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Tuesday
Nov112014

Two Neat Peats

We brought a lot of sherry action on our recent boat from Scotland, but surprisingly not much peat. Aside from the 12 year old cask strength Bowmore (also in sherry), there wasn't much smoky goodness in the Signatory selection. No matter, however, because we've got you covered on other fronts. Right now the two best deals in peated whisky are in stock and available with plenty of inventory. After retasting these today, I'm convinced you won't do much better for the money. It's not often we get new, limited releases that are both plentiful, affordable, and this tasty.

Compass Box Great King Street "Glasgow Blend" Scotch Whisky $42.99 - Imagine the regular Great King Street, but richer, fuller, and with a healthy dollup of peat smoke. That's all there really is to know! Just a super tasty, well-formulated blend from our buddy John Glaser; a recipe made from a very high proportion of Highland and Islay single malts, combined with Lowland single grain whisky. Matured in a combination of Sherry oak, American oak and French oak casks, this is a well-priced deal while we have it.

Big Peat Islay Holiday Edition Blended Malt Whisky $66.99 - The Big Peat Xmas Edition won best blended single malt from the Whisky Advocate in 2013, and the new edition, in my opinion, is better than last year's. Imagine the lithe, briny character of Ardbeg Uigeadail with the baking spices and cinnamon peat of Laphroaig and Caol Ila on the finish. At cask strength, it really comes on strong at the back, letting you know this isn't some watered-down well drink. The flavors are potent and balanced from front to back. Of course, there's a bit of Port Ellen mixed in as well, just for the fun of it. Those who take the plunge on this bottle will be well-rewarded. It's another solid attempt from the Big Peat team.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Nov112014

Chocasmoke Coming Soon

The boys from San Francisco's Seven Stills (that's some alliteration for you) dropped by today to give me the 411 on their newest creation: Chocamoke! Distilled from chocolate oatmeal stout beer with some smokey hops thrown in for good measure. Yum. Watch for this guy next week. It's like a smokier, maltier version of the Whipnose.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Nov102014

Great Experiences

One of the coolest and most memorable parts of visiting the Miyagikyo distillery was the blending experience that Nikka set up for us. Just like at the Blender's Bar in downtown Tokyo, they had the components of Nikka's Pure Malt flavor profile broken down into single 12 year old profiles characterized by name: Peaty & Salty, Sherried & Sweet, Woody & Vanillic, etc. Whereas the menu at the Blender's Bar merely told you which percentages of each component comprised each of the blends, here we were actually able to taste them individually and play with them in our own personal creations. It was an incredible experience that both increased my awareness of the Nikka portolio, and left a lasting positive impression that I'll remember when talking to customers in the store.

It's easy to forget that a bottle of whisky is ultimately an experience. You're paying for the memory; just like when you go to a rock concert, baseball game, or week-long cruise in the Caribbean. I think some folks tend to lose sight of that every now and then. Maybe it's because, unlike wine, the experience of a whisky can go on for years after we open the bottle; we tend to see it as gas, or food, or some sort of staple commodity that needs to be rationed. If you're drinking purely for the sake of getting drunk, then really whisky is nothing more than another base asset. However, if you're treating whisky as something more than ethanol, something beyond an aphrodisiac, something you rank, and score, and write a blog about, and obsess about, and think about every day, then I think you have to look at each bottle as an experience. Like all experiences in life, some are more memorable than others—and it's not always the most expensive or extravagant that we remember.

Sometimes, however, there are factors outside the innate quality of the experience itself that make a moment significant. Those are the aspects of whisky that I choose to focus on rather than simply a cost analysis breakdown and a double-digit summary. There are stories, people, and moments like the afore-mentioned blending exercise that can quickly change how I view certain whiskies (like how I now view the Nikka 12 Year Old Pure Malt) because they create an experience that I'll remember more than the flavor of the liquid itself. Ten years from now you may recall where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing when you first tasted an amazing single malt that changed your life; but you might not actually remember what it tasted like. People ask me all the time if I've tasted expensive bottles like Macallan 30. Yes, I have; but I don't remember exactly where or when. I can, however, tell you exactly where I was when I first tasted Glenlivet 12: I was in my apartment in San Diego with my college roommates and we were trying to act all fancy with an "expensive" bottle of Scotch.

