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Saturday
Feb272016

Going to School

In a rare photo appearance on the spirits blog, David Driscoll pre-parties with his hero actor Dean Cameron at the 25th anniversary celebration of Ski School last night in San Francisco's Mission District. Knowing his affinity for both the film and drinking, Dean invited David to attend the screening and sit with him during the presentation.

What a dream! Thanks to Dean for a truly memorable evening.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Feb252016

Return of the Mack

Is Mark Morrison's "Return of the Mack" the correct move for this Caol Ila post? Or maybe Cinderella's "Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone"? Whatever song comes to mind when you think about the Caol Ila shortage, you can now blast your Kool & the Gang edition of "Celebrate" because the standard 12 year edition is finally back in stock. It's everything you remember: round and luscious mouthfeel, a sweet fruitiness on the entry, and a blast of classic Islay smoke on the finish. Best part? Same price. 

Caol Ila 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky $59.99

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Feb242016

Two New K&L Exclusive Whiskies

It's finally here! This single cask of Fukano is a deal that my brother David OG worked out via a new Southern California importer. It’s taken two years to get it here, but the boys finally pulled it off. Fukano single cask Japanese whisky distilled from rice! Not only is this cask of whisky only available at K&L, this whisky is NOT sold in Japan. It’s a U.S. exclusive for only a few select stores. Here are David OG’s notes:

This exceptional distillery in the city of Kumamoto on the southern island of Kyushu has been distilling since 1823. They're famous for a diverse offering of Shochus and high quality liqueurs, but a tiny portion of their production is devoted to malted rice distillation. In Japan, these old whiskies are not bottled as such, though they do meet the definition by American standards. Instead they use them to make their high-end liqueurs, which is sad for them, but GREAT for us. This rare spirit is aged much like bourbon in new charred oak casks. The result is something absolutely sublime and uniquely Japanese. While one might be expecting Shochu squared, we're in fact in a totally different arena altogether. Nothing like you might have had from other producers bringing in similarly labeled product. Somewhere between scotch, bourbon and "other whisky", both the complexity of aromatics and texture on the palate are surprising. This cask has a vibrant nose of nut brittle, spiced fruit, lemon rind, and almond butter. A very subtle oceany quality persists in the back ground. Supremely drinkable but not without a pop on the backend, this is a true bridge between Single Malt and Bourbon. We have no doubt that everyone is going to love drinking this, although its limited nature makes it a strong candidate for most regrettable failure to click of the year. It's our first single cask Japanese whisky since the famous Karuizawas of 2013, don't expect it to last much longer than those did. 

I’m a big fan of this and I commend the boys from SoCal for getting this thing done. I think people are going to go bananas for it. It’s soft, rich, easy to drink, and it offers a fruity, spicy note that really hits home. As David OG said in his notes, it’s not often we get a single cask exclusive from Japan. These aren’t going to last.

Fukano K&L Exclusive Single Cask #282 Japanese Whisky $79.99 – Bottled at 40.7%. Get one. You’ll be very happy you did.

David OG’s SoCal dealings continue to impress, however. Don’t think it ends with the Fukano. He managed to snag this little Irish cask from David Stirk’s Exclusive Malts inventory. Check out his notes here:

 Here is a fun one from our friends at the Creative Whisky Company. They made waves last year by bottling a single barrel of Irish Malt at full strength and 13 years of age. While those details are unusual without a doubt, what shocked the whiskey world was that very humble cask (#20012) received a WHOPPING 96 points from the Whiskey Advocate. While we've become accustomed to seeing high scores in the wine world, this type of score is reserved at WA for the most special offerings and is never doled out lightly. The list of whiskies scoring above 95 points is short and reads like a list of legends. Needless to say we were sad to only acquire a few bottles of that spectacular whiskey. Luckily our good name and strong ties put us first in line when Mr. Stirk offered up a sister cask for sale in its entirety. This special cask #20024 is unique, yet very reminiscent of that special beauty. The third fill Madeira casks has still done wonders to the this already spectacular malt. This is bottled at full strength and only 380 bottles were made despite the large size of the cask.

13 year old cask strength 54.2% Irish single malt whisky aged in refill Madeira. Sound good? It is. It drinks beautifully at full proof, to boot.

Irish Malt Whiskey 13 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malt" Single Madeira Cask #20024 Strength Irish Whiskey $129.99

What a nice way to start the day!

