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Tuesday
Aug152017

News & Notes

It's another busy day in the K&L spirits department, but I'm back in Redwood City once again to give you the lowdown on the week's news. Here's what's happening:

- We sent out an email just a bit ago about the recent Pellehaut Armagnac arrivals, so if you were keeping an eye on those now is the time to act. The 1986 is winding down quickly, in particular. 

- I have yet to send a note out to our Bordeaux customers about the Helene Garcin dinner I'm putting on at the end of this month, but we've sold most of the tickets with just you spirits drinkers thus far! That's exciting news. I'm hoping some of you might catch the Bordeaux bug like I have.

- Speaking of Bordeaux, my colleague Jeff Garneau and I have pretty much kidnapped the On the Trail blog at this point and taken it hostage with Bordeaux articles. If you're looking to learn more about the genre, check out my recent Leoville-Barton article there that compares the wine to Weller 12. I'm using as many whiskey analogies as I can!

- I had a tasting appointment with Remy-Cointreau today and they were nice enough to bring me the entire Mount Gay lineup. I finally got to spend some time with the Mount Gay XO Anniversary Edition and it's quite glorious. I have to be honest here: while I'm a fan of Foursquare's Bajan rums and I'm excited that they're catching fire with whiskey drinkers, if I had to choose between Barbados producers it would be tough to go against Mount Gay. I get it: Foursquare is providing total transparency with age statements and cask types, all at full proof. That's like pornography for spirits fans. But I personally feel like the Mount Gay XO blends are a step up. The new XO cask strength anniversary edition, for example, is outrageous. It's not quite the bulldozer that the Criterion is, with its huge woody flavor and powerful potency. It's also outrageously expensive, so I can see again why people love the Foursquare. However, if you're willing to spend, you're getting a serious, serious product in the Mount Gay XO cask strength edition. Ditto with the 1703, a blend of rums between 10 and 30 years old.

- I'll be around the stores this week, but next week I'm off to Kentucky in search of more Bourbon so stay tuned to the blog for all the juicy details from the road. 

-David Driscoll

Monday
Aug142017

Hollywood – Part III

I hailed a ride to the Bob Hope airport at around 9:30 AM on Saturday morning, surprisingly full of energy for not having slept much of the night. I had made it back to my hotel room at a reasonable hour, but the party going on at Mama's Shelter on Selma and Wilcox might as well have been at the foot of my bed. Horns were honking, bottles were breaking, and voices were shouting until well into the light of day. I only managed to fall asleep after wrapping one of the softer pillows around my ear as a make-shift, noise-cancelling device, finally drowning out the continuing festivities.

"Hey man, thanks for picking me up," I said to the driver as I climbed into the backseat.

"No worries, brah," he answered.

We sped off towards the freeway and began making our way through the hills, past Universal City towards Burbank. After some small talk about our origins, I asked the twenty-something year old man about what brought him to Los Angeles.

"I came out here to surf, bro. Problem with Californians is they can't keep a secret," he said with a bit of annoyance.

"What do you mean?" I asked, fully intrigued by the perceived slight.

"Where I come from, bro, when you find a wave, you ride it. You don't go telling everyone about it. Next thing you know there are a hundred other guys trying to catch that same wave. The guys out here, soon as they see a great break they go texting and Tweeting everyone they know."

I laughed. I've heard the same thing from some of my customers about their secret local liquor bodegas being outed on Instagram. But the next thing he said really rang true.

"Sometimes I can't tell if these guys actually even want to surf, bro."

"In what way?" I followed up.

"It's like they get more out of telling people about surfing than actually surfing. It's all ego, bro. They'd rather get a hundred likes on social media for reporting a great wave rather than actually fucking riding it. Drives me crazy, bro."

"I know exactly what you mean," I said.

"Oh....you surf too, bro?"

"No, but I drink whiskey," I answered with a laugh.

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Aug122017

Hollywood – Part II

After watching the Logan Lucky premier at the Director’s Guild theater on West Sunset, I caught a Lyft back over to the Dream Hotel in Hollywood for the afterparty. My driver asked if I had any fun plans for the weekend. I told him: “This.” When I made the same query of him, he mentioned he had recently moved out from Ohio to be an actor and was celebrating finally having landed an agent. He was hoping his driving days would be behind him and he might finally be able to support himself solely through film and TV. We pulled onto Selma at around 9:30 PM and he dropped me at the curb. I wished him luck, closed the door, and made my way through the throng of young club-goers, each worming their way closer to the velvet rope that was preventing their entrance. 

Not sure of where exactly I was supposed to go, I spotted one of the actors from the film walking to a private entrance around the side and followed him. There were about five girls standing around the barrier to the door, seemingly trying to explain to the bouncer why they should be allowed access to the rooftop bar. I checked in with the party planner who verified my identity, and a gigantic man in a black suit motioned for me to follow him into the elevator. The actor and his girlfriend were already inside the lift. I nodded at them with politeness and stood back into the corner as a few more execs from the movie packed into the space. Arriving at the top, we each made our way into the party, past a lighted swimming pool with aquamarine water, and into the private terrace at the end of the patio, roped off and guarded by more large bouncers. I was in, so I did the first thing I always do when I arrive anywhere with alcohol: I went to the bar and got myself a drink.

