Dickens Faire Fun

Well my new camera didn't come in time for the Dickens Faire, so I had to bring along my 8MP Canon that takes terrible low lighting shots.  Of course, the entire fair was dim and warm, perfect for the atmosphere and terrible for my photos.  In any case, this should be the last time we see such grainy images, so bare with me.  Dressed up in our finest Victorian attire, my wife and I met up with Davorin Kuchan from Old World Spirits and had some drinks in old London town. 

We met up at the Bohemian lounge where Davorin's Blade gin and La Sorciere absinthe were on full display.  I had a Poe Cocktail (absinthe with Champagne) and Davorin ordered a Sazerac, but these were just precursors for Davorin's pocketed flasks - full with homemade Fishhouse Punch and his recently-finished brandy.  Davorin, myself, and our wives enjoyed the drinks while the bartenders came over to sample as well.  It isn't always the case that the customers pour their own drinks for the bartenders, but that's how it usually ends up when I roll out to a bar, and the same goes for Davorin (who is usually the one making my products!).

Of course the Prohibitionists were out in full swing, preaching the ills of alcohol consumption.  The costumes were very well done and my wife perhaps had one of the best, as people kept stopping to take pictures with her rather than the hired actors.  There were town drunks as well who had their own bottles full of booze and walked around looking for someone to buy them another.  We parked up next to one of these vagrants and bought some hot apple ciders which we then spiked with more of Davorin's brandy.  That zinfandel-based spirits mixes really well into just about anything.  I've never had such a tasty cider beverage!

The food and ale was fun as well.  We ate lunch before we arrived, but couldn't help and nibble on the more appropriate snacks like Yorkshire Pudding (fried doughy bread smothered in beef gravy) and roasted chestnuts.  The Dickens Faire is an extravagent event that is a blast for adults and I'm sure for kids as well, although some of the hysterical musical performances were full of sexual innuendo ("Everyone knows a miner has a long shaft and the butcher a giant sausage!" went one of the tunes).  It goes for the next few weekends at the Cow Palace and I would advise anyone who loves British themes and a Christmas Carol to take part.

-David Driscoll



Hi-Tech Spirits Journal Coming Soon

I pulled the trigger on a new camera that can record HD video and take superior quality shots in low-lit places (which is mostly where I am hanging out and reporting), so hopefully starting tomorrow (as long as it arrives on time) I can test it out.  Davorin Kuchan and I are hitting up the Dicken's Fair at the Cow Palace (fully decked in my Victorian garb), however, as I have a "no pictures of David" on the blog policy, I will be documenting the crowd rather than Davorin and me.  This is spirits related because both Old World Spirits and St George are sponsoring the event and there will be Blade Gin, Le Sorciere Absinthe, and Hangar One a flowin'.  Hopefully in some large punch bowls or in a Victorian-style cocktail.  We'll see tomorrow!  Video and photos to follow from now on.

-David Driscoll


Booze Comments on SF Gate 

For those of you who live in the Bay Area, you are likely aware of the Chronicle's online site ( and how its comment fields have become ground zero for public displays of opinion.  At the end of every article the readers have a chance to leave a few sentences expressing their opinion on the matter.  Sometimes they can be thought-provoking and insightful.  Sometimes they can be very clever and very funny.  Most of the time, however, they are vulgar, annoying, stupid, or just plain mean.  As a long time reader of the Chronicle, I have come to lose faith in the basic kindness of humanity by perusing these comments over the years.  If there's an article about democratic politicians, the right wingers come out in spades with vitrolic rantings about how the Bay Area is full of dumb liberals and how Obama is a foreign-born, socialist puppet, etc.  An editorial by openly gay Mark Morford can usually bring forth vomitous hatespeech by those who believe homosexuality is a sin.  I even remember, during the Giants' playoff run, a Philly fan commenting that he hoped the players would go out and have sex in our "AIDS-infested city" and contract HIV and die.  Crazy, right?  If you go to the New York Times online site, you'll usually find carefully thoughtout, interesting, and helpful responses from readership, mostly because the NY Times usually filters them.  At SFGate however the comments are live instantly and it seems that most commentors are posting just for the sake of being an asshole.

No articles make this phenomenon more apparent than the ones about wine or cocktails.  I find that whenever Gary Reagan or Camper English write about new drinks around the town, the response is always a defensive backlash by someone who doesn't know anything about booze and is self-conscious about that fact, hence the need to post their "real" expert opinion.  It's usually anger about the vast selection of booze available and annoyance that someone is actually trying to navigate it and enjoy it.  "Why should I try all these prissy $10 mixologist cocktails when I can make myself a stiff vodka martini at home?" It's like growing up in a small town and wanting to move to the big city, but then hearing nothing but negativity from your friends or family who in reality are either jealous or too scared to do it themselves. 

