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Monday
Jan082018

A Throwback Sherry Butt

I remember sitting in the office in Scotland, tasting through these Sovereign samples, and looking up information on Aultmore distillery as I approached this nine year old cask. It was a bit of an odd duck, but I appreciated it because it was so different in its character: dry and herbal rather than sweet and supple, the opposite of what I expected from such a dark and saturated sherry-matured whisky. The Single Malt Whisky Yearbook I was thumbing through had tasting notes from other expressions of Aultmore that they described as having the flavor or coffee or even "milky coffee." I then went back and tasted the nine year old sample again...there it was: coffee. Not only in its color, but in its aromas and flavors! While the price is indeed incredible, don't expect the world's most complex or earth-shattering whisky here in this bottle. It's a one-trick pony that does exactly what you hope it will. However, what it lacks in dynamism it more than makes up for in drinkability and what is apparently classic Aultmore character. It's big and spicy right off the bat, but that initial sweetness quickly fades and turns into herbaceous notes of dried herbs, pepper, toasted nuts, with a very dry finish. It's a whisky meant purely as a bang-for-your-buck bargain and I couldn't pass it up. It's so different from anything else on the shelf and I get a kick out of that coffee note! Those of you who enjoyed some of our older Glenfarclas Family Casks of yesteryear may get a bit of nostalgic bliss from this earthier sherry expression. It's definitely of the same ilk as that robust 1970 vintage barrel we did a while back.

2008 Aultmore 9 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $49.99 - Aultmore isn't one of Scotland's most recognizable whisky names, but ever since Bacardi's move to establish the Dewar's distilleries as veritable single malt brands, names like Craigellachie, Royal Brackla, Aberfeldy and Aultmore are moving more to the forefront on the global stage. Originally founded in 1896, Aultmore was sold by Diageo to Bacardi over 100 years later as part of the big Bombay gin deal, resulting in a rarely seen 12 year old edition half a decade later. Located in the Speyside region, the distillery's sherried malts are often described as having flavors of "milky coffee" and that's most definitely the case with this heavily-sherried 9 year old expression. Coffee in both its color and its aromas, the nose is pungent with heavily-roasted aromas and savory Oloroso rancio. Don't be confused by the color, however, because despite its dark hue this is no supple, sweetly-flavored Sherry bomb. In fact, it's a robust malt, dry on the finish and almost savory in its profile. The mid-palate is loaded with toasted almonds, tobacco, and bitter orange, but the finish is short and simple. While many of our casks are meant to be pondered and savored, this 9 year old Aultmore is very much to the point. It's a cask strength, sherry-matured edition of everyday quality single malt, priced to drink and enjoy in volume. The high proof is almost unrecognizable with the saturation of the sherry and its very much drinkable at full strength.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jan082018

D2D Interview: John Cho

It was at a private party in Hollywood one night that I found myself unexpectedly drinking cocktails and talking booze with actor John Cho. We were both taking a break from the party's social center, sitting by ourselves at an outside table while trying to catch a bit of fresh air. I asked him what he was drinking. He asked me about my drink. The conversation started from there and it continued on and off for the rest of the evening, each new beverage leading to a different discussion about our personal preferences. I liked him immediately; he was unpretentious, down to earth, and it was clear he was interested in all things wine and spirits. Before leaving that night we exchanged numbers and I told him to give me a call if he ever needed help stocking his home bar. After sending a few bottles of rye whiskey his way, I thought it might be time to restart our initial conversation in a more professional capacity and after watching John's latest film Colombus this past holiday season, I knew the moment was right. If you only know John Cho from the Harold & Kumar films or as Lieutenant Sulu in the recent Star Trek revival, you'll be blown away by his recent dramatic performance in the beautifully-shot drama, set in an Indiana town noted for its modern architecture. It's a movie reminiscent of Lost in Translation or Sideways in both its mood and its storytelling, yet it's a more complete and moving picture than both of those films, in my opinion. Not only was I personally wowed by the aesthetics and atmosphere of Columbus, I found myself brimming with booze-related questions for John due to the film's dialogue concerning perceptions of personal taste. I couldn't wait to get him on the phone to talk about the comparative analytics.