Looking back, that's a pretty great memory—one that I'll remember forever. Definitely worth the $24 I spent on that bottle of Glenlivet. On the other hand, sometimes an expensive bottle of whisky is the experience; like when I brought a bottle of Cristal to my holiday party last year and we all acted like blingy hip-hop artists. That, too, was quite memorable.  Glenlivet 12 isn't ever going to win any "Whisky of the Year" awards, and Cristal often gets thrown into the overpriced, overhyped, big brand marketing category, but I've had more fun with those two bottles than I've ever had with some 94 point product that I bought based on the review, tasted, and moved on from. 

-David Driscoll

Monday
Nov102014

Spirits Web Auction Closing Soon

Every once in a while, K&L's Spirits Department reaches deep into the vault to offer some very special bottles on the website's auction platform. Now unlike wine, we are prohibited from auctioning consignments of spirits from private individuals, which makes it all that much more difficult for us to find stuff to put on the block. Nonetheless, we've got a few gems that we've managed to hold back. Only a few hours left on these lots, so if you see something you want get at it before the hammer comes down.

1999, Karuizawa K&L Exclusive Single Cask (2 bottles)

The 1999 Single Cask ExclusiveThese cask represent one of our first great finds after taking the reins of the spirits department. This ultra powerful youngish offering and the far older sister cask we acquired from the legendary distillery after it closed will most likely be the last two casks we'll ever see state side.

Auction ends Nov 10th, 3pm PST

2011 Thomas H Handy Rye

2011, Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye

With everybody and literally their mother (I've spoken to several mums looking for the perfect gift for Jr) crapping their pants to find Jim Murray's Whiskey of the year, 2013 Yamazaki Sherry, here's a an opportunity to actually buy something that once held that title. Here it is 2013's WHISKEY OF THE YEAR - but since it's 2014 probably not as good any more, right?

Auction ends Nov. 10th, 12pm PST 

Paul Marie Et Fils Devant La Porte 58 Year Old Cask Strength Single Barrel

Paul Marie Et Fils Devan La Porte Single Cask

This one is for Nicki P-Dubs, the myth and the man. Devant La Porte is the Cognac that started it all for our favorite Frenchman and it remains the best single cask cognac I've yet to encounter. Just an outrageous amount of depth and power, but somehow belies the massive alcohol content. The Chef d'Oeuvre on the opening shot! Thank you for this Mr. Palazzi. Can't wait for the next one.

Auction ends Nov 10th, 7pm PST.

PC5-PC10 plus some auxiliary goodies

Port Charlotte Tasting Lot

I'm actually shock and a little sad that this massive collection has absolutely ZERO bids right now. It's a magnificent collection of the first 6 releases of the very special (and perhaps defunct?) cask strength version of Bruichladdich's heavily peated whisky. In addition you have a few fun extras to round out what could be one of the best Port Charlotte tastings in history. Tailor made, just a mere click away. If no one takes it, we'll just split it up and get $1K+ for the PC5 by itself on the shelf. PC6-9 are already commanding upwards of $400 on the secondary market. Someone needs to jump on this before it's too late.

Auction ends Nov 10th, 7pm PST.

-David Othenin-Girard

Saturday
Nov082014

Japan: Day 5 – Still Drifting

After roaming the streets alone this morning, we met with Naoki again for lunch and our first ride on the Tokyo subway. Just one stop over from our Ginza district hotel was a completely different landscape. Following alongside (and underneath) the overhead train tracks was one of Tokyo's most-frequented night life regions; albeit we were there in the late morning.

Everywhere you looked were the remnants and reminders of a wild Friday night; from the recycling collections full of empty sake bottles, to the guys stumbling by, still half-drunk, hovering close to the various pachinko arcades.

"Is there anything else you want to do before leaving Tokyo?" Naoki asked us. "Is there anything that you want to eat that you haven't tried?"

"Is there a good gyoza place nearby?" I asked. 

"Actually there's a very famous gyoza place just around the corner," he answered. We headed back towards the elevated line and saw the tiny Ohsho hole-in-the wall in front of us. 

"This is the party area, so there must be good hangover food options. In Japanese, we would say this is the type of place where you eat and you get grease on your shoes," Naoki said. 

"A greasy spoon!" we all said in unison.

And, yes, the gyoza were everything Naoki had promised. Perfectly crispy and fried on the outside, while remaining juicy and moist in the center. I think I've finally crossed everything off my to-do list.

We're back at the airport now stockpiling gifts and getting ready for the long flight home. I'm leaving here at 5:30 PM on Saturday and getting back at 10:00 AM on Saturday. It's been such a good day I'm really excited about the possibility of living it twice.

See you all in the store next week. Signing out from Japan.

-David Driscoll