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Monday
Jan152018

R.I.P. Delores O'Riordan 

Forty-six is way too young. Break out the Irish whiskey tonight and pour a little out for dear Delores. Her voice was always so powerfully haunting.

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Jan142018

Hidden Vegas

Now that I'm a part time Las Vegas resident, I've started receiving repeated questions from friends, co-workers, and customers alike asking about where they should eat "off the Strip" when they head out to Sin City. First off, I would never tell anyone to avoid Las Vegas Boulevard because it's a veritable wonderland of culinary delights, endless entertainment, and incredible cocktail bars. I love it. I'd go there every single night of the week if I had the energy and the liver space. If you're too cool for the Strip, maybe look into staying at the same hotel as the people who don't watch TV instead. I think it's right next door to the B&B for people who only drink alcohol because of the complex flavors, not to get a buzz on. You'll fit right in there.

However, if you're a veteran of all the major clubs and casinos, you've seen all the shows, and now you're looking for additional ideas beyond all the glitz and the glamour just to change things up a bit, I've got a great watering hole for you—literally. Head out to Summerlin and get onto Charleston, hang a left and make the drive to Red Rock. It's not far outside town; only about a fifteen minute ride from my front door to the park entrance. Go about ten and a half miles around the loop and park at the Pine Creek Trail lot. Make sure you've got a tall can of beer or a bottle of white wine, then start walking. 

It's all open desert for the first mile or so, nothing but cacti, scattered brush, cottontail rabbits, and the sun blazing down upon you. As you get closer to the mountains, however, it begins to change dramatically. 

When you reach what looks like the foundation of an old house (and is), that's when you can start to hear the water. Believe it or not, there's a pure mountain creek running through the middle of what you thought was the dry, barren Mojave desert. That's why old Horace Wilson originally homesteaded here in 1920: it's close to water! What's left of his house still remains for hikers like you and me to ponder over, marking what was likely once a beautiful place to live.

The deeper you go past the Wilson homesite and into the canyon, the greener and fuller it gets. It starts to look more like Yosemite than the desert terrain you saw only minutes earlier. When you get to what looks like a triangle shaped campground, hang a left towards the sound of the water and begin making your way through the boulders, trees, and over what looks like a dry river bed. You'll get there if you listen closely to the rustling of the creek. 

When the clearing opens up into the rocky creek with its crystal waters running down towards your feet, pull that tall can out of your bag or coat pocket and plop it down in one of the numerous pools. If you're out in winter like we were today, it should get cold in ten minutes or less. There are dozens and dozens of great places to sit, take in the sights, and relax. Don't worry about the sun because you're deep enough into the canyon at this point so that the cliffs block out the heat. Let the trickle of Pine Creek calm your nerves and ease your senses, while you sip that cold brew in peace and solitude.

Once you've drained your beer, and finished the two-plus mile hike back to the parking lot, you're going to be hungry. Lucky for you, there are about 400 amazing breakfast spots between Red Rock and the Strip. I try and go to a different one every time I'm there. Today it was Rise and Shine on Flamingo. Man, did that bone-in ham steak hit the spot. From there it was a frozen Margarita crawl through Summerlin, bolstered by endless chips and salsa. There are countless scores of great places off the strip to sip those slushy delights. I can fill you in on those spots later if you're interested.

Needless to say, there's a lot going on in Las Vegas besides slots and shots. Most people think it's just a seedy cess pool in the middle of arid nothing, and I'm more than happy to let them go on thinking that. As a native Californian, I've heard countless people lament the idea of ever leaving the state or being forced to move from the Bay Area. "I would miss all the natural beauty," is a common utterance. I haven't missed it one bit because I've learned Vegas has some pretty special places. I've never been happier. 

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jan112018

The Russell Legacy in a Barrel

Back in late August, with the heat of the Kentucky summer in full swing, Eddy Russell, his dad Jimmy, and I dug through about ten barrels to reach this cask, #998, located in the heart of the H warehouse at Wild Turkey Distillery. When it comes to the Kickin' Chicken, I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel with our barrel selections. I'm not searching for the anomaly or the unique gem that stands in contrast to what made Russell's Reserve famous. I wanted classic, true to form Bourbon that tastes like vintage Wild Turkey and that's exactly what I got from this 9 year old single cask. Everything in harmony, just dialed up in proof. Vanilla, oak, creamy corn, and that youthful vigor that pops on your palate like a bag full of cinnamon candy. Jimmy Russell doesn't like any Bourbon older than 10 years old, which I think is awesome. I'm trying to be more like him (living large after six decades in the booze biz), so with this cask I relied completely on his guidance.

