so much fun when you win! But you have to spend time doing it to get better at it. In Vegas, for example, the best things are never available online. You can still dig for treasure here.

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Jul302017

Scenes from the Desert – Part II

Take a look at the above photo. If this room looks like your worst nightmare—like a room you'd never be caught dead in—then we're probably never going to be friends. However, if this room looks like the coolest, vintage, kitschy lounge you've ever seen, then you'd probably enjoy running around Vegas with me. I've been wanting to go to the Peppermill since I saw Sharon Stone kiss Robert DeNiro there in Casino. Since it's open twenty-four hours and has a decidedly lengthy menu, we decided to go there for breakfast before hitting the northern outlets. The bar (above) was dead at 8 AM, but the diner itself was packed. The bar menu is an absolute spectacle—packed with various neon colored tiki drinks in tall glasses with long straws. I could spend all night here and never get bored. This is the Vegas I love. 

When you dine at a gangster lounge, you should eat like a gangster. Protein to help fortify the stomach against the coming onslaught of non-stop walking and non-stop drinking. Legit steak and eggs at the Peppermill. I would have done a Bloody Mary to boot, but I'm not that much of a lush. Even 8 AM is too early for me.

When it was time to finally quench my insatiable thirst, I was still in the mood for tiki drinks after lusting over that long list at the Peppermill. Normally I would have to wait in line for over and hour just to get a seat at San Francisco's premier rum spot Smuggler's Cove (because Martin has done an amazing job there), but here I can walk into Rhumbar at the Mirage and sit down whenever I damn please. I did just that today at 1 PM and there wasn't a person in sight. I even get a real waterfall to look at while I drink.

The important thing to remember about Vegas is that its smarter than you think it is. Remember the scene from Swingers where Jon Favreau thinks the waitress didn't understand his "pancakes in the age of enlightment" joke (the menu said "breakfast served any time")? Turns out she understood the joke, she just didn't feel like playing along with an asshole who was trying way too hard. Vegas, in general, can often behave the same way. It's not going to pander to pedants. It doesn't have anything to prove. For example, you might look at the happy hour menu at Rhumbar, see the $5 Bud Lights and strawberry vodka coolers, and think, "This place doesn't have good drinks." But when you go inside and sit down, you can get a Trader Vic Mai Tai made with Appleton, Cointreau, orgeat, and lime, along with numerous other tiki classics to enjoy while you take in the beautiful scenery. Don't ever underestimate Vegas.

I've found that the Bay Area has become so focused on its food and drink rules that it's completely forgotten about its culture. Part of the reason Smuggler's Cove is so popular is because it's equally atmospheric. Why more bars in San Francisco don't understand that is beyond me, but going to back to what I said earlier: there's an element of fear at play. After ten years of working in the booze business, I've seen more than my share of it. There's this undercurrent of anxiety about not being taken seriously that permeates everything. Everyone wants to be an expert and heaven forbid you don't recognize that expertise. Some will do whatever it takes to prove to you how serious they are about their job. Chefs get tattoos of knives to show you serious they are about cooking. Bartenders get literal cocktail recipes tattooed on their wrist. Heaven forbid you can't literally see at all times how serious they are about their craft, just in case you don't already know who they are. In Vegas, I haven't found that chip to be much of a problem. The bars are never stale, stuffy, or serious. They're expansive and dreamy. We stumbled into a newer Latin-inspired spot called Chica in the Palazzo and sat down for drinks in an absolutely beautiful space.

Let me preface this paragraph by saying that I'm not as up to speed on my tiki culture as some very serious folks are today, so my apologies in advance if this isn't anything new. However, I have to say that I was blown away by this cocktail at Chica. It's a rum Old Fashioned (or "new" fashioned, as they call it) made with aged Rhum Clement agricole, but instead of using simple syrup they sweeten it with a Mexican Coke reduction! The result is basically a fancy rum and Coke, but one with serious complexity and flavor. I was seriously wowed. It's easily the most creative and enjoyable cocktail I've had this year and it's one I'll be coming back for again very soon (plus Chica gives you tortilla chips and plantain chips with their guacamole, which really dials up that dish).

More from Vegas shortly.

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Jul292017

Scenes from the Desert

Greetings from Las Vegas! If you missed my post from a few weeks back I've relocated part time to the Mojave Desert where I've purchased a home and will now escape from the Bay Area madness periodically to cleanse my soul. I'm back again this weekend to do some eating, drinking, and shopping while taking in the gorgeous sunsets that occur each evening behind Red Rock Canyon and La Madre mountain near my home. Last night I did a bit too much of the drinking part. I was on a roll. The weather was hot and the booze was cold, and when you add tequila to that magical set of conditions you really can't expect any other type of outcome.

My wife and I found our desert island (or maybe just desert?) happy hour place the last time we were here, and last night we put a serious dent in its liquor inventory. Cantina Laredo is one of the best sit-down Mexican restaurants I've been to in years and I can't get enough of it. The food is fresh, healthy, and flavorful. The drinks are strong, but well-made and light on the sugar. The atmosphere is glamorous and festive, yet totally affordable. You can get a big bowl of arroz con pollo for seven bucks while sucking down five dollar margaritas and gorging yourself on chips and salsa—my ultimate kryptonite. The staff is super friendly and chatty. AND....you can choose frozen margaritas as a happy hour option!!! It wasn't until we went to Hopdaddy in Austin last year that my wife and I discovered balanced, non-goopy, frozen cocktails were becoming a thing (like good wine in a box or craft beer in a can). We must have gone back three times during our four day stay. Now we can get the same thing by driving ten minutes from our home here in Vegas. Next time, however, I won't be driving.

You know frozen cocktails are really becoming a trend when you walk into a hipster haven like Momofuku and they have a frosty machine as well. We strolled in for lunch today and sat down for some hangover helper—mint mojito flavor or asian five spice with sake! While I can imagine it must seem like a pain in the ass for true Las Vegans to visit the strip, it's a piece of cake for Bay Area ex-pats like ourselves. Momofuku is located in the Cosmopolitan, which has a huge underground parking garage. While it's big and there are a lot of cars, it only took us about ten seconds to find a spot. Contrast that with the traffic in the Mission St. garage on Saturday mid-day when you want to go shopping downtown and you won't know whether to laugh or cry. Nothing is a hassle in Vegas. Inconvenience is never a hurdle here. While I might have to wait in line or have a reservation to eat at Momofuku in New York, here I can easily park and walk in whenever I please!

It's funny. We can't get away from hot soup even though we're in the middle of the desert in the middle of summer.

However, now that they've now opened Milk next door, you can cool down with some soft serve after heating up with a steaming bowl of ramen. Cereal milk ice cream is always on the menu, but now they've turned their addictive crack pie into a frozen delight! We did one of each as it was hard to choose.

That's the great thing about the desert: when you're here you can have it both ways.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jul272017

The Hype is Real

I haven't tasted it yet, so I can't speak to the quality (David OG tells me it's fantastic), but the hype is certainly real. With no press, no blog posts, no alerts of any kind, we sold through our SoCal allocation of the new Foursquare Criterion in less than ten minutes. I've got a sizeable stock coming into NorCal tomorrow, but since I'm leaving for Las Vegas tonight you'll all have to be on alert. I won't be here to give you the arrival notice, so if this is a bottle you're on the hunt for, I'd pay close attention to KLWines.com tomorrow. 

Many believe this will be one of the top spirits of the year and perhaps the most exciting new rum to hit the U.S. in some time. What we do know from today's response is that rum's newest cult superstar has genuine demand. Get ready to act fast. It appears the rum renaissance is upon us.

-David Driscoll

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