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Friday
Dec092016

More Holiday Deals

The more I acquire precious and limited bottles of single malt whisky, the more I find myself unable to decide what to drink on a Thursday night. That very debacle happened to me last night. I finished off my serving of 1999 Barde Haut along side my grilled meat sampler from Tannourine, and found myself not quite ready to quit drinking. I moseyed over to the Driscoll bar to have a look at my current open selection of Scotch. The Naked Grouse was gone. I'd dusted that off a few nights back. I had plenty of Compass Box 5th & Harrison, but I didn't want anything that expensive (or smoky). I had a limited edition bottle of Bruichladdich that the boys had given me at the distillery this past September, but I didn't want to touch that. There were a few rare Japanese selections, but I try to save those for guests. I ended up going to bed, but not before promising to address the issue the following day. 

Today, my answer to that problem arrived. The three standard editions of Glenrothes showed up with all new pricing and supreme drinkability for my increased holiday consumption requirements. I've always loved Glenrothes as it was the first bottle of single malt I ever purchased, but I hadn't bought a bottle in some time. After re-tasting the Peated Cask, Bourbon Cask, and Sherry Reserve selections, I couldn't make up my mind as to which one I wanted. They're all so creamy, supple, and easy to love. So I bought all three. For these new holiday prices, I can afford to:

Glenrothes "Peated Cask" Single Malt Whisky $34.99 (previously $49.99) - Not peated, but aged in casks that once held peated whisky, the Glenrothes Peated Cask expression is a soft and creamy Highland malt with soft and subtle overtones of campfire smoke that undulates between waves of caramel and sweet barley. Fans of Talisker and Highland Park might want to look here for a value sipper.

Glenrothes "Sherry Reserve" Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky $34.99 (previously $49.99) - Glendronach 12 and Balvenie Doublewood have a serious new competitor, even without the age statement. The Glenrothes Sherry Reserve is full of that sweet, brown sugar-laden note of fresh Oloroso sherry right on the first sip, and it rounds out beautifully through the mid-palate, all the way through to the finish. It’s clean, malty, chewy, and full of classic Glenrothes character; just without any of that old style funk. I think it's just as good as Aberlour 12 Non-Chillfiltered, softer than Glendronach 12, and just plain better than Balvenie 12 Doublewood. I might make this my new house whisky for the next few months. A reminder of the olden days, but with a steamlined and polished new finish. Well done, Glenrothes. Well done, indeed.

Glenrothes "Bourbon Cask" Single Malt Whisky $34.99 (previously $49.99) - Classic Bourbon aged single malt in the manner of Glenmorangie 10 year or Glenlivet 12, but with more richness and texture than both of those whiskies and now for a similar price!

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Dec072016

The K&L Whisky Mega Deal of 2016

Purchasing single barrels of cask strength single malt whisky isn't a process that particularly lends itself to everyday value. I hear from K&L customers all over the world on a regular basis who would love to participate more often in our exclusive whisky program, if only the costs were a bit more in line with the regular brands. That's because when we talk about "value" as it pertains to our full proof Scotch selections, we're usually talking about 20+ year old whisky for a hundred bucks. The higher ABV and single barrel status of each selection both add serious dollars on to the price tag. There simply isn't much cask strength juice out there for under $75 and when we do manage to locate a sub-$60 whiskies of quality they're generally in the 5-7 year range, like with our Caol Ila and Talisker bottlings earlier this year. With the three-tier distribution system set up the way it is in the United States, there's really no way around that price point. Cask strength, mature, and high-quality single malt whisky selections are never available for fifty bucks because there are too many parties taking a cut of the profit along the way.

But that's why you shop at K&L, right? Because we know how trim down those margins, cut out those middlemen, and bring the booze directly to you for a more reasonable price!

We've performed a few magic acts over the years. We've located some rare whiskies, pulled out a few stops, and (even just yesterday) managed to drop the price on many an interesting spirit here and there, but I can't remember having ever put together a Scotch deal like this one: single barrel, cask strength, sherry-matured, dark and delicious Highland single malt whisky for less than fifty bucks.

