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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

Friday
Nov072014

Japan: Day 5 – Tokyo Drifter

Lots of time to kill today before a 5 PM flight back to California. Time to hit the street. Speaking of hitting the street, where else in the world can you plop down for the night on the sidewalk and just go to sleep, both legally and safely? Only in Tokyo. This guy is wearing a $300 suit; it's not like he's a vagrant. He just had a rough Friday night and needed to take a rest. There's not one piece of trash on the ground in the entirety of Japan, so add "cleanly" to my original query.

Shinanoya is one of the oldest and most-respected whisky retailers in Tokyo, so stopping by the storefront was an absolute must.

A huge, expansive, and eclectic selection of whisky awaits you inside. I cleaned up in here. There were some serious gems on that shelf.

Somehow, some way, Chris and I just stumbled upon this gigantic fish market. We had heard that visiting a fish market was something we should do in Tokyo, but we didn't know where it was and didn't want to waste time searching one out. Yet, despite our laziness, we still ended up at the fish market just by meandering right into it. To get an idea of how big Tokyo is, let me give you some perspective: just this fish market is the size of Union Square (including the mall). I'm not kidding. You have a selection of seafood that is as big as all of our department stores put together.

Whatever you want from the ocean, it's here waiting for you inside this box.

Then I spotted these empty wine bottles in a department store window display: 1997 Lanessan and 1997 Potensac. There's no way these two bottles didn't come from K&L. We bought practically the entirety of both vintages from these two Bordeaux chateaux, so the odds that these two bottles were purchased in tandem anywhere else is pretty much zero. What are the odds? A Japanese businessman probably visited the Redwood City store, bought these from Jeff Garneau, flew back across the Pacific, drank them, and used them in his window display.

Big Tokyo, small world.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Nov072014

Japan: Day 4 – Blending In

Tokyo is gigantic sea of people moving through a highly-intricate web of streets, alleys, and pathways. It's the only city where I've ever truly felt lost, overwhelmed, out-of-place, and intensly-excited all at the same time. After dropping our bags at the hotel, we had a few hours to go out on our own. While our lodging is in Ginza, we had a bus drop us off in the Shinjuku district. It's there you'll experience the Tokyo of your dreams and expectations. I struck out on my own for most of the late afternoon and just let the flow of traffic take me where it may.

Life in Tokyo is about finding balance; it has to be for anyone to avoid going completely insane. You've got more than thirteen million people living on top of one another, all up in each other's business twenty-four hours a day. What fascinates me about Tokyo (and much of Japan in general) is the ingenuity in small spaces. The Japanese have found a way to create peace and harmony in the most compact of areas through creative design. This hidden side street near Shin-Obuko Station had patio tables, trees, and an atmosphere of tranquility in the most unlikely of locations.

Not far from Shibuya Station is Nikka's headquarters and the incredible Blender's Bar: a clandestine watering hole loaded with old and rare Nikka whisky expressions, as well as sixteen different blends created by Nikka's blending team exclusively for this location. We couldn't wait to get inside.

What to drink first? The Taketsuru 17 year unchillfiltered at 48%? The Pure Malt 35 year? The 30 year old "Rita" apple brandy? Or one of the sixteen exclusive blends? I felt like my head was going to explode under the pressure.

When in doubt, just ask Tadashi Sakuma—Nikka's head blender—who was sitting directly across from me for most of the evening. We had drinks and small bites with the entire Nikka blending team, while sipping dozens of different whiskies at the Nikka Blender's Bar. 

"I'll try #16; the Tropical Sunset Blend," I told the server.

"Oh, you chose my blend," said Tadashi humbly. It's an incredible thing, ordering literally any whisky off the menu, and knowing that the person who formulated that flavor is somewhere in the room with you. We were able to ask the most specific of questions and instantly get a direct and detailed answer. It was one of the more satisfying industry dinners I've ever sat through. The blenders were all very relaxed, polite, and interested in learning more about the American market; never once tiring of our incessant questioning. Later in the evening, I sat next to one of the newer blenders who, after two months on the job, told me how even one drop of the wrong whisky in a blend can destroy the harmony of the marriage. I left not only with an increased awareness of the entire Nikka portfolio, but also with utter respect for the care put into each expression. These guys have spent decades experimenting, researching, and grinding away in the hope of whisky perfection. There's a level of respect and commitment to whisky making in Japan that I've never witnessed anywhere else.

Even though we had eaten dinner with the blending team, there was no way I was going to bed without a bowl of ramen; especially with the renowned Ippudo literally across the street from our hotel.

I'm normally a miso guy, but Ippudo is famous for their tonkotsu pork broth. Harmony, balance, peace, and simple design: it's all right there in that bowl. 

-David Driscoll

Friday
Nov072014

Japan: Day 4 – The Road Back to Tokyo

We boarded the bullet train at Sendai station this morning, eagerly anticipating the upcoming views through the window. Getting the chance to see a city from afar is much different than the view from the middle. Sendai was one of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami in 2012, and there are placards at the airport showing where the water level reached during the flood. Since then, however, it appears the city has persevered. We were all very impressed with Sendai; both with the aesthetics and the friendliness of the citizens. I would definitely go back again on vacation if I had time.

Tokyo, from the little I've seen so far, is one of the most awe-inspiring cities I've ever visited. There are busy streets full of storefronts, and alleyways full of more storefronts intersecting those streets. It's like the compactness of New York, with the sprawl of Los Angeles, but bigger, fuller, and even more-populated. And you can't read anything, or recognize exactly what anything is. I think I could spend an entire year here and barely scratch the surface.

As if the busy streets full of shopping weren't enough, you've got train stations and subway stops bursting with more options. It seems all the best spots are located underground as part of the transit system. Hasegawa Liquors, one of Tokyo's most-revered whisky stores, is tucked away beneath the bustling city streets; part of a series of small, garage-style bodegas.

And don't forget the malls! Tokyo goes a lot further up than down. I'm still working on the subterranean selection. I can't even imagine what awaits over my head.

-David Driscoll