Whisky Season 2018 is HERE!
I’ve been travelling to Scotland to select casks for this store for nearly a decade. The original trip grew out of a desire to offer our customers a better way to drink. When I started buying spirits at K&L, it wasn’t unusual to be offered casks from our importers. But there were only a few stores able to muster up the gumption to actual commit to a full casks, so must suppliers didn’t put much effort into it. We had to rely on our importers to make decisions about what they thought would best fit for our market. They didn’t understand our customers or our tastes or even the Single Malt market itself.
Scotch is not an open market. Buying, selling and trading casks is very much a closed system and the importers themselves are typically well outside the “circle of trust” where the real business takes place. It’s taken me nearly ten years to get a full grasp of how the system works. In fact, it’s incredible it works at all because from what I can tell, the whole thing basically functions via handshake. From a consumer perspective it seems simple: Distillers distill and age whisky, blenders and bottlers buy whisky and bottle, importers import and distribute said whisky, I sell and you drink. But nothing about the process is actually that simple.
We’re at a time when Single Malt Scotch has never been more in demand. Yes, blended whisky represents a huge proportion of the production, but all across the world the aspirational drinker wants Single Malt. Everybody wants “the best,” even if they can’t afford it right now. No spirit commands as much respect, price or prestige. And despite the incredible demand for these products, distillers still produce more than they can use. It’s weird quirk of an industry where the product becomes exponentially more valuable as it ages, but distilleries still need to trade and sell bulk stocks to make ends/products meet. There’s an incentive for everyone to keep this portion of the market extremely opaque, but except for a few true blue chip distilleries almost any malt might end up on the open market for Independent Bottlers to acquire.
What’s weirder still is that the networks of brokers who facilitate the sale of these casks create a feedback loop. So when one gets an offer, it radiates through the market place taking a mark up at each step. Your proximity or relationship with these brokers or the distillers themselves directly affects your access to stock and the price you pay. So it matters who you know. And we know everybody. We’ve brought casks from nearly every distiller, bottler and broker willing to sell in Scotland. We’ve built brands over the years that have gone national and international. Look at the Creative Whisky Company who bottle the excellent exclusive malts line. They recently sold to an anonymous buyer for an undisclosed amount. We were the first to bring that brand to the states. Look at the Bladnoch Distillery, we were exclusive and first to market under the previous ownership who subsequently sold out.
So we’ve been everywhere. Built brands, lost brands and opened this market to a wide world of amazing Scottish possibilities. But this business is about relationships. And one relationship has been more important to us than any other, the Laing Brothers. That’s not only because the Laings have access to stock and are excellent at identifying and selecting exceptional casks for us to try, but mostly because they get what we’re trying to do. They understand that we’re here to find and offer whisky to our customers that are better in every way to our competitors. They understand that we need to continue offering stocks that not only provide extreme value for our customers, but also offer an experience that no one else can match.
The 40+ casks we’ve purchased for the 2018 Whisky Season are some of the finest we’ve ever acquired. We pushed hard to find new and exciting distilleries. Our first every Tullibardin, Isle of Jura, Croftengea, Lomand Still All Malt Single Grain? Absolutely amazing values in the $50-60 range, Craigellachie 12 year, Caol Ila In Sherry, Benrinnes, Balmenach - stuff anyone can sink their teeth into. Amazing matured stocks, some in sherry, for OUTRAGEOUS prices at 20-24 year old: Tamdhu, Auchroisk, Craigellachie, Miltonduff. And of course some real old glories. True rarities, that won’t be for everyone, but will speak to the special few who really know. It’s easily the most extensive and valuable Whisky Season to date. So if you’re like me and you’ve got the Single Malt fever bad get ready for some good medicine. It’s a chronic condition.