Great Moments in Marketing Hype

No review today but as I was going through the week’s worth of marketing blasts from K&L* it occurred to me that it may be important to preserve for the sake of future generations the impressive body of work of David Driscoll Esq. in the area of shameless hype. However, as much as he has contributed to this genre in a short period of time he is far from alone. Others have paved the way, and yet others continue to fill the spaces around his work. For this reason future iterations in this category may occasionally feature other luminaries, and I encourage my readers as well to share instances of marketing hype that I may have missed or to nominate challengers to the belt currently worn by David D.

Well, let’s get started with some of the recent entries that inspired me to finally create this category of posts. First up is this relatively innocuous claim for their most recent Glendronach cask:

“I think this cask will be the best received Glendronach yet.”

It goes without saying that every cask of X they get is going to be the best/best received whisky from X yet. But this by no means diminishes the power of this endorsement. It can’t, of course, be seen as representative of David D.’s gifts as it employs two unexpected qualifiers: “I think” and “best received“. Come on, David, don’t lose steam at the end of the year. Eat some raw eggs, man, and go for a run on the beach.

To see what he is capable of we only need to turn to an effort from a few days prior that takes us up a level or three. This sentence is on behalf of the Bowmore Devil’s Casks:

“The Devil’s Cask series is the best new thing from Bowmore since….well….since maybe they started making whisky.”

Yes, those of you who were foolish enough to purchase bottles of the Black, Gold and White Bowmores should pour them out now and make room for the Devil’s Casks.

He also adds:

“Not usually known for risky or edgy marketing maneuvers, this is a huge stride for the historically conservative distillery.”

Yes, please ignore the entire Bruichladdich-style Dawn/Dusk/Surf/Mariner/Enigma/Voyage releases or the long list of wine-cask matured releases over the last decade and more. It’s only when K&L needs to plug Bowmore that their history begins. Or maybe those were from the Bowmoor distillery.

As good work as this is, however, it cannot compare to the claim made last week for K&L’s own Funtunesca Tequila. The subject line of the email proclaimed it:

“Perhaps the Greatest Tequila Ever Made.”

Now you may quibble and say that in the body of the email he seems to walk this back by ascribing the claim to other people and adding, “I can’t go that far in my own praise,” but don’t forget that the sentence finishes with:

“I will say that there is nothing else like this on the tequila market and I don’t know that there ever will be.”

There you have it, folks, David Driscoll is the King of December, and maybe of all of 2013. Or do you have other challengers/pretenders in mind?

Edited to Add:

STOP THE PRESSES: WE HAVE A NEW CHAMPION!

Don’t worry, it’s still David Driscoll. Since I made this post my attention has been directed to this post on Spirits Journal announcing K&L’s Islay exclusives for next year. There’s so much high quality hype in that post but the best is saved for last. This is the clincher in the description of one of their upcoming single casks of Kilchoman:

“This DESTROYS Ardbeg Uigeadail. It makes Lagavulin 16 look like a sick joke. It makes Laphroaig 10 irrelevant. It makes any standard Islay release look boring and out of date. Kilchoman is the future, my friends. Everyone else is living in the past.”

Go on David Driscoll, you are the Sergey Bubka of spirits retailers, breaking your own records a bit at a time. I salute you!

*I’ll add again that as much as I am wearied, and frankly, increasingly amused by the hype that emanates from K&L I do appreciate the work they do to bring some interesting whisky to the US–often at good prices–and I do continue to purchase from them.

37 thoughts on “Great Moments in Marketing Hype

  1. Wholeheartedly concur. His descriptions are so full of hyperbole that while enticed by what they offer I will no longer purchase unless I can find a trusted 3rd party review e.g. la whiskey society. For true anoraks – his over hype is superfluous and detrimental. I guess he has a target audience for whom this appeals for generating sales. Occassionally his staff provides corresponding reviews that only serve to support the hype. I would be happy to bottle share 3 kl whiskies and collectively review and post findings and comparisons with the hype.

