Wednesday
Jul222015

Cut Spike 3.0

Batch three is here. Outside of Nebraska, you'll only find it at K&L.

My notes: When I first tasted the Cut Spike whiskey, I thought it was simply the best American single malt out there; a true revelation for the domestic category. However, as I'm now tasting the newest batch from the Nebraskan producer, I'm realizing that the whiskey is starting to morph into something very particular and unique to the brand. That classic creaminess is still very pervasive, but for the second time in a row there's a pronounced note of pine that soon mutates into ginger and Asian spices before quickly turning back into rich vanilla and oak on the finish; smoothly seeping its way into my taste buds as that last little sip goes down. What we're starting to witness here is the development of a house style--a flavor that defines this distillery. It's very exciting, and it's becoming infectious.

Kyle’s notes: With this being only their third release, the anticipation of what is in the bottle was very high: a chance to try and flesh out exactly what is the house style that the good distillers at Cut Spike bring to the table. This bottling does a great job of solidifying them in my mind as one of the highest quality single malt producers in the States. This whisky is incredibly vibrant and fresh without tasting young or harsh. The nose is lifted with bright notes of candied ginger and Douglas fir, a sense of promised vanilla sweetness wafts in at the end. In the mouth there is sweetness, orange marmalade, a hint of clove for spice, and then the same vanilla cream from last batch that really adds roundness to the palate.

David OG just got his bottle today, so he’ll chime in later. You’re going to want one, so you might as well just get it out of the way now.

Cut Spike Nebraska Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - At first we couldn't believe our mouths. We knew that Cut Spike single malt had just taken Double Gold honors at the 2014 San Francisco Spirits competition (the highest possible honor), so obviously other people thought it was good, too. But after tasting so many mediocre American attempts at single malt whisky, we had become accustomed to the idea that the Scottish style of distillation would never be recreated here at home. There would be spin-offs, and experimental grasps at greatness, but that supple, malty profile would simply be something we needed to import from abroad. Then the folks at Cut Spike sent us a sample of their two year old Nebraskan single malt whisky made from 100% malted barley on a pot still crafted in Rothes, Scotland. Fermented at the brewery next door to Cut Spike in La Vista, the malt was matured for two years in new American oak with varying levels of char. The result is an incredible hybrid: soft, barley and vanilla-laden whisky that tastes somewhat like your standard Scottish single malt, but has its own unique character simultaneously. It's the kind of whisky that you taste once and enjoy, but then the next day suddenly crave intensely. It impresses you instantly, yet doesn't really reveal its full character until weeks later. The new oak blurs seamlessly into the malty mouthfeel, adding a richness on the finish normally not tasted in standard Scottish selections. Cut Spike is a major accomplishment for American distillation, pure and simple.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jul212015

Fun Local Stuff

Today I had a morning meeting with Erin Hines, the founder and creator of Bitter Girl: a family-owned and operated business out of Sonoma County. Erin used to bartend at Fog City in San Francisco (and still tends the bar near her home), but now she's focused entirely on her bitters business. Normally I would wonder how someone who hand-writes and hand-delivers her own hand-made bitters could subside completely on that amount of commerce alone, but then I tasted them. These are absolutely spectacular, and they're all made using fruits, herbs, and spices mostly grown in her own backyard (or her mother's). The flavors explode right off the bat and the intensity of the fruit makes your mouth water in seconds. She's going to sell insane amounts of these bitters. I can't wait to get home later so I can start tinkering with them.

Bitter Girl Batch One Bitters 2 oz $16.99 - Batch One is made from pomegranate, orange, tangerine, and vanilla bean. Use it spice up your citrus cocktails!

Bitter Girl Bitter Rose Bitters 2 oz. $16.99 -  The Bitter Rose uses rose petals, hibiscus, and lavender to create a delicate flavor profile just begging for a gin martini.

Bitter Girl Mom's Prickly Poms Bitters 2 oz. $16.99 -Mom's Prickly Poms uses pomegranate, prickly pear, pineapple, and guava all grown by Erin's mother in her yard.