We started with a brief discussion about the impact of California's recent legalization of marijuana and dove in further to drink-related topics soon after. Our conversation continues on below:

John: This is an interesting point of discussion, the kind of alteration that you prefer. I’ve always preferred booze the most. I like the relaxing aspects of weed, but I don’t like losing my acumen. I’m able to have a conversation when I’m drinking and that’s an important part of the fun for me. 

David: My wife and I feel the same way. If we do the edibles, then we’re not going out because it’s tough to be social at that point. If we’re going out with friends, however, then we want to drink.

John: Right, the social aspect of booze is great. Conversely, it’s the anti-social part of weed that I don’t like. The laughs are good though. Then there’s the taste part of it, which is a whole other world to itself.

David: Let’s talk about taste for a minute. I’m so happy that we waited to do this interview until after I watched Columbus because there are so many aspects of the movie we can talk about that apply to the booze world. Like Sideways, which has impacted my industry immensely over the last fifteen years, Columbus is a story about people with a central medium as its main character. In Sideways it was wine, whereas in Columbus it’s architecture. 

John: Yeah, architecture is the vessel for talking about each others’ lives. In Sideways, wine is the language for talking about everyone’s feelings. Every single bottle is like a little poem. I didn’t really know anything about architecture before taking the role in Columbus and I tended to evaluate buildings with my eyes. After the experience of making the film, I learned to evaluate them with my feelings—how a space made me feel and also what it made me think about. There are spaces that do that. 

David: How did that change in appreciation come about? Was the writer on set to help guide you through?

John: Kogonada, the writer and director of the film, didn’t really push his opinions about the buildings upon us. We did do some research, but it was mostly being in the spaces and making discoveries as I went along. There’s a church there called the North Christian Church and it was very significant to me because I had grown up in churches all my life. My father was a preacher and being in that church I could see how we were meant to think about God in the way the space arranged. If you think about a cathedral in Europe, like Notre Dame in Paris, there are gargoyles all over the place and you’re meant to fear God, to know that he is much bigger than you. The way the pews are, you are below the speaker. The speaker is between God and you—above you, but below God. There’s all this information that you get based on the spacial arrangement. 

David: Did that differ from your experiences as a child growing up in church?

John: When I was growing up I went to the Church of Christ and these buildings were all unadorned. They were purposefully built that way because it was a reaction against the Catholic Church and they wanted the buildings to manifest that. Being at the North Christian Church in Columbus, the seating was in the round. The speaker was sunken below the congregation. It was a very holy place, just as holy as the Vatican, but the speaker was a servant below the congregants, and when you looked out into the church you were actually looking at one another because of how the seating was in the round. I found it to be a space that made me think about community in a different way and about God in a different way. I think that’s what I understood after making the film: how does a space make you feel and what does it make you think about?

David: There’s a very profound moment in Columbus where your character is getting a tour of a famous building by Haley Lu Richardson and she says it’s her favorite. You ask her why and she starts spouting off the history and the design specifics, but you interrupt her to say: but why do you like it? It was an attempt to cut through all the technical specs and mumbo jumbo, and get into the meaning of personal experience. For me, that line sent a jolt down my spine because it reminded me so much of my work in an industry where people use similar descriptions to describe why they like alcohol. It’s often more about proving what you know rather than voicing a personal opinion.

John: To me, that moment is the beginning of their journey together. The rest of the movie tackles the question of what architecture means to them, but the first question is: why do you like it? I felt like the whole film was an attempt to take something intellectual and make it personal. Particularly with architecture, and I can see why it would be the same for alcohol, the first impulse is to intellectualize the pursuit. It’s almost a guarantee to never enjoying it though, you know what I mean? It reminds me of my problem with acting. I fell into acting in college and I was good for those first couple of plays because I had no idea what I was doing; I was just a kid. It was just play to me. Kids are very good at playing, but then we become adults and we become very bad at playing. The work of an actor—and I don’t mean this to sound pretentious—is to go backward and become a kid again. It’s actually hard to do. When I decided to pursue acting and become a professional, that’s when I became bad at it because I took it so seriously. 

