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Thursday
Sep212017

Dickel Me, Dickel Me, Dickel Me Too!

I was a big Shel Silverstein fan growing up. I had the poetry books and the cassette tapes where he played guitar and sang songs, too. "Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me, Too" was one of my all-time favorites and to this day I can't even look at a bottle of Dickel without thinking of Where the Sidewalk Ends. In any case, I've got three new can't-miss casks of K&L Exclusive Dickel to tell you about right now and they are without a doubt the best single barrels of American whiskey we've had in stock this year. For the price, they are simply unbeatable; each with a 9 year old age statement, a high 103 proof, and a uniquely wonderful flavor profile. 

When I talk to passionate Bourbon drinkers in the store today, most of them are looking for the rich, sweet, bold flavored, high proof editions that seem to have completely evaporated from today's market. Part of the reason the Van Winkle expressions (and the Weller Bourbons by default) became so beloved, besides the pull of pop culture, has to do with their sweeter profile due to the lack of rye grain in the mashbill as a balance. While not technically categorized as Bourbon (Dickel goes by Tennessee whiskey even though it qualifies as such), the distillery's high corn, low rye mash of 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley results in a whiskey brimming with sweetness with less of the peppery and herbaceous elements. The only thing that's ever kept Dickel from becoming the next big thing in the American whiskey scene is the low proof, but that's where the company's single barrel program comes in. The individual casks dial up all that corny sweetness with a bolder ABV, transforming the normally mellow and creamy soft flavor of Dickel into something more beastly and unhinged. 

I'll say it now and I'll say it again later after some of you email me wondering what happened to our inventory: BUY ONE OF EACH. Each is completely different, by design. I'm choosing casks that have variety and individuality as well as incredible flavor. Here's the rundown:

George Dickel "K&L Exclusive" 9 Year Old Single Barrel #7234K1002 Tennessee Whiskey $44.99 - Barrel #1002 is for oak fiends who looked for the heaviest, most saturated single casks for their next needed fix. The profile begins with huge aromas of wood and polish and the oak simply explodes on the midpalate with the higher proof dialing it up on the finish. The corny sweetness does its best to penetrate the surface, but it keeps getting punched down by endless amounts of char and oak spice. It's a monster!

George Dickel "K&L Exclusive" 9 Year Old Single Barrel #7234K1003 Tennessee Whiskey $44.99 - Barrel #1003 is a perfect example of everything today's modern Bourbon drinker goes gaga for: sweet vanilla and caramel corn on the entry bolstered by baking spices and heavily charred oak with the boldness of the high proof on the midpalate to electrify the taste buds. The finish has a bit of a burnt banana note, but it's quickly washed over with more creme brulee and oak sweetness. An absolutely bangin' bottle of whiskey!

George Dickel "K&L Exclusive" 9 Year Old Single Barrel #7234K1005 Tennessee Whiskey $44.99 - Barrel #1005 would fool even the most ardent Four Roses fan with its balance of fruit, oak, and spice, easily the most balanced and classic of the three current barrels we have in stock. Beautiful notes of oak and charred spice explode on the palate with hints of mocha and clove before a dark wave of burnt vanilla washes over the finish. If this bottle said Kentucky on the label we'd likely sell out in less than an hour.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Sep202017

New Ardbeg Arrives, Tons More

There's a lot of action going on at K&L today in the spirits department. Hopefully most of you are tuning into the new live product feed because I've been watching customers snatch bottles off of that site all morning. Not only do we have the much anticipated arrival of the new Ardbeg "An Oa," we've also got three new single barrels of Dickel, three new Old Potrero expressions (including 11 year old Hotaling), more Nikka gin and vodka, another round of Laphroaig "Cairdeas," plus a few other Japanese things like 12 year old Fukano and a sopping wet sherry cask as well.

But let's get back to the Ardbeg: 

The new world of NAS whisky has removed the specs from the equation, which has forced flavor back into the discussion once again. While I'm all for transparency and age statements, I'm not going to act like whisky buying on the connoisseur level hasn't become a mathematical formula over the last seven years for a number of guys out there. I can't remember the last time someone actually walked into the store and asked me: "Hey, what tastes good?" That's not to defend the current NAS market, mind you, it's just to say that I enjoy watching people forced into making decisions based on flavor, using their palates as their ultimate guide rather than a mathematical equation based on age, price, and rarity. 

