Westland's Fin(o)est Whisky

I got an email from a customer late last night, telling me:

Holy hell that's good! Thank you for continually brining in interesting and wonderful hooch for us to enjoy! I've only had once glass so far, but it's enough to require me to contact you. 

He was talking about our new cask of Westland; a whiskey that had just been released earlier that day.

I knew how good it was, but Kyle came out of the tasting bar yesterday on fire (and he’s too cool to get excited about anything). Our Sherry buyer Joe Manekin was also quite excited, mainly because he had never tasted a fino sherry matured whiskey until this point. I’ve teased the arrival of this whiskey before, but the wait is finally over. I’ve had distillers from all over the country calling to put bottles aside in advance, and even the guys from Westland have been emailing to make sure I’ll have extras for them. Yes, it’s that good.

I’ve told you how good I think Westland as a distillery is going to be (if you don’t know anything about Seattle’s single malt distillery click here), and this is the bottle that will convince you if you’re not yet a true believer. I'm hesitant to even sell this whiskey because it's going to do nothing but spoil you rotten. It's a total tease. This cask of Westland gives you a shining example of what fino sherry cask maturation can do, even though there are almost no fino sherry aged whiskies readily available for you to compare it against. The most prevalent on today's market is the Kavalan from Taiwan and that baby sells for $400. This Westland cask we secured is one of only two fino casks the distillery had available (one for K&L, the other to be divided among every other retailer). The whisky itself is utterly haunting. It's full of maple donut on the nose with more toffee and dried fruit on the palate. The finish is bold at 60% but a bit of water releases the toasted almonds and nougat. This is one of those whiskies where I actually will advocate for multiple bottle purchases, simply because we've never ever bought a proprietary cask of fino sherry-aged whisky in the history of our store. And God knows when we'll be able to again.

Westland K&L Exclusive Single Fino Sherry Butt #300 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $89.99 - In what will undoubtedly be one of our most-celebrated selections of the year, K&L is proud to present our first collaboration (and hopefully not the last) with renowned Seattle distiller Westland: a single fino sherry cask that represents one of the most delicious and rarest expressions made by the single malt producer to date. Fino sherry has a much more oxidative flavor than the much sweeter, and oft-used Oloroso sherry. Whisky matured in ex-fino butts tends to showcase flavors of dried fruit, almond skin, and marzipan with subtle nuances of caramel not normally seen in typical malt releases. Our barrel of Westland is no different. It's brimming with dried stonefruit, a healthy dose of salted caramel, and a big bold finish of creamy maple glaze. It's not for the faint of heart at 121.6 proof, but a bit of water can help temper the storm and stretch out all that fine fino flavor. If you weren't already convinced that Westland distillery was the next big thing for single malt whisky, this is the release that should make everything abundantly clear. This is shockingly good whisky, and it's only available at K&L.

-David Driscoll


Flying Pepper Will Travel

When Ansley Coale told me a few weeks back that I'd be flying to Oaxaca with a videographer he'd hired, I was on the lookout for someone around my age with a big bag of gear stuffed into the overhead compartment. I didn't see anyone who fit that description, however, when I actually sat down on the plane. To my right was an older couple who clearly had been drinking before boarding, and to my left across the aisle was some kid with his face buried in a laptop. I was flying solo apparently.

It wasn't until we landed that I realized the kid with the Macbook was Miles Pepper, the hired AV guy who Ansley was using to produce a few promotional materials while in Oaxaca. He looked about eighteen, but was apparently a fresh twenty years of age. "I decided to skip that whole paying-for-college thing and just put all my money into cameras and software," he told me while sitting in the Houston airport. I was instantly jealous. This kid seemed to have life figured out and he couldn't even legally drink yet! I was going to have to keep an eye on him.

Over the course of the week I got to spend a pretty good amount of time with Miles. He was interested in exploring the food and drink scene (especially since the American one is still off limits for him), so he tagged along with me in the evenings around the city. He's a bit quiet and reserved, but absolutely fearless. I was wondering why he seemed a bit tired, and he told me, "I actually just got back from Nepal, so I still have a bit of jet lag. I was there during the earthquake shooting video and stayed to help out afterward." When I was twenty I mostly sat around playing video games, smoking cigarettes, eating Jack in the Box, and drinking beer. Miles made me incredibly self-conscious.

As you might have already guessed, all of the photos in this post were shot by Miles during our trip to Oaxaca. We both stalked each site we visited, Canon in hand, firing away. He was nice enough to share some of his files with me at the end of the journey. 

What I really appreciated about Miles was his sense of adventure and his open-mindedness to new experiences. He's not high-energy like I am, but he's willing to do anything once. I spent most evenings translating the menus for him, and he would say things like, "I've never had anything like that before. Let's try it!" I definitely was not that welcoming to the world at twenty.

