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Tuesday
Feb042014

From Laphroaig to Lachirioag

Much like peated whisky recently experienced its renaissance, mezcal is slowly beginning to carve out a larger niche in the world of agave spirits. Always playing second fiddle to Jalisco, the spirits from Oaxaca present spirit fans with saltier, smokier, and tangier profiles than one would normally find in the average tequila expression -- offering aficionados a broader spectrum of flavors than what they're used to from Mexico. More importantly, mezcal's moment is happening without any corporate presence whatsoever; many of the most interesting selections are being self-imported by the producers themselves and distributed by smaller companies that specialize in boutique spirits. Much like the whiskies from Islay, the mezcales from Oaxaca represent a key economic source of revenue for a remote area that hasn't seen much industrialization. However, while Islay has largely been taken over by Diageo, Suntory, and Remy Martin, mezcal production in the villages of Oaxaca is still completely in the hands of the farmers themselves.

But with many young Oaxacan men heading north of the border for employment opportunities, can a mezcal explosion revive a sparse mountainous region and create new opportunities for the locals? That's what Elisandro Gonzalez-Molina and his cousin -- both natives of San Cristobal Lachirioag -- are hoping to achieve with their new brand: Tosba mezcal.

We've been carrying Tosba since early December here at K&L, but the demands of the holiday season kept us from giving it its proper push. Our lack of presentation didn't matter, however, because this NPR interview with the boys aired last week and completely gutted our supply; we sold out within minutes. I'm meeting with Elisandro later today to discuss more opportunities for the public to taste and perhaps organize a few events here at the store. We'll also be back soon with a full write-up on each of the Tosba selections as soon as our order shows up later this week.

Stay tuned!

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Feb022014

Tribute

My favorite living actor was found dead today. This is my tribute: one of my favorite scenes in any movie of all time. All of us in the UCSD film department were obsessed with this sequence.

RIP Mr. Hoffman.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jan312014

New Benriach Whiskies

It’s no secret that Glendronach is becoming one of the most respected single malts on the market, with more and more consumers becoming aware of its fantastic quality. What many people have seemed to miss, however, is that the other distillery owned by Glendronach (that would be Benriach) is releasing whisky every bit as good as Glendronach, if not better much of the time. While I love me some sherry, there’s not a distillery in Scotland that can compete with Benriach when it comes to value, flavor, and diversity combined. You can get light, heathery whisky. Dark, rich, sherry-laden whisky. Oily, smoky, Islay style whisky, too. And they’re all fantastic.

Check out what just landed…..

BenRiach 12 Year Old Horizons Triple Distilled Single Malt Whisky $79.99 - This lovely, round and supple, triple-distilled malt from Benriach is rich with barrel spice and vanilla, but soft with stonefruit on the finish before the sherry kicks in.  It's a lovely new addition to their already stellar line-up. Finished in Oloroso butts, it has a chewier, more savory ending that more resembles its sister distillery Glendronach, than what we're used to tasting from Benriach. A fantastic whisky with nice little a bump up to 100 proof.

BenRiach 17 Year Old Septendecim Single Malt Whisky $84.99 - Straight-forward peated whisky from a Bourbon cask, this is a lighter, classic Highland-style whisky with a healthy dollup of peat on the back end. An oily, resinous note marks the finish. It's well-balanced and tasty from front to back and really adds to the Benriach portolio, which is becoming one of the strongest and most-impressive in the industry.

BenRiach 17 Year Old Solstice 2nd Edition Single Malt Whisky $99.99 - This peated, port-finished malt from Benriach is an absolute home run. It's got rich, dark-fruited flavor and blast of campfire smoke on the finish. It's a straight-up challenge to Lagavulin 16 in style, with both the richness and the peat--and it's better executed. Really good stuff. This is what I wished the Laphroaig Cairdeas would have tasted like!

Oh…and if you missed out on the Cairdeas, David OG just got another 60 bottles in Hollywood

BenRiach 25 Year Old Authenticus Single Malt Whisky $279.99 - The Authenticus is a mature, peated malt from Benriach that offers more wood than the 17 year expression and a softer touch of peat. It's serious whisky and really calls into question some of the higher priced competitors who are offering similar styles of whisky for much higher prices. Benriach really dialed it in with this whisky.

We also have a peated cask on the way just for K&L. Good times ahead.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jan302014

Bryan Davis Returns Again

From the darkness, there emerges a new light.You may remember our friend Bryan Davis -- the madcap, romantically-inclined dreamer/distiller who built a steam-powered still out of wood in the middle of a Salinas artichoke field and decided to make 100% California, peated single malt whisky. He's untraditional, unapologetic, and a bit unorthodox, but he's one of the most exciting and unpredictable producers I've ever met. I won't see him for months and then he'll just pop into the store unannounced with a bottle of something new to try. When I saw him in the Redwood City store this week he not only had a bottle of rum in his hand, but one crazy whopper of a story as well.