I woke up early this morning as usual, so I hit SFGate in bed on my laptop and read Jon Bonné's well-written article about Thanksgiving Day wine pairing.  As someone who spent the last few days helping customers pair their Thanksgiving meal, I always like to see what other professionals recommend and Jon is normally spot on with his choices.  Basically, Jon clarifies and explains the basic fundamentals of how bubbles, pinot noir, gamay, and chardonnay, when made in a certain style, can be outstanding holiday pairings.  Easy to understand, well thought out, and most of all helpful.  Bravo.  What did he get for his trouble?  17 comments (so far) from people who either posted what they would be drinking instead of his selections (as if to show him that they don't care about his advice) or flatout disregard for his advice in general.  My favorite being,

"Articles this are a waste of time. Just go out and buy, depending on your budget, a white and a red (whether it's Chardonnay or Sauvignon, Cab or Zin makes no difference.)

Wow, thanks for your advice commentor!  You're right!  Wine is all the same and Jon Bonné is just a big phony who is making all this stuff up!  Thank you so much for figuring this out!  Here, all this time, I thought I was tasting differences between wine varietals, but you're right, I don't!  It doesn't make a difference!  All that matters is that I buy something I can afford.  I will now go to a wine shop with the exact dollar amount that I can afford and buy the first bottle I see.  That is genius advice.  GENIUS.  Then there's this one:

"Drink whatever you feel like drinking. You don't need a lame newspaper to tell you."

Wow.  Thanks.  You're right commentor, Jon Bonné is always trying to tell ME what to do.  I hate that!  Stop telling me what to do Jon!  I went to your website, and read your column, and thought about what you would be drinking, and said, "Who does this guy think he is? He can't tell me what to do!  I can do whatever I want!  This is America, land of the free! No one can tell me what to drink!  NO ONE!"


-David Driscoll


So Much New Whisky, So Many Customers

We're getting swarmed right now with excited Thanksgiving shoppers, overflowing into our store and snatching up all the good booze.  In the midst of the madness, I've managed to get our two newest cask purchases into the store and on the shelf as well as a whole slew of other new stuff.  Here's what came in today:

1982 Mannochmore Chieftain's 28 Year Old K&L Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $149.99 - The last time we did a 20+ year old single barrel of whisky, we sold every bottle on pre-order and the bottles never hit the shelf - the value was simply too good to pass up, even without tasting it!  This time around we've teamed up with Chieftain's and secured a barrel of Diageo-owned Mannochmore 28 year single malt whisky, bottled at cask strength and unchillfiltered.  Mannochmore is Highland distillery rarely ever bottled as a single malt, rather it goes into high-end Diageo blends like the Johnnie Walker Blue.  This ancient single-barrel expression is simply fantastic - a nose of fresh peaches and flower petals, a palate that oozes with sweet grains and natural oils, and a long, sweet finish that goes on forever.  The last time Diageo bottled Mannochmore as a single malt in their Manager's Choice series it wasn't nearly as old or expressive and it went for over $250 a bottle.  Our bottling will come in at far less and offer so much more maturity.  But don't wait too long, this old barrel only yielded 135 bottles, there for it is limited to two bottles per customer.

1999 Talisker Distiller's Edition $74.99 - Brand new release

1994 Lagavulin Distiller's Edition $99.99 - Brand new release

Lagavulin 12 Year Old Cask Strength - $105.99 - Brand new release

Amrut "Intermediate Sherry" Indian Single Malt Whiskey $124.99 - Aged in bourbon, then first fill sherry barrels, finally back into bourbon for one year.  Crazy! The sherry barrels are cured with Amrut Single Malt before transit to Bangalore to mitigate sulfur. Ultra smooth precious young whiskey.  A hit at Whisky Fest 2010.

We just opened the Mannochmore in the tasting bar and it is EVERY bit as good as I remember.  Sooooooo happy we bought this barrel.

Happy T-day.

-David Driscoll


Price Increases - Whose Fault Is It?

I've been hitting the message boards lately, reading rather than posting, and it's really fascinating to hear how other people in other states feel about the booze business.  I was informed by one of my customers that a thread had been started on another bourbon site about my earlier Van Winkle post and in reading that discussion I noticed some talk about retailers jacking up the price of this year's release.  While we didn't gouge our customers by taking the scarcity of the bottles into consideration, we did raise the price on the bourbons this year by a few bucks.  Was that because we were being greedy?  No, it's because we had to pay more for them this year than we did last year - the wholesale price went up.  And everyone got less than last year because there were fewer bottles produced, so if you're a tiny retailer and you only got two bottles at a higher cost, you're probably going to try and make whatever you can.  Not that I approve of such measures, but I get relatively more than just about any other small retailer so I'm not forced to make that decision.

Today the first drop of the 2010 Diageo Classic Malt collection comes in and the prices on some of these whiskies are going to surprise people.  I'm sure there's still a store somewhere in the U.S. that has a few bottles of last year's Lagavulin 12 and it's selling for around $75.  When someone Google searches that bottle now, we're going to pop up at the top with a price of around $100.  That person is going to look at that comparison and say, "K&L is jacking up their prices!" Not true.  The Lagavulin 12, for whatever reason, is far more expensive this year.  As I've said in previous posts, whisky prices change on a monthly, if not weekly, basis.  Maybe Diageo bottled less than before or maybe it has become rarer.  In any case, it's pricier than before and we didn't have anything to do with that.

-David Driscoll