Taking a long vacation is a great way to clear one's mind and get back some much needed perspective. Before I left for England I was a bit burned out. I wasn't drinking whisk(e)y at all and I could have cared less about wine. It was pretty much just beer and Campari for me. Now that I've had some time to get away from it all, I've returned with a new appetite for booze and I've been really enjoying my daily drams this week.
Every now and then it's good to just stop and take the pulse of the store(s) just to keep people up to date with what's happening. I sometimes assume that everyone is following our insider emails and I can get a bit too presumptuous with the blog. However, for those of you who only check in from time to time, here's a brief summary of what has been, is, and will be happening at the K&L Spirits Department this summer:
- Oban 18 year old landed last week. It's a study in restraint and minimalism. It's also very rare (we got just about every bottle available in CA) and we don't see it too often. That's been a pretty big deal lately.
- We've seen the Ardbeg Alligator and Laphroaig Cairdeas come and go already. We were lucky to get large allocations of each and I'm happy that we were able to offer them to you all. While both are very good, don't feel bad if you missed out - neither are "must haves." They're just tasty Islay whiskies and God knows there's no shortage of those right now.
- Steve McCarthy's new batch of Oregon single malt just landed if you're looking for a super delicious peated whiskey. It's the best version of the white label I've ever tasted. Gone are the green notes on the finish. Everything is supple, in check, and balanced. A masterpiece that will go under the radar of just about everyone who assumes it just can't be that good.
- After reading John Hansell's rave review of the new Hart Brother's 18 Year Old Laphroaig, we worked hard to get our guys at JVS to bring it into CA for distribution so we could carry it. It's a very tasty old Laphroaig and I was really impressed upon the first sip - it's delicate and retrained with just a tease of the medicinal and peat smoke, elegant almost which is amazing for Laphroaig. I also really enjoyed the Hart Brothers 18 Year Old Mortlach because when you find a good Mortlach, you grab it. It's the quintessential Speyside malt and we don't see enough good examples in the U.S.
- Davorin Kuchan stopped by the store yesterday and he has revamped his absinthe tremendously. The new batch is night and day better than his older stuff. This is more vibrant, more potent, and more tasty than it's ever been. I'm looking forward to getting it on the shelf because I think that it will be perfect for cocktail enthusiasts who want a 375ml half bottle of something great for mixing, rather than opting for a whole 750ml bottle that lasts forever.
- I've met a slew of people lately who have recently tried a Pimm's Cup for the first time and can't believe how good it is. You just pour this herbal stuff over ice, add lemon soda or ginger ale, and a whole bunch of fruit. That's it. So easy, yet so refreshing and delicious. I told someone in London last week that no one in the U.S. knows what Pimm's is and they were shocked. It's everywhere in England, but has yet to catch on over here. If you need a photo, check out my old post from London here. Everyone should be drinking pitchers of this over the summer.
- David OG and I are super excited about all the casks we've ordered from Scotland (which are available and listed over on the right side of the margin), but we're not done yet. We've just hooked up with another bottler and worked out a new deal to bring in more unique single barrels, including some amazing grain whisky barrels.
Grain whisky. Much maligned and currently not on the radar of any single malt drinker as the blends have been banished to the back burner and the malts have become the hot ticket. Guys like John Glaser however have inspired us to take another look at the quality of grain whisky. The herbal and sometimes spicy flavors of grain whisky are not for everyone, but when done properly they can exhibit some amazing flavors. When mixed with ice and soda, they excel above most single malts as well. Jim McEwan has put out some amazing samples of superb grains in his Celtic Heartland collection and the Compass Box Double Single was another inspirational dram. However, it’s still an uphill battle when trying to convince people to try grain whiskies and what store would be crazy enough to buy two whole barrels of it? Well…….we would.
David and I tried these whiskies, loved these whiskies, really wanted to buy these whiskies, but knew it would take a stupid low price to be able to justify it. These are curiosities, not sure-fire winners. These are for the ultra whisky geeks, not the everyday fan. These are for the adventurous and brave, people who would rather buy whisky than food. These are as esoteric as it gets.
1965 Caledonian 45 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Grain Whisky – Closed forever in 1988, Caledonian was a Lowland grain distillery that was once famed for having Europe’s biggest patent still. This whisky is all caramel and Sauternes on the nose, rich and enticing aromas of sweet goodness. The palate however is grain all the way – lean and herbal, odd and exciting, crazy cool and super fun. A difficult malt to truly explain. What do you think this is going to cost?
1990 Girvan 20 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Grain Whisky – The home of the old Ladyburn distillery, this is the perfect sister bottle to our “Rare Ayrshire” cask that is now sold out. Girvan contained the now defunct ladyburn, but was more known for its role in creating the Black Barrel brand available in Scandinavia and Latin America. This is another whopper of a whisky that is difficult to describe. Dry, herbal, grainy on the nose, but the palate is expressive and clean, finishing with apples and pears in a fruity flurry of flavor. So much fun, but so weird! How much do you think this will be?
Pricing is not finished yet, but let me tell you that these will not cost anything near what you think they will. Given the price, the scarcity, the age, and the quality, the prices are unreal. More on those however when they’re finalized (yes, I’m leaving you hanging).
- I've decided that I no longer want to have comments for any of the blog posts. This isn't because people who read here aren't responsible or interesting (because I love reading the comments from people here), but rather because I just don't like the direction that the internet is heading. I think that comments have ruined websites like SFgate.com because they now write articles that cater to getting more comments. I don't want to end up like that, so I'm canceling them as of now. Just send me an email if you want to comment on anything.
That's where we're at. Until next time!
- David Driscoll