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Wednesday
Oct052016

Kilkerran 12 Launch Party Next Week!

If you didn’t get the memo, Springbank’s other distillery—the resurrected Glengyle facility (located right next door)—just released it’s very first age-stated whisky: the Kilkerran 12 year old! If you’ve ever wondered why they just don’t call the whisky “Glengyle” it’s because the brand name legally belongs to the nearby Loch Lomand group who own the trademark. Therefore: KILKERRAN!

To celebrate this tremendous achievement you can join us at Donato next week for a meet and greet tasting event with Springbank’s manager Ranald Watson! We only have room for twenty five people (as we want to make this an intimate affair) and we’ll not only have the new Kilkerran 12 year old, but also a selection of rare Springbank single casks as well as plenty of finger foods. I’m not talking about some dainty little ten year old cask offering either, but rather the 19 year old cask strength sherry butt editions that run nearly $300 a pop. You can taste all these and eat delicious Donato appetizers for only $25. We’ll be meeting in the front room at 7 PM next Wednesday! 25 spots available.

Kilkerran 12 Year Launch Party w/Ranald Watson @ Donato - Oct 12th, 7 PM - $25 (plus tax) – Be there or be square!

If you can’t make the launch party, but still want to get a bottle of the delicious new 12 year old release, we’ve got you covered:

Kilkerran 12 Year Single Malt Whisky $64.99  - When the doors opened at the Mitchell's Glengyle Distillery in March of 2004, it became the first new distillery to open in Campbeltown in more than 125 years. Campbeltown, once the center of whisky production for Scotland, had been hit hard over the last century and had dwindled down to two distilleries - Springbank and Glen Scotia. When the SWA threatened to take away the Campeltown appellation, Springbank was told a region needed at least three distilleries to consider itself a specific locale. The decision was then made to reopen the long-dormant Glengyle distillery located immediately next door to Springbank. 

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Oct042016

Busy Week

I'm currently sitting at the Vineburg Deli in Sonoma, sipping a coffee, going through my emails before our ten o'clock appointment at Gundlach Bundschu just up the road. I'm in wine country this week with Trey Beffa, one of our owners and domestic wine buyers, doing some photo and marketing work. Meanwhile, David OG has turned on the "out of office" notices because he's expecting a new family member at some point within the next few days! So who's running the spirits department?! Me, albeit remotely at the moment. Ardbeg is sending out emails about the arrival 21 year old release even though they haven't released it to anyone yet. We've got new casks from Signatory landing in the store this week and going out on email. We're hosting a Benromach dinner at Donato tomorrow night, and I'm working to put together a Kilkerran 12 year launch party with Springbank for next week. Plus, there's a lot of ordering to be done. 

Hollywood customers: I'm your new go-to guy for the next thirty days. Make sure you reach out to me if you need anything and I'll take care of it via phone or laptop from wherever I can get my next wifi connection!

-David Driscoll

Friday
Sep302016

Punk Rock Revitalization!

Last year we decided to do something edgy and bold, switching up the classic K&L Faultline gin label and replacing it with punk rock-inspired art work from acclaimed comic book artist Jaime Hernandez. We even went so far as to create two additional Faultline products (an absinthe and a Bourbon) so that we could print records to go along with the booze—our attempt to create a VAP pack that was actually worth buying (rather than shitty logo-embossed glassware or other lame shwag). Our friends Lisa and Julie from Frontier pressed the music, Jaime did the art, and Dave Smith from St. George took care of the hooch. We threw a party to celebrate. Jaime came to the Hollywood store and signed bottles and records. It was a blast all around! Personally, I know in my heart it was the coolest thing K&L has ever done and will ever do, but commercially it wasn't like hoards of drinkers were out there looking for esoteric comic references and limited 7" vinyl releases from early 80s era LA punk bands. We didn't do it for the money, that's for damn sure! We did it for the love of the art. We did it because it was plain fun!