David: You began to study it.

John: Yeah, I checked out books from the library and took a class and tried to approach it like I’d approached anything else up to that point in my life. I had only ever been a student, so I tried to approach it intellectually. Then I started working as an actor and it became a job. It took me years and years to really learn how to act, to go backwards and learn why this character was interesting to me or why a scene was fun to do. I had to find inspiration when I said yes to a part so that I didn’t come into it thinking of it as a job, but rather as a fun opportunity to do something new. Looking for specks of joy in any project is what I now do, but it took me a long time to figure that out.

David: Was there a moment when you realized you were doing it wrong?

John: I think there was a moment when I got cast in the first Star Trek. What I remember was experiencing a joy that was connected to my childhood and my sense of play. It was fun pretending to be on a spaceship and putting that gear on. It was exactly what I did when I was ten years old, which was pretend to be on a spaceship with my little brother. I thought to myself: I need to look for this in every role, some semblance of this joy. I remember feeling a little depressed before that and that was the role that made me think: acting is fun again. Even in a comedy like Harold and Kumar, which seems like it should be a blast, I wasn’t having as much fun as I should have been having because I was so concerned about doing it right. When you can let go of that fixation, you can get to a bunch of other places.

David: It’s amazing to hear you say that because I’ve felt that same way so many times. I’m doing this great job tasting booze all day that should be an absolute blast, but I often struggle with those exact emotions. It’s actually the reason I started doing these interviews. I thought to myself: I need to find something that I really enjoy doing in order to make this fun again, and that’s why we’re talking now. I think you have to constantly search for that inspiration, otherwise you go over the edge. 

John: I hesitate to call it this, but I think it was a bit of an existential career crisis. My job doesn’t allow me to move around from town to town, or live wherever I want to. I suppose I could have quit acting altogether, but with whatever job I would have landed afterward—like if I was the night manager at Kinko’s—people probably would have come in and said: “Hey, you’re the guy from that movie! What are you doing here?” It would have been a constant reminder of my failure as an actor and I felt sort of trapped. It’s kind of a one-town industry, so I was committed, yet I was having a hard time having fun. It’s a constant internal navigation to try and find different points of joy. 

David: Is drinking something that brings you joy right now?

John: Yeah, sometimes I feel like I rely on it too much, to be perfectly honest. But then my curiosity about different kinds of spirits tempers that because then it becomes less like medicine and more like fun. I think you don’t want to depend on alcohol to do something to you, but rather to be open to it doing something different. That’s where the fun part comes into it. For me, discovering different things is what I want to do, rather than simply wanting alcohol to do something to me. That sounded depressing, didn’t it?

David: Ha! No, actually it makes total sense. What did you think of that last bottle of rye I gave you? Was that fun to experience?

John: I loved it. I don’t know that I have the whiskey vocabulary to describe it, however.

David: Let’s go back to your architecture analogy then; how did it make you feel?

John: It made me feel light, in a good way. Buoyant. A smoky Scotch will make me feel solid, very grounded, here in one place, but rye for some reason makes me feel lighter, like I’m floating, and I don’t know exactly why, but I like it. 

David: Did you know anything about that whiskey before I gave it to you, or were you just thinking: “I’m trusting Dave that this is good stuff.”

John: No, I was just trusting Dave! By the way, I’m actually in a place where I prefer not to know anything about the bottle beforehand. I’ll tell you why. Years ago, a friend of ours gave my wife a bottle of wine for her birthday and we just put it in the pantry; we didn’t have any sort of wine fridge at the time. Then we forgot about it and a couple of months later an old friend dropped by and we started to cook for him. My wife went into the kitchen and asked if we had any wine. I said: just the one bottle, and she said: open it up. I remember looking at the label and thinking it looked fancy, so then I Googled it and it was like a $1400 bottle of wine. Then I was panicked! I said, "What have we done?!" We’re supposed to open a bottle like this when we beat cancer or are elected president. You can’t just open this on a Sunday afternoon, can you? It was really interesting to watch my wife and our friend react because after the initial shock they were still able to enjoy it. I drank it and it tasted great, but I don’t know whether I really enjoyed it because I was thinking too much about the cost.

