Epic Wine Tasting Tomorrow

I'm always excited to advocate for my friend and colleague Ryan Woodhouse, who—in my opinion—is bringing in the most exciting, affordable, and interesting wines we carry as a company. Tomorrow is a great chance to experience everything he does in person. At 5 PM in Redwood City he'll be hosting three of South Africa's top producers: De Morgenzon, Glenelly, and Kanonkop with the winemakers themselves in the bar. You'll have the chance to taste seven incredible wines and chat with the folks who make them for a whopping five dollars. The Kanonkop winemaker, Abrie Beeslaar, was named winemaker of the year the IWSC in London last year. Tomorrow he'll be pouring in our store. Why would you not want to come drink with us? I don't know. That's why I'm telling you about this. You're going to want to do this. Now that the Warriors have clinched against Portland there's no excuse not to come!!!

5 PM. Redwood City. Friday 5/13. $5. Seven wines. 

2015 DMZ Cabernet Rosé $9.99

2014 DMZ Chenin Blanc Reserve $29.99

2012 Glenelly Grand Vin Chardonnay $19.99

2010 Glenelly "Lady May" Cabernet Sauvignon $44.99

2013 Kanonkop "Kadette" Cabernet/Pinotage Blend $12.99

2014 Kanonkop Pinotage $32.99

2013 Beeslar Pinotage $44.99

We'll see you there!

-David Driscoll


The Lore of Laphroaig

I've probably enjoyed drinking my bottle of Laphroaig 15—a special release from the distillery last year—more than any other whisky in my collection as of late. I think the price played a big role in that enjoyment. If I remember correctly, that whisky sold for seventy bucks, which was incredibly low considering most distilleries don't even get out of bed to make a sub-$100 whisky these days. Even the distillery's Cairdeas releases, some of my most favorite from Islay over the last few years, usually come in at a reasonable $80 each time they're released. Laphroaig has always been reasonable that way. The whisky is never flashy or gimmicky. The labels are simple and classic. The prices affordable.

That's why when Laphroaig ambassador Simon Brooking came by this week to taste us on Laphroaig's latest release, we were all a bit surprised when we heard the retail price was estimated to be somewhere around $120. Yet, as I mentioned to Simon, if there's one distillery that's built up a decade's worth of good will, it's Laphroaig. The upcoming Lore expression from the Islay stalwart will not be a limited release, but rather a full-time whisky. It's something you can expect to see on the shelf everywhere and that's great news for whisky fans because the Lore is simply delicious. A blend of 7 and 21 year old Bourbon casks, 9 year old full-term quarter casks (not finished, but aged from day one), along with a few sherry and European oak casks for fun, the Lore stands out from the standard Laphroaig portfolio in a big way. It's richer, darker, more savory, and far more dense. It tastes like you're drinking a very old whisky while simultaneously taking a sip of something much younger. Unlike the bright, medicinal peat that explodes off the bat in the 10 year old, the Lore takes you much deeper into the peat bog with more earth, more weight, and more rancio from the sherry influence.

Everyone at K&L loved it—me included. 

"You guys have done such a good job pricing your whiskies over the years, I think fans will be surprised at the higher price, but will understand it's justified after tasting this; especially given the proportion of 21 year old whisky in the mix," I said to Simon before he left.

No word on a delivery date yet, but I'm pretty excited to get my hands on a bottle. My Laphroaig 15 is almost gone at this point.

-David Driscoll


My Bordeaux Contribution

As many of you know (and as I never let you forget), I'm now a big part of the K&L Bordeaux team and I work with purchasing and promoting the wines from that part of our business, too. One of the things I wanted to work on both personally and as a company was opening up the category to new consumers who may feel intimidated or confused by the idea of fancy French wine. I wanted to do what I'd spent the last seven years doing with whisky: travel, tell stories, and introduce our shoppers to the many personalities of the industry. I absolutely fell in love with Hélène Garçin, the owner and director of Châteaux Barde-Haut and L'Eglise, while we were in Bordeaux last month and I wanted to set up a cool event with her somehow. It turns out that she and her assistant Charlotte (pictured to the right) were heading to San Francisco on May 11th and had time to do something fun that evening. My thought was this:

What if we did our own en primeur Bordeaux tasting in the store for customers to experience?

Basically, when we as a retailer go Bordeaux to taste the new vintage, we have the opportunity to taste barrel samples two years before the public is able to. It's our notes and our opinions that ultimately sell the wines and the customers have no choice but to take our advise or the advise of other professional critics in making their decision to purchase en primeur. But what if we gave them that opportunity? What if they could come to our store, meet the winemaker, and draw their own conclusions? Before the wines have been released or even priced, just like it's done during en primeur week in Bordeaux?