What's wrong with it, David? Nothing!

Not only is there nothing wrong with these whiskies, they're both absolutely deeeeelicious!! They're my favorite two casks of the year by far and they're both going to go down as two of the best single malt deals we've ever put together as a company. These aren't just passable whiskies, they're downright fantastic. I've been sitting on my hands, chewing my nails, itching my scalp, and biting my tongue to keep this deal a secret until it was ready to go. What you have here are two casks, a first-fill sherry butt and a refill sherry butt, that offer all the richness you love in Balvenie, Macallan, Aberlour, and Glendronach, but at full proof and in concentrated single barrel forms. Imagine if you could get a single barrel of Glendronach 12 at cask strength for the same price as the standard edition. That's pretty much what the Dailuaine tastes like. Imagine if you could get an older, sweeter, richer, darker, fleshier version of Aberlour A'Bunadh for $20 less per bottle! That's the Glenallachie. 

I think the email is going out for this on Friday. I hope we can make these last through December because it's going to be a helluva lot of fun to hand these whiskies out in the store for holiday gifts. 

2005 Glenallachie 11 Year Old "Hepburn's Choice - K&L Exclusive" Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky $49.99 - Glenallachie is a Pernod-Ricard-owned distillery that sends most of its whisky to the blended Chivas Regal, but after our customers get a taste of this super-saturated sherry-matured delight, it's going to be a household name at K&L. This 11 year old first-fill sherry bomb is like a darker, sweeter, older, richer, better version of another Pernod-Ricard classic: the Aberlour A'Bunadh. But whereas the A'Bunadh sells for $70 a bottle, this decadent Glenallachie comes in at a cool $49.99. For the age, quality, and concentration of the sherry here, this is right there with the Dailuaine 9 year old cask as one of the best single malt whisky deals we've ever offered. The nose is brimming with burnt vanilla, toasted nuts, and cakebread. The palate is a 59.8% beast of savory sherry, sweet pudding, candied citrus, and dark chocolate. If you've been dreaming of the 22 year old Mortlach sherry bomb we offered years ago that is still the stuff of legend today, this is the baby version of that whisky. We could probably sell this for $99.99 and few people would complain. We'd recommend buying this one by the case. Only 600 total bottles available.

2007 Dailuaine 9 Year Old "Hepburn's Choice - K&L Exclusive" Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky $49.99 - Dailuaine is one of Diageo's classic Speyside distilleries that produces a classically rich, nutty, and creamy Highland malt whisky. We thought this particular nine year old sherry butt-aged expression was so fruity and delicious that we practically jumped across the negotiating table to get our hands on it. Matured in a second fill cask, the toffee and shortbread notes of the Oloroso cask are more restrained and integrated, but they're still front and center. They meld beautifully with the inherent maltiness of the whisky and build to a finish that pops at 58.3% with spice, rhubarb, and toasted almond notes. Fans of Glendronach, Macallan, and Balvenie should go ga-ga for this. The chewiness of the sherry is just apparent enough to add body and texture, but it never takes away from the pure malt flavor. Utterly drinkable and of profound quality for the price. Without a doubt, it's one of the best deals we've ever offered for any cask of sherry-aged malt whisky in our store's history.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Dec062016

Pass the Dunder (to the left hand side)

What makes Jamaican rum so special in the rum geek circle, you ask? Why it's that funky, overripe banana, fruity, petrol-laden nose and flavor profile that can range from bitter mango to fruit tea with menthol and gasoline in character. Jamaican rum, when presented to you in an unblended, pure pot distilled, unmanipulated form is one of the wackiest, craziest, most unique spirits that exists. I've never been to Jamaica and pretty much everything I know about rum distillation I learned from two people, but from what I've soaked up over the years much of Jamaican rum's character has to do with high ester counts and a mysterious substance called dunder. Matt Pietrik's Cocktail Wonk blog has some of the best, most detailed first-hand accounts about Jamaican rum production I've ever read, so you can get the long version there. The short version, however, is this: a large smelly pit of decaying matter is propagated in order to create acids that will react with the molasses wash in the copper pot still and turn into fragrant esters, which are then condensed into the rum (I think that's right). Think of esters in rum like you would peat in whisky and you'll get an idea of how fanatical people can be about their rums. If Octomore is the peatiest of all single malts, then pure pot still Jamaican rum is the equivalent in terms of esters. This is some funky shit.  