I had heard the rumors, but Bryan was here to confirm them: he was indeed forced to bulldoze his entire operation. Why? Because of TCA, or as we call it in the wine industry: cork taint. The TCA gets into the wood, the wood gets turned into cork, the cork goes into the bottle, and the wine gets spoiled. In this case, the TCA got into Bryan's still and his barrels, rendering his entire operation and all of his mature whisky useless. There is a swimming pool nearby the location of Bryan's former still. The chlorinated water from that pool somehow leaked into the ground and began mixing with the dried leaves and other matter in the dirt. Chlorophenol becomes TCA when it interacts with airborne fungi, so without being aware of it, Bryan's pool was creating a den of cork taint right below his wood-built operation. Tens of thousands of dollars later, Bryan was left with a mound of rubble.

Bryan's cryptic photo of his new stillLike a phoenix rising out of the ashes, Bryan got right back to work and built a new still out of copper; a better, more powerful machine ready to tackle more traditional spirits in a traditional manner. He decided to invest in some Grade A molasses from Domino and try his hand at rum. Rum is not normally distilled from Grade A molasses, however. It's usually distilled from fresh sugar cane juice (agricole), the honey from the boiled sugar cane juice (Ron Zacapa), or black strap molasses (what's left after the first five rounds of molasses have been sulphured to death and every last crystal of sugar has been scraped free). Grade A represents the class of molasses before all that reduction has taken place. It's the kind you could put on your pancakes. Bryan distilled his Grade A molasses to a high proof and matured the spirit in new American oak, seasoned with sherry. The result is something in between Smith & Cross and El Dorado: big richness, big alcohol, big funk.

The result is exactly what you would expect from a navy style rum, but it has something earthy and bizarre that lets you know who made it. It's easily adaptable into a standard cocktail like a Dark and Stormy, but also capable of lending new perspective into something like a Mai Tai. It's already in the bar at Smuggler's Cove and it's already lining the shelves of our San Francisco store. Also, in classic Bryan Davis fashion, it's affordable and well-priced for the size and scale of the operation: $44.99.

We've got a few right now. We'll have a lot more soon.

I'll also have a lengthy interview with Bryan in the near future, breaking down all of this madness into minute detail. Stay tuned!

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jan302014

Anthropomorphism

If you have relationships in your life with people, and a relationship with booze in all its forms, you've probably noticed some similarities in the way both have made you feel over time. I was thinking about this idea while running this morning. I've had a number of friends come and go in my life; some of them parted on bad terms, others grew apart, and some passed away. Nevertheless, we spent time together at some point – for years, or maybe just a few days – and they impacted my life in some shape or form. In breaking down the different types of experiences I've had with people over the last three decades, I can probably apply all of those situations to booze as well. You tell me: am I talking about a person or a bottle of whiskey?

The Honeymoon Period Friend - You just met someone and they're super-cool, exciting, and fun. You hang out all the time for a week or two, but then you realize this person isn't as great as you thought they were. You discover some uncomfortable secret about them that wasn't apparent at first and it totally kills the buzz. A few weeks later you're no longer calling that person and you never see them again.

Early Friends Who Change Over Time - You have a friend that you've known since you were young and shared early experiences with, but now that you're older you realize that whatever you once had in common is no longer enough to continue maintaining a strong relationship.

Friends That Are Fun, But Not Close - Some people you know are great to hang out with after work or on a more casual basis. You don't ever talk about anything serious, but you share a few superficial interests and that's enough to create a few great hours of fun.

Friends That You Lose - Sometimes we lose a friend to a tragedy, long before their time. We mourn these relationships often because they were so good for so long and we weren't ready for them to end.

Friends That Get High And Mighty - Some of our friends achieve success in life and forget about the people who truly care for them. They're so worried about money and fortune that they lose track of what actually made them interesting.

Friends That No One Else Likes, But You Do - We all have that friend that no one understands. "How in the hell can you stand that guy?" our other friends ask. Nevertheless, we find something redeeming about them.

Friends That You Might Be Embarrassed Of - Maybe in high school you had a friend that you knew from class, but who didn't fit into your social group. When other people made fun of that friend you struggled with standing up for their reputation as a cool person, or risking being seen as someone uncool for doing so.

The Friend That Changes Your Perspective - We've all met a person who was so different from us that we couldn't understand where they were coming from. Over time, however, we began to respect and enjoy their unique perspective and original qualities.

Friends You Feel Sorry For - Some of our friends go down paths that are darker than others. When they emerge years later they're a shell of what they once were. They look the same and they have the same name, but the person you once knew no longer exists.

I can name multiple friends from my past who fall into each of these categories. Likewise, I can think of a wine or whiskey that also fits into these descriptions. Maybe that's why we love booze so much: because there's something so human about our relationship with it.

-David Driscoll