Eddy did most of the heavy lifting. I snapped photos and drank. While I've got a few barrels coming down the pipe, I wanted to start with #998 because it was one of my absolute favorites. If you've ever dipped your nose into a box of cinnamon red hots and inhaled all that sweetly-spiced goodness, then consider yourself well prepared for this one. Originally filled in October of 2008, we bottled this baby right after its 9th birthday, right about the time Jimmy Russell believes these Wild Turkey whiskies show their best. Emptied at 118.4 proof, everything about this whiskey showcases the textbook and trademark characteristics of the distillery style: loads of baking spices, vibrant oak tannins, creamy corn, and a finish of both savory pepper and sweet vanilla. Getting to select a barrel like this with the father and son duo is about as fun as our job gets-if you don't count the part where we actually get to drink it. Only 120 bottles from this tiny, concentrated cask.

Russell's Reserve K&L Single Barrel #998 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jan112018

Double Your Pleasure

I know a number of folks who missed out the last time we snagged some of Martin Cate's special Smuggler's Cove blend and are going to be stoked we just got another allocation in from the man himself. We blew through 200 bottles in a matter of hours a few weeks back and I'm happy to announce that we've got another 120 or so to offer out if you didn't get your fill from before. In addition, I'm going to highly recommend that you buy the new Real McCoy Limited edition virgin oak 10 year rum we just received into the warehouse as well. It's by far the best rum from Real McCoy I've had thus far and for me it's a much more drinkable specimen than the coveted 10 year old Criterion edition Foursquare released last year. Here's the thing: I get why people freaked out over that Madeira-aged Criterion. It was a very nice bottle of rum, but my personal bottle of Criterion is still about 70% full because I'm at the point in my drinking career where a monster ABV% doesn't necessarily appeal to my late night desires. Contrast that with the 10 year virgin oak edition, a blend of 12 year old ex-Bourbon casks and 10 year old full term new oak matured rum that melts across my palate with the greatest of ease at a perfect 92 proof. I'll let the cask strength kids have their fun with the high-octane stuff, while my 38 year old palate enjoys this rich, round, and more mellow elixir. Yum...........

Foursquare Distillery "Real McCoy" 12 Year Old "Smuggler's Cove Limited Edition" Rum $49.99 - This special edition of Real McCoy rum from Foursquare distillery was put together by Martin Cate at Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco and is a tiny blend of just two ex-Bourbon barrels, bottled at 46% ABV rather than the standard 40%. Foursquare distillery on the island of Barbados is quickly becoming a sensation in the aficionado world of rum drinkers and tiki specialists for its pure, unadulterated flavor and transparency as it pertains to age statements and additives. 

Foursquare Distillery "Real McCoy" 10 Year Old Limited Edition Virgin Oak Rum $59.99 - Using rums aged in both ex-Bourbon casks and brand new oak barrels, then dialing the ABV from 40 to 46%, this is the richest and most vanilla-laden edition of the Real McCoy yet. There's more sweetness, more molasses, more spice, and more weight than the standard 12 year edition despite the younger age statement and the rum finishes with a Bourbon-like kick. The blend is comprised of the two wood types, aged separately and then blended together. The ex-Bourbon matured component is all 12 years of age, while the virgin oak-aged rum was matured for the entire decade in new oak, Even though it's labeled as a 10 year old rum, a large proportion of the rum is actually 12 years old. This limited edition produced only 3000 total bottles for the world and we were lucky enough to grab a large chunk of it. Grab a bottle while you can!

