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Thursday
Apr282016

What to do in Louisville

After our second big promotional email yesterday, everyone around here is still clammering about Copper & Kings. Now the New York Times is on board. LOVE IT:

Check out the article here.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Apr282016

Drinking Younger 

After returning from Bordeaux a couple of weeks ago, the booze to wine analogies still spinning in my mind, I tasted the new Kilchoman expressions (featured in yesterday's post) and eventually sent out an email about their arrival. One of the first responses I got read:

Kilchoman has been open for over ten years now. When are they going to release a ten year old?

While I'm sure there's a ten year old cask of whisky sitting somewhere in their warehouse, the answer to that question is probably: NEVER. The folks at Kilchoman were pretty clear about that fact when they started. The philosophy was simple: they were going to take smaller heart cuts off the still to create a finer spirit that should in theory taste better in its youth. And they succeeded. Mission accomplished. Why would they stray from that core mindset now? Their model was never the 10, 12, 15, and 18 year old portfolio. To be honest, I think anyone trying to replicate that formula now is likely setting themselves up for failure. The booze business is a very different place these days. The landscape has changed entirely and Kilchoman isn't the only producer taking smaller cuts to produce a more accessible liquid. The entirety of Bordeaux is doing the same.

I've written about second wines before over at the On the Trail blog, but let's briefly cover them here again. In the 1980s and for centuries before that, a property like Château Latour made one wine: Latour. Every single grape on every single vine went into this cuvée, including many of the stems and sticks still stuck to the fruit. The best grapes went in, along with the worst. It was all about maximizing yields and the wines were tannic and bold as a result. Often they needed thirty years or more in a temperature-controlled cellar before they began to soften up. Today, however, things have completely changed both in the vineyard and in the bottle. Today a property like Château Latour starts by green harvesting, meaning they clip some of the weaker grapes early on to allow the vines to better concentrate the healthy berries. The result is fewer grapes, but better grapes overall—quality over quantity. They also make three wines, not one: Latour, Les Forts de Latour, and Pauillac—all from the same property that formerly produced only one singular wine.

The grapes are now hand-picked, the stems removed, and only the finest candidates make it into the grand vin. After the best grapes have been singled out for the top cuvée, a second harvest is rounded up for the second wine, and then what's left goes into the third wine. Something like that. But the point here is that all the vines being harvested—regardless of which wine the grapes end up in—were formerly used to make a first-growth wine. Today, they're organized and sorted into three wines and the production methods have never been more advanced. The result? The wines taste better and are more approachable in their youth than they likely have been in three centuries of practice. Every château does this now. Every top estate has a second wine. Palmer has the Alter Ego. Haut-Bailly has Le Parde. Ducru-Beaucaillou has La Croix. 

Common knowledge of Bordeaux maturation based on the long history of aging its wines would tell you that top wines like Latour need decades in the cellar before reaching their peak potential. But, again, that was based on decades of experience with wines that were made in a completely different fashion. Drinking a bottle of Latour within ten years of its vintage would have been considered infanticide in the 1990s. Today, however, it's not so crazy. We drank 2005 Mouton Rothschild and 2008 Haut-Bailly at our Bordeaux dinner event in the city this past Monday and the wines were stunning. I spoke to a microdistiller named Christopher Briar Williams this week who owns Coppersea Distillery in New York. He's also making spirits on a smaller scale that taste incredibly approachable in their youth. "At some point there was a culinary agricultural process where someone decided to increase the scale of production. I’m interested in what has been lost," he said to me towards the end of the conversation. 

For me, I'm interested in what's been gained. Time, perhaps.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Apr272016

BOOM: Jack Daniels Buys Glendronach

Now we're getting serious with this whisky revival, folks. I already wrote about all of Scotland's independent bottlers building new distilleries. Now get ready for the deep-pocketed global brands to start buying them. I've known this had to be coming for some time. The Benriach group simply got an offer they couldn't refuse from Brown-Forman: $415 million for the trio of distilleries in the portfolio, Glendronach, Benriach, and Glenglassaugh. Who's next? That's the real question.

Kilchoman to Bacardi? Arran to Sazerac? I'd wager this is just the beginning. 

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Apr272016

New Kilchomans

Two new Kilchoman whiskies hit the store this week. One now a full-time item, the other quite limited.

Kilchoman "Sanaig" Islay Single Malt Whisky $69.99- The newest full-time release from Kilchoman distillery located on Scotland's island of Islay is called "Sanaig" and takes the standard Machir Bay release and adds an additional dollop of sherry aging. The traditional Bourbon cask maturation is complemented with an additional ten months in Oloroso sherry butts, adding both richness and texture to the whisky. The result is a chewier, denser, sweeter, and more decadent experience, but one still full of all the flavors that make Kilchoman what it is: smoke, peat, salt, and earth. 46%

Kilchoman "Evolution" Islay Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $139.99– A monster of a single sherry hogshead from Kilchoman chosen by Impex, the brand’s importer to the U.S. Bottled at 58.7%, distilled on Sept 1st 2011 and bottled on Jan 20th 2016. Big smoke, big peat, big power.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Apr262016

Sake Tasting in SF Tomorrow

For five bucks tomorrow evening you can come by our sparkling new tasting bar in San Francisco and taste some very nice sakes with the folks from Vine Connections, our main sake importer. We're starting at five PM sharp and we'll run the event until six-thirty. Featured will be:

Yuho Eternal Embers Junmai $24.99

Fukucho Forgotten Fortune Junmai $16.99

Fukucho Moon on the Water Junmai Ginjo $36.99

Tensei Song of the Sea Junmai Ginjo $34.99

Mantensei Star Filled Sky Junmai Ginjo $29.99

Tentaka Hawk in the Heavens Junmai $24.99

This is a great chance to get your feet wet, or try some new expressions you might not have had. Plus, you can ask questions galore as Jonas Carlson will be in the house answering all queries from beginners to experts. Come by and join us!

-David Driscoll