Navigation
Wednesday
May102017

Classic Scotch, Classic Prices

I picked off two more casks from a recent opportunity to work with Old Malt Cask again because they were from two of my favorite distilleries and the prices were simply too good to beat. I will almost always buy a cask of Benrinnes if it's priced accordingly and 20+ year old Longmorn is simply a thing of beauty that rarely disappoints and almost always over-delivers. While normally I would buy these out of the Signatory warehouse, the direct pricing we're getting via OMC makes the value proposition too good to pass up. Both Benrinnes and Longmorn make classic Highland Scotch and these two specimen are as classic as they come. If you're in the mood for vanilla, creamy malt, sweet grains, tropical fruits, and buttery biscuits, then these are two whiskies for you. Plus, they taste great on the rocks out on the back patio, which is where I'll be drinking them later this evening.

1997 Benrinnes 19 Year Old "Old Malt Cask" Single Barrel Single Malt Whisky $69.99 - There are few things more pleasing to the K&L staff than a new single cask exclusive from Benrinnes distillery, a Johnnie Walker producer that has become the darling of the sales team over the last few years. While typically not sold individually as a single malt whisky, the Highland producer makes one of the fruitiest, friendliest, and easy-to-love profiles in all of Scotland, one that offers a straightforward creaminess and a somewhat decadent finish despite its standard hogshead barrel maturation. The nose is a heavy dollop of toffee and fudge, but the color is a golden straw. There's no sherry influence to this single cask noticeable from the appearance, yet the flavors are rich and heady. The palate offers an initial burst of herbaceous spice, but that quickly oozes into sweet custard, chocolate with nuts, and candied tropical fruit finish with hints of macaroon cookies. The best part about this cask of Benrinnes, however, is its ridiculous price. Our last cask of Benrinnes 20 year from Signatory sold out quickly at $100, yet here we're offering a near 20 year barrel of a similar quality for only $69.99. We can thank the drop in the Pound/Dollar ratio for the extra discount, and our spirits team for passing along that savings to you! Bottled at 100 proof.

1996 Longmorn 20 Year Old "Old Malt Cask" Single Barrel Single Malt Whisky $79.99 - Longmorn is one of the stalwarts of the Scottish Highlands, a distillery that produces one of the most consistent and classically-flavored single malts in the business. Within the industry itself, it's a whisky heralded for its value and its ability to play well with others in a blend. There is only one widely-available officially branded version of Longmorn, which is why we often jump at the chance to snag a mature single cask when available. Known for its rich and creamy texture, flavors of honey and sweet malt, and a buttery, biscuity finish, few single malts showcase such an inherent consistency from barrel to barrel and batch to batch. This particular 20 year old single cask we selected in Scotland last year is a straight-down-the-middle expression of everything we love about Longmorn. The first sip offers sweet malted vanilla, supple oak flavors, and a butterscotch richness that coalesces into two decades worth of smooth, integrated, creamy single malt maturity. At 100 proof, the higher ABV lifts all that viscosity and adds a bit of spice on the back end that helps to balance some of the sweeter notes. This is a classic Highland whisky in the style of Glenmorangie 18, but with the grace and elegance of an Oban 18. The bigger difference here, however, is the fact that the Longmorn is two years older, higher in proof, 30% cheaper, and more intriguing than either of those two whiskies on the whole. You can thank our continued Brexit pricing for the deal! Also at 100 proof.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
May102017

Marketing

I was talking to a friend in Vegas this past weekend who was trying to sell his house. "It's been appraised at $350,000," he said, "but all the offers I'm getting are less than 320. It's total bullshit."

He was frustrated.

I visited with another friend recently who's a professional cellist and has spent the last ten years playing in symphonies and shows around the U.S. He was talking about his frustrations landing a gig these days:

"I know I'm a much better player than the girl they just hired, but for some reason they still went with her over me," he vented.

Just yesterday, I was talking to a wine supplier who was trying to get me to help promote one of his French regional producers and was running out of ideas. "I can't figure it out," he grumbled with a bit of anger. "This is one of the best wines I've ever sold, and I can't seem to get any momentum going. The wine should be flying off the shelves, but I might have to close it out just to get my money back!"

All three examples above constitute a phenomenon that happens daily in the world of capitalism: the difference between perceived value and actual value. The variance between the price on paper and what people are actually willing to pay. The chasm that sometimes exists between actual quality and human desire.

Do you know how many talented actors probably lost roles to Keanu Reeves simply because he was better looking? Probably dozens. It's not always about talent. I know plenty of people with PhDs who make far less money than some of my friends who were high school dropouts. 

In reality, the most qualified, talented, skilled, and educated candidates don't always get the job, the best wines and whiskies don't always sell for what they're worth, and ultimate value is often determined by emotion rather than fact.