David: That happens all the time. There are definitely times when thinking or knowing too much about alcohol prohibits our enjoyment rather than enhances it.

John: Right, but sometimes historical information or a fun story helps. 

David: Agreed, if there’s a story, or a legend, or a piece of historical background that makes you feel special for drinking it, then that’s great. But sometimes learning too much about the technical details gets in the way. For example, I know multiple customers who have been unable to drink some of their collectable whiskies given what they're worth in today’s market. Let me ask you this: if I told you that Handy rye whiskey I gave you is considered by many to be the best in the world and that there are grown men out there who would sacrifice their oldest son to get a bottle today, how would you feel about it now? Is it still something you're going to enjoy?

John: Now I’m all tight (laughs). I don’t think I can enjoy it anymore. I shouldn’t have had any last night! Oh God!

David: Does knowing that change the way you’re going to approach it now?

John: Now I’m going to want to drink it with people that I like. I don’t want to drink it alone anymore. That much goodness should be shared. It should be a social experience. Going back to the weed versus alcohol thing, having that shared social sensation is a particular sort of kinship even if you’re ordering different drinks from a bar. But if you’re sharing the same bottle, that’s an even greater intimacy that I like. 

David: Shared experiences are ultimately what bond us as humans and open us up to transformative social experiences, in my opinion. That’s where I have trouble with the internet today. I’m losing the ability to relate to new friends and colleagues because we don’t have those shared experiences in common. We no longer watch the same shows, nor are we forced to watch the same dumb commercials. It’s a bit of a tragedy, in my mind, because I interact with customers who are looking for someone else they can talk to about their whiskey and wine experiences, but can’t find anyone near them to share their booze with. However, if you can create a new shared experience together, over a bottle like you pointed out, it’s a way of getting that intimacy back. 

John: Yeah, I will say there is a certain mono-culturalism that the internet is encouraging. Yet, in other ways it is fragmenting us. Meeting people over the internet is a completely different experience than meeting them while drinking face-to-face.

David: I don’t think we’d be doing this interview right now if we hadn’t originally met face-to-face while drinking, do you? If I had tried to reach out to you over the internet via some cold call email, do you think you would have said yes? Our shared drinking experience gave you at least a certain amount of comfort beforehand that this might be worth doing.

John: Absolutely, you’re totally right. I am one of those people who is suspicious of people who don’t drink (laughs), even though I come from teetotalers. 

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Jan062018

Standard Practices

It's interesting to me how many people out there are still completely unaware of whiskey's renewed renaissance and freshly-inflated prices, but I'm starting to notice a pattern. When I talk to whiskey drinkers who also love fine wine, they're completely unsurprised by the changes the industry has undergone over the last decade. This current market of cult fanaticism and short availability is nothing new to those who cut their teeth on Bordeaux in the 80s. Whiskey fans, however, who only drink whiskey and have never been interested in anything other than whiskey are sometimes a bit insular in their pain, but this is far from a spirits-centric market issue. Now that I'm taking over directorship of K&L's wine club (starting in February, so watch for a dozen or so future blog posts where I try to convince you to sign up), I'm reading more wine-related media than ever and I thought famed critic Antonio Galloni's recent quote summarized this issue from the wine perspective:

A generation or so ago, the average wine lover could afford to buy top-flight Bordeaux, Burgundy and Italian wines...by the case. Sadly, that is no longer possible, as the demand for the world’s best wines has escalated at a rapid pace and driven prices into the stratosphere in many regions. In this context, it is easy to be discouraged.

In case you were unaware, our K&L predecesors went through the exact same situation with their wine habit "a generation ago." They were filling their cellars with the best wines the world had to offer at reasonable prices, available any day of the week whenever they wanted, but then the word got out that wine appreciation was cool, thousands of new consumers began diving into the hobby head first, and the prices went through the roof. It's gone through a few peaks and valleys over the last couple decades, but the prices never again returned to what they once were. I talk to whiskey customers all the time who are waiting for the bubble to break and for these now-rare whiskies to become everyday items again, but I don't think that's ever going to happen. While a bottle of Pichon-Lalande from Bordeaux might fluctuate between $90 - $170 these days depending on the vintage, it's foolish to hold out for the $15 - $20 price tag my colleagues paid in the late eighties. Once the bar is raised and new legends are created it becomes the jackpot for any drinks company. It's their dream come true! To be able to charge more for your bottles and earn more profit? That's why multi-national corporations exist!! 