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    • As long as they keep the prices reasonable ill overlook the ridiculous Driscoll hype. For the most part they do but the recently hyped $300 for a 21yo Ardbeg, bzzzzzzzz…wrong answer David. They are still sitting on inventory of the ’79 Glenfarclas.

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  2. This is awesome, Dave does tend to rule at this kind of thing. I suppose we do need to credit him for occasionally being the closest thing to an “honest” retailer as we can get, but some of this stuff is too much.That Kilchoman single cask stuff was so stupid I almost unsubscribed on the spot.

    Actually, if I keep receiving 3-4 emails a day from K&L, I may yet unsubscribe. I’m not willing to pay shipping charges at the moment, so all these emails just serve to fill me with blind envy and rage…

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  3. It’s been mentioned before (in this blog?), but David D. has good reason to disable the “comments” in his blog – and pity the other David (“OG”), having to survive in the Master’s Shadow! -Are any of us worthy enough to buy from K&L?!!

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  4. Every time I read one of those posts, I think, “Cocaine’s a helluva drug!”

    Also, their “exclusives” aren’t always exclusive, and can be quite a bit more than other retailers’ prices. The one that really burned me up was their first GlenDronach a couple of years ago. Merwin’s also had one, same age, for $30 less.

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    • Yes, their “lowest price in the country” schtick is really something. Most recently they announced that they had the lowest price on Glenmo 18. A quick glance at Wine Searcher revealed at least two stores that had it for less. I guess they must have a large number of people on their mailing list who know nothing about the whisky scene.

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  5. And, of course, now that they’ve sold all of their Devil’s Cask allocation their newly arrived Faultline Bowmore is now the “best Bowmore we have of any kind right now”.

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  6. If we’re gonna do this let’s do it right:

    “I think this cask will be the best received Glendronach yet.” –David OG quote, not mine.

    Other than that, I happily accept the belt. World Champion — me!

    Who’s gonna get in the ring with me? Park Ave? Binny’s?

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    • Re–the David OG miscitation: that would explain the uncharacteristic diffidence. My apologies to David OG: he has much to learn yet in this area.

      I don’t think you have any challengers in the US, David. At least none that I have come across. Sure, there must be some out there who are as excitable, and some who are as willing to ride roughshod over such minor considerations as accuracy but no one puts those qualities together quite as consistently and with such verve as you. Of course, it does make me less and less inclined to trust your recommendations but one should not let such considerations get in the way of art.

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      • Actually David OG is the guy who comes up with everything. I’m just a puppet figurehead whose mouth keeps moving at full speed, spouting off what he tells me to say.

        Are you going to make me a trophy or am I limited to this blog post with ten comments?

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      • No trophy, I’m afraid, David, this is a small-time operation. If glory is not its own reward perhaps you could pour yourself some of the new grassy and slightly tannic Faultline Lochnagar to celebrate?

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      • That’s 10 more comments than your blog gets, Dave. Too bad your copy’s so bad that you’re afraid to turn “Comments On”. But, then again, debate leads to truth – and you wouldn’t want that.

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      • Jesus, man. Come down off of it, will you? Did he kill your father or something? I would hate to see your reaction to something that actually matters rather than a retailer’s blog. Facepalm.

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      • Sorry, Briggs, I’m just not one of those people who gives Dave a pass because he’s a retailer (see below) – I draw a distinction between understanding something and approving of it. You’re right in that Dave’s blog doesn’t matter, and one of the reasons that’s so is because it’s only a platform for propaganda, not dialogue (Comments Off). Then again, if comments were “on”, Dave couldn’t get away with half the stuff he says, so the bigger problem might lay in the message itself rather than the protectionist attitude toward it, but take your pick.

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  7. It’s a great, if extreme, example of why those in sales should have nothing to do with reviews/recommendations and vice versa: it’s a waste of everyone’s time, given integrity in sales. When it’s a consistent given that EVERY bottle is the greatest thing since sliced bread (yet ignoring the contradiction that no two, let alone no two hundred, bottles can be “the greatest ever produced”), Driscoll’s “commentary” amounts to nothing more than an insult to the reader’s intelligence. He may or may not have personal expertise in whisky, but it’s all left behind with his “say anything for sales” approach – and whether or not anyone is willing to excuse that approach because Dave’s “in sales”, it can’t be denied it makes his comments worthless and, again, a waste of time. The really interesting part, however, is to reflect on how close Dave’s hype is to that of professional, supposedly independent, whisky reviewers, who call one “dog” in a hundred but otherwise keep going on forever about “all the fantastic whiskies that are available right now”.