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jan092018

New Club Order

K&L’s wine club program dates back to the early nineties when we had one “Best Buy” service run by our owner’s wife as a fun little side hobby. There were a few perks to the membership, some discounts to be had here and there, but it was mostly about exploration and having fun. It was also apparently quite a successful enterprise because that one club eventually grew into two, then two clubs grew into three, and today we have five different wine club selections if you count the Italian and Champagne programs run by my colleagues Greg St. Clair and Gary Westby. There are thousands of K&L club members at this point, receiving their two bottles with each shipment along with a newsletter that tells the stories behind each bottle (a newsletter that I’m very much looking forward to revamping and improving).

In a wine world where the term “club” often refers to some sort of pricing advantage or member discount program, I’m careful with my terminology when I describe the K&L options to our customers. “It’s not so much a wine club as it is a wine-of-the-month club,” I often tell people, explaining that our membership is more geared around monthly curation rather than special deals and savings. We don’t track your purchases, or give you points for what you buy and there’s no plastic barcode to keep on your keychain that we scan for discounts when you check out. There is a bit of special pricing for club members, but historically it’s only been for the wines featured in the monthly selections. For example, if you like the wine you receive in your club shipment you can buy additional bottles for a special club member price. The discounts, however, rarely—if ever—have applied to regular, in-stock inventory selections.

That was always by design though. At K&L we’ve never offered case discounts or deep volume pricing to motivate our customers. Our focus has always been about guaranteeing a quality of wine, customer service, and product knowledge that stood out amongst the crowd, letting our private selections and exclusive deals do the talking. That being said, I’ve watched our model of retailing become the standard over the last decade with every bar, corner store, and supermarket chain from here to Bangor, Maine jumping into the small production, limited edition, private selection game. It’s no longer enough to simply curate and put your personal stamp of approval on a product. Our customers know we care about them, they know we’re working our butts off to find them the best bottles we can, but they still want to feel special at the end of the day. They want a retail program that combines quality, exclusivity, careful selection, a great story, and special pricing. If just anyone can get the same stuff at the same price, then what’s the point of being a club member, right?

We’ve talked about doing a whiskey club for years in the K&L spirits department, but the problem we could never get past was curation consumption. You see, the folks who buy and consume multiple bottles of whiskey per month generally don't want to be locked into a monthly club selection where someone else does the choosing. They know what they want. They search online, read about new releases, and do their own homework for the most part. The people who would be interested in a monthly subscription typically don’t blow through booze at the same rate, so ultimately it becomes too much volume, month after month. I’ve been letting this dilemma stew on the backburner for the last few years, trying to decide what the best recourse was, and today I think I’ve finally found the solution.

I decided when I woke up on January 1st 2018 that I was going to create the perfect wine clubs for people who drink both wine AND spirits. Drinking down two bottles of wine per month has never been a challenge for our customers, so why not just add in some incentive discounts as a cherry on top? For example, you could be a member of our original “Best Buy” club, pay your $20 per month for the standard two bottle selection, but still have access to additional discounts that you could choose to purchase or not. It's up to you. Personally, I like incentivizing exploration. I want customers to feel more comfortable taking a chance on something new or different, like the Bardstown Bourbon Company “Collabor&tion” Cask Strength Brandy Barrel Edition we brought in from the Kentucky upstart late last year. It’s still $125 a bottle for the general public, but if you’re a member of one of our wine clubs you can use your membership to take advantage of $99 special pricing. If you’re new to the “Best Buy” club, that $25 discount would more than pay for your first month right there (there is a three month minimum for new members).

That’s just for starters. Imagine when I start throwing other Bourbon casks in there, various Scotch deals, etc. You could probably grab enough discount incentives to pay for your entire year’s membership—and you still get the wine to enjoy, along with the newsletter and all the details.

There’s going to be a lot more than just additional spirits, however. I’ll be scouring for special Bordeaux prices, interesting imports from Italy and France, and God knows what else—gin, Tequila, sweet wines, beer, you name it. I’ll be throwing the entire kitchen sink at these clubs in 2018. My goal is to get 100% of you on board. I’m hoping the value of both our curated selections and the additional discounts will push you over the edge and make you want to take this journey with me. I want to create a service that lives up to the definition of that word: it serves the customer. If you don’t like wine, then this updated K&L club membership program probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re curious about wine, now’s the time. Those of you who want to learn about wine and spirits, while getting access to special deals and pricing, should contact me about signing up (or just click the link I embedded above). 

It all starts February 1st. Buckle up.

-David Driscoll