We also may have stirred an awakening. Less than one year after working with us on the Faultline project, Jaime and his brother Gilbert announced they would be reviving their legendary "Love and Rockets" series, to the jubilation of the thousands of artists they influenced over the last four decades. Around that exact same time, I received an email out of the blue from Rikk Agnew, the iconic guitarist and songwriter behind both The Adolescents and Christian Death; the very bands we paid homage to with the gin and absinthe labels. He was hoping to get a bottle of each and a record if possible (uh....yeah, Rikk. You can have as many as you want!!). He wrote me again after stopping by the store, wanting to extend his appreciation and tell me how honored he was by the tribute. Then, just a few weeks after that correspondance, Rikk Agnew announced he would be releasing a new album in October called "Learn." I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy yesterday and I haven't stopped listening to it since. It's incredible. I feel like it's the first punk rock album made after the year 2001 that has me excited about punk rock again! There's a reason people call Rikk Agnew the "Brian Wilson of punk" (you can preview and pre-order your copy from Frontier here). Less than one year after celebrating the work of Jaime and Rikk, both artists are back on the scene in top form! It's wonderful!

In any case, I'm not saying we had anything to do with any of this (I'm just casually implying it), but there's still a few bottles of the gin and the absinthe left to inspire you (and they're on sale for half price while they last!). Maybe you'll have your own artistic awakening after drinking a few sips. Here's to the revitalizing power of art, music, good booze, and good people!

-David Driscoll

Friday
Sep302016

Whisky Season 2016 – Round Six

After five rounds of Old Particular and Hepburn's Choice releases, it's time to mix things up a bit with two Signatory editions and one distillery-direct cask from Edradour. My colleague Jeff Jones and I made the trip to Pitlochry this past March, braving the cold and snowy conditions to warm our bodies with freshly-drawn single malt. We were much pickier this time around than in previous years and we really streamlined our needs and desires down to three delicious casks. The Benrinnes many of you already know. This is the sister cask to last year's selection and it's pretty much the same whisky, albeit softer at a natural 48.2%. The alcohol wasn't the only thing that evaporated either, as we only managed to get 112 bottles from the barrel. Ballechin might be a new malt for many of you; it's the heavily peated version of Edradour and since the distillery is owned by Signatory, we thought it made sense to start working directly with their whiskies as well. Buying an official distillery cask directly from the producer always comes at a bit of a premium (as you'll remember from our Glendronach, Glen Garioch, Kilchoman, and various other selections), hence the price here for the ten year old. If you're looking to really treat yourself, then you need to grab the Longmorn and grab it at some point within the next few weeks. Despite being 24 years old instead of 29, it's basically the same whisky that we sold for $300+ last Xmas from our Hunter Laing Old & Rare edition, but with more freshness and less oily resin. It's rich and malty, coated with thick vanilla and sweet grains, supple on the finish, and absolutely gorgeous in every way. I think it's the better whisky and it's about half the price. It's also 51.1% which allows you to drink it straight, but with gusto. 

1995 Benrinnes 20 Year Old “Signatory” K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $99.99 - Here at K&L we love Benrinnes distillery so much that, as soon as one cask sells through, we turn right back around and buy another. Whereas we usually like to shake things up and diversify our inventory to keep things fresh, we start breaking out into sweats when the Benrinnes starts to get low. While it's not a household name, Benrinnes is part of the Johnnie Walker empire and, while it's rarely bottled as a single malt, the distillery makes one of the softest, fruitiest, most drinkable whiskies in the business. Everything about the flavor of Benrinnes is joyful, lithe, and warming. This particular cask is light on its feet with fresh stone fruit on the initial entry, followed by soft touches of oak from the hogshead cask and a lovely note of biscuit and sweet malt. What's also interesting about this cask is that it only yielded 112 bottles and proofed itself down to 48.2% naturally. The result is a high-end session whisky designed to please serious fans of old school Scotch. The bad news about this cask is that it's the last one in Signatory's warehouse, meaning we're going to have to look elsewhere for future releases. At least 112 people will go home happy!