    Dave’s motto is “if we’re gonna do this let’s do it right”, but the extension of that is “if you’re not gonna do it right, don’t do it”, and Dave should take his own advice and forget about making recommendations when the point seems to be who has the title of being the biggest liar about quality and price.

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  8. As someone who bought a bottle of Lochnagar ($60 for a whisky rarely seen in these parts), I was wondering if you were going to review that one MAO.

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    • I’m afraid that’s one instance where even David D. wasn’t able to put enough lipstick on the pig.

      I do have a reference sample saved of a Rattray Lochnagar that I quite liked for the price (it was a BevMo exclusive, I think). I’ll be reviewing that one soon–but, of course, it won’t help you with this Faultline. I do have some of the other Faultlines on order–not sure when I’ll take delivery though as I will likely be out of the country when they arrive at K&L.

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  9. You know, I really do enjoy David’s posts about the industry, their trips to Scotland and Kentucky–well, pretty much everything that doesn’t directly attempt to make a sale. And the problem with most of those posts in which he directly attempts to make a sale is not that he’s trying to make a sale per se–Binny’s Whisky Hotline also is trying to make a sale; the problem is the nature of the way in which he often attempts to make the sale: through some combination of hyperbole, inaccuracy and occasional borderline dishonesty (as in when he claims K&L has the lowest price on something when they quite obviously don’t; or sometimes when he’s made ludicrous comparisons to make prices look better than they are).

    In sum, I’m generally happy with what I’ve purchased from them over the years; I just wish David would dial down the pro wrestling style hysteria. I don’t think it’s going to be good for his or K&L’s reputation in the long run and I certainly don’t think it does anything to help the bubble mentality in the whisky world.

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      • Do you have a Wine Searcher Pro account? A store in Texas still has the Glenmo 18 for $3 less. There was another place on Wine Searcher too when they first announced it. And a store here in Minneapolis still has it for $79.99–now I don’t expect David to know the prices at stores that don’t list on Wine Searcher, but I would expect him to check Wine Searcher before making such a claim (or maybe he doesn’t have a pro account either?).

        And while they do have the Uigeadail for the lowest price on Wine Searcher now (not counting the state liquor board in Virginia) I wouldn’t have made such a meal out of that price being due to their being the largest Ardbeg account or whatever: SFWTC had it for only $2 more all Fall long (still do, in fact, and great prices on Corry, the 10 yo and Ardbog too).

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      • And here’s a screenshot in case you think I’m making the Glenmo 18 price up. Please note as well the second Texas store which is selling it for exactly one cent more than K&L.

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      • For what it’s worth the big Total Wine chain has it for $84.99. Though personally I’d rather give my business to K&L as they’re a small establishment. As Total Wine is a sizable presence in much of California, I’m wondering if their price influenced K&L’s or K&L’s influenced theirs.

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  10. Im done. K and l is a slut to their own clientele which appears to be sizable audience. Ahhh the mookdom of america. F’all and pass the malt dutchie.

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  11. You must have quite the masochistic streak, MAO! There is a simple solution if you have such a problem reading David’s material…

    This whole inaccuracy/dishonesty business is just silly. Is your suggestion that David sees prices $2 lower than his, then decides “hahaha, I’ll just make the lowest price claim anyway and no one will know!” Does he make mistakes? I’m sure, though I don’t see evidence of any serious ones. You ought to have much stronger support for calling someone a liar.

    Exaggeration is another matter. If you don’t appreciate it, you should feel free to stop reading. Personally, I love the passion and the hyperbole, and I know others who do too. It’s FUN, and that can be infectious. I have no doubt it comes from a very genuine place.

    I can understand distaste for the style, but I can’t understand the level of vitriol in evidence here.

