Scotland 2013 - Day 2- Morning Musings

I slept through the night for the first time ever after arriving abroad on one of our many voyages. I can't tell you what a relief that is. There have been trips where I've neither slept, nor gone to the bathroom for days before settling in. Those were rough trips. This one is beginning quite wonderfully!

I thought about going for a run but I can actually hear the cold, let alone feel it. That wind sounds deadly. Nevertheless, I'm going to need my strength. We've got a full day today. Gotta rush over to Glenfarclas and see George Grant. Hopefully we can find something younger to compliment our 1970 and 1979 barrels respectively. From there we need to hit Benriach and tour the facility. We've never been there before, so we decided to meet the boys there rather than our usual stop at Glendronach. They'll have samples pulled from both distilleries to taste when we arrive. After that we're headed to Gordon & MacPhail to see if a once prosperous relationship can be revived. I've noticed a big step up in quality with their expressions over the last six months, so there might be something fun in those warehouses. Once we're done in Elgin we're headed even further north to Glenmorangie where we'll be having dinner with some of the upper brass.

A few things to think about:

The days of affordable casks from the names you know are over. You're gonna have to start thinking outside the box when it comes to value. It's not like we didn't know this already (we've been saying it for over a year), but our run through the Signatory warehouse confirmed it after we saw what some of these things would cost (Des said he had to trade four casks of Longmorn to acquire one cask of Laphroaig. I said I'd take the four Longmorn anyday). Chieftain's told us not to even bother coming because there's nothing they're willing to part with. That's a huge 180 considering how much business we've done with them over the last few years. Think of it like a house. You'd rather keep that house in Burlingame than sell it for $600,000 because you could probably get a million, easily. "But a million dollars is ridiculous for that house!" Tough shit. Go find somewhere else to live then.

The problem with being a retailer in this situation is that we're basically acting as brokers on behalf of our customers, who trust us with not jacking up the price further. Yet, we're working with sellers that are catering to the world market. Why sell to us if a guy in India will pay twice as much? The problem is that we're dealing with a Bay Area real estate market here. While other markets may have noticed a lull in real estate sales, that's not what's going on around us. You're gonna have to shell out if you want to live in San Francisco (i.e. drink single cask Macallan, Laphroaig, or Highland Park). Meanwhile, you can get a nice condo in the outer East Bay for much less (i.e. Miltonduff, Glenburgie, Jura), but still live quite lavishly. We're going to buy property in a number of locations, obviously, but I think there's going to be some sticker shock (for both for us and you). Hopefully, we can find something off the beaten path.

Bottling at 46% is another option. We can reduce the price of any given bottle by lowering the proof, obviously. In some cases this can be the way to go. We proofed down the 10 year old Longmorn and the 10 year old Faultine selections from last year in order to keep them under $60 a bottle. They both taste better with water anyway, so what's the point of charging more? I think the amount of people who actually enjoy cask strength or higher proof whisky is grossly overestimated as is, mainly because most people I talk to don't add water to their whisky when they drink it (they think that's a bad idea). If you ask that question to an internet message board, you'll get an overwhelming majority in favor of full proof. However, those guys represent 2% of our market. Again, we need options for a variety of different drinkers, so a few selections at 46% might be the way to go. There was an outstanding 15 year old sherry butt of Glenlivet at the Signatory warehouse that might do very well at 46%. Des told us: "Either you take it or it's going to Taiwan."

Apparently the Taiwanese market just loves their sherry.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll