October Updates

With David OG out on leave this month it's been a busy October for lil' Davy D, but we're almost home. I got the big hump out of the way last night: INVENTORY! I haaaaaaaaate inventory. I hate it. I hate waiting around all day for the store to close so I can count every single bottle we have. I hate it because I have to move slowly and be meticulous (two things I'm not very good at, but can do if forced). I hate just thinking about the possibility of potentially doing inventory, but now it's over and I got the entire warehouse cleaned out in the process thanks to my co-worker Andrew who showed up last night to help me out. That was a huge relief.

I've also been working with our Bordeaux team to begin a Bordeaux email newsletter similar to the Whiskey News alerts many of you have been receiving from me for years. You may have noticed we updated the format recently and changed the way sign-up works. It was getting too big for me to manage individually, so now in order to get either newsletter you simply have to login to your account and click "spirits" under email preferences for the Whiskey News, or "Bordeaux" for the Bordeaux news. If you're having trouble figuring that out, send me an email and I'll help you do it. Much like the Whiskey News focuses on under-the-radar selections and new releases, the Bordeaux news will do the same. We just got a new container of wine in from France that has tons of new twenty dollar options for those who like value. I'll probably post a copy on the On the Trail blog later today, so you can see if that's something you'd be interested in learning more about.

Both of my upcoming dinner parties sold out quickly (thanks for the positive reenforcement!), so it looks like I'll have to plan a few more soon. A quick word about our online "real time" inventory. I received a ton of emails after the Bruichladdich event booked up last week about how people "looked online last night and there were plenty of tickets left," but woke up to find out there were no more available. What gives? Well, there are tens of thousands of people reading this blog and getting our spirits emails now, that's what gives. If we have fifty tickets available for a dinner event and that invite goes out to twenty thousand folks, then....well, you can do the math. The internet is a bold new frontier, people. My wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday this past weekend. I told her the new replica Nintendo that's coming out in November, but "you'll never find one," I added. Toys R Us, Amazon, and Best Buy sold out 100% of their pre-order inventory in minutes. The only way to get one now is to hope Target has one available on the morning of November 11th, but I'll have to be on my game to make that happen. If there's something cool out there and it's limited, then the internet has a way of finding out about it. Make it available for purchase from the comfort of your home or office chair, and you can bet the sales lifespan will be short. But this all goes back to the number one rule of shopping: IF YOU WANT SOMETHING AND YOU SEE IT AVAILABLE, THEN BUY IT! If you wait around or sleep on the idea, you do so at your own risk. In today's internet era, you can't sleep on anything.

I did an interview with Fred Minnick and the Whisky Advocate a few weeks back about what it takes to be a whisky customer in today's internet market. I don't know if my quotes will make it into the final piece, but I'll tell you here what I told him over the phone: if you're trying to figure out how to track down the rare American whiskies and the annual limited Fall releases without paying a premium, there's almost nothing you can do at this point. It's an issue that the Bourbon industry will have to address eventually because thousands of customers are looking to take their hobby to the next level and there's nowhere else for them to go. Gift givers want something unique and special for their Bourbon lover at home, and there's just not a lot out there. I'm just starting to get news on this year's allocations and we're talking paltry: two bottles of this, three bottles of that, and six bottles of this—if I'm lucky. With tens of thousands of customers asking about these bottles, that means I can satiate about one out of every 2,000 loyal shoppers. But don't forget about the 100+ K&L employees, their family members, my old friends from high school, that guy I met on the plane last month, my bosses, their friends from high school, every professional athlete in the Bay Area who likes whiskey, and every other person who wants a bottle, too.

How do we allocate them now? That's what everyone wants to know, but I don't have one simple answer. "Give me a black or white answer," people tell me. However, just like everyone has tried to make whiskey black and white for the last decade by using points, systematic reviews, and top ten rankings, they're hoping for the same clear-cut advice about how to get a bottle of rare Bourbon. I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but the world isn't black and white. There is no "best whisky in the world" and there is no one guaranteed, fail safe way to get these whiskies anymore. I've learned over the years that if you put clear rules into place, it only encourages people to figure out how to get around them. Everything is done in the back of the house now. I might contact a few of my best customers privately first, then randomly put a few on the webpage for the quick-fingered, then give a few to co-workers who have asked politely, then hand out a few in the store to customers who are friendly and polite. You have to mix it up and reach out to various groups. You have to spread these bottles out as best you can to reach as many different folks as possible. That's how I'm going about it now. You can email if you want and ask for a bottle. Just know that I rarely give bottles anymore to people who ask. I usually offer them to people who don't. Fred asked me if I'm annoyed with the whole process at this point. I said, "Absolutely not!" I love helping people. If I can help someone get a bottle of great booze, that never gets old. You just have to be realistic and understand how impossible this has become. If you're angry about the way the market works today, there are plenty of forums online where you can vent. There are plenty of guys out there already talking about the days when Coke cost a nickel and you could get a house in the city for under a hundred grand. That's the place for that conversation.

There's still plenty of fun stuff to look forward to in November. Old Forester is coming out with some new selections, including a 1920 Prohibition Style edition that's supposed to be pretty good. We still have two ultra mature Islay casks to tell you about (both priced very reasonably for their age and stature). I've got a container of new Cognac and Calvados landing featuring blends that I put together last December when I visited both regions. God willing, I'll have another container of Scotch landing mid-December to really finish the year on a celebratory note. That all depends on how fast we can get the TTB and our bottler to approve the details, but I think we can do it. If you're willing to work hard, put your head down, and stay positive, good things will happen.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll