Danger Zone

It's 10 PM. You're four drinks into the evening. Your wife has gone upstairs to read. You consider a fifth drink, but you're not sure how far you want to take things. You scan the Netflix selection. There it is. Top Gun. Tom Cruise's impeccable countenance dead center, with a frosted-blond Kelly McGillis flanking his rear. Do you dare select it? Because if you do, you know what's going to happen. You're going there. You're going to take a ride into the danger zone. Once Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards, and Tim Robbins show themselves tens of thousands of feet above sea level, you're going to want a drink. Once Val Kilmer enters into the picture, you're most definitely going back for a vodka on the rocks—Iceman style. 

How do I know this? Because I'm knee-deep in it. I'm ensconced, entrenched, and unequivocally buried in the twilight. I've spread out my wings tonight. Nothing in my bar is off limits at this point.

I'm dangerous.

-David Driscoll


Only a Matter of Time

I walked into the tasting bar yesterday afternoon to find Kyle going through the latest K&L Exclusive brandy arrivals, taking notes on the new vintages of Pellehaut and Maouhum. He looked at me for about ten seconds before he said:

"Can it really get any better than this? This is fifty bucks. It doesn't make any sense."

He was holding up the bottle of 2001 Pellehaut; a fourteen year vintage Armagnac that both of us are currently in awe of. 

"If people only knew...." he trailed off. 

I walked up beside him with a smile and put my arm around him.

"It's only a matter of time," I said. Because when you have products that are this good, for these prices, it doesn't matter if people don't recognize the names or the labels. Eventually the word gets out. When you have brown spirits, aged in new charred oak barrels, between 27-33 years of age, all under $100 per bottle, it won't stay under the radar for long. It can't stay under the radar for long.

And it won't. It's only a matter of time, and I've got an entire shelf full of new things when that time comes.

-David Driscoll


Remember Me?

Remember Stranahan’s? The Colorado whiskey company making single malt much in the vein of Cut Spike, albeit long before our friends in Nebraska ever got established. At the end of 2010, when this whole craft whiskey thing was really blowing up, the spirits brand Proximo (who also purchased Hangar One vodka) bought out Stranahan’s and promptly removed the brand from the California market. This was likely in an effort to preserve aged stocks until the brand could be properly relaunched years later.

“Years later” is finally here. It’s 2015 and Stranahan’s is finally back in California on an unallocated level. I just managed to buy a decent supply, so feast while the feasting is good. It’s a two year old whiskey—a la Cut Spike—but it has a much mellower flavor. It’s like Cut Spike meets George Dickel. I’m a big fan. It’s so mellow and round and easy to drink. I think Stranahan’s can add itself to the upper-echelon of new American whiskey distillers, along with Cut Spike, Westland, etc, if they keep pumping out juice this good.

And now there are no bottle limits! Allocations removed! I just bought two for myself. One to party with this weekend, and one to save for later. Welcome back.

Stranahan's Colorado Small Batch Whiskey $52.99 - If high-quality, unique whiskies are your bag, don't put off getting your hands on a bottle of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey; Colorado's first small batch, hand-crafted whiskey that uses top-notch ingredients. The barley for Stranahan's is grown in the Northern Rockies and the water comes from the State's pure mountain streams. The distillery contracts with neighboring Flying Dog Brewery for its four-barley fermented mash, which then goes through a unique filtration program. Twice distilled in a custom Vendome Copper Co. pot still, aged in charred American white oak whiskey barrels for a minimum of two years. The resulting dram is sweet, with fruit and spice notes and is very smooth. Delish! 

-David Driscoll


Hot Islay Deals

I’ll never forget this night. It’s the night that David OG and I first arrived on Islay and met Bowmore ambassador Jamie MacKenzie for what would become the greatest night of our whisky tasting lives. I’m pretty sure I can speak for David on this front—we were drinking 1960s Bowmore from a flask on the shores of Islay at 2 AM, after a night of oysters, locally-raised lamb, and a full-scale tour through the distillery at midnight. God, do I love Bowmore whisky. It’s probably my favorite distillery on Islay for sentimental reasons surrounding this particular evening, but I’m not alone in that summation. Ask any master distiller in Scotland what their favorite whisky is (besides their own) and they’ll probably say Bowmore. It doesn’t necessarily wow you right away, but over time it becomes clear that there’s a level of complexity to the whisky that simply amazes once you work your way up the Scotch learning curve.

Sadly, Bowmore doesn’t enjoy the same reputation here in the states that it does abroad. American whisky drinkers are far more passionate for Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig, than they are for Bowmore. Bowmore gets lumped down their with Bunnahabhain for maybe the least favorite Islay distillery for some reason. Nevertheless, David and I keep buying casks of Bowmore because we love it, and every time we go to Scotland we share that sentiment with the people we meet. Especially the boys at Signatory. They LOVE Bowmore. But, alas, you can’t force anyone to love anything. So we’re going to have to start moving out one of our Signatory casks of Bowmore to make room for the impending arrivals.