When I was visiting with the Laing brothers in Scotland this past September, they mentioned to me the idea of helping them launch a new rum label called "Golden Devil," a series of single cask rums bottled at 100 proof that would help introduce some new barrels into the U.S. market. I was all for it, especially since I could have first pick of the litter. I decided that the American market is already full of both value-priced and high-end rums. We have plenty of white mixing rums. There's more than enough sweet sippers. We have a fair share of agricole rhums as well. What we don't have enough of, however, are funky, high-ester, pure pot still Jamaican rums that are priced according to what they're worth. You have to understand: single casks of rum are expensive. Who wants to mix Tiki drinks with a $90 bottle of 10 year old rum? Better yet: how many people are interested in a wacky $200 bottle of 24 year old Hampden? I'm adventurous, but I'm not stupid. I was going to have to get clever with the math if I was going to make this work.

And so I did. 

For my enjoyment, your enjoyment, and the enjoyment of our super nerdy Tiki fans who can legally purchase spirits from us, I bring you three new Jamaican rum selections that are interesting, distinct, and more than fairly priced. Dis generation rules the nation! Now pass me that Monymusk; to the left hand side, please.

2007 Monymusk 9 Year Old "Golden Devil" Single Barrel Jamaican Rum $49.99 - Monymusk is the name of the Jamaican sugar factory near Clarendon distillery where a rum of the same name is produced. While there is such a brand as Monymusk Plantation rum, we don't ever see that label in the U.S. Almost all of Clarendon distillery's rum is sold off to one main contract: Diageo, which uses the Jamaican rum for its European release of Captain Morgan and for part of its Myer's rum formula. That means we almost never get to taste pure, unadulterated, pot-distilled Monymusk in America, despite the growing desire for more aromatic, flavorful and interesting Jamaican rums in our expansive Tiki cocktail culture. Every now and again you'll find an independently bottled cask, but they're often quite pricy and the quality can be unpredictable. This pale straw colored rum is the lightest and most mixable of the three Jamaican casks, but it has a lovely sweetness on the finish that might taste good over rocks with a splash of soda or Coke. The dunder aromas and flavors are dialed up here with earthy notes, bitter fruit, menthol, and savory herbs dominating the profile. It's a homerun for just about any classic Tiki drink, but the potency of the pot still flavor can likely cut through whatever you throw its way.

2006 Worthy Park 10 Year Old "Golden Devil" Single Barrel Jamaican Rum $49.99 - Worthy Park is a centuries-old Jamaican rum distillery that ceased operations in 1960 before a new generation rebuilt the facility in 2005 and resumed distillation. Almost all of the rum made at Worthy Park is sold and consumed on the island, but a small amount trickles out from independent bottlers in the UK and Europe, which is where we tracked down our 10-year-old cask. This Worthy Park 10 year old rum is a beautifully balanced, fully sippable expression of classic Jamaican rum flavor, steeped with tropical fruit and richness from the oak cask, but balanced by classic pot still flavors of over-ripe banana and wood polish. This is the most mellow of the three Golden Devil Jamaican casks we purchased, but it's still not El Dorado or Diplomatico. This is for high-end Daiquiris and Mai Tais, or whatever else your Tiki desires call for.

