Thanks For Six Years of Fun

Those of you who pay attention to the archives on the side margin may have realized that this little K&L spirits department journal will turn six years old this Sunday. When I think about that age statement I'm both shocked that it's only been six years (because it feels like much longer) and bewildered that people still read this thing (although it's getting more hits than ever). What started as a way for us to better serve our spirits customers turned into more of a travel magazine and op-ed column than an actual destination for real spirits news, ironically being read more by people who don't shop here than those who do. I have learned so much over these past six years—more about myself and human nature than about spirits. I've emailed with tens of thousands of readers. I've engaged in some crazy conversations and some wild adventures. As my palate has evolved, so have my perspective and my desire. The more I write, the more people I'm introduced to. The more we interact, the more they change the way I think—for the better and for the worse sometimes.

I'm up early this morning because unfortunately when you wake up at 6 AM for twelve days in a row and get ready to grind out the holiday season you can't just turn it off—even when you'd like nothing more than to sleep the rest of the year away. But that's OK because I wanted to get a few thank-yous written in honor of today's Thanksgiving celebration. I wanted to say a big thank you to all of our customers who braved the insanity this week and still made the trip out to shop with us. Everyone was patient and more than polite despite the overcrowded parking lot and mass of humanity. Thanks to all my co-workers who kept smiling and working hard in spite of the fact that we were all pretty exhausted. A monstrous thanks needs to be given to the operations staff who picked, pulled, charged, and shipped about 10,000 orders over the last week or so. I can't even imagine how tired those guys are. We've still got a few more weeks to go, but at least we can all take a breather today.

While it's standard practice to give thanks on Thanksgiving, there's a little more meaning behind my sentimentality right now. I'm rather depressed with the way most booze is being portrayed online today with the focus on stats, collectability, and billions of Instagram bottle selfies for the purpose of......of what I'm not sure exactly. I do know that I'm not interested in presenting our products in such a manner to our customers, nor do I want to be lumped into that world by default. Summarizing spirits down to a bottle shot and a short review negates the romance we feel as drinkers, the history behind some of these brands, and the passion these producers feel for their craft, which is the core of what makes them desirable in the first place! It's a snap reaction to a society that has never had less of an attention span as it currently does, and it cheapens the ideal of great booze that many of us hold dearly. That's why beginning this Sunday, November 29th—six years to the date I started this site—I'm going to spend a little more time on a new adventure, one geared toward bucking this trend entirely. 

For the last few months I've been working on a new website for K&L and we're just about ready to show it to you. This new website will focus entirely on the opposite of everything I just mentioned above and it will involve more of our buying team working together in a group effort to show you exactly what we do and where we go. We just need to get it off the ground with a few good weeks of serious content. That's why I'll be getting on a plane this weekend, hitting the road, and doing what I do best: drink, eat, talk, and write (the third one being the only thing I really do well, however) while snapping photos and documenting out on the trail. To be clear: this isn't going to be a buying adventure where I'll be looking for new products, or tasting potential K&L imports. It's simply my initial attempt (and perhaps final) to steer the perception of wine and spirits to where it belongs—to the people, the places, and the stories behind them.

So get ready! Oh, and for all the readers who complained about me never having posted a photo of myself in six years, I've included the one above for your pleasure.

I'll see you this Sunday at the new site. I'll post the link here before I leave.

-David Driscoll


It's the Busiest Day of the Year...

...and we're ready for you!

Have a safe Thanksgiving and make sure you drink your booze!

