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


2016 Cairdeas Arrives

This is Laphroaig's distillery manager and head distiller John Campbell. Every year John puts together what is, for me, one of the best annual limited releases in the single malt industry: the Laphroaig "Cairdeas." Started as a distillery release for the pilgrims of Islay's Feis Ile festival, the label has since become a global release (much to the joy of whisky drinkers everywhere). In the past there's been a port wood edition, an amontillado sherry finish, and a 100% in-house floor malted expression, and in 2012 it was just a tasty whisky. This time around it's a Madeira cask finish, so there's a glaze of soft, honeyed sweet wine that highlights the trademark peat and iodine. We had a one bottle limit on this earlier in the week, but I figured we had enough now to remove any restrictions. Go for it! Treat yourself to some deliciousness.

Laphroaig 2016 "Cairdeas" Madeira Cask Islay Single Malt Whisky $79.99 - Each year Laphroaig's Master Distiller, John Campbell, handcrafts a limited edition malt to celebrate friendship ("Cairdeas" in Gaelic). The 2016 bottling features fully-matured Laphroaig aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being blended together for a second maturation in Madeira seasoned traditional hogsheads. The result is a classically smoky Laphroaig with accents of sweet fruits and honey around the edges. Bottled at 51.6%, the extra kick helps balance out the additional richness.

-David Driscoll


Beaujolais Party @ Mathilde

I'm continuing to expand my duties at K&L this year and one area I thought I could be of help was our Burgundy department. For years we were rather stagnant in terms of growth and tracking down interesting new producers, but since Trey and Alex took over last summer we've been turning the department around. This past Spring, the two boys visited Beaujolais for the first time and met with a number of different small producers (petits producteurs, as they say) in the region. They were thrilled with the quality and purchased a number of different expressions that arrived at K&L earlier this month. The only person who may have been more thrilled was me (or maybe G Eazy's producer Christoph Andersson who LOVES Beaujolais). I've been drinking nothing but Beaujolais since because, to me, the wines simply taste like Fall. They have crunchy cranberry notes and bits of earth and spice. But there's two important things to know about these particular new Beaujolais wines:

1) They were purchased directly and imported directly to CA; no middlemen. Hence, low prices!

2) These are cru Beaujolais wines, not the carbonic and fruit juice-like Beaujolais Nouveau wines that are released at the end of each November. There's a HUUUUUUUUGE difference.

Cru Beaujolais wines are made from gamay just like Beaujolais Nouveau, but they're vinified just like normal red wine. Beaujolais Nouveau, on the other hand, is fermented in whole clusters, meaning the juice is not pressed out of the grape per the norm. Instead, the fermentation starts inside the berry, meaning low amounts of oxygen and skin contact. The result is a lifted, bright, super fruity wine with minimal tannic structure. One that can often be chapitalized or sweetened, as well. Cru Beaujolais, on the other hand, is more like real pinot noir from the Côte d'Or, but darker, fleshier, and more concentrated. Much like Bourgogne rouge can be classified by commune or village—Volnay, Pommard, Marsannay, etc—there are several village classifications in Beaujolais as well. You've got Brouilly, and Morgon, and Chiroubles, plus a few others. These wines do not taste like Ocean Spray and bubble gum. They have much of the same variety and complexity that I find in wines from Louis Jadot or Domaine Bart, except for one very important thing: they're waaaaaaay cheaper!

As I referenced in yesterday's post about grain whisky, when a market is misunderstood and poorly explained to consumers, prices remain low and affordable. I love dabbling in those grey areas because I love finding unexpected value. Cru Beaujolais is definitely one of those places. If I even mention Beaujolais as a potential recommendation in the store, I see the customer's face begin to frown and their lips quiver. "I don't like Beaujolais," they invariably say. "It's too fruity, or sweet, or something."

But they're, of course, referencing Beaujolais NOUVEAU. I'm talking about an entirely different wine.

Remember this place I mentioned the other day? It's Mathilde in San Francisco, on 5th Street just up from our Harrison St. location. I thought maybe we should head back over and do an intimate cru Beaujolais dinner for 28 fun-loving folks who want to get their French on. Alex Pross and I are going to host. We're going to bring (at least) eight of the wines mentioned in that post I linked to above. We might bring even more. We're going to sit in the exact same place you see in that photo above, except this time they've got a band playing French music in the corner! It's going to be a legit soirée! Check out this prix fixe menu we put together to go with it. You can choose one item from each group:


House made Charcuterie: 
cornichons and mustard

Mussels Marinieres style: 
with white wine and cream

Beef Bourguignon Ravioles:
Arugula, Parmesan shaving and truffle oil

Organic raw beet salad:
arugula and crumbled goat cheese


Bouillabaise seafood stew:
halibut, salmon, prawns in saffron tomato broth

Pan seared Flat iron steak:
Caramelized onions and red wine sauce

Coq au Vin:
pearl onions, mushroom and bacons

Gnocci a la Parisienne: 
Parmesan cheese, truffle oil


Mousse au Chocolat

Valrhona bitter sweet chocolate

Tarte Tatin: apple tart with caramel sauce and whipped cream

Floating Island:
soft meringue and caramel sauce sweet almonds

If you haven't been to Mathilde yet, this is the perfect time to join us. You're going to drink a lot of good wine, eat a lot of good food, listen to a lot of good music, and maybe learn a bit about Beaujolais if you didn't already know something. Tickets are an extremely reasonable $65 (which is about what three or four glasses of wine would cost alone). You can reserve your spot here:

K&L Beaujolais Import Dinner @ Mathilde - Nov 10th, 7 PM - $65

I'll see you there! Email me if you have further questions!

