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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

9/24 - San Francisco: Monkey 47 w/Christoph Keller!

9/24 - Redwood City: Germain Robin K&L Exclusive Brandy!

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Bourbon Barrel #344 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Bourbon Barrel #345 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1990 Glenfarclas K&L Exclusive Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER


Glenfarclas "The Faultline Casks" K&L Exclusive First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER


1997 Bunnahabhain Heavily Peated 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Chieftain's Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1998 Laphroaig 15 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1983 Caol Ila 30 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2002 Bowmore 11 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Refill Sherry Hogshead Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW


1992 Bruichladdich 21 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1988 Balmenach 25 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Benrinnes 17 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Dailuaine 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Glen Elgin 18 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glenlivet 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Sherry Butt Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!!


1981 Glenlivet 32 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1996 Bowmore 16 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Bladnoch "Young" K&L Exclusive Heavily Peated Single Barrel #57 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glengoyne 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Kilchoman K&L Exclusive Single Bourbon Barrel #172 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Kilchoman K&L Exclusive Single Bourbon Barrel #74 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2013 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky Still Available

2005 Island Distillery 7 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


2001 Royal Lochnagar 10 Year Old Faultline Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Glendronach 18 Year Old Single PX Barrel Cask Strength Blended Scotch Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


1994 Benriach 19 Year Old Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Blended Scotch Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


1992 Longmorn 21 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1987 Mortlach 25 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Sunday
Oct072012

Terroir in Booze

I really, really like drinking wine. I started working at K&L because of my interest in Bordeaux and Burgundy, rather than Bourbon or single malt. The spirits thing kind of fell into my lap. My current fascintation with booze was the rediscovery of an old passion, a nostalgic look back to my roots as a Scotch and gin guy in college. The thirst I had for wine, however, was as much pedagogical as it was literal. It was all so new! There were so many grapes, so many traditional ways of fermenting them, and so many different countries all participating in the fun. I love to learn and wine presented me with a whole lifetime's worth of educational work. What really got me hooked, however, was Loire Valley Sancerre and the sauvignon blanc that actually tasted like limestone and wet rocks – just like the soil in which the grapes were actually grown. It was terroir, as the French call it – the idea that a sense of place is actually palatable in the final product. That really blew my mind.

The idea of the land influencing the flavors of a grape isn't too difficult to comprehend. If you put an onion on your kitchen counter right next to the bananas, you end up with onion-flavored bananas. However, to think that these terroir-driven flavors could actually grow inside of a fruit, then maintain their influence through a fermentation process is hard for many to fathom. Add distillation and further maturation to the formula and you're really pushing it, but nevertheless it's there. Smoky Islay single malt, for example, maintains the earthy flavor of the peat phenols all the way through the fermentation, distillation, and maturation processes. The water used to ferment the mash, as well as proof down the whisky can also add local flavor to the finished product (which doesn't always cross one's mind when clamouring for more cask strength expressions). Despite these clear and palpable influences, terroir isn't really a term that gets brought up when people discuss spirits.

With booze, terroir isn't always a product of the source material. Most single malt distilleries use the exact same barley, malted at the same commericial plant, so there's nothing uniquely "Islay" or "Highland" about the barley. Even Kilchoman's 100% Islay single malt, made from home-grown barley right next-door, doesn't necessarily scream "Islay" the way its salty, peaty flavors do.  While it's a cool idea and a wildly-different flavor profile, the difference in barley isn't really terroir because its flavor doesn't speak to a sense of place.  Terroir doesn't have to be grown into the grain, it can make itself known via the fermentation or maturation stages. Campbeltown's Springbank distillery, for example, has the moldiest, muckiest warehouse I have ever seen. There are pools of blue, green, and white mud all over that building, sometimes swallowing your shoes if you step in the wrong spot. That earthy funk makes its way into the whisky and you can really taste it in some of their single barrel expressions (like our 14 year Madeira-finished cask). It's a flavor that can only occur in whisky aged in that particular place, which is the whole point of terroir. 

ArteNOM's 1414 Reposado Tequila uses all native yeast to ferment its mash – a risky move considering that the various strains of yeast can produce all kinds of flavor variation (see the Four Roses' mashbill guide with its talk of yeast). Most winemakers and distillers ferment in a hyper-sterilized environment with commercial yeast they have evalutated and purchased. Feliciano Vivanco's distillery, however, lets the local yeast hovering freely within their environment do its work on the agave sugar. The result is sensational – a delicate, slightly-earthy flavor that could only come from a tequila being produced in that particular place. Flavoring a spirit with ingredients that are sourced from a specific area also speaks to the idea of terroir. St. George's Terroir gin is actually named after this very point! Using botanicals and plants taken entirely from California's Mount Tam region, they've created a flavor profile that represents one very special place. Even gin can be site specific!

