Forager’s Disbelief

As a dedicated forager, I frequently check the LCBO app, looking for price reductions or for interesting new stock coming in. New items almost always show up on the app for a few weeks with zero inventory prior to actually hitting the shelves so there’s plenty of advance notice. Sometimes though an item that has been out of stock for some time like months, or in some cases years, will suddenly show a single bottle appearing in stock. This is almost always a correction due to a bottle that has gone missing or a bottle that was broken or one that perhaps happened to walk away on its own. But sometimes, rarely, it’s not a correction. This was one of those times.

Thursday I checked the LCBO app. Nothing new, no new items, no price cuts. Wait. Why is there a lone bottle of Laphroaig Cairdeas showing in stock? And why is it a 2012 ‘Origin’ and not something more current? It must be a mistake, right? After all, there were only 3000 bottles of it released back in 2012. I ignored it.

Friday I checked the app. Nothing new, no new items, no price cuts. Wait. That Cairdeas is still there. Why hasn’t this been corrected? I  ignored it, or at least tried to. After a couple of hours of the error gnawing at me, I couldn’t resist. I call the store. The manager I spoke with was very helpful, explaining that, after a few minutes, she was certain that it wasn’t on the shelves. Not a surprise. I was ready to accept this but she said that she would look in the back warehouse. I waited on the phone, certain that at any moment she would return and inform me that it wasn’t there and that they were very sorry for the error.

Nearly fifteen minutes later, sure now that I had been forgotten, she returned to the phone and triumphantly informed me, “I found it!”

I was nearly in disbelief. I asked her to confirm the price.

“Our system says $100.45.” (That’s Canadian dollars.)

Now I was truly in disbelief: the price was the 2012 release price! I asked if it could be put on hold until Monday as I was not going to be able to use our car until then and drive the 50 km to the outlet. She took my name and contact info, assuring me that it would sit in the manager’s office until then. When I told my wife later that day about finding this treasure, she (very, very supportive wife when it comes to my collection) was worried that even though the bottle was to be stored in the managers office, it could disappear over the weekend. She suggested that I ask my 80 year old mother who lives just down the street from the LCBO branch to pick it up as soon as she could, just to be sure.

I have been married long enough to know that I should listen to her, especially since she was being so supportive in this acquisition. I called Mom who that said she would go by the store when she was out for groceries that afternoon and that I should pay her when we visited over the weekend.

Cairdeas 2012.JPG

Sure enough, it was the 2012! I couldn’t believe my good fortune. This is the thrill of a good forage, stumbling into something so wonderful that, by all accounts, really should even be there. In the future there’s no question that I will give a little more credence to the single bottles that show up in stock.

Thanks Jen, and thanks Mom, for helping me on this one.

Happy foraging!

 

 

 

PLCB Alert: Scapa 16 (and Yamzaki 12…)

It its efforts to purge inventory that cannot be replaced due to the distiller phasing out the expression, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has finally sold off all of its remaining Laphroaig 18. I had mentioned the deep discounts offered on the 18 in a previous post and, given the recent announcements regarding other distilleries moving solely to NAS (No Age Statement) expressions, I decided to check other similarly affected bottles.

Two casualties of the NAS movement announced last year are Longmorn 16 and Scapa 16.

scapa-16-and-longmorn-16

Both will be sorely missed, the Scapa 16 being replaced by Scapa Skiren and the Longmorn 16 may or may not be replaced by Longmorn Distiller’s Choice. Regardless, Scapa 16 is disappearing and, like Laphroaig 18, PLCB is slashing its price to clear it out. And I mean it’s really slashing the price, from $US 79.99 to $US 51.99! This Scapa expression is a uniquely floral dram in no way similar to the neighbouring Highland Park distillery and deserves a place in the collection, particularly at this price. Move fast on this one, as of May 31, 2016 there were only 34 bottles left scattered across the state of PA, with none in the major urban stores.

Also, as an update on our old friend Yamazaki 12, despite a global shortage of this vanishing dram, a remarkable amount still sits on the shelves of PA, waiting patiently to delight foragers. Still priced at (a very reasonable) $US84.99, it’s really not clear why the PLCB has not discounted this item in the same way it has for other discontinued whiskies. Regardless, PLCB must have been sitting on quite a hoard of it when Suntory nixed its age statement: an astounding 1000 bottles remain on the shelves! One PLCB outlet in Allentown shows 63 bottles in stock! Go. Get. This.

 

Happy foraging!