For the first time in a long time, we’ve got a permanent new member of the Ardbeg portfolio to tell you about. This isn’t some new committee release or another $100+ bottle of limited edition, space-themed, gimmick-oriented Islay malt. This is the new “An Oa,” a reasonably-priced and absolutely delicious new addition to the trio of 10 year, Uigeadail, and Corryvreckan that not only brings value back into the LVMH peated empire, but also serious flavor and enjoyment. Believe it or not, it’s not always easy to enjoy a bottle of whisky when it costs you three figures, you can only buy a limit of one bottle, and you’re scared to drink each sip for fear you’ll never be able to replace the experience. With the An Oa, Ardbeg is bringing not only functionality back to their core range, they’re bringing fun and flavor, to boot. The An Oa is the best new Ardbeg I’ve tasted in more than five years and it’s the roundest and easiest to drink of the regularly available editions. While it doesn’t pack the power that both the Uigeadail and Corryvreckan offer with their bold proofs, it makes up for it with richness and a rounded sweetness on the finish. You get all the peat, brine, smoke, and salt that you could ever want, but with more texture and perhaps finesse—not something we normally associate with the beastly Islay profile. In any case, this is the first bottle of Ardbeg in some time that I’ve been adamant about buying for my own personal daily enjoyment, not just my collection.

Ardbeg "An Oa" Islay Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - From the distillery: a welcome new addition to the Ultimate range. Ardbeg An Oa is singularly rounded, due in no small part to time spent in our newly established bespoke oak Gathering Vat where whiskies from several cask types - including; sweet Pedro Ximenez; spicy virgin charred oak; and intense ex-bourbon casks, amongst others - familiarise themselves with each other. The result is a dram with smoky power, mellowed by a delectable, smooth sweetness. Hallmark Ardbeg peat, dark chocolate and aniseed are wrapped in smooth, silky butterscotch, black pepper and clove, before rising to an intense crescendo of flavour.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Sep192017

Two New Jefferson's Exclusives

My colleague and friend David Othenin-Girard is out of town this week, so I'm here to tell you about his latest two Jefferson's selections that have just landed in all of our retail locations. We've got a dynamite thirty dollar value with the "Very Small Batch" and a richer, more luxurious tasting option with the forty dollar Reserve. Those who have no problem buying one of each will find two completely different Bourbons here in terms of flavor profile and character. The "Very Small Batch" has a lovely grainy flavor to it, bolstered on the back end by notes of cinnamon and oak spice. Those who like something leaner to mix with, but without giving up weight or concentration will surely dig this. I have to think it would be a great rocks drinker or Manhattan mixer, especially if you're like me and you don't like adding sweet to sweet. I look for Bourbons exactly like this when shopping for my home bar. The Reserve can be your straight sipper as it's sweeter, more lush on the palate, and softer on the finish. The DOG did a great job selecting these two and I'll post his notes below:

Jefferson's "K&L Exclusive" Very Small Batch Bourbon $29.99 - The wonderful Jefferson brand has a long history of bottling exceptional bourbon. Founded in 1997, right before the explosion in interested the American Whiskey category by Trey and Chet Zoeller, Jefferson's has long been a leader in innovative new ways to create and offer ultra high quality bourbon drinking experiences for an affordable price. They've recently partnered with the exciting experimental distiller Kentucky Artisan Distillery to have a true home for this special brand. From their exceptional Presidential Select range to the unparalleled Ocean Aged at Sea expressions, they're consistently offering exceptional quality for your dollar. The entry level Jefferson's Small Batch is no exception. This is a single barrel blend of four different whiskies. Each tiny blended batch rests and mingles in a single barrel to allow the various components time to marry and then we select from a range of several casks. They're always delicious but this barrel was particularly approachable. That's exactly what the small batch does, offers an undeniably easy and pleasurable drinking experience that nearly any drinker can appreciate. Sweet easy barrel spice and soft sweet vanilla with a medium body and subtle candied citrus finish, make this special K&L Exclusive one of the easiest to get behind ever. Bottled at 41.15% ABV. 

Jefferson's "K&L Exclusive" Reserve Very Old Small Batch Bourbon $39.99 - While not labeled with an age statement, you can taste the extra richness in the Reserve "Very Old' versus the standard "Very Small Batch," especially when tasting side by side with our two recent single barrels. There's a more concentrated note of charred oak and creme brulee in the Reserve and that sweetly-spiced vanilla character lasts long on the finish without ever becoming overly woody or dry. There's a flurry of clove and charred wood on the entry and it morphs seamlessly into a supple and mouthcoating texture that all Bourbon fans should greatly enjoy. Bottled at 45.1% ABV.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Sep182017

R.I.P. Bobby Heenan

If you didn't watch Bobby Heenan on WWF television in the eighties, and then as one of the funniest commentators of the nineties as part of WCW, then you missed out on two decades of pure comedic gold. I was pouring through the tributes this morning and I was pleased to see Heenan recognized by his peers as one of the most important figures in the history of the professional wrestling business. His wit and humor were truly one of a kind, as was his ability to be the butt of the joke while keeping a straight face and acting angry about the whole thing. A big part of my childhood just passed away. 