Perhaps the most amazing example of terroir in booze I've ever tasted is in our very own Commandon Petite Champagne 30 year old single barrel Cognac. Our trip to France last year really opened my eyes to how difficult it is to be a brandy producer.  You have to be a farmer, a winemaker, and a distiller!  It's literally triple the work! Cognac's Petite Champagne region has calcareous, mineral-rich soil, which results in a mineral-driven white wine (much like I discussed above with Sancerre sauvignon blanc). While I've tasted eau de vie, grappa, and brandy that managed to beautifully translate the essence of fruit, I've never tasted another spirit that brought the mineral notes with it. Concentrated inside the Cognac, along with the caramel, vanilla, fruit, and wood, is a very clear, very precise, and very distinct mineral flavor that somehow made it up out of the ground, into the grape, into the wine, into the spirit, and lasted for thirty years inside of a wooden barrel. Absolutely amazing.

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Oct062012

Big Bay Area Weekend

We had WhiskyFest last night, the Castro Street Fair, the Blue Angels for Fleet Week, the America's Cup boat race, the Giants vs. the Reds in the divisional playoff, and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.  Unless you're going to one of these events, I'd stay away from the city! If you're all boozed out from last night's whisky extravaganza, check out these sweet wines from Lanessan I just wrote up for the wine blog.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Oct052012

Hide the Salami

While I won't be able to attend tonight's WhiskyFest extravaganza in San Francisco due to a previous engagement, I will be sending my assistant Kyle......or rather his alter-ego, the sexy loverman Rodrigo.  Take a look at this photoshoot he did recently for Veuve Cliquot, featuring his world-famous pout (take that "Blue Steel").  If you'll be attending WhiskyFest and you can locate this man amidst the gigantic crowd of enthusiasts, you'll win a prize.  Rodrigo will have something in his front pocket for you.  No!! It's not what you're thinking!!  Disgusting! It will be whisky-related and you'll be very excited if you manage to track him down.

The rules are this: you must approach Rodrigo and say, "Rodrigo - I hear you've got something in your pocket for me," to which he will respond and reward you with your prize.

Happy drinking tonight! Say "hi" to everyone for me! Find Rodrigo! Find Rodrigo!

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Oct042012

Whiskyfest Visitation: Benriach

With the biggest whisky-tasting event in the U.S. happening in San Francisco tomorrow, many of the producers are flying in tonight to prepare and make the rounds. I expect I'll be shaking hands with many Scotsmen as the day goes on, who want to come say "hello" before the big show tomorrow. I just met with Stewart Buchanan, the brand ambassador for Glendronach and Benriach and he had a few new malts to show us – a 16 year old Sauternes-finished whisky and a fantastic, peated 12 year old that had been finished in PX sherry. We all really loved the 12 year and can't wait to add that to the shelf (if you're going tomorrow night, make sure you taste it!).

Chatting with Stewart, he told me some interesting news about the distillery happenings. The first thing that caught my attention was the increased fermentation times. Stewart said that Billy Walker, the managing director, had been pushing the fermentation up to 96 hours per mash! Many distilleries are around 40-50 hours. Previously, the longest fermentation I had ever heard of was at Oban, where 90 hours was the norm. Because it takes so long to make Oban as fruity and round as possible, it's the only Diageo-owned distillery that doesn't go into any of their blended whiskies (they don't have time to wait around, gotta keep pumping out that Walker Black!). Because of this extended fermentation time, it takes much longer to make Benriach whisky now, which leads to the second interesting fact: they're no longer selling extra whisky to Diageo or Pernod-Ricard. 

There's a long history of whisky-swapping in the Scotch industry. Many times, this is how independent bottlers end up with casks from various distilleries. I guess Benriach had been making extra whisky for other blended whisky companies over the past decade who were always in need of more juice, but that's all coming to an end.  Sorry, guys. Benriach is too busy making some of the best single malt on the planet. No time for you anymore!  This doesn't surprise me one bit. Benriach and Glendronach are slowly becoming two of the most-respected malts in the business. People are catching on to their quality and sales are going up.

Can't wait to get our 27 year old cask in, along side these two newbies. Yum.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Oct032012

Back on the Wine Blog Today

You know you want to read about Bordeaux. 

http://blog.klwines.com/httpblogklwinescomuncork/bordeaux-buying-in-off-vintages.html

Come check it out.

-David Driscoll