The difference maker in almost all of these situations is marketing. If you have a story or a characteristic that stands out beyond the crowd it can make all the difference. When I talk to distributors, distillers, and sales reps today, I'm emphasizing this necessity more and more. It's no longer enough to be good. It's no longer enough to have the best product. You need more. You have to give people a reason to put down their iPhone and offer you ten seconds of their ADHD-riddled attention spans. 

"But I shouldn't have to do that," my cellist friend replied when I gave him a similar response. 

Again, that's the difference between what should be and what is. We're not dealing with what ought to be the case in today's business reality.

I did an interview for a magazine a while back in which they asked me what I thought was next for the spirits industry. Rum? Mezcal? 

My answer? WORK. Work is what's coming. Not winter, but work. We're all going to have to work ten times as hard just to make the same amount of money we made last year. Just to stay afloat! With competition fiercer than ever and more products flooding the market every day, you're going to have to find a way to stand out in that never-ending sea of booze.

But how do you get people to choose your bottle, to drink your whisky, to listen to what you have to say? 

Unfortunately, there's no one answer anymore. Back in the day you could run a TV ad and 25 million people would see it. Today, you're lucky if ten people click your paid banner on ESPN.com. 

Marketing in the new millennium is incredibly difficult because of how fractured our focus is as a society. Yet, I'm fascinated by the challenges it presents and the ever-increasing obstacles it puts in our path. 

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
May092017

A Generous Sponsorship

Thanks to an incredible turn of events, I was able to use a little behind the scenes magic to get the price of our upcoming cocktail party with Dean Cameron down to $50 per person, making this event just stupid cheap at this point. Now for just fifty dollars, you get cocktails made by me, food from Donato, and a chance to party with Dean Cameron himself, and a full presentation of his play "The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam." While I've strongly suggested that people don't ruin the surprise going in, Dean himself told me last night that people generally have trouble visualizing the concept and sometimes don't realize that it's an actual play and not just a formal reading.

Thus, against my own desires, I've posted the above video preview. But—PLEASE—if you're going to come only watch a little bit! It's so damn funny when you don't know what's going to happen next!

P.S. If you're one of the twenty people who has already bought a ticket, I've refunded your card for the difference! Thank you to our generous benefactor!

Tickets still available here for our June 6th presention, now at the new reduced price!

-David Driscoll
Monday
May082017

Warm Weather = Rum Sale!

It's hot outside today in the Bay Area and I need to make space for another container due to arrive later this summer, so I'm going to start today by running a little special until I feel supplies have sufficiently dwindled down low enough. For the time being, three of our K&L exclusive rums are going on sale. Grab 'em while they're hot and make yourself a daiquiri this afternoon! Sit in the sun and enjoy yourself!

Monymusk 9 Year Old "Golden Devil" Single Barrel Jamaican Rum (PREVIOUSLY $50) NOW $36.99 - Monymusk is the name of the Jamaican sugar factory near Clarendon distillery where a rum of the same name is produced. While there is such a brand as Monymusk Plantation rum, we don't ever see that label in the U.S. Almost all of Clarendon distillery's rum is sold off to one main contract: Diageo, which uses the Jamaican rum for its European release of Captain Morgan and for part of its Myer's rum formula. That means we almost never get to taste pure, unadulterated, pot-distilled Monymusk in America, despite the growing desire for more aromatic, flavorful and interesting Jamaican rums in our expansive Tiki cocktail culture. Every now and again you'll find an independently bottled cask, but they're often quite pricy and the quality can be unpredictable. This pale straw colored rum is the lightest and most mixable of the three Jamaican casks, but it has a lovely sweetness on the finish that might taste good over rocks with a splash of soda or Coke. The dunder aromas and flavors are dialed up here with earthy notes, bitter fruit, menthol, and savory herbs dominating the profile. It's a home run for just about any classic Tiki drink, but the potency of the pot still flavor can likely cut through whatever you throw its way.

Worthy Park 10 Year Old "Golden Devil" Single Barrel Jamaican Rum (PREVIOUSLY $50) NOW $39.99 - Worthy Park is a centuries-old Jamaican rum distillery that ceased operations in 1960 before a new generation rebuilt the facility in 2005 and resumed distillation. Almost all of the rum made at Worthy Park is sold and consumed on the island, but a small amount trickles out from independent bottlers in the UK and Europe, which is where we tracked down our 10-year-old cask. This Worthy Park 10 year old rum is a beautifully balanced, fully sippable expression of classic Jamaican rum flavor, steeped with tropical fruit and richness from the oak cask, but balanced by classic pot still flavors of over-ripe banana and wood polish. This is the most mellow of the three Golden Devil Jamaican casks we purchased, but it's still not El Dorado or Diplomatico. This is for high-end Daiquiris and Mai Tais, or whatever else your Tiki desires call for.