2005 Ballechin (Peated Edradour) 10 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $89.99 - Although we've been working directly with Edradour's Signatory label for five years now, we've never bottled anything directly from the distillery until finding this monster cask of 2005 Ballechin on our last trip. Ballechin is what Edradour distillery calls its heavily peated expression, and the result is something far more beastly than anything you'll find on Islay. That's not to say the whisky is peatier, but rather it's heavier, more earthy, brooding, and dense. The peat smoke is clear right off the bat, but once it begins to collide with Edradour's intense maltiness, the peat becomes something completely different. If you can imagine the smells and flavors of fermenting malt, that combination of sour, sweet, and cooked grains, then combine those elements with scorched earth, heavy smoke, and burnt peat, then you'll begin to understand the power of this single Bourbon cask of Ballechin. Now power that profile up to 55.8% and all that intensity gets dialed up a notch. What's ironic to me about this whisky is that it comes from one of Scotland's tiniest, daintiest, most manicured and fairy tale-esque distilleries. There's nothing dainty about this malt, however.

1992 Longhorn 24 Year Old “Signatory” K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $159.99 - If pressed, I would probably put Longmorn in the top tier of Highland malt whisky producers right alongside more heralded names like Macallan, Glenmorangie, and Glenfarclas. There is something ineffably quintessential about Longmorn's richness, weight, and texture; there's a core of sweet vanilla and malted barley in just about every expression I've ever tasted from the distillery, and I always walk away from the drinking experience utterly satisfied. For that reason, I will always buy an older, reasonably-priced cask of Longmorn when I get the opportunity. This past spring, I stared down a vintage-dated 1992 barrel in the Signatory warehouse and had yet another fantastic dram. This 24 year old whisky should be the mold after which all other Highland malt whiskies are created. It's almost heavy on the palate and it moves slowly across the tongue, a creamy wave of dried apricot, vanilla bean, and sweet grains. The finish has more of the same, but throw in a hint of butterscotch for dessert. There's no sherry maturation or sweetness really from the hogshead cask. All that richness is inherent in the whisky itself. All in all, there's nothing extraordinary about this whisky because just about every edition of Longmorn we've ever bottled has been outstanding. This whisky is nothing more than another example of a superior Scotch distillery doing what it does best.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Sep292016

Introducing Yuu Baal

There isn't a day that goes by where I don't receive twenty different emails from readers, potential customers, vendors, or general enthusiasts about a product we just have to carry at K&L. With so many different products hitting the spirits market right now, it's almost impossible to keep up, especially when so many random people are constantly writing to me about their experiences:

"David! I had this rum on vacation in Bali. You simply have to do the six months worth of price negotiations, product research, government formula approval, label design and approval, importation logistics, and then take all the investment responsibilities of an importer just so I can get one bottle for my wife who forgot to buy one while we were there! I might even buy two bottles if you can make it happen!"

Unfortunately, K&L has never been the store that carries everything, nor will we ever be (see my viral article about saturation here for clarification). Now more than ever we have to be extremely picky! I've never been the asshole gatekeeper who said no to everything under the sun and made people nervous with a serious, straightforward demeanor. I've always been the easy-going guy who said yes to any and every appointment and did my best to give every decent label a chance to succeed. Unfortunately for the little guys coming to market today with superfluous booze, those days are over. There's too much competition today. There are too many people vying for the limited spots we have on the shelf and extremely tough decisions are going to be part of the modern reality. When it comes to Tequila and mezcal, I've put a total freeze on any expansion because we're as full as full can be. However, when I tasted the new expressions from Yuu Baal, my mouth dropped, my eyes widened, and I bought everything they had.

