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Sunday
Jul172016

Northwestward Ho!

After a busy day on the Redwood City sales floor (a day that saw six different customers come back to buy sealed CASES of the new 5th & Harrison—just incredible!), I'm heading out of town for a short jaunt to the north. I'm going to Seattle to visit the two Matts at Westland and get a deeper look at some of their new malting projects as well as the intimate details for the new Garryana. There's a lot going on up there. I'll be back Tuesday night to start planning the arrival of our latest Scotch container, a shipment that's going to raise a few eyebrows. Some of the prices are going to be a little out of whack with the current market, but that's by design. Like I've said for the past few weeks, I'm feeling nostalgic. I like seeing people come in and buy sealed CASES of Scotch!

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jul142016

San Francisco: July 12th, 2016

5th & Harrison arrives at K&L. We open a bottle. We weep. We hug. We shake hands and congratulate one another. It’s everything we hoped it would be and more. It’s perfect.

And now you can finally get your bottle(s)!!!

Prepare to be transported back in time; back to an era when old malts of incredible complexity were available 24/7 and four-figure price tags were unthinkable. This project has been in the works for years and the casks have been on reserve for us since John proposed the idea way back when, which is the only reason whiskies of this quality were available for this 5th & Harrison blend. In fact, the whiskies were allowed to marry for an additional year in cask after being blended (making it in essence a marriage of 20 year old Glen Ord and 32 year old Caol Ila) simply because of all the delays from the logistics involved with doing something like this! You can taste that extra vat time in the whisky. It's like liquid silk on the palate, accented with peat and smoke from the Caol Ila, and it's of a quality that I haven't tasted maybe since we bought two incredibly old casks of Glenfarclas back in 2012. This is the type of whisky you buy now for loved ones, months in advance of the holiday gift giving season. You squirrel extra bottles away for a rainy day. You buy as many of these as you can afford because I can promise you you'll be looking back on this opportunity years from now wishing you had more of this incredible elixir. If this was the last whisky project I ever worked on for K&L, I would go out happy. I don't know if we'll ever top this. I think this is as big of an achievement as we can ever hope to accomplish. I can safely say this whisky is on the level of some of the rarer Port Ellen bottlings we've carried and it's a fraction of the price.

And there you have it. The letter from John himself. He’s thrilled. We’re thrilled. We’re pretty sure you’re all going to be thrilled.

Compass Box "5th & Harrison" K&L Exclusive Limited Edition Malt Whisky $179.99 - We'd been bugging John Glaser about doing a K&L private blend since 2011, back when both K&L and Compass Box were still making their way forward. We wanted to create something incredible and deliver excellence on a level normally not seen in the whisky world. We were bold! The question was: what to do? John proposed combining two single malt whiskies he had put aside in his warehouse: a luxurious 31 year old hogshead of Caol Ila and a 19 year old sherry butt of Glen Ord. As big fans of his Flaming Heart series, we loved the idea and we placed our trust in John and his team to create the recipe. Then whisky got hot. We got busy. Another two years went by. Compass Box's popularity increased significantly. Things got hectic. We moved our San Francisco store to 5th & Harrison, prolonging things. Finally in 2015 John came to visit. "The address sounds like an old folk song," he opined. "That's what we should call the whisky," motivated to finish up a long-lived project now five years in the making. The finished product is now here and it's spectacular. The nose is a symphony of honey, brandied fruit, and the sea. Cocoa, fudge, and cakebread coat the palate and the oily, phenolic notes of smoke and ash roll over the finish. It's impossible to tell where the Glen Ord ends and the Caol Ila begins, their yin and yang a nebulous sea of harmony. It's luxury, brilliance, and soul all in one.  It's 5th & Harrison, the crossroads of culture and craft. It's K&L & Compass Box at last. 

Rejoice! An era I thought was completely over lives on in this bottle. I’m so very happy we can share it with you now.

I also want to point out that today is Kyle Kurani’s last day at K&L. He’s moving on to work for Rhys winery nearby and we’ve been fortunate enough to have Kyle with us in the spirits department for many years now.

Kyle was with us in London for one of the meetings with John and the first Scottish distillery he ever visited was Caol Ila back in 2014. I always loved this photo of him staring at the building in amazement. It’s fitting that this project launched on his last day here, both in homage to him and his time spent with us. A big thanks to Kyle for all the help he’s given us during his time here and for all the spirits customers he’s helped during that period.

We wish him all the best going forward!

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jul142016

London: March 10th, 2016

Jeff Jones and I fly out to London in March to have dinner with John and taste the final blend. The original 19 year old Glen Ord sherry butt and 31 year old Caol Ila hogshead have now been marrying the cask for almost an additional year. By the time it's bottled, the whisky will have seen an extra year of maturation. We taste the final product and go over the final artwork. We're absolutely overjoyed by the outcome. Five years after proposing the idea of a custom Compass Box/K&L blend, I can safely say that I never thought it would result in a whisky of this level of quality. The 5th & Harrison strays from a Flaming Heart prototype to become more of an unintentional Port Ellen homage. 

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jul142016

San Francisco: November, 14th, 2015

John Glaser sends me a line letting me know he'll be in town in November. I tell him he should swing by the new San Francisco store to check out the digs. "Good news," he says on his arrival. "We're going to bottle your blend this coming Spring. We need to come up with artwork and a name now." We discuss the new store and the potential for increased business and selection. I mention that it's on the corner of 5th and Harrison.

"5th & Harrison?" John asks. "That sounds like an old song. Maybe that's what we should call it."

"A tribute to the new store?" I ponder.

We move forward with that idea.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jul142016

London: June 26th, 2015

It's only been a couple of months since we returned from the UK and our trip to Compass Box. I get a call from John that summer. The whiskies for our custom blend have been married and are ready, but there's a hold up in the bottling line and some other projects that are going to have to take priority. Unfortunately, due to the surge in Compass Box commitments, our blend won't be ready by the end of summer, nor likely at any point within 2015. It will continue to age in the barrel however as a finished marriage, hopefully adding to the harmony of the finished product.

"That's OK," I reply. "We're in no hurry at this point. We don't even have a name for it."

-David Driscoll