1992 Hampden 24 Year Old  "Golden Devil" Single Barrel Jamaican Rum $99.99 - Hampden is one of Jamaica's oldest sugar estates, dating back to the 1750s, and its rum is one of our favorites here at K&L. We purchased a 14 year old cask of Hampden a few years back that has since become a cult classic, and we're also huge fans of the Smith & Cross pot still rum, which is contracted from the facility. Hampden isn't just known for being one of Jamaica's best rums, it's also known for being one of the funkiest and most flavorful; the result of a long, rustic fermentation process that is renowned for being as old school as it gets. This ancient 24 year old single cask is going to test the ester limits of even the most faithful Jamaican rum drinkers. Imagine a pineapple and mango Hi-Chew candy dipped in petrol followed by an intense and lasting note of vanilla, fruit tea, menthol, and gasoline. If that sounds too weird, this isn't the rum for you. This isn't Ron Zacapa. This is serious, glorious, and spell-binding Jamaican rum, only for the most dedicated of Tiki fans.

If you want a full scale tour of these distilleries, I'll link Matt's blog posts to Monymusk, Worthy Park, and Hampden here. As I'm often tasting in warehouses or conference rooms, I'm thankful someone was there to provide me with some of the first-hand details. These posts are a great read and I highly recommend checking them out whether you end up buying a bottle of these rums or not! If you do buy a bottle, however; you've been warned. These are not smooth and mellow rums full of sugar and spice. They are FUNKY! But they're also incredible. I hope you take the plunge.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Dec052016

Know Who You Are

Last night I was sipping on one of the best bottles I've brought back from Scotland in years: the Naked Grouse, a sherry-aged version of the Famous Grouse bottled at 40% ABV that would absolutely be considered nothing special by most American whisky nerds were it available here. I bought it after talking to one of the girls at the Whisky Experience in Edinburgh who said it was her favorite whisky at the moment. "I like Scotch that tastes like Scotch," she told me. "Call me crazy," she added with a smirk. That girl knew who she was, what she liked, and what constituted a real glass of Scotch whisky. She didn't need validation from the internet, bloggers, or a professional critic to understand her palate. I loved talking to her and I thought about our conversation last night as I sipped that Naked Grouse in front of the TV. What a great memory.

I sense that same confidence and self-awareness when I talk to the Bai sisters, the twins behind Vale Jewelry in New York who have designed pieces for the who's-who list of Manhattan. Kelly Ripa, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lena Dunham, you name her! That Live necklace that Kelly wears each morning on "Live With Kelly" came from Vale, as did a number of pieces in my wife's personal collection. These girls know exactly who they are and what they're about and it's inspiring to people like me who search for that very quality in people today. They also know what they like to drink and why. That's what made talking to them recently so interesting. The D2D series is evolving. Check out my latest On the Trail interview with Eva and Ava Bai here.

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Dec032016

Winter is Coming

It's December. We're starting to feel the chill of winter in the dark morning air and the early evening sunset. We need strong drink to fortify our souls for the cold months ahead. Luckily, we've got you covered. We've got so much new booze here in the K&L spirits department that if we did an email and blog post every single day from now until Christmas, that still wouldn't cover it. Hence, I'm going to have to double-up; maybe even triple-up some of these new release announcements. Just in from Kentucky and the Four Roses warehouse are two of the best single casks we've received in years. I mean that wholeheartedly. I can't remember a time when I had two casks of Four Roses that were this distinct, rich, and completely different from one another. There have been times when we've had four casks or more simultaneously and there wasn't much of a difference between any of them, but that's not the case here. These two whiskies are night and day. I also can't remember two barrels that tasted this much like what their formulaic descriptors have spelled out on the Four Roses recipe chart. The OESK is dead-on: creamy, rich, full-boded, and full of caramel. The OBSQ is brimming with rye spice, dark cocoa, and a flutter of floral notes on the finish. They are both beasts at 59 and 60% ABV, but both mask that power with balanced richness. 