I spotted Steven in the corner, the only person I knew at the affair besides the event’s organizers who I’ve worked with closely over the years during the initial phases of Singani 63’s development. The backbar was packed with the bright orange and yellow labels that adorn the brand’s clear glass bottles and the menu offered a variety of options. I looked around briefly and watched a bevy of servers offer snacks to people who were not interested in eating. No one eats in Hollywood. Those calories have to be saved for the liquor. Following Steven’s example, I ordered a large Singani on the rocks—the Subwoofer, as he calls it. Not wanting to bother him just yet, I moved over to the back of the room where I saw a man sitting by himself, sipping a glass of wine. Looking closer, I realized exactly who it was. He was another famous actor; not from Steven’s latest film, but someone whose work I am intimately familiar with. 

“Are you alone over here?” I asked him with an air of familiarity. 

He looked up from his phone and smiled; “Yeah, running solo tonight.”

“You mind if I hang over here with you? I don’t really know anyone here,” I responded.

“Of course,” he answered cordially and introduced himself. I told him my name and we shook hands.

There’s a rule in Hollywood that requires non-celebrities to never mention the fact they recognize famous actors when meeting them. When in situations like this, I keep that adage in the back of my mind, but I don’t follow it exclusively. Acting like you don’t recognize someone when you do feels wrong to me. That recognition doesn’t have to be the subject of the initial conversation, but when I watch other people say things like, “Oh, are you an actor?” when faced with these situations, it always pains me—as if they didn't know! In this particular instance, it never really came up. We fell right into an easy dialogue about city living, drinking, and married life before any of that potential discomfort came to the forefront. It wasn’t until a few others decided to join us that the invisible barrier was broken and we were allowed to talk about the very thing we all knew was the case. 

“Do you remember when selling out was considered a bad thing?” he asked me rhetorically at one point; “I feel like no one really cares anymore. Today actors go to paid conventions and make thousands of dollars signing autographs and taking pictures—and it’s no big deal. I still have trouble with that, however.”

“Do you not enjoy it?” I asked him earnestly.

“No,” he answered, “but not for the reasons you might think. I can't just take people's money and turn off my emotions. When I meet fans of my movies I give them my entire heart. I’m excited that they’re excited, so I want them to have everything I can give them: hugs, photos, autographs, everything. But when you give everything that you have repeatedly, over and over—for hours on end—it takes something out of you. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting. I don’t think people were meant to do that.”

I was taken aback by his forthrightness, but also by how much I related to his explanation. I responded by telling him about what I did for a living, how I spend most of my time answering emails around the clock, fielding phone calls and in-store questions from boozehounds who want to pick my brain or ask for my advice. He was surprisingly rivited. I couldn't tell who was more interested in the other by this point. He asked me more questions about the unique facets of my position until he seemed to find catharsis. 

By the end of the night we had exchanged numbers, embraced, and promised to reach out to one another soon. My experience in Hollywood over the years has taught me that, ultimately, everyone's just looking for a little understanding, no matter how famous they are. Despite all the barriers, the limited access, and the esteem, most people just want to find a similar connection. I know I do.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Aug112017

Hollywood

If you happened to swing by the K&L Hollywood store this afternoon, you might have seen an unfamiliar man at the register ringing people up, getting lost in the aisles as he tried to track down each particular category. That was me, joining my colleagues in LA this Friday for a little sales floor bonding. I love the Hollywood store. I love the customers, I love the staff, and I love the selection. Pulling a register shift there is so different from the north where at least 50% of your customers are picking up pre-purchased orders. Here it's a lot of after-work shopping; a bottle of wine or two for the evening's dinner. There's a real neighborhood feel and I love coming down on the San Jose/Burbank flight and soaking that up. It's refreshing.

I'm hitting the streets of Hollywood tonight with my friend Steven Soderbergh for some Logan Lucky celebratory drinks. Perhaps I will run into a few of you Angelinos while I'm enjoying a stiff Singani cocktail. The hills await!

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Aug102017

The Pride of Glasgow Returns 

While it's definitely fun to find a single barrel of cask strength Scottish grain whisky that tastes like Bourbon with big woody notes and lots of spice, I like to mix it up every now and then. Sometimes I want grain whisky with smooth, vanilla-laden, grainy sweetness—the character that makes Johnnie Blue drinkers say: "Man, is that smooth." If you bought a bottle of our recent North British 28 year, you'll probably recognize that style of whisky as the former. This Port Dundas 28 year is definitely the latter. It's light in color, but deceptively rich on the palate. It's sweet like sugar and candy are sweet, but then the marzipan, almond notes, and oily grains come out to play and the whole thing mellows into a soft and oaky finish. At 50.5%, I wouldn't call it an "easy" whisky, but considering the 101 proof it glides over the palate like pure silk. Hardcore grain whisky fans will want to pour this over the rocks immediately, or—better yet—add soda for one decadent Highball cocktail. Super whisky nerds will want it purely as a blending component for home experiments.

1989 Port Dundas 28 Year Old "Old Particular" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Grain Whisky $69.99 

-David Driscoll