Faultline 17 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Caribbean Rum (PREVIOUSLY $80) NOW $59.99 - We don't expect this batch of 17 year old "Caribbean" rum to last very long, partly because it's so delicious and partly because of its origins. We can't say where it's from exactly, just that it's from somewhere in the CUribBeAN region. This incredibly complex and fragrant rum combines many of the ester-driven flavors we love about rum from Jamaica and St. Lucia with the richness and elegance of the Spanish style. The flavor profile is drier and more old school in character. There's a big dusty mineral note framed by tropical pineapple, overripe banana and powerful baking spice. On the palate, fresh grassy cane, touches of mint and anise with dried fruit that meanders in between tea and cola. It's a rum you absolutely do not want to miss, especially if you're interested in forbidden fruits.

-David Driscoll

Monday
May082017

Off the Strip

I spend a lot of time in Las Vegas. By default, so does my wife. We love it. It’s like a second home for us. More importantly, we love all the elements of Las Vegas—even Las Vegas Boulevard. When you talk to the locals, however, they espouse an attitude about the Strip that I liken to how San Franciscans feel about television: “We don’t do that.” I have a few friends that live in Las Vegas, and exactly zero of them spend any time in the major casinos (unless they’re working). That being said, when we tell them about our experiences along America’s most over-the-top stretch of pavement, they’re always compelled. Like I told my friend Mike Jones last night, who plays piano for Penn & Teller at the Rio, “you never would have known the Cosmo opened a Milk Bar had we not gone there and brought you a compost cookie!” Truth be told, there is so much to do on the Las Vegas Strip besides gamble and act ridiculous. Neither I nor my wife play games of chance. I’ve played approximately one hand of blackjack and five slot machines over the last ten years. When I come to Vegas, I eat, I drink, and I shop—not necessarily in that order, but with equal ferocity. But while I’m full of advice when it comes to downtown attractions, a few of my friends gave me a little of their own recently: try staying off the strip and check out what the city has to offer beyond the outrageous. This past weekend I decided to do just that. 

I spent the weekend in Summerlin, a growing community on the west side of town buttressed against the mountains and Red Rock Canyon national park. Rather than glam it up at glitzy bars and feed my appetite with fine dining, we decided to research and reminisce about what life used to be like before the internet—back when everything wasn’t all or nothing. Part of the reason the pre-Prohibition (or “craft”) cocktail culture took off ten years ago was because mass-market mixing had gone too far to one side of the spectrum. Mixed drinks were losing their balance and their sense of history. While I now thoroughly enjoy that I can get a really interesting cocktail just about anywhere in the U.S. and drink well wherever I go, I would never want the U.S. to become nothing but $12 mezcal Margaritas with fresh-squeezed lime juice. I subscribe to a life philosophy that I’ve plagiarized from the fashion world, a concept known as “high-low.” That could mean wearing a designer jacket with Vans, or couture shoes with a pair of beat up Levi’s. It means that I also enjoy all elements of imbibing, from the upper echelons of old Scotch to the simple pleasures of cold Tecate with hot sauce. The problem with where I live in the Bay Area is that we’re expanding the presence of the former at the expense of the latter. While there are more and more places where I can get a Negoni with Dolin vermouth, there are fewer where I can a cheap (but delicious) Bloody Mary and a plate of fries. Summerlin, however, is booming with both.

We spent two days driving through various parts of outer Las Vegas revving the engine of our rented Dodge Charger through the high mountains of the desert in search of the past—of a time in our lives when eating and drinking was only part of the friendship formula, not the sole focus of everything. There was a time in the Bay Area when you could go out for breakfast on a Sunday and not wait in line. That was back when you could take a day off your diet and just live recklessly for the few hours of freedom you had over the weekend. While I love avocado toast, poached eggs, quinoa oatmeal, and all the other neo-California health options you find at fancy diners today, I don’t want their prevalence to come at the expense of my beloved greasy spoons. I don’t want to live in a world where yoga is fashion and carbs are the enemy. Sometimes I just want a giant fried tortilla shell stuffed with scrambled eggs and God knows what else. I won’t necessarily eat the entire thing, but I want to be able to order it at least. I want to know that it’s there if I want it. In Las Vegas, everything is here whenever you want it—24 hours a day.

And as someone who loves taco trucks and the arrival of regionally-specific Mexican food to pop culture, I would never, ever, ever, ever sacrifice fun for authenticity. You don’t have to. There’s some rule written down somewhere (I wish I could find out where so I could burn that place to the ground) that decrees people who are seriously into something must also act seriously. But sometimes I want to eat really good Mexican food in a giant hacienda-themed garden and listen to mariachi. Or I want to sit in that restaurant’s bar and listen to the local band play “Mad World” by Tears for Fears, and other outstanding eighties covers while I drink cold Modelo and eat endless amounts of chips and salsa. That experience is unfortunately extinct where I live, but it’s still alive here in Las Vegas. 

-David Driscoll