Galloni's next words really brought the reality home:

Yes, the last thirty years have seen an explosion of wine quality in regions that were once considered backwaters. There can be no doubt that today’s consumer has more choices than ever before, and that is a very good thing. Even so, there is something magical about the best wines from the world’s top regions. These wines have the ability to speak to history, culture and their place of origin with great eloquence, which is one of the reasons they are considered benchmarks. 

I've talked with plenty of avid drinkers who are exploring brandy, mezcal, gin, and rum, but the facts of the matter are this: Macallan is a benchmark. Pappy is a benchmark. Many of the great, impossible-to-find, now incredibly expensive whiskies of the world are great, impossible-to-find, and now incredibly expensive because they are the criterions of their genres. I listen to the accounts of dozens and dozens of spirits drinkers every single day. I read their feedback and thoughts in my inbox. I can sense the hesitance in their voices as they try to convince both me and themselves that they're over this whole whiskey thing and they're going to start exploring small production Calvados. If there's anything that I'm grateful for as a retailer who enjoys expanding horizons, it's that rising whiskey prices have forced discerning customers to look elsewhere for options. That being said, there's a reason we sell more whiskey than Armagnac, Cognac, rum, gin, mezcal, and Tequila combined. 

It's just like Galloni describes. There is simply something magical about the best wines from the world's top regions, just like there's something awe-inspiring about old Laphroaig, Lagavulin, or Talisker. It's the reason I'm still willing to drop $100 or more on a great bottle of Bordeaux when I'm feeling flush. It's the reason I'm willing to spend the same amount on a bottle of Champagne or white Burgundy when my wife and I are looking to celebrate. While my colleague Ryan Woodhouse has done an absolutely incredible job of monopolizing my mid-week drinking with scores of affordable, high-quality selections from New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa (check out the two most recent OTL posts for some of the best he's ever found), when I'm looking for something truly special I still end up shopping through the French benchmarks. As do my esteemed older colleagues who, despite the continuous increases in pricing, have never waivered from their Bordeaux love affair. They may grumble, rehash memories of the old days, talk about the incredible deals they scored before this whole wine appreciation thing became a global affair, but in the end they still pine for the same wines they've always enjoyed.

It's standard practice for old people to grumble about the glories of the past and how the current status quo pales in comparison. When I was your age Coke cost a nickel. That whole thing.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jan052018

Limited Laings + More Glasses

As someone who believes wholeheartedly that blended whisky (and blended malt whisky) is once again where the future lies, I was completely stoked when David OG told me he managed to snag some of the Douglas Laing limited edition blends previously unavailable on the West Coast. While we work directly with the Laings to bring in our Old Particular casks, we are neither the importer nor sole outpost for their outstanding blends. The Timorous Beastie, Rock Oyster, Scallywag, and Big Peat were four of my favorite whiskies in 2017, the one portfolio that managed to give John Glaser over at Compass Box a little competition in the boutique blend category. While a large majority of our discerning Scotch customers still prefer single barrel, cask strength single malt whisky, I think there's a growing number of us (I say us because I'm firmly in this camp) who would like a little more curation with our consumption these days. Personally, I want someone to create something delicious that's beyond than the sum of its parts. I want to be wowed by real whisky craftsmanship and mouthwatering flavor, not by the mere technical idea or concept of a whisky. 

I don't think the blended whisky market ever suffered because the concept of a grand assemblage was stale or outdated, but rather because the industry took its customers for granted. Scotland's great blending houses assumed they could change the recipes, lower the quality, raise the prices, and no one would ever notice. They were dead wrong. Now, however, the independent bottlers who have filled the void for the last decade are going through a similar crisis: they're running out of quality single barrels to sell. Now comes the question: do you bottle a cask with a great name, but a less than stellar flavor profile and turn a blind eye to the consumer (following the same path as the blenders before them), or do you attempt to weave a tapestry of harmony, using other whiskies to fill in the gaps and pick up the slack? I think you all know where I stand. 