 

 

 

 

PLCB Alert: Laphroaig 18 Years Old

I’ve never called out an alert for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, but I noticed a dramatic offering that needs to be shared. I’ve mentioned before that the state of Pennsylvania is one of the few places that still has Yamazaki 12 for sale at a non-auction price point (yes, dozens of bottle still remain on shelves in and around Pittsburgh), but there is another now that needs mention.

Laphroaig 18 year old, marked down to $USD 63.99. Seriously.

 

For those of us in Ontario, after the currency exchange the price of this bottle is comparable to what we would pay for the Laphroaig 10 year old at LCBO. I cannot say enough about how exquisite this expression from Laphroaig is. All the smoky goodness of the 10 year, but mellowed, rounded and rich after its extended rest. Back when LCBO was carrying this expression, it was most recently priced in the $CAD 175 range, and a quick  search shows a similar price point online and at retail in the US and UK. For this price it’s a steal, a truly can’t-pass-up kind of deal if you happen to find yourself in PA.

According to the PLCB website there’s about 110 bottles scattered over the state. With this  pricing I can only assume that this expression is on clearance. So, like the Yamazaki 12, don’t expect any more to be gracing the PLCB shelves in the future. Get it while you can.

 

Happy foraging!

 

This Christmas, Pennsylvania Islay Lovers Are on Santa’s Nice List

Ardbeg Winter
Islay Christmas – a little snow on the casks.

It’s true! And Santa the PLCB is treating them to some great prices. And for those of us that might be travelling to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, there are great opportunities for buying whiskies at great prices, or for finding great whiskies unavailable in Ontario, or both!

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has cut prices on a ton of whiskies, and compared to LCBO prices, the Islays in particular are a steal.

PLCB prices shown do not include 6% PA sales tax but savings calculations do. Prices valid until Jan3 2016. Currency conversion uses 1 CAD = 0.74 USD.

Whisky                                 PCLB (USD)           LCBO (CAD)       Savings

Kichoman Machir Bay            59                             104                       $19/18%

Laphroaig 10                              46                              81                        $14/18%

Laphroaig 18                              75                              179                      $71/39%

Ardbeg 10                                    48                             100                      $31/31%

Ardbeg Uigeadail                      75                              171                      $63/37%

Ardbeg Corryvrekan                90                             189                      $59/31%

Looks pretty good! And I should also point out that even though it appears as an active item on the LCBO website, for the last year or more there has been zero inventory of Laphroaig 18 in Ontario.  No supply and a great price make this the clear pick of the litter.

And speaking of no supply, here are a couple additional non-Islay whiskies that are not -and probably never will be- available in Ontario that merit serious consideration as adds to the collection.

Whisky                                 PCLB (USD)           Price (CAD)       LCBO (CAD)

Macallan 12                                58                             78                              n/a

Yamazaki 12                               85                             115                             n/a

There’s very little Yamazaki 12 left in PA so as I’ve written before, I’d consider it a last call of sorts. Regarding Macallan, as they phase out their core age statement expression, just as what happened with the Yamazaki age statements, we should see the prices rise. But for now, $US 58 is a great deal.

Happy foraging!

 

Fickle, Fickle Prices and the LCBO

I travel to Miami frequently, and usually stop in at Total Wines to browse their fine selection of single malts and to pick up a bottle. My past couple of trips I’ve brought back an Ardbeg Uigeadail ($70 US) and a Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated ($60 US) that were great buys and wonderful additions to the collection. But I also noticed something odd. More than a few bottles were priced significantly better back home at the LCBO.

Yes, I realize that most Canadian readers will balk at such a preposterous notion. Yet it’s true. Even after Canadian import duties and alcohol taxes, the prices were better at home (adjusting for the currency exchange rate of course). I’m truly lost for an explanation. Here’s just a couple that I noticed:

Aberlour a’bunadh

LCBO 95.05 $CAD

Total Wines 116 $CAD (87.99 $US) (Exchange rate of 1 $US = 1.32 $CAD used 10/14/2015)

That’s  20% difference, advantage LCBO. And what’s most peculiar here is that the import duties into Canada are partially based on alcohol content which means that anything cask strength will necessarily include a larger tax cut.

Compare that with something much more in line with how we would expect the price differences across the border to look:

Laphroaig 10 year

LCBO 80.95 $CAD

Total Wines 65 $ CAD (48.99 $US)

Here we see a 25% difference on this one, advantage Total Wines. And while I have Laproaig showing, why the hell is Laphroaig 10 priced higher in Canada than Quarter Cask? The rest of the world (and I mean absolutely everyone, without exception) prices the 10 year less than QC by 10%-15%. Hello Revenue Canada: You’re doing it wrong. Ugh.