Tomorrow night in Redwood City you'll have that opportunity. From 5 PM to 6:30 you can come by and meet Hélène and Charlotte, taste wines from both the 2014 and 2015 vintages (neither of which have been released in bottle) and make your own assessments. She might have a few other tricks up her sleeve as well. The price is only $10 per person and no reservations are needed. Just come by and say hello!

This is hopefully only the beginning of a new wave of Bordeaux events focused on getting you involved directly with the people who make Bordeaux so enjoyable in a manner that's accessible and fun. And, believe me, Hélène is loads of fun.

-David Driscoll


Big Week Ahead

On Saturday night after work I picked up my wife and we went out to dinner. We took a cab because I knew I was in the mood to drink. Dinner was excellent—a bottle of wine and a nice spread of various appetizers and snacks. The only problem was that the restaurant was too efficient. We were in and out in less than an hour. 

"Let's walk down the street and see if we want to grab a drink somewhere else," I suggested.

"Have you ever been in there before?" my wife asked, pointing to a Japanese restaurant I'd seen many times, but never entered.

"No, let's see if we can just sit at the bar," I replied. That's what we did.

I won't go into all the details, but let's just say that within twenty minutes we had struck up a conversation with the owner and within another twenty minutes we were drinking extremely rare and expensive whisky in a secret VIP room underneath the kitchen. We stumbled out of there around midnight and I hit the bed hard when we got home. What an evening, however! I'm being vague about the details on purpose because I want to plan a few upcoming events at this place and I don't want the location to leak out quite yet. There are some big Japanese releases at K&L this week and I think we might be able to throw a couple of tasting parties in correlation. Obviously the Ohishi single cask is a big deal, but the email for that whisky goes out on Wednesday and I'm expecting it to be gone within the week. Suntory just released the pristine Ao vodka here recently and I just got our inventory on the shelf. Nikka will also be releasing the long-awaited Coffey Malt in California this week, which is pretty much my favorite whisky they make (malted barley run through the column still!). Keep your eyes peeled for those and for potential events revolving around them.

Springbank is also geared for a few special releases this week including a 16 year old expression from their extremely rare and collectable Local Barley series. Springbank was about four decades ahead of the localvore curve with this idea. They were distilling special batches of single malt using only local Campbeltown barley as far back as the 1960s, and today those whiskies often sell for anywhere between $1000-$3000 per bottle. We'll have a limited allocation of the 16 year coming in this Friday so make sure you check the website. This is the first time that I can ever remember getting a Local Barley release here in the states since I've worked at K&L (if I'm forgetting something let me know). I've already put my order in for two bottles. There will be a few other oddballs as well.

There's a lot happening this week, and it doesn't even include our K&L Exclusive Kavalan casks that just landed. Stay vigilant!

-David Driscoll


Introducing Ohishi

Round two of our single cask, rice-distilled Japanese whisky exclusives is here! And you're all going to be pretty stoked about this bottle of sherry-matured goodness. David OG's technical notes are below:

The special Ohishi distillery is located on the banks of the Kuma River one Japan's fastest flowing rivers. The distillery was founded in 1872 and produces some of the most exciting whisky coming out of Japan. Ohishi grows at least 30% of the rice that they distill and thanks to the fertile soils and exceptional growing climate make for some of the finest base ingredients available. The strain of rice is call "gohyakumanishi" (meaning 5 million stones) and utilizes an organic method of cultivation which requires the use of koi carp for weed control. The rest of the grain is procured from local farms in Kumamoto prefecture and is of the short grained Mochi varietal. The grains are partially malted and then distilled on the traditional Japanese stills before being filled into ex-sherry and brandy casks and aged for long periods of time in the high altitude warehouses. This cask brings in a great balanced sherry influence and definitely feels more like Scotch than our single cask from the Fukano Distillery. This cask will likely be the only one we get for a while considering the recent events in Kumamoto prefecture.

What do I think? 

I think this is slam dunk sherry-aged whisky for those who like that pure sherry flavor. Because the Ohishi is distilled from rice you obviously lose the inherent maltiness normally present from a barley-distilled single malt whisky, but what you get instead is a cleaner canvas onto which the sherry itself can paint its masterpiece. This is soft, supple, and rich on the palate with loads of that caramel, fudge, chocolate, and rancio character I associate with whiskies like Glendronach or Glenfarclas, but with more of that Glenmorangie or Macallan finesse. If you like sherry-aged whisky, this is a must buy. If you like Japanese whisky, buy six of these. You'll be sorry when it's gone and it goes down pretty damn easy. 644 bottles available. About 60 of those have sold already just off the website.

-David Driscoll