Miles Pepper is just getting started in the video world, but he already has a wealth of incredible experiences. Not just with his journeys abroad, but also on a number of television projects he's been a part of for major networks. Then there's his drone business. This kid went to Thailand with a remote-controlled drone and a GoPro camera and took aerial shots that look straight up professional. Then he convinced a number of high-end hotels to let him trade PR video work for free rooms. This kid is TWENTY! Why could I not have been this bold at such a young age?!!

Check out Flying Pepper Productions and look at some of his drone video work. It's incredible. And hire this kid if you need help with your next video project. He's a pro, and his best work is definitely still ahead of him.

-David Driscoll


Fashion Show


Which prestigious labels are walking down the K&L warehouse runway this week? Let see which bottles are strutting their stuff on the new arrival catwalk.

Michter's Limited Release US 1 Barrel Strength Rye $79.99The new batch of Michter’s Barrel Strength rye is here. 54.4%. Have at it!

Wild Turkey 101 rye is back! And in liter bottles! The long, long wait is over. We can finally buy more than one bottle every 87 days! Get some Old Potrero, too.

Wild Turkey 101 Rye 1L $39.99 – The original classic. In all its glory.

Old Potrero Single Malt Straight Rye Whiskey $69.99 - The new release of Anchor's highly sought-after straight rye. Bottled at slightly higher proof this year, but as usual this whiskey was aged for 3.5 years in new charred oak barrels. Very limited.

Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Sherry Barrel Single Malt Whisky $109.99 – Single barrel 15 year old sherry-matured Balvenie at 47.8%. GET SOME!

Two of our old time favorites are back in stock! Direct from our recent visit to France.

Chateau de Laballe K&L Exclusive VS Armagnac $34.99 - Armagnac has been distilled at Domaine de Laballe since Jean-Dominique Laudet returned from the Caribbean to his native Gascony and purchased the estate in Parleboscq. It was Noel Laudet, however, who modernized the operation in the 1970s when he left his position as director at famed Bordeaux producer Chateau Beycheville in St. Julien and returned home to expand his family's estate into wine production, as well as Armagnac. After Noel, however, production at Laballe stopped until the 8th generation came back to take the reins. Today, Cyril Laudet and his wife Julie have restarted operations at the Domaine and have recommitted to the tradition of their ancestors. The VS is going to be a fan favorite -- it has all the varietal flavor of the fruit, but enough richness to round out the palate and give the wooded spirits fans their dessert. It's spicy and dry on the finish, making it perfect for rocks drinks or cocktails.

Jacques Esteve K&L Exclusive Selection Coup de Coeur Cognac $89.99 - Jacques Esteve was one of the most exciting producers we visited from Cognac this January. His fruit is all estate and the brandies are distilled on site in a small room just next to his garage.  Pulling into the driveway, you wonder where the distillery is, but its all carefully integrated into his country property.  His barrels sit underneath his house and age gracefully amidst the cobwebs. Esteve's grapes and Cognac are in big demand right now with some of the large production houses and it's clear as to why.  The Cognacs bring richness and weight while retaining their finesse.  The Coup de Coeur is a blend of 1979 and 1981 vintages that begins with soft citrus on the nose before blossoming into a warming and supple palate.  Barrel spice and nutty flavors balance out the sweetness and the flavors are in perfect harmony on the finish.  If there's a better deal in Cognac for less than $100, we've yet to find one.  For those looking for more intense flavor and character, rather than the lighter more delicate style, this Cognac is for you.  Available only at K&L in the United States.

Mezcalero Release #11 Mezcal $69.99This is yet another fantastic offering and the eleventh in the series of sourced mezcal releases from Danzantes and Germain Robin. An enticing marriage of wild Madrecuishe and Bicuishe, co-fermented with Mexicano and Espadin agave. All sourced from Miahuatlan and distilled by Alberto Ortiz, this is full of bright baking spices and high-toned spice with a peppery finish that packs smoke, salt, and savory goodness. Superb as always.

I also decided to remove allocations on both the Green Spot and Yellow Spot Irish whiskies. Have at it!!!