-David Driscoll

Friday
Sep152017

D2D Interview: Kyle MacLachlan

I'm not going to hold back here: I'm a huge fan of Kyle MacLachlan's work over the years, beginning with The Hidden as a small child devoted to horror and sci-fi, but especially the film and television projects he's worked on with director David Lynch like Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, and most recently Twin Peaks: The Return on Showtime. However, it wasn't until I was searching for news about the potential return of Special Agent Dale Cooper that I discovered Kyle was into wine. Not just into wine, mind you, but actually the owner of a successful private label called Pursued by Bear made in conjunction with renowned Washington producer Dunham Cellars. I tracked down a bottle of his Columbia Valley Cabernet for the big Twin Peaks premier earlier this summer and, after fully enjoying every sip, I decided I would reach out to Kyle and see if he wanted to work with us at K&L on selling the wine. By the end of August, we had worked out a deal not only to bring his Pursued by Bear Cabernet and Baby Bear Syrah into the stores, but also his very limited rose for those final summer evenings when a glass of something cool and refreshing still hits the spot. My one condition, however, was that he agree to deal with my fanaticism about Twin Peaks and answer a few burning questions about his drinking relationship with David Lynch. He happily obliged and our most recent conversation is posted below:

David: Let’s start with an easy one: how long have you been interested in wine? 

Kyle: I started in high school with a glass of wine at the dinner table with the girl I was seeing at that time. Her family had the ritual of a sit-down dinner with everyone—she had two older sisters, so it was a large group and they would have their boyfriends there, too. I was dating the youngest one. When I joined for dinner, I had a glass of white wine—that’s what you did. That started it. From then it was a very slow progression getting to the point where I could actually decipher between a good wine and a not-so-good wine. I drank a lot of not-so-good wine in the beginning (laughs).

David: This is back in Yakima, I’m guessing?

Kyle: Yeah, this was in Yakima. It was before any real wine presence in the valley. Leonetti bonded in Walla Walla in 1977, the first winery to do so in Eastern Washington. Prior to that you had the big guys—Chateau St. Michelle, Columbia Winery and Columbia Crest…behemoths like that making wine. 

David: When did you get to the point where you actually wanted to start making wine and not just drinking it?

Kyle: It was the culmination of a friendship with Ann Colgin, who was and still is a mentor of mine, recognizing the quality of wine coming out of Washington state, being from Yakima originally, and then a desire to learn more and the feeling that the best path to do that was to actually get my feet wet. Taking the jump into making wine was only possible after meeting Eric Dunham from Dunham Cellars and having him agree to partner with me. 

David: How did you two meet? Were you originally looking at Washington when thinking about a potential wine project?

Kyle: No, it started with an eye on Napa and a little bit of research, which quickly turned into dismay because it was incredibly expensive and just felt impossible. It was my wife who said, “Why don’t you look into Washington?” She was aware already of the possible story about the business going on in my backyard, so to speak. It made sense to me on another level because I would be able to get back home to visit my dad who was still alive at the time, as well as my brothers. It gave me a reason to go back a few times a year, as opposed to just Christmas vacation. He was getting older and I wanted to spend more time with him, so this was a great thing we were able to do together. 

David: What developments have you seen with the Washington wine industry since you started? Are you surprised by how much it’s growing?

Kyle: It’s growing quickly, the number of wineries. From the beginning, as I mentioned with Leonetti in 1977, it took a while before more serious wineries were established. Dunham opened in the mid-nineties. Before that, you had Woodward Canyon and L’École 41. In fact, I think Eric originally did his internship at L’École and learned to make wine there. Then it just exploded, even from when I started back in 2005. What’s interesting is how the quality is getting better as more people are figuring it out, not only with the winemaking, but also with the growing. The growers have learned pretty quickly which varietals make good wine and which ones don’t. Prior to grapes, it was all apples and cherries up there and in that world of farming more is better. If you’re growing apples, you want to grow as many as you possibly can, so the idea of planting grapes and then thinning down the crop on behalf of better quality wasn’t inherent. Then there’s the question of what are the best sites; where do the vines work best and with what varietal? So that’s coming along pretty quickly, too. 

David: You’re pretty heavily involved with the actual winemaking, too, am I right? I know when customers look at celebrity booze projects they tend to think most of it is marketing, but that’s not the case here at all from what I understand.

Kyle: I’m in charge of selecting the fruit and then I’m there for all the blending trials. I consult with Dan Wampfler who’s my winemaker, as well—he now works over at Abeja, but he still makes my wine. Dan and I talk about specific sites and we try to be proactive when certain fruit comes online. In fact, I’m really excited because this year for the first time I’ve got some fruit coming in from Champoux Vineyard, which is really hard to get and very expensive, but it’s such a quality site. I’m also involved in making barrel choices, sampling the wine from barrel, blending, let’s see what else…

David: I think that’s a lot more than George Clooney has ever contributed to Casa Amigos Tequila.

