A Moment to Reflect – Part II

Comparative analytics. If it's happening in your field, maybe there's a pattern. The New York Times Magazine continues to have, in my opinion, the best writing, the most interesting topics, and—most importantly—a way of viewing the world through a modern lens that I agree with!

Critics controlling what we think about historical significance?

The Future of Rock & Roll's Past

Rich people buying things as investments, then locking them away where they're safe?

The World's Greatest Hidden Art Collection

Rock on NYT. I'm still willing to invest my hard-earned money in your outstanding writing.

-David Driscoll


A Moment to Reflect

I usually come to Las Vegas at least once a year to get away. It's funny how my opinion of leaving town to "relax" is so often the polar opposite of what other folks do when they want to unwind. I know a lot of people who go camping, or head to the beach, or book a massage, or rent a cabin in the mountains. Me? I go to the biggest metropolitan areas I can find, rent a gigantic hotel suite, then drink and shop until my legs are swollen and I can no longer walk. I'm at the Aria right now. I just soaked in my jacuzzi tub that overlooks the strip facing Planet Hollywood. My body is like jello. My mind is completely at ease. I haven't called in sick or a taken a day off in almost nine months. I'm so relaxed I'm melting into the couch.

I know a lot of people who hate shopping—especially guys. They don't really care about clothes. They don't particularly enjoy dressing up. They find the idea of self image and fancy outfits somewhat shallow and materialistic (yet ironically many of these folks work out like gym rats to stay as desirably thin as possible). I understand it completely. I feel the same way about the housing market, finance, Wall Street, and the tech world: I know there's a minimal amount of information I should probably understand about capital investments in order to make smart decisions about my future, but I can only listen to about five minutes of it before I zone out and start thinking about alcohol. Clothes can have that same effect on today's modern intellectuals. There are a lot of people who don't understand the difference between looking good and feeling good (or that both can be the case). It reminds me of that old saying I loath about drinking: the best wine is the one that tastes best to you. If that were the case, the "best" outfit on the Vegas strip right now would be the G-string and the Confederate bandana being worn by the naked guitar player I saw near the Linq Hotel earlier today. I guarantee you that guy thinks he looks great. He's absolutely stoked to be wearing that small piece of spandex in the sun. That doesn't mean he looks good, however.

When comprehension isn't part of our modern timetable, we look for shortcuts (Mutual Funds for Dummies?), but often times I find these strategies are either outdated or unhelpful. I love it when potential Bourbon customers send me top ten lists they pulled from some hastily-written drinking rag that include Pappy, Elmer T, and Weller 12 as "best values." Good luck finding those. It's easy to laugh at those guys for being so completely unaware of the current whiskey situation, but I guarantee you we all have blind spots in our pop culture vision. Not everyone has the time or the desire to invest themselves into a certain realm of modern living, but what's sad is that even fewer have the courage or the humility to ask a professional for help. It's because of my experience working with the public that I now always admit up front when I don't know something. I will walk into a store, plead ignorance, and ask for help when I need it. "Don't do that! They'll think you're a sucker!" I've heard people say in the past. But you know who the real sucker is? The guy who walks into the store and makes a fool out of himself by trying to act like he's an expert when he clearly isn't. That's the guy who gets eaten up by the sales sharks, not the genuinely polite person. 

If you're not a shopper, here's my advise about shopping for clothes based on my own personal experience (if you care):

1) Brands names can be both very good and very bad. They can be well-made, tailored to a specific frame, and more stylish than your normal department store brands. They can also be overpriced and a rip-off. The only way to know for sure is to try them on and use your previous experience as a guide. You can't simply write them off because they're fancy or expensive.

2) You have to look at every single store; even different locations of the same chain. So far we've seen a selection in Vegas that completely blows away the Bay Area competition, even though we have the same stores at home.

3) Splurge on key pieces, save on daily basics. I will always pay full price for quality when it comes to shoes and jackets. I might wear the same pair of shoes and the same jacket every day for a week. Polos? Dress shirts? I can grab those on sale or at an outlet whenever I need more. All Saints has an outlet. John Varvatos has an outlet. Hell, even Dolce & Gabanna has a freakin' outlet in Vegas. 

Looking good is a combination of knowing what you like, knowing what looks good on you, and understanding basics of symmetry. Just because you like a particular shirt doesn't mean you should wear it. At the same time, it also doesn't mean you can't appreciate its quality. Let's look at alcohol as a comparison. I taste all kinds of outstanding wines every single day. I can appreciate their flavors and admire their precision, but it doesn't mean I'm going to buy a bottle a bring it home. I might, however, recommend it to a customer for whom I think it's a nice fit. It's no different than working in a department store or boutique—you need to have an understanding of the product to know what works. What tips do I have for you about buying wine? The same advise I would give you about shopping for clothes. Here goes:

1) Brand names can be both very good and very bad. Just because the bottle has a fancy name on it doesn't mean the wine is good; just like it's possible to have an ugly-ass purse with Louis Vuitton written all over it. That being said, Krug Champagne is delicious and well-made. Buying by name won't save you, however. You need to use your experience to guide you. If you don't know ask someone who does.

2) You have to try as much wine as possible. You can't know what you like until you open the bottle, pour the liquid into a glass, and put it in your mouth. Thinking a winery's chardonnay is good because you like their cabernet is a big no-no. But you won't know until you try.

