Whisky Season Cometh

Things are really heating up in the K&L Spirits Department. We’ve already had an incredible year of new exclusives, single casks and special releases, but we’re really only scratching the surface. I’ve lost my partner of over a decade and gained a new partner who incidentally is out for the rest of the month to be with his new born baby! Congrats Andrew. So if anyone needs something please reach out direct to me and leave the man be for a bit.

 While things have changed massively over the last 10 months, our commitment to being the country’s premier retail spirits program has not. Sometimes without Driscoll’s prolific voice, it’s been difficult to keep this space up to date with all the incredible offerings we’ve been received. That’s because our customers are more tuned in than ever. For them, we’ve updated the look of the Spirits Journal, but this will always be the best place to hear about what’s been going on with our special little world.

And things have never been more special than right now. Andrew and I met face to face for the first time in the offices of one of our very best partners. There we were reminded of how lucky we were to be part of this incredible show. With the position comes great responsibility to our customers. Not only to find fabulous new whisky to sell, but to continue to offer absolutely the best value possible across the board.

We’ve never purchased more Scotch than we have this year. Whisk(e)y Season is going to easily be one of the most exciting to date. We’ve benefitted from some great casks, some tough negotiating, and some advantageous exchange rates, but with the impending Brexit deal, we might find ourselves in a totally different world in the next few months. Not that a 20-30% jump in prices would necessarily make our products any less competitive compared to what’s out there right now.

It seems like every supplier with a line into Scotland is looking the market and saying, “Gosh, an 18 years old Scotch. That’s gotta be worth alot – Macallan 18 is $250 I think we’re at least that good, right?” No, absolutely not. You’re wrong. Part of what made the whole independently bottled scotch market so special over the last 2-3 decades was the incredible values and authentic quality that they offered. But when prices start to creep up the cache is lost.

Independent bottlers succeeded where distillers didn’t by being inventive, adventurous and bold, but also by offering stupendous value. The cask of Glensoso 25 year that you over paid for is not worth $800 a bottle. Heck, most of the 25 year old distillery bottlings are already over priced and they’re half the price. And they have access to the very best casks that are being filled. Just because it’s says 25 year and it’s a single cask doesn’t mean it deserves to be expensive.

Not that the big producers are offering that much more value than any of the independent bottlers. But there continues to be a stream of offerings that just make no sense. 9 and 10 year old whiskies for $90-100? Undisclosed distilleries sold for above the price of the same distillery’s own bottlings? Who thinks this is a good idea? I can only imagine that the meetings where these things are decided include an interjection by the new marketing hire, “that’s the point Tony! People are stupid. They’ll buy anything. We’re gonna get rich!”

I mean I can sell someone a bottle of almost ANY thing once. But if what I’m doing doesn’t make my customer return and seriously consider buying a second or third bottle than I’ve basically failed.

It’s one thing if you’ve got something no one else has. Go ahead a charge a premium. 15 year old Ardbeg blended with some Clynelish? No question that’s worth $140. The Exclusive Malts’ cask of Lagavulin in sherry for $140? It’s only 9 years old, but we’ve never gotten close to owning one of those. Even if the source is speculative, none of the regular distillery releases are sherried any longer. No wonder it flys off the shelf. But goofball distilleries no one has heard in 3 or 4th fill hogshead casks for a serious premium? They might be absolutely lovely, but are they worth more than a younger blue chip malt or a distillery bottling? Absolutely not!

We’re finding incredible stuff in the 20+ year range that we’re able to put on the shelf for $100 from top notch distilleries?  Young and middle aged stuff from $40-80 in all sorts of styles. Exciting tea-spooned malts from blue chip distilleries selling for a tiny fraction of the rate for the distillery bottlings? Weird wonderful highland peaters? Old rare Islay? Springbank?  I don’t mean to be boastful, but the quality to price ratio of what we’re going to offer this year easily makes K&L the best place to buy Scotch in the US. No one is doing what we’re doing and we’re doing it bigger and better than we ever have before.

We have nearly 50 casks coming over this Whisky Season. Hepburn’s Choice is back. Sovereign Grain and Single Malt is back. Old Malt Cask is back in a big way. Signatory is FINALLY BACK. And of course our dear friends at Old Particular have put together one of the most exciting offerings we’ve seen in years. Thanks to the exchange rate, even though prices are up in Scotland, we’re able to continue offering absolutely unprecedented value. And for the real connoisseurs we’ll see some truly collectable offerings that few others will match anywhere in the world. And that’s JUST the Scotch.  Tidal waves of bourbon, rum, tequila and much more are headed our way. Beware…

David Othenin-Girard