Kyle: (laughs) I was intent on learning, so I wanted to be hands on. I’m continuing to become more involved and the most recent shift involves moving out of the partnership with Dunham and becoming sort of my own stand-alone winery. I’ve purchased five two-ton fermenters now and I’ve got everything that I need to do more of a custom crush.

After twenty five years, Agent Dale Cooper emerges from the confines of the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks: The Return

David: Wow, that’s a big jump to start investing in infrastructure! That’s when things start to get real, right?

Kyle: Oh my gosh, yes. It’s going all the way. I didn’t anticipate it to be quite as overwhelming, but it’s still not too bad because the Dunham facility does most of the work, but I’m now gaining more control, moving out of the vineyard and into the winemaking itself. Processing, fermentation, speed, and delivery are becoming more important, so as I get into it more and more I realize the minuscule steps are just as important as the big ones.

David: Right, we realize that on the retail end as well. People spend a lot of time learning about the specifics of wine and the education side, but you still have to know how to use a POS system, run credit cards, and take inventory! There’s no better way to learn than to do every part of the business yourself. Speaking of going back home to Washington, how does it feel to return to Washington as Special Agent Dale Cooper?

Kyle: It’s incredible to be able to do it for a second time. The first time around was back in 1989/90, not that long after I graduated from college in ’82, so it’s always fun to be back. Most recently with the new show, we were up there last year during September and October, but to be honest I was only up there shooting for a little over a week for what I guess we would call season three. But there’s definitely a recognition and there are people who get a kick out of the fact that I’m originally from the northwest. I also just finished my run as the mayor of Portlandia in Portland and that was an interesting experience because I’d never had that kind of local recognition before. There was definitely a bit of a buzz around town while we were shooting, whereas I’m used to being a little bit more under the radar. 

David: That surprises me because you were in a lot of cult television shows from Twin Peaks, to Sex and the City, to Desperate Housewives. I would think people would be stopping you on the street all the time. Those are shows people watch over and over again and binge on. 

Kyle: Yeah, people definitely recognize me from Sex and the City, also from How I Met Your Mother. I’m pretty grateful for having been able to do this for as long as I have, being in some worthwhile productions. 

David: Which role do you get recognized for most often? Like people stop you and say, “Oh my God, I loved you in…..?”

Kyle: I would say primarily as Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks. A close second would be as Trey in Sex in the City because as you said people return to that show time and time again. That one’s still pretty relevant.

David: Heck yeah it is. My wife still quotes some of your best lines on that show around the house quite often. 

Kyle: (laughs) Yeah there were some good ones. Embarrassingly good.

David: The part where Trey takes the medication and says it felt like it might “rocket right off” is a classic. I was rewatching The Doors the other day as well and had completely forgotten you played Ray Manzarek in the movie. I think you, Val Kilmer, Frank Whaley, and Kevin Dillon did such a good job in that film that I failed to recognize you as actors. 

Kyle: That’s good. That means I disappeared. I like that!

David: Speaking of Twin Peaks, David Lynch is a big wine fan as well, right? 

Kyle: Yeah, in fact we share a couple of connections. When I went to audition for Dune in Los Angeles—not even a year out of college—I screen tested for David and when I got back to the hotel there was a bottle of Lynch Bages and a thank you card from David who was hoping everything would work out. He sent me a bottle of Bordeaux, which we talked about during our first meeting. That was probably my first experience with a great bottle of wine. I think that’s what started me on the European wine path. David and I continue to this day to gift each other bottles, either wines that I make or older vintages of Lynch Bages. We definitely have a mutual appreciation for red wine. 

David: How does he like your Pursued By Bear wines? Do you keep him well stocked?

Kyle: I do, and he does like it. I think his preferred wine would be Bordeaux, but he has had very nice things to say about the Pursued By Bear wines, which I appreciate.

David: So he’s really being himself as Gordon Cole on Twin Peaks then? In one of the last episodes he sits down with Albert and says something about “enjoying this fine Bordeaux.” 

Kyle: Right (laughs).

David: So currently your Pursued By Bear label is producing a Cabernet, a Syrah, and a rosé. Do you have any plans to expand the range with the new facility?

Kyle: Not yet. I think I’m probably going to rally around those three and increase production a little bit, while still keeping my fruit sources. I’m getting more grapes from new sites like Champoux, Sagemoor, Heather Hill—that’s a site than Dan turned me onto, I love it. I’m almost like a negotiant, I’m buying different parcels from different places and still learning. The blend is always going to be Cabernet dominated. When I started it there was a Syrah component in it, but I ultimately became interested in the classic Bordeaux model, so we’re bringing in some Cab Franc for the first time in the 2016 blend. We’ll see what that does. 

-David Driscoll