Yuu Baal is one of the best new mezcal labels we've seen from Oaxaca in the last few years, originating from the town of San Juan del Rio—one of the region's most well-regarded distillation centers. The brand (which translates to "earth" and "fire" in Zapotec) is a collaboration between a local cooperative of distillers and my friends at Pacific Edge here in California, incorporating spriits from San Luis del Rio, Santa Ana del Rio, and Santo Domingo Albarradas. It has immediately become one of the most diverse and high-quality mezcal line ups we carry with flavors that are clean and focused all the way through. The entry level espadin expression is made from estate grown agave baked and crushed by stone using traditional methods, and the pure, unadulterated character of the aromatics is evidence of the artisinal production. It's also very well priced for the quality. Del Maguey's Vida was always the go-to value mezcal, but with the competition on the market right now it's going to be tough for them to keep that crown; especially with something as good as this:

Yuu Baal Espadín Mezcal $34.99 - Roasted aromas of earth and spice emanate from the nose, and the palate brims with subtle smoke and a concentrated blast of tangy fruit and savory spice. The Yuu Baal espadin is hands down one of the best sub-$40 mezcales we've ever tasted. There may be a new king of Oaxacan spirits.

Yuu Baal has three high-end wild agave expressions as well, made from the holy trinity of tobalá, madrecuixe, and tepeztate. For those of you who are new to mezcal, these wild agave expressions are expensive because of the rarity and difficulty in the foraging of them. Unlike the espadín varietal, which can be cultivated in fields such as in the photo above, think of wild agave like you would truffles. They cannot be farmed, but rather they must be found. Not only do you have to find them, you have to find enough of them to ferment into enough liquid to justify cooking a batch for distillation. The flavors of the wild agave expressions, however, are not instantly better than the standard espadín expressions to the novice palate. I would compare the nuance of their profiles to something like cigars for the newcomer: at first it's just smoke and earth, but over time you come to appreciate the complexity. In the case of the three Yuu Baal releases, they're three of the most precise, textbook distillates of tobalá, madrecuixe, and tepeztate I've ever tasted. They're definitely worth the extra dough if wild agave is your bag.

Yuu Baal Tobalá Mezcal $109.99 - Tobala is usually the ultimate test of a Oaxacan distiller's craft and in this case the Yuu Baal passes with flying colors. There are textbook tobala notes of earth and sweet plant-like flavors that morph into a rather peppery note on the finish. It's an elegant expression of the famed wild agave on all levels. 

I would never write this in the actual notes for the website because I think it would scare off the budding consumer, but for you guys here I'll say this: to me, tobalá always has what I describe as a paper towel flavor. When I was a kid, someone told me that drinking water filtered through a paper towel would get rid of the hiccups. I tried it once and the flavor has never left my memory. That plant/paper flavor is a big part of the classic tobalá profile, in my opinion.

When the agave piñas are roasted before fermentation, they're left to smolder under a mountain of earth. Hence, many of the Yuu Baal expressions have clear and vibrant flavors of—you guessed it—scorched earth. Pretty straightforward, right? You really get that earthy flavor coming through in the madrecuixe.

Yuu Baal Madrecuixe Mezcal $109.99 - Madrecuixe is one of the most coveted and complex of the mezcal wild agaves and the immediate aromas from the Yuu Baal expression showcase exactly why. Nosing the spirit, there are distinct and potent earthy elements at play, intermingled with an ethereal smoky note that smells like a fire pit after it's been doused with water. The balance between those elements on the palate is a spectacle to behold, as the flavors meander from vegetal, to sweet agave fruit, to subtle spice, and then back to plant matter and earth. This is truly a mezcal expression for those who seek out the most potent of agave flavors.

Yuu Baal Tepeztate Mezcal $119.99 - Yuu Baal's wild tepeztate expressions is perhaps one of the most polished top shelf mezcals we've ever tasted, perfectly balancing the line between classic agave spirit flavor and more exotic notes of earth, spice, and savory. There's a seamless note of black pepper, roasted agave, scorched earth, and sweet agave perfume all the way from front to back. Those searching for elegance, look no further.

Like I said, there's no room for new mezcal at K&L right now unless it's some of the best mezcal we've ever tasted. In the case of Yuu Baal, it is. These are definitely here to stay.

-David Driscoll