Today you get a whisky for almost half price! BUY A FREAKING CASE!!!!!!

Bowmore 12 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (WAS $109.99) NOW $58.99 - We absolutely killed it with the '02 Hogshead at 46% this year, but we're not done with Bowmore. This distillery is cranking out the most magnificent malt and Signatory gets these amazing high quality butts. This is more consistent with the house style than the last cask, bringing the nutty sherry slightly more to the foreground. It's a stark reminder that Bowmore should be considered one of Scotland's greatest distilleries. Treat this with the reverence it deserves and this whisky will make you feel like you're the special one instead of the other way around.

Since we’re discounting some serious Islay whisky, let’s not stop now. Let’s keep the momentum going:

I remember this day well, as well. We hung out all afternoon with Laphroaig master distiller John Campbell and shoveled peat into the kiln. I left Laphroaig that day with a respect for the single malt distillery that was unparalleled. Laphroaig is truly the original Islay single malt. It’s the icon, the tried and tested stalwart that never needs reinventing. When we purchased this refill sherry butt of Laphroaig, we new it was expensive. But then the sister cask won Islay Whisky of the Year from the Whisky Advocate and we were vindicated.

Unfortunately we then had another 300+ bottles to sell after that. Laphroaig casks are NOT cheap. But that’s our burden to deal with, not yours. Take advantage.

Laphroaig 15 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (WAS $160) NOW $126.99 - Des McCagherty is a man of few words, but when he said to us, "You might want to load up on Laphroaig this year," we listened. Apparently, this is one of the most difficult and costly distillates to purchase on the independent market and stocks are depleting faster than ever from Signatory's Pitlochry warehouse. A yearly barrel of two of Laphroaig at K&L has become commonplace since we started our barrel program and we don't want that to change -- at least not while we can help it. That's why we snagged this 15 year old sherry butt of peaty goodness, full of big smoke, cinnamon, tar, and brine, but rounded out by a rich, sherry-laden note that fans of Laphroaig's PX edition will recognize. That combination of sweet and peat is one of the most popular flavor profiles on the market right now, which always adds a few dollars to the cost. In this case, it's fully worth it. The sherry adds the perfect raisiny balance to the bold, ashy flavors of the 61% spirit. If you've already loaded your cabinet with numerous, collectable bottles from Islay's iconic distillery, then I won't say that this bottle will offer anything new to your selection. However, if you've been taking mature, full proof, relatively-affordable, single barrel expressions of Laphroaig for granted, you might want to start thinking about snagging a few of these. That's what we did, at least.

-David Driscoll


Trés Mezcales Nuevos

We have limited supplies of three dynamite new mezcales—two from Germain-Robin’s Mezcalero series and one new release from Anchor’s Mezcal Amaras. I bought one of each for myself—that’s how much I liked all of them.

Mezcalero Release #13 Tobala y Tepeztate Mezcal $69.99 - From the village of San Luis Del Rio in Tlacolula, this exception mezcal is limited production like all the mezcalero bottlings. Only 642 bottles were produced by Distiller Don Luis Cruz at his small palenque in the famous mezcal producing town. This exceptionally high quality single batch is a blend of rare wild agaves Tobala & Tepeztate. Expect powerful fruit and spice flavors with a smoldering mesquite smoke bringing up the rear. Ultra smooth and textural thanks to nearly a year of resting in ceramic tanks.

Mezcal Amaras Cupreata $54.99 - Made from Cupreata agave sourced outside of Oaxaca in the Mexican states of Mazatlan and Guerrero, the newest release from Amaras is absolutely stunning. Potent roasted flavors intermingle with spicy notes of pepper before settling into a pure and clean finish with subtle smoke and clove. A stunning mezcal that truly shows there's a long future for the spirit outside of the traditional Oaxacan zone.

Mezcalero Special Release #1 Mezcal $129.99 - The Special Release from Mezcalero represents the best of the best from Ansley Cole's extensive travels in Oaxaca. It will never be reproduced and likely never matched. Distilled in September 2013 by Alberto Ortiz (Don Beto) from semi-wild madrecuishe (agave karwinskii) harvested from a south-facing hillside of rocky calciferous soil at 5400 feet elevation, wood-roasted in a stone palenque, mallet-crushed, fermented with wild yeasts, double distilled using artisan methods in a 200-liter copper pot still.  Exceptional flavor and complexity thanks to the southern exposure, wild yeasts and hand-milled agave. Madrecuishe’s long stems allows for ambient heat absorbtion rather than reflected heat from sun-baked soil, resulting in a slower maturation and an even more complex flavor profile than Cuixe from other growing sites. These qualities and the magical hands of a master distiller are what make this one of the most special mezcal you'll ever come across.

-David Driscoll