Bitter Girl Pear Jordan Bitters 2 oz. $16.99 - The Pear Jordan uses Bartlett pear, cascade hops, and nugget hops to create a fall flavor delight.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jul212015

Magical Drinking

Seeing that this book came out six years ago, I'm probably not telling many of you something you don't already know, but: if you're like me, and you're just now hearing about The Magicians by Lev Grossman, it's time to sit down and start reading—especially if you like drinking. Without giving too much away (and doing too base of a summation), take Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and add swearing, sex, and lots of drinking. And when I say drinking, I don't mean beer and shots. I mean glasses of Lagavulin, Campari and sodas, Lillet cocktails, and dry rieslings from New York's Finger Lake region. Put all of those things together, set it in Brooklyn, Upstate, and Manhattan, and make magic a much more adult-oriented subject. That begins to describe what's going on here.

The Magicians is a brilliant summer read without all the imbibing, but the booze draws me in, of course. Lev Grossman obviously knows a bit more than the average author about strong drink. Now that I'm starting part two—The Magician King—I'm ready to pour myself a glass, turn on the A/C, and get back down to my magical business.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jul202015

#RWCBTC2015

When my co-worker Armando Santos asked me what if I was working this past Saturday, ("Yeah, why?"), I didn't realize by answering in the affirmative how disappointed I was to instantly become.

"We're doing our annual beer and taco walk down Middlefield. I was hoping you could come," he told me.

"Beer and taco walk?"

"Yeah, we call it the Redwood City Beer and Taco Classic. We go down Middlefield from Woodside to 5th Avenue and we stop at every Mexican restaurant along the way for beer and tacos."

Oh man. I was crushed. That sounded like the best possible way in the world to spend a Saturday afternoon, but unfortunately I was needed on the K&L sales floor that day.

If you're unfamiliar with our Redwood City location (or Atheron/Redwood City in general) you have two very different neighborhoods sitting adjacent to one another, and we're sandwiched right in the middle. On one side of El Camino Real you have Atherton, with it's huge, secluded mansions and fortified fortresses, laid out along shaded roads without sidewalks. On the other side (directly behind our store) you have Redwood City's most authentic and old school Latino section, with a stretch down Middlefield that includes some of the best eating in the Bay Area. That's the side I'm usually on, grabbing a burrito on my lunch break. Armando and his friends planned on walking that mile-long strip, eating their way from one place to the next. I wanted to do this sooooo badly.

But, alas, I would have to live vicariously through Armando and his friends. If you want to check out more from the Redwood City Beer & Taco Classic, go to Instagram and use the hashtag #RWCBTC2015 to view the photos. While you're there, go ahead and add us to your feed. Like I mentioned before, we've got a new social media team running @klwines.

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Jul182015

Big Bordeaux Tasting Today

Ralph Sands prepping the bar in Redwood City

If you've been reading the "spirits" blog lately, you'll have noticed I've been talking more about wine—specifically Bordeaux. Working at one of the nation's premier Bordeaux retailers, with access to incredible selections, has really turned me into a fan of these amazing wines; to the point that I rarely drink red wine from anywhere else. There's so much complexity, so much diversity, and so many different options (at different pricepoints) that—even though we're talking about endless selections of Cabernet/Merlot—I never get tired of drinking Bordeaux. I could give you a list of amazing wines to try that might give you the Bordeaux bug as well, but then I realized: all my favorite wines are being poured today in the tasting bar!

For $20 you're getting one helluva show today. Three different vintages of Cantemerle (one of the best values in the industry) and the motherfucking 2011 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc—pretty much the best white wine in the world. Plus, the super value 2009 Tronquoy de St-Anne. With Ralph Sands in the bar at the Redwood City locale, you can talk to one of the most experienced veterans in this business while you taste. So, again, I could tell you about some of my favorite Bordeaux wines, or you could come over to the store mid-afternoon and try them all for yourself.

It's particularly a great tasting today. One that needed to be mentioned in detail. Come join us!

-David Driscoll