If you were a fan of the four aforementioned whiskies, I think you're going to be very happy with these special editions, as well as the insane pricing that David OG was able to knock out. The Rock Oyster 18 is pretty much a blend of Jura, Arran, Highland Park, and a mystery Islay distillery (likely Laphroaig or Caol Ila from what I know of the Laing family's stocks) for less than $100. It's creamy, and salty, and oily, and just peated enough to please fans of the smoke. While you wouldn't know it from the color, there are some lovely, rich sherry notes on the nose and more of that classic Oloroso character on the palate. Then you've got the sherry-finished edition, which packs in more of that decadence in a younger blend, the 18 year old Timorous Beastie that drinks like a more interesting verison of Glenmorangie 18, the 13 year old Scallywag aged entirely in sherry that brings the Christmas cake spices in droves, and the full proof holiday edition of the Big Peat. 

Now the question for us becomes: how many can you afford to buy? Because at these discounted prices you're going to want all of them; at least I do. David OG's notes are below:

Douglas Laing's Rock Oyster 18 Year Old Limited Edition Island Blended Malt Scotch Whisky $89.99 - This limited edition offering of 18 year old malts from Scotland's famous Whisky islands: Islay, Skye, Arran, Orkeny, and Jura. That makes this one of the most affordable old Islands whiskies in the world. You'll not find an 18 year old Single Malt from any of these Islands for anywhere close to this price. The glorious truth about Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, when created with care and thoughtfulness, is that the whole is greater than the some of its parts. A properly blended whisky can truly take you beyond any of the components within and the Rock Oyster 18 year is the perfect example. It gives great us incredible depth, elegance and complexity, in a perfectly seemless package for a price almost any Scotch drinker can appreciate. The nose is distinctly maritime with a quick rush of sea spray and a smoldering block of Sweet peat to start. It glances toward the earthy fresh tobacco and rich malt as it enters the palate offering a true Island style rather than allowing the overbaring Islay malt to take over. The finish is perfectly balanced with a sweet barley sugar and spicy phenol playing off each other perfectly for a long smoldering finish. Incredible value here that's just not available in the price point anywhere else.

Douglas Laing's Rock Oyster Sherry Limited Edition Island Blended Malt Scotch Whisky $49.99 - Here is the excellent Rock Oyster Blended Malt that we've loved so much with additional aging in high quality sherry butts from Jerez. The standard Rock Oyster takes our favorite Island malts, none of which cannot be named, from distilleries you know and love, blends them together thoughtfully and offers them at a very attractive price. That wonderful whisky highlights those special malts created Scotland's Island distilleries (think Jura, Islay, Skye, Arran and Orkney). Very little go together better than salty maritime malt and sherry, so our friends at Douglas Laing have offered us this spectacular Limited Edition whisky for sale exclusively by K&L in California. What's even crazier is that we're able to offer you this special Oyster for LESS than the standard release. True, it doesn't make sense, but we're not paid to offer you a rational, just great whisky at the best possible price. This will likely be one of the best values of 2018 and it's only just started!

Douglas Laing's Timorous Beastie 18 Year Old Limited Edition Highland Blended Malt Scotch Whisky $89.99 - The Timorous Beastie has long been one of our favorite blends and we're proud to be offering this exceptional limited edition version at an extremely reasonable price. This special blend highlights some of the Highlands finest, so expect the malt to be front and center here. The primary suspects here are the wonderful Glen Garioch from the east, Blair Athol from the South and Dalmore from the North. These three excellent distilleries offer something of a classic style as compared to some of the more modern Speysiders. Creamy rich and malty, but not overly bready. Sweet dark berries, carmelized sugar, pulvarized apple and pear and a touch of muesli. This is a detailed snapshot of what malty highland scotch is all about. For lovers of the natural unadulterated style of Highland Single Malt, this blend will over deliver at this price point.