-David Driscoll


Whisky Season 2016 Continues!

We’re moving into some of the bigger guns at this point in Whisky Season 2016. Those who like their whisky old and rich will definitely be interested in this. Those who like it rare will love the fact this ancient cask only produced 72 bottles in total. Those who like their whisky dark will revel in the dark mahogany of its hue.  Those who only drink whisky from “closed” distilleries can rest easy: Carsebridge was closed in 1983 and demolished in 1992. This 42 year old grain whisky is old, rare, dark, rich, and from a long lost producer. The only thing it isn’t is overpriced! Once again, we used our direct buying power to keep the price reasonable. You’ll find this whisky picks up right where the now-sold out Garnheath left off. The only problem is that we only have 72 bottles.

1973 Carsebridge 42 Year Old "Sovereign" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Whiskey $249.99 - Much like our other 42 year grain whisky cask from Garnheath distillery, this 42 year old grain also comes from a long lost producer. Carsebridge was one of the many industry casualties of 1983 and was permanently closed after the whisky business suffered serious economic setbacks. The grain facility was originally founded at the end of the 1700s, making it one of the oldest in Scotland until it was completely demolished in 1992, after staying dormant for almost a decade. This 1973 single cask of Carsebridge, bottled for us by Sovereign, is another rich and full-bodied whisky that brings serious bang for the buck. While malt whisky prices for 30+ year old expressions continue to reach four figures, the misunderstood grain whisky market continues to stay low and reasonable. Candied citrus, toasted oak, sweet vanilla, and a richness that can only come from over forty years in wood dance over the palate in waves of Scotch whisky deliciousness. Due to the ancient age, however, this barrel evaporated down quite heavily. Less than 80 total bottles were retrieved and sent to over to us, making this selection a true rarity. Bottled at 53.3%

-David Driscoll


Introducing Eden Mill Distillery

For those of us who spent the early years of the Scotch whisky boom thumbing through the Malt Whisky Yearbook, memorizing the many names of the distilleries, and doing our best to understand who made what, keeping pace with Scotland's newest producers has never been more difficult! It seems like every time I investigate the announcement of a new distillery, I discover a new one by mere proximity. It's like an astronomer who thinks he's discovered a new planet realizing he's actually discovered two or three. After the arrival of young Wolfburn this past year I thought I was completely up to speed, but it turns out there's another fledgling malt producer on Scotland's eastern coast that I'd somehow missed entirely. Eden Mill is located in the town of St. Andrews, on the edge of the peninsula that juts out just north of Edinburgh. While the town was once known as the home of Haig, today it's much more renowned as a golfing mecca. It's actually referred to as "the home of golf," as it's believed golf was played on the nearby links as early as the 15th century. On the ashes of the old Haig distillery (originally founded in 1810) is a newly-resurrected phoenix of whisky tradition in St. Andrews: a more modern take on what it means to produce alcohol in the 21st century.

Eden Mill isn't just St. Andrews's first distillery since Haig, it's also Scotland's first single-site distillery and brewery. When they're not distilling whisky, they're whipping up a batch of IPA, red ale, or a chili and ginger porter to whet your whistle. When they're not brewing beer, they're distilling gin—many, many different gins. I was lucky enough to meet with the guys from Eden Mill during their recent foray and introduction to the California market. We tasted some serious single malt whisky; a two year old single cask aged in sherry that pretty much blew my mind. While the whisky isn't quite ready for retail, the gin most certainly is and we've got four of them to tell you about today. All four just hit the warehouse today and they should be on the shelf before the morning ends. Along the banks of the River Eden, Eden Mill is using its traditional single malt pot stills to create a series of unique gins using locally-grown fruits and botanicals from the Eden Estuary, along with other sourced ingredients. Taking a custom grain base distilled at nearby Cameronbridge distillery, the gins are run through the Forcyths copper with various recipes for a rounder, and mellower mouthfeel than your standard London Dry. They also come in gigantic ceramic bottles!

Eden Mill Original Gin $39.99 - The original gin flavor was inspired by the distillery's nearby (and world famous) St. Andrews golf course, thereby creating a mellow and easy-drinking profile that's perfect for a summer afternoon on the links. Juniper, angelica, heather flower, blueberries, and red clover are just a few of the botanicals use to create this mellow and deliciously supple gin.

Eden Mill Oak Gin $39.99 - The Oak gin is briefly aged in former Heaven Hill Bourbon casks to impart just a touch of oak spice into the gin, functioning in this case as more of an extra botanical rather than to impart the richness of barrel maturation. The result is a delicate and incredibly subtle gin with delicacy and just the right amount of spice.

Eden Mill Love Gin $39.99 - The Love gin uses goji berries and elderberries in addition to juniper and rose petals to create a softer, more fruit-forward expression that mixes beautifully into a number of tall drinks. Try it with ginger beer or tonic for a simple spritz!

Eden Mill Hop Gin $39.99 - The hop gin uses a heavy dose of (you guessed it) hops to create an expressive, but utterly balanced spirit that never goes too far in the skunky IPA direction. The flavors mingle brilliantly with the juniper and their impact is direct, but never overpowering. Use this in a Negroni for a fun variation on the classic cocktail.

Like I mentioned above, the sample whisky I tasted from Eden Mill was all I needed to know these guys have their act together. I think the four gins above also set a precedent. These are not your standard London dry specimen. They are grainier, fuller, and unique on the palate, standing out from the pack in a major way. I'm eager to try their beers as well to see if everything happening at Eden Mill is equally outstanding. 

I looks like I'll be adding St. Andrews to next year's itinerary! I wanna check this place out!

-David Driscoll