Green Spot Single Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey $44.99 - The elusive Green Spot Whiskey is finally here. This legendary whiskey is partly responsible for the resurgence in popularity of pure pot still whiskey, the traditional Irish method of whiskey production. Green Spot began as the house brand for a Dublin wine merchant Mitchell & Sons. After consolidation of the Irish Whiskey market, Mitchell & Sons negotiated an agreement to be provided a small quantity of whiskey to support the brand. The current blend consists of 8-9 year old whiskey of which 25% is aged in sherry casks. Fewer than 1,000 cases are produced a year. What was once the most difficult to find Irish Whiskey in the world has no burst back onto the scene and along with Red Breast represents some of the best values available in any category of whiskey today. This old school style Irish contains no column distilled grain whiskey and is 100% pot-stilled. The result is a rich and robust texture with the renowned soft complexity of Irish Whiskey intact. This is all brought together with a multi-year finish in high quality sherry butts. This is whiskey you can give to ANYONE and be sure their mind will be blown.

Yellow Spot Single Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey $99.99 – Aged in a combination of Bourbon, Sherry, and Spanish Malaga casks for a fantastic flavor of dried fruits and marzipan.

That's a star-studded line up, for sure.

-David Driscoll


Steven Soderbergh Dinner in LA

We’re extremely lucky to welcome the massively prolific filmmaker Steven Soderbergh to Hollywood for a special night of stories, spirits, and Singani! Bolivia’s national drink became Mr. Soderbergh’s favorite spirit while filming the biopic, Che, in Bolivia back in 2008. Steven’s love for the special brandy didn’t dissipate when he returned stateside and he’s spent the last seven years on a quest to make sure he’d always had access to the stuff. After researching the intricacies of US alcohol regulation, Steven realized that the time, money, and energy needed to bring the product to the states for his personal use was totally out of control. It became clear that if he wanted to have access to his favorite drink, he’d have to get behind it in a BIG way and that’s exactly what he’s done. Steven’s brand, Singani 63, is now one of our best-selling white spirits and is quickly taking the cocktail scene by storm. The brand’s wild success is not surprising, it’s a magnificent product with the backing of one of Hollywood’s most creative and respected forces – but to be honest, it’s Steven’s genuine passion for the product that we fell in love with. He legitimately lights up when he’s talking Singani and his enthusiasm is infectious. So, come join us Tuesday June 23rdto get the full story of this special spirit. We’ll have a full sit-down meal and several Singani cocktails designed by world renowned bartender, owner of the Varnish (awarded Best American Cocktail Bar at TOTC in 2013), and genuinely amazing gentleman, Eric Alperin. Steven’s only in down for a couple of days for the Magic Mike XXL premiere so we’re EXTREMELY lucky to have him even for a short period of time. So, if you’re interested in Singani, film, or simply need something awesome to do on a Tuesday night, grab a ticket now. Only 40 spots available.

Singani Dinner w/ Steven Soderbergh & Eric Alperin @ Delphine, Tuesday June 23rd, 8 PM - $75


Knick Knacks

I get asked about my job quite a bit; especially now that I'm traveling more often and drinking all over the world. Is it fun? Of course. Is it the best job ever? That's what people tell me, but to do this job well you have to sacrifice all of your free time, and most of your body's filtration and urinary system. Neither of those things are good for my mental and physical health. Do you have to know a lot about booze? Yes, you have to know a good amount, but being a retail buyer isn't about knowledge (which confounds a good number of candidates out there). It's about translation. You have to be able to speak about fifty different languages, and how well you can interpret them will ultimately decide how well you can do this job. You need to know what the whisky supergeek is asking about (down to the most minute of details), what the wealthy guy going to an office party is looking for, what the loving wife needs for her husband even though she has no idea what he even likes, and which whisky most resembles that bottle of I-can't-remember that some guy drank twenty years ago and really enjoyed. You need to like everything and be open to anything. You need to appreciate the high and the low, the top and the bottom, the good and the moderately-passable because you're going to have customers who want exactly those two things, and everything in between. You only drink the "good" stuff? Then look for a different job. Trust me, this one isn't for you. Retail buyers aren't here to pass judgement. They're here to help people from all walks navigate a very complex system of liquids and classifications.

There are all kinds of sayings or bumper sticker witticisms out there in the booze world like: Life's too short to drink bad wine, or I don't have time to drink bad whisky. I get where these would-be aphorisms are coming from, and I understand that there's this concept in life that when you're super busy (which I understand, believe me), you don't want to waste the little free time you have doing something that isn't super fun. But drinking, the act of imbibing alcohol itself, is the fun part. Drinking something tasty, interesting, or cool can definitely add more enjoyment to the occasion, but it shouldn't constantly define the moment (plus, you'll never appreciate anything wonderful in life without a negative experience to compare it against). Personally, I would counter those sayings with something like: Life's too short to drink something you don't actually enjoy. Because every single time you sit down to have a drink you should be enjoying yourself. If someone says they only enjoy the "good" stuff when they do sit down for a drink, then I can't honestly believe that person knows what fun or enjoyment really is.

-David Driscoll