Douglas Laing's Scallywag 13 Year Old Limited Edition Speyside Blended Malt Scotch Whisky $59.99 - The Scallywag blended malt has been well received by Scotch lovers and critics alike for its elegance and nuance. It's a blended of the great Speyside distilleries, like Macallan, Mortlach, Glenrothes and many more. Typically a small amount of sherried whisky is included in the blend with the majority coming from refill hogsheads and bourbon barrels. The Limited Edition Scallywag, however, has spent 13 long years entirely in Sherry butts from Jerez. It is indeed what some might term a Sherry Bomb, yet it remains balanced and full of life. Expect a nose of dense dried fruit, Christmas cake, tobacco spice and an underlying nuttiness. The palate adds some herbal spice, sweet molasses, and texture for days. Absolutely absurd that we can sell this for less than the standard offering. A totally perfect way to spend a cool winter evening.

Douglas Laing's Big Peat "Christmas" Limited Edition Cask Strength Islay Blended Malt Scotch Whisky $49.99 - The exceptional Big Peat Christmas 2017 arriving perfectly timed to avoid any holiday gifting or sharing with unappreciative relatives. The 2017 Christmas Edition of Big Peat is the probably the best received of these always beloved annual releases. This is a blend of sevenIslay single malts including the rare closed Port Ellen distillery. Douglas Laing has confirmed Bowmore, Caol Ila and Ardbeg, so that leaves Kilchoman, Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain for us to speculate about. High quality blended malt bottled at full strength from these rare special distilleries, we'd expect a hefty price tag. Since we have the California exclusive, we can offer you this amazing whisky for the best price anywhere in the world. Enjoy it now or stock up for the 2018 Holidays. (MORE BOTTLES COMING SOON)

I'm glad I'm not the only person who thinks this is the best Scotch glass ever created. I went to a whisky tasting a few weeks ago and ran into some of my customers who were bringing their own Denver & Liely whisky glass with them for the event. I've been selling out of these babies as fast as I can get Denver to ship them to me from Australia (he's now working on a Bourbon glass, too!). If you need the perfect vessel from which to drink your new Douglas Laing blended malt whiskies, look no further. This is the glass I use at K&L for my tasting every single day. 

Denver & Liely Whisky Glass (cannot be shipped) $39.99 - Ignore the website's stock photo. The glass is as shown in my image above.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jan042018

Pioneering?

I'm back to surfing analogies today after reading the latest issue of The Surfer's Journal and learning about the industry's fascination with new wave pioneering. In short, surfing media loves the idea of discovering a new break, especially if its in some remote area of the world. It doesn't need to be an ocean break, either. It could be a standing wave on the Amazon river, deep in the Brazilian jungle, or (as the magazine featured) a temporary break on an Alaskan bay, caused by huge chunks of ice debris falling off the side of a nearby cliff. Even if it's so dangerous and remote that one can only ride this exotic new discovery for a mere matter of seconds, the experience and the ability to say you've done it is what matters most. Capture the adventure on photo and video and you've got yourself a bit of publicity. 

Again, this all sounds very familiar.

Rather than just make a really good spirit (or ride a wave really well), it seems like the modern craft industry vision today is fixated mostly on doing something so new and different that just mentioning the concept creates a buzz. Now that we've exhausted the possible permutations of barrel aged whiskies, let's apply that same formula to everything else. Within the past week I've tasted rums matured in just about every bizarre type of vessel you can think of. I've tasted gin-like concoctions with all types of wacky botanical combinations. I've tasted vodkas made from crazy base materials and flavored with wild new combinations of taste sensations. None of them were particularly memorable (or even good), just new, but....they've never been done before! Have you ever seen anyone do it like this?

No, and maybe for good reason.

There's a part in the surf story where a few indigenous Alaskan natives show up to watch the spectacle and just shake their heads in disapproval. "Someone's going to die out there," one of them says to the reporter, questioning what the point of the activity was. We're living in an age, however, where being unique is more difficult than ever, hence more valuable as a result. It's no longer about "why?" and it hasn't been for some time. The idea of being original has been so misconstrued at this point that quality seems to be an afterthought. There's only so many piercings and tattoos you can get before you just start looking like a hot mess, kids.

-David Driscoll