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    • Well, I do like to receive information about the releases….

      As for the inaccuracy business, inaccuracy is inaccuracy. What is wrong with pointing it out? And when there’s a long pattern of it (this example is far from the only case) it’s more bothersome. Passion may excuse hyperbole among enthusiasts but less so among retailers. It’s quite possible to sell things with enthusiasm, passion even, without crossing the line. It may well come from a genuine place but it contributes, in my opinion, to trends I do not like in the whisky world and which impact me as a consumer. And so I reserve the right to call bullshit when I see it.

      And I would hardly call my post vitriolic. Unless you think to quote David D. is to embarrass him. But you don’t have to like it or agree with it, of course. If it bothers you so much and you don’t appreciate the critique, well, you should feel free to stop reading too.

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  12. And let me just say (self-servingly) that I think I treat K&L quite fairly, on the whole. Despite my problems with David D.’s marketing style (I don’t want to drag the more reserved David OG into this), I have always acknowledged the quality of the casks they’ve selected, given them good scores (by my standards) and Spirits Journal remains one of very few blogs I recommend to people in my “Whisky Links” at top right despite the caveats I note. I think it’s fine to appreciate what you think someone does well and criticize what you think they do not. K&L gets enough of my money and that of friends I send to them–they don’t have to get my unqualified love as well.

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  13. And for today’s entry we have the following prose:

    “This outstanding cask is highly collectable not simply because it’s the 100th cask from this little distillery to be bottled by the Society, but also because it’s one of the best whiskies I’ve had all year. ”

    Unrelenting!!!! I love this guy.

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    • Although that’s another quote that’s attributed to David OG’s tasting note, not David D.

      And key to the quote is that it is “one of” the best whiskies. It could be that 99 out of 100 whiskies this year were “one of” the best if K&L only sources the best. And who knows how many whiskies David OG has had that are never carried by K&L.

      Another way of looking at it is that at least 49 out of 100 whiskies were in the top half of the best whiskies of the year.

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  14. I live in a state K&L doesn’t ship to and couldn’t afford to buy more than a couple $100+ bottles a year even if I did. Plus I have no doubt I’m a total newbie (3 years of conscientious spirits drinking) compared to y’all. So I read the K&L blog purely for entertainment. And I have to say, whatever else he may be, David D. is an unbelievable communicator: a fine prose stylist and a born storyteller, who, as someone higher in this thread has hinted at, also happens to be unnaturally energetic. He’s a writer who happens to sell booze for a living. To me, his closest comps are Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman, maybe a little Bill James too. I love that he’s doing his work in such an oddly confined space. Recently a friend turned me on to Garagiste, another auteur-driven booze market, and while I can’t speak to Driscoll’s palate vs. Rimmerman’s, as writers/pitchmen there is no comparison between them.

    That’s not to say that I haven’t noticed the ‘enthusiasm’ or think that those of you who know what you’re talking about and are actually looking for some help with your purchasing decisions aren’t right to feel skeptical/exasperated. But for my purposes — booze porn — it’s great. I read every post (along with those of Sku, Cowdery, this blog, a few others).

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    • I think Klosterman (not that I am the hugest fan) is a few levels above Bill Simmons let alone David D*. As I’ve said, I do enjoy his writing when he’s not going too far to push a sale and when his current blast of hyperbolic prose is not contradicting some previous blast of hyperbolic prose. In general, I guess I’m old-fashioned in wanting some substance to go with energetic style.

      (And on Grantland give me Brian Phillips or Charles Pierce or Wesley Morris or even Andy Greenwald or Steven Hyden over Simmons any day of the year.)

      *And you’ve put me in better company than I deserve as well.

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    • I’d never question Dave’s writing skills, or the entertainment value of what he does, just the information value, given that much of the entertainment value IS found in the fact that the reader can’t (or isn’t supposed to?) take anything he says literally.

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  15. And let me say that I’m glad that those who enjoy David D.’s posts more than they’re exasperated by them are speaking up here too. While I will continue to call him and others out for what I see as egregious steps over the line I’m not on some anti-Driscoll or K&L campaign here.

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