Some Year-End Perspective
I woke up this morning thirty-four years old instead of thirty-three. I've been working at K&L since I was twenty-seven. Time is moving quickly on us, but there's so much more to do. Spirits have gone from a last-minute vodka-bottle-addition to one of the top attractions we offer at our store. I checked the website last night to find that our owner Brian had made single malt whisky the front page attraction for the month of December. We're bringing more and more people to the party. As I frequently tell our ownership group, "I don't think people are buying more whisky, I just think people are buying more whisky from us." 2013 has been an amazing ride.
Looking back over the last year, how many bottles of booze did you buy more than once? In this modern era of spirits exploration and the thrill-seeking desires of enthusiasts to keep drinking fresh, I know very few people who come back for seconds anymore. There is no such thing as brand loyalty with most K&L shoppers, and there's definitely no such thing among K&L employees. We're always looking for the next new experience, so how can we be bothered to buy the same thing all over again? I racked my brain (and then easily checked my order history in the database) to find which bottles hit my credit card bill more than once in 2013. There were three:
– Campari - I drink Campari like other people drink tea or coffee. I bought more than 30 bottles of Campari during the 2013 drinking season. Campari remains the one and only spirit I will whore myself out for (in case any one over in Italy is listening).
– Zwack Unicum - I'm on my sixth bottle of Zwack Unicum right now and it's only been available in the U.S. since August. If there were such an award as "Best Liqueur of the Year" and I had the power to bestow such an award, the Zwack Unicum would win hands down. My wife and I killed a third of our liter-sized bottle watching the Walking Dead mid-season finale last night. Sipping, screaming, then sipping some more.
– Suntory Hibiki 12 - I bought three bottles of Suntory's Japanese blended whisky this year, but the number would have been higher if it weren't for self-imposed safety restrictions on my part. If I start drinking Hibiki and sodas then I might as well change into sweatpants and order a pizza because I'm not going anywhere. Each time I've delved into that beautifully-shaped, art-deco-style decanter I've ended up face-down on the hallway floor wondering what the hell happened. That whiskey is too good for my own good. A customer who frequently travels to Japan recently gave me a bottle of the older Hibiki 17, which is unavailable here in the states. Thank God that's the case. I would not be able to function with that stuff available to me.
The Growth of Faultline
We started with a barrel-strength Cognac (does any one still have any of that left?). Then we moved to gin. Then single malt. Then blended whisky. Then rum. And now Bourbon. As we continue to develop our relationships, our access to production, and our overall knowledge about booze, it only makes sense for us to continue working on our own house labels. One thing I love about working at K&L is the complete freedom David OG and I have been given to create these brands. There's absolutely no pressure to move numbers either, so David and I can sit back and wait for the truly drinkable stuff to emerge. Like I wrote earlier this year, we could have made a Faultline Bourbon two years ago if we had wanted to. And we did want to! We just wanted it to be something very, very good. Something better than what other independent labels were putting out. It's back in stock right now, by the way. We just got our second shipment in last Wednesday.
As many of you know concerning the Faultline Bourbon, we had a hand in designing that blend. David OG and I sent samples back and forth on the delivery trucks that run between both stores, hoping to find the right marriage of whiskies for our bottling. Our single cask selection has brought us to the dance, so to speak, but it's going to be our blending that brings more people to the party. I can't tell you how many times David and I have stumbled upon insanely odd or esoteric casks that, while a bit too intense on their own, would make great components in a blend of multiple whiskies. While we're still pushing for that type of access in both Scotland and Kentucky, we were able to do something like this with tequila in 2013. Our Fuenteseca marriage of mega-mature tequilas sold out before it ever hit the shelf. Pre-orders skyrocketed in the database and we were scrambling to see if we could make more.
We did. And it's coming on Wednesday.
I've received more positive feedback about the Fuenteseca K&L Tequila than any other product we've ever sold at K&L. People absolutely love it. Which makes me feel great because I had never blended anything before! I know that David and I can continue to make truly exhilarating spirits like this if given the opportunity to do so. Our next chance might be in Guyana this February.