Four Roses 9 Year, 10 Month Old "K&L Exclusive" OESK Single Barrel Cask Strength Kentucky Bourbon $64.99 - This barrel of Four Roses formula OESK is one of the sweetest and roundest selections we've snagged from the distillery in years. With the swirl of sweet wood and vanilla that overtakes your palate right from the first sip, never in a million years would you dream this Bourbon was 118.6 proof. The E means we're dealing with a 75% corn mashbill, with only 20% rye and 5% malted barley. The K refers to one of ten yeast strains used at Four Roses, this one happens to produce light caramel notes and a full-bodied spirit. Both are true in this case. This single cask produced a rich and round whiskey, one that glides over the tongue with gentle baking spices and accents of vanilla, caramel, and oak. Again, whereas other barrels we've selected have woodier or peppery elements and distinct notes of pencil lead, herbaceousness, or dried oak, there is absolutely zero of that savory element at play in the OESK Bourbon at hand. This Bourbon is as smooth as silk from front the back and it's a style that should appeal to any drinker of any style, especially those who normally prefer wheated Bourbons for their lack of peppery rye notes. If you're planning to mix up holiday cocktails, this particular Four Roses packs all that winter spice and warming richness inherently.

Four Roses 9 Year, 6 Month Old "K&L Exclusive" OBSQ Single Barrel Cask Strength Kentucky Bourbon $64.99 - Our latest edition of OBSQ encapsulates everything Bourbon drinkers love about higher rye recipes; namely, the combination of richness and peppery spice that act as the yin and yang of a balanced American whiskey. The B in OBSK means we're dealing with a 60% corn, 35% rye Four Roses mashbill (the other 5% the standard malted barley addition), and you can taste every bit of that formula at play. The first sip brings a wave of dark cocoa and polished wood without any of the floral aromas that the Q yeast strain is known to propagate. The nose is more of the same: big toasted oak aromas, straight down the middle. The rye spice really pops on the palate and at 61% the whiskey almost tastes like a cask strength version of Blanton's or Elmer T. Lee with the character of the rye in clear focus. The finish is where you start to taste the floral elements of the yeast and they combine with the wood to create a spicy and lingering memory. Fans of rye spice and rye whiskey will want to take note of this selection. It's one of the most classically-flavored Four Roses casks we've purchased in recent memory.

We've also got a single cask of High West Double Rye aged an extra year and a half in a Manhattan cocktail barrel and bottled at 101 proof. 

High West "K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel 101 Proof Double Rye Whiskey $49.99 - Our newest private selection from High West is 101 proof version of their standard Double Rye that was matured for an additional year and a half in cask previously used to marry their Barrel-Aged Manhattan formula. What you get are the remnants of the vermouth and the sweet spices of that cocktail, ever so slightly highlighting the edges of the pumped-up rye character. The nose is full of sweet baking spices like cloves and cinnamon, while the palate showcases more of the traditional rye flavors like dill and pepper. The texture is what separates this High West rye selection from other rye whiskies we carry. It's mild and mellow from front to finish with light woody notes that act as a conduit for the whiskey's shape. Those who want something easy-drinkin', creamy, and soft, this is still the whiskey for you even with the 101 proof. Those looking to make a Manhattan will find the basic core elements of that cocktail already in place and cemented into the whiskey's core.

If that's not classically rye enough for you, I just backed up the truck on what is perhaps my favorite American rye whiskey: the Russell's Reserve Single Barrel 104 proof. We've been out of stock for more than six months, but finally reserves have landed to help save the day.

Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Kentucky Rye Whiskey $69.99 - Finally, after almost eight years of a serious Kentucky rye shortage, Wild Turkey has finally given us whiskey fans something to get excited about that we can actually get! Introducing the new Russell's Reserve single barrel rye whiskey: a 104 proof blast of old-school Kentucky rye flavor, meandering from dill and fresh-baked German rye bread, into a sweeter kiss of toasted oak and soft vanilla. It's never boring, however. The palate is rooted in spice and a never-ending tingly sensation on your tongue that completely differentiates it from the Wild Turkey Bourbons. Real, compelling Kentucky rye whiskey is back on the shelf at K&L, available full time. No bottle limits, no raffles, no scouring the internet to track down your allocation.

We're just getting started. There's much, much more to come.

-David Driscoll