And then there’s this one, utterly egregious and not in the way you would first expect:

Tobermory 10

LCBO $CAD 67.25

Total Wines $CAD 92 ($USD 69.99)

Huh? Sure, Tobermory is a nice enough little dram, but really? A 35% premium in the US? Can I really, truly conclude that the LCBO is giving us good pricing? I won’t go so far as to definitively say so, but in some cases, yes. Taking these three examples, nearly every store outside of Canada that I’ve been to in the last year has Aberlour a’bunadh priced in the 95-100 $CAD range so on this one LCBO is pretty much on point. At the other end of the spectrum, the LCBO pricing for Laphroiag 10, as mentioned above, is consistently  and completely out of whack. But, occasionally, and for reasons completely mysterious but not quite profound, the LCBO pricing is both fair and reasonable as we see with the Tobermory. I don’t really expect to be saying that very often.

Happy foraging!

Duty Free Part 3: By Land

Last week I was in Pittsburgh for work. It’s about a five and a half hour drive from Toronto so I elected to drive rather than fly as the total travel time is about the same either way. Two days in Pittsburgh afforded a couple of opportunities: the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), the state run liquor monopoly, and Duty Free Americas (DFA), a chain of stores which controls ninety duty free outlets across North, Central and South America.

First up, the PLCB. Like our beloved LCBO, the PLCB is a government monopoly that controls supply and pricing. Again, like the LCBO, the PLCB offers monthly discounts on a limited number of bottles but as far as deals go for the Canadian shopper, the competing forces of lower state taxes (compared to Ontario) wrestle with the unfavourable exchange rate between the US and the Canadian dollar. Prior to the dramatic decrease in the loonie versus the greenback, the PLCB prices on a lot of whisky were very, very appealing but one needs to look more carefully these days, noting especially the sales.

So, what did I see? A number of great deals.No picture for this one, but a fantastic deal at the PLCB is Laphroaig 18 year.

Laphroiag 18 PLCB $US 79.99 ($CDN 107)

Laphroaig 18 LCBO $CDN 179.95 (when available, provincial inventory has been at ‘0’ bottles for months now.)

I’ve tasted the 18 year old at a couple of Friends of Laphroaig events here in Toronto and it is an unbelievable expression; definitely on my ever growing list of bottle to add to the collection. Trust me, get a bottle, put it on your top shelf.

Next up at the PLCB, a pair of fantastic Irish whiskies, the ‘Spots’. I know a number of devotees of the Spots, and I’m sure the pricing here will have them consider a quick weekend trip to PA.

IMG_1133

Green Spot PLCB $US 59.99 ($CDN 80.39)

Green Spot LCBO $CDN 85.25

Yellow Spot PLCB $US 89.99 ($CDN 120.59)

Yellow Spot LCBO: nope

There are other gems at the PLCB that I’ll be happy to share in future posts, but for now, go get that Laphroaig!

Duty Free Americas on the other hand, doesn’t have a tremendous range of whisky at their stores. Their outlets are typical duty free store that besides spirits, wine and beer, also offer cosmetics, tobacco, hand bags, sunglasses, etc. Liquor prices tend to be a little cheaper than at state or provincial stores, with a few notable exceptions. As well, all DFA stores use common pricing so that each store sells for the same price regardless of which state you are entering or exiting the US. They have one website for all stores so a little research ahead of one’s trip can give visibility as to what they are offering and for how much, despite the limited selection.

This trip, at DFA is where I chose to make a strategic buy. Expanding the collection is rewarding and fun, but it needs to be protected otherwise the very good bottles tend to get eroded by a lethal combination of curiosity and thirst. This is where ‘buffer’ bottles come into play: ‘every day’ drams that keep me from breaking into all of that good stuff all the time. Today’s buffer: Monkey Shoulder.

IMG_1177

A liter for $ CDN38?!? An easy decision considering the quality of this vatted malt (a marriage of Balvenie, Glenfiddich and the elusive Kininvie; no grain liquor in this one) and comparing the LCBO price of  $CDN 54.90 for a 750 ml bottle.

My Springbank, Yamazaki and Octomore can all rest a little easier now that the Monkey Shoulder is there to take the hit.

Happy foraging!