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Feb242016

The Irony of Oak

I was thinking about something last night as I drove north on 280 towards home. Oak-aged Chardonnay was all the rage from about 2005 to 2014. Big, toasty, buttery, popcorn-flavored California white wines with creamy textures and full-bodied richness. While there has always been a counterculture to that style of wine—the school of crisp, low-alcohol, cuisine-friendly white wines fermented in stainless steel—a more food-focused mindset started becoming fashionable a few years back. Today, even at my local pizza place where bulk commercial brands rule the day, unoaked white wines are the majority of what's available by the glass. That's a big change from what I saw happening when I first started in this business almost a decade ago. 

"Ugh....I hate oaky wines," you'll now invariably hear someone say each day in the store. 

Ironically, oak couldn't be more popular in other genres right now. Almost any other alcoholic beverage put into oak is like liquid gold at the moment. Whisky drinkers want more oak. Brandy drinkers want more oak. Gin distilleries are putting gin into oak. Big oaky cabernets are fetching huge prices. Limited edition beers aged in oak barrels fly out the door in seconds. Even Absolut vodka introduced a new oak-flavored edition this past year. Oak, oak, oak!!

Except with white wine. Oak has recently become totally uncool in that realm. But what's the difference, really? Why is oak perfectly delightful in some genres, but unacceptable in others? It doesn't make sense, especially when you look at the crux of the argument. The reason white wine drinkers shun new oak maturation is because they believe that it masks the true flavor of the wine. It hides flaws. It buries nuance. It takes something crisp and easily-drinkable and turns it into something rich and slowly-sippable. That's not what most people want these days from their white wine. Yet, it's exactly what the majority of the population wants from everything else. Oak literally does the exact same thing to red wine, whisky, beer, ale, gin, tequila, rum, brandy, pisco, cachaça, mezcal, liqueurs, cocktails, Champagne, etc. There's no difference whatsoever. 

It's funny how that works.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Feb232016

A New Start 

I've had a bit of a black cloud over my head the last few days, but today I'm feeling more upbeat. Whenever you get into a bit of a funk it's best to look at the factors in your life you can control and then make the best of it. I realized that I control a lot of things at K&L this week. For example, I control selection, inventory, and pricing for a large portion of the company. That means if I want to change things around to fit my particular needs or placate the whimsy of my fragile emotions, I can do that. And so I will. Wow, this feels good already.

One of my favorite everyday whiskies of all time is the Benriach 12. Sadly, like most good things these days, the Benriach 12 has been discontinued by the distillery. They're replacing it with a new 12 year old sherry-matured edition which we should have in stock tomorrow. I love me some sherry, of course, but I'm really an old fashioned Highland kid at heart. I love Clynelish 14. I love Glenmorangie 10. I even love the ease and drinkability of Johnnie Walker Green Label. But much like low alcohol, crisp and clean white wines took a backseat to oaky chardonnay this past decade, subtle and nuanced whiskies like the Benriach 12 are all getting blown out the water by big sherry and bit peat. I know what it's like to have a loud person talking over you all the time (because I'm the loud guy). Ironically (or maybe fittingly, depending on how you look at it), I don't look for the same attributes in a partner. Whereas most of our beer customers want 8.5% American Double IPAs, I want 4% German lagers. Whereas many of our wine customers want 16% ABV Napa Cabernets, I want 12.5% French claret. And whereas 60.2% sherry bombs and 132 ppm peated malts have become the mainstay, I want 46% classic barley goodness. 

I want purity. I want typicity. I want comfort and effortless cool. I want vintage flavor and traditional heritage. I want a fucking Highland malt that tastes like a Highland malt, for Christ's sake! 

So I bought the rest of it. I cleaned out the supplier. There's no more Benriach 12 available in California from distribution. 

Now—since we established I'm in control here—I'm going to do the opposite of what opportunism dictates. I'm going to lower the price and let anyone who wants to join me in this sweet surrender have at it.

$39.99 for the now-discontinued standard edition of Benriach 12. Treat yourself. Pay $40 for a great whisky from a great distillery (with a real age statement!) and pour yourself a glass tonight. I'm ready to go back to the beginning with my whisky enjoyment a start remembering all the wonderful single malts I enjoyed when I first broke into this crazy business. It's a new start—or ANUSTART, as Tobias Fünke put on his license plate.

-David Driscoll