-David Driscoll


Drink & Watch: The Brood

Since I'm going to be out of town next week on my actual birthday, my wife decided to give me my presents early—two of which were a pair of Canadian cinema classics on Criterion DVD: David Cronenberg's The Brood and Videodrome, respectively. Seeing that I had a nice bottle of Canadian Crown Royal to drink after today's big arrival, I figured I'd sit down and do a little whisky/film pairing—my favorite Monday activity. I have to admit: I'm not a collector in any sense of the word, but I do love owning a few Criterion editions and I'm a big fan of the work they do in bringing brilliant films from the past back to their original brilliance. The restored version of The Brood is truly a thing of beauty. It's really a masterpiece of late 70s cinema and there's something about the fashion and the imagery of Canada at that time that makes the atmosphere all the more creepy. I'm not quite sure how to explain it, but as a child watching these movies it seemed like our neighbor to the north (at least as portrayed in the late 70s/early 80s) was some alternate American reality. Whether I was watching The Brood (shot in outer Ontario), or Videodrome (shot in Toronto), or Scanners (shot in Montreal), or even something like Clive Barker's Nightbreed (shot in Calgary in the late 80s), the urban landscapes were like big, bustling cities that could have been anywhere, but were obviously not New York, San Francisco, Chicago, LA, or other recognizable locales I was used to seeing on film at that time. Those rather nebulous, cold, and unfamiliar settings were—for an American kid like me in the mid-80s—brooding and atmospheric in a way that a Manhattan skyline could never be. In fact, when I was a grad student and forced to work late nights in the old libraries on the university campus, I would sometimes get that same sense of memory—like I was in an old Cronenberg film, sitting in some 70s era, cement and concrete, bureaucratic building full of idiosyncratic paperwork and the smell of stale books. The images of these films are still engrained and rooted deeply in my childhood psyche. 

So I sat down to watch The Brood again this afternoon—sipping something that was obviously rye, but yet an entirely unfamiliar rye all the same—and I was overcome with that sensation once again. Whether it's his more modern and accessible films like Eastern Promises and A History of Violence, or here in one of his earlier flicks, the man simply knows how to build towards a shocker. The stories always begin slowly and can often seem rather ordinary at first glance, but there's always a point down the line when Cronenberg jolts the holy hell out of you with some brute imagery or complete lack of innuendo that personally just sends me into a frenzy. Being someone who lacks any sense of subtlety, I really get a kick out of those moments—and The Brood is chalk full of them. If you've never seen it, you're welcome to borrow my DVD when I'm done with my initial screenings. I find that most people are as unfamiliar with Canadian whisky as they are Canadian cinema, and if that's the case you need to grab a bottle of Crown Royal rye and a copy of The Brood, and open your mind to an exciting new world of pleasure (and if you choose to watch Videodrome as well those words will have an entirely different meaning).

-David Driscoll


Tasting the Newly-Crowned Crown

After selling through the few bottles we had in stock over the weekend, we're ready to aim and fire with today's "Whisky of the Year" email to customers. I popped a bottle in the bar this morning to re-taste the Crown Royal rye and, again for the record, this is a very pleasing whisky. I'm actually pretty excited to offer it because I can finally tell people: 1) yes, we DO have that whisky you read about, and 2) yes, it's actually pretty darn tasty. Do I think it's the best whisky I've tasted this year? No. But do I think it's a pretty good bottle of juice for the money, one that will definitely help a larger group of drinkers discover an entirely new genre? Absolutely. If I had to find a comparison, I'd say the Crown Royal is like Lot 40-light. It's got all those baking spices with a softer, less peppery and herbaceous profile. This isn't a bold, brash, dill flavored bag of German bread. It's like something in between LDI distillate and some of the more potent Alberta/Hiram Walker whiskies we've seen bottled on the independent market.

One thing I can tell you without hesitation: it's definitely worth $25 to find out whether you like it or not.

Whether you'll think it's "a masterpiece", I can't say. But if you're buying a $25 bottle of Crown Royal because you think "whisky of the year" implies it's literally better than Sazerac 18 or other rare editions of the spirit, see my post from this past weekend. And please post any Sheldon Cooper-like rants about that topic on Twitter for my amusement.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Whiskey $25.99

-David Driscoll


The Beast of Butchertown

I'm normally off on Sundays, but the holidays are a special time of year when the term "day off" takes on a new meaning (one that means the opposite of what you would normally think). It's been a great shift so far, however, so I can't complain. We've been packed all day long, lines out the door, helping people stock up for their Thanksgiving needs and handing out recommendations on the fly. I've been really happy with the results of the Copper & Kings west coast launch we started earlier in the week, but not as happy as some of our customers apparently. I've talked to about ten guys just in Redwood City today who are coming back for their second bottle of Butchertown. People are getting jazzed about the idea of Kentucky brandy.

"This is a great product," a guy told me just a few minutes ago. "I wish I had thought of the idea," he added, referring to Joe Heron's national pot-distilled brandy grab.

It is indeed a great product. So great that we'll likely sell out of our initial shipment before Thanksgiving Day. That's a lot of brandy going out the door in a week's time. But that's what happens when you make a great product and sell it for a great price.

-David Driscoll