3) Splurge on key pieces, save on daily basics. I rarely spend more than ten to twenty bucks on white wine. Why? Because I'm likely going to drink that cold, refreshing booze in like ten minutes once it's open. I just need something clean and fresh to get the job done. Steak night? I only do that once or twice a month, so I'm going to go all-out when I eat beef. The difference between an $80 bottle of Bordeaux and a $20 bottle is HUGE. That extra effort is worth it to me. 

It's ultimately because wine and clothes are diverse and often expensive indulgences that we seek the help of those with more experience to aid us in our quest. Mistakes are going to be made, however, and paying for something you ultimately didn't like is the most effective lesson you can learn as a consumer. When I'm lucky enough to have the time and the attention of a true professional I do my best to learn and grow from that encounter, not simply substitute that person's expertise as my own. I got a full-out diamond seminar from a lady at Barney's in Union Square last weekend. Not only did I learn more about what makes fine jewelry "fine," I gained some serious tips on customer service for my own personal development—double whammy.

I'm a sucker for retail therapy. That's probably what drew me to retail as a profession.

-David Driscoll


Four Pillars

They're here. Four pillars of Four Pillars gin are sitting in the back warehouse right now. The bottles are on the shelf, currently just the standard Rare Dry and the bold Navy Strength (although there is a Chardonnay barrel-aged expression that should appear down the line). If you're out of town, don't worry. They'll be here when you get back. If you're in town, listen to me: come get a bottle. The Rare Dry gin is so good it will undoubtedly turn what was going to be a good Memorial Day weekend into something other-worldly. On Friday, we'll have distillery head Stuart Gregor in the San Francisco store from 5 PM until 6:30 pouring the two expressions for free. Later that evening we'll be at Donato in Redwood City from 8 PM on for a mega Four Pillars gin and tonic extravaganza.

I'm going all out for these gins. There are fewer and fewer cases where a new brand comes to market and brings an investment in both quality and affordability. The Rare Dry is the best new gin I've tasted since Monkey 47, but it's far more versatile and drinkable. I drink Monkey 47 maybe once a month. I've been drinking Four Pillars every single day since January and I'm still not tired of it.

-David Driscoll


Memorial Day Weekend Supplies

If you're loading up the station wagon and heading out of town this Memorial Day weekend, stop by the store on your way and grab yourself some of today's recent deliveries. You can't go camping without booze. Heck, you shouldn't do anything ever (except for zumba class) without having a few drinks first. Check out what just hit the warehouse:

Ardbeg "Dark Cove" Islay Single Malt Whisky $109.99 - The Ardbeg Day release of Dark Cove is here. This is a different whisky, however, than the committee release we had a few weeks back. Bottled at 46.5%, we don't expect to have it for long. 

I'm very, very excited about this. Our first ever Calvados from Domfrontais producer Pacory is here and it's absolutely delicious. Bottled at 54% and simply brimming with pure pear and apple flavor, this is going to get snatched up fast by those who appreciate a fine quality/value ratio with their booze.

Domaine Pacory "K&L Exclusive" Domfrontais Cask Strength Calvados $39.99  

If you'd like something mellow and smooth to sip while out in the woods, try a bottle of this Fines Saveurs Cognac from Bouju, one of our most popular direct imports from France. Unadulterated and gentle in flavor, this 100% Grand Champagne quality brandy brings fresh and round fruit flavor with light accents of vanilla and spice. Top value as well.

Daniel Bouju "K&L Exclusive" Cognac Fines Saveurs $39.99

Three hot new arrivals and we're just getting started around here! If you're not heading out of town, keep watching the blog and the website as we're expecting more Nikka Coffey Malt and the highly-anticipated arrival of Four Pillars gin later this afternoon. It's going to be a hot one. Make sure you're fully stocked.

-David Driscoll


How the West Was Won

The Tank was absolutely booming last night as the San Jose Sharks, after twenty-five years of great and sometimes heartbreaking promise, finally punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals. There are wonderful things happening in San Jose right now and the electricity surrounding the city's NHL franchise is only part of it. I've been spending a lot of time in the South Bay over the last few months and I've been both surprised and refreshed by what I've seen. Living in a large metropolitan region seemingly obsessed with authenticity, I have to say that no other Bay Area city seems as comfortable in its own skin as San Jose. I don't hear nearly as much of the neo-pageantry when I talk to people and the conversations I do have are lighthearted and real. As the Sharks finally put away the Blues and, for the first time in team history, won the Western Conference, seventeen thousand of us slapped hands, chanted loudly, and walked out into the balmy South Bay evening; a hoard of teal moving down Santa Clara St. There was a true sense of community there last night, something I feel is lacking in other parts of the Bay. People wanted to be out, to socialize, and to share their city. My wife and I didn't want to leave. 

I think being a likeable person begins with the ability to let down your guard and be honest about who you are. I don't like people who take themselves too seriously. Hell, no one likes people who take themselves too seriously. If there's an industry and a region where taking yourself seriously is often an art, it's the food and drinks business in San Francisco. I laughed out loud when I heard one of my co-workers say earlier this week: "I thought the sushi was good, but then again I didn't come out of the womb eating only sushi, so what do I know?" Life in the Bay Area (and on the internet by extension) can often be a competition over some of the dumbest, least-desirable characteristics—like who has never eaten at McDonald's or who has watched fewer hours of television over the course of their life. I try to remain as positive as possible in the face of this mindset, but sometimes the posturing just overwhelms me and I want to bury my head in the sand. But last night in San Jose I didn't feel any of that. I drank tall cans of Bud Light with complete strangers who were keeping it very real. 

There's still hope out here in the West. Go Sharks!

-David Driscoll

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