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Tuesday
Nov252014

They're Here

We're processing pre-orders as I type this. Transfers will be on their way after that. Just did the taste test to make sure everything was as we remembered (because as we've learned over time, things do sometimes change!). You're all going to be very happy. Check back with us over the next few days and we should have your pre-orders processed and ready for pick up and shipping.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Nov252014

Back to Basics: Barton

One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new part of the world is check out the local bars and liquor stores to see what they're drinking. Japan was an incredible, eye-opening experience in this regard. Highballs were everywhere (even in cans from vending machines), and shops were full of all kinds of unrecognizable labels. When David and I visited Kentucky for the first time last year, we saw everyone drinking a brand called Very Old Barton. It was everywhere we went. Granted, we had heard that Sazerac's other Kentucky distillery (you know, not-Buffalo Trace) was very popular in its home state, but I was taken aback at how prevalent it was; especially considering they don't distribute it to the West Coast. It's an inexpensive local favorite that stays pretty local for that reason. As you can see in the above photo, the 90 proof 1.75L bottles sell for about $25.

That's not to say we can't get Barton Bourbon out here in California; it just won't say "Barton" on the bottle. Sazerac launched 1792 Ridgemont Reserve (and also renamed the distillery, although everyone still calls it Barton) in an attempt to create a new, higher-end version of the whiskey nationwide. We stock the brand here at K&L, and I'm a fan, but I'm a bigger fan of their single barrel program. When I can find the right barrel of Barton Bourbon it truly is a wonderful thing. The whiskey is so much fruitier and softer than most of its Kentucky brethren. The initial aroma is one of brandied cherries, rather than just pure wood. At 46.85%, this isn't a big, bold whiskey you'll want to add water to. It's not something I would mix into a Manhattan (you could, but the sweet vermouth would take center stage). It's not going to wow you with complexity, or go down in the record books as one of the top ten Bourbons you've ever had. It's just a soft, fruity, mellow, easy-drinking whiskey that's full of flavor and alive with spirit. It's not mild, or bland, or thin, or boring. It's just not trying to impress you, that's all.

Of course, what's the point of drinking whiskey if you're not trying to impress other people? Oops. Did I say that out loud?

Barton. Basic Bourbon for people who like to drink whiskey and have it taste good. A local favorite in Kentucky. A new single cask expression chosen by us here at K&L.

1792 Ridgemont K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Select Reserve Bourbon $29.99

-David Driscoll

Monday
Nov242014

Giving Thanks Around The World – Part II

David and I have been to Islay four times now. We're at the point where it just feels like home. You see the same people, the same places, drive the same roads, and drink the same whisky. It's fantastic. It truly is the spiritual home of Scottish single malt. Keeping with the theme this week, I'd like to do a special Islay edition of "Giving Thanks" to let everyone there know how thankful we are to have been accepted into your community with such warmth and generosity. Starting with the master himself—Jim McEwan, from Bruichladdich—whose rule for taking photos dictates that there must first be a warm-up shot, and in that shot everyone must try and look like a badass.

Thanks to the ferry and the courtious captains who always steer us to safety each time we leave from Kennacraig.

Thanks to the madman Jamie MacKenzie, who on our first trip to Islay let us run through Bowmore at midnight like we owned the place. We were drinking glasses of fermenting wash, for God's sake.

Cheers to Jamie's gigantic hands, as well. They're so big they make my small hands look like an infant's.

Thanks to Duffie as well, who ran the greatest whisky bar on Islay for many a year. He was always there to find us something great to drink.

A big thanks to Mickey Heads and all the boys at LVMH/Ardbeg who always make sure we're up to speed on all the latest happenings on the south end. We wouldn't be anywhere near the whisky shop we are today without your help.

Thanks to John Campbell and all the folks at Laphroaig for letting us bend your ear and talk Islay history each time we drive through.

Thanks to John, Anthony, and the team at Kilchoman who have taught us so much about maturity and what 100% Islay really means.

Thanks to Ian at Lagavulin for dragging us out into the bogs of Islay for a first-hand lesson in peat cutting. That was as Islay of an experience as we've ever had.

Thanks to the sweet ladies at the Caol Ila gift shop who gave us one of the greatest tours ever. It's really something when an 84 year old woman walks you around an old Scottish distillery.

And, finally, thanks to the numerous Islay guesthouses that have given us shelter, warmth, and—of course—gigantic plates full of various fried meats each morning for breakfast.

You'll all be in our thoughts this Thanksgiving holiday!

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Nov232014

Giving Thanks Around The World – Part I

This is my brother, David OG, resting in a state of complete peace and harmony on a boat, while cruising along the Caribbean coast of Barbados circa 2013. This guy and I have been all around the world together. The fact that we get along and love each other so much is a godsend. I couldn't think of a better person to travel with and do my job alongside. I've been going through old photos lately, trying to organize them a bit, and possibly turn them into an album of sorts. It got me thinking: I'm so thankful for the global relationships David and I have made over the last five years (we just hit the anniversary as spirits buyers), so I thought it might be a fun time to go back—seeing that the holidays are upon us—and give thanks to both my partner (the Notorious DOG) and the folks all over the world we've met on this crazy journey together.

Since we're already talking about Barbados, let's give thanks to the locals down at the rum shack who taught us the proper way to drink in the Caribbean. Banks beer, shots of Mount Gay, and a carefree attitude. Have fun talking about your collection of rare cask strength rums in this place.

Since I'm getting all sentimental on you, I'll even break my own rule and share a few pictures of myself. The first time we went to France I couldn't wait to run through those vineyards. When we drove through Burgundy I made Charles Neal—our importer for all things French—pull the car over and let me out. "I'm going to frolic in those fucking vineyards, Charles," I said, "And there's nothing you can do to stop me." I give thanks to the French countryside for continuing to inspire our work each day.

A hearty thanks to the village of Montreal-du-Gers in Gascony; a town that David and I have come to call home. It's our base of operations in Armagnac and a place we've both come to feel quite comfortable over the years.

Thanks to Simone, Charles Neal's mother-in-law, who always keeps us fit and fortified during our stay in Montreal. She's a saint.

And thanks to her son, Bernard, who stuffs us like the pigs he slaughters daily by hand. His food is maybe the best I've ever had—anywhere, anytime, anyhow, anyway. This man can cook like no one else I've ever met.

Thanks to le chat, who always seems to find his way into my room each time we stay in Montreal. This cat cracks me up. The owner of the hotel always apologizes for letting the cat sleep on my bed, but I think it's great. This little guy bites the shit out of my hand, scratches me, and follows me all over the guesthouse when we stay there. We've become good friends over the years.

Thanks to the Claverie family—the people behind Baraillon Armagnac—who always treat us like kin each time we visit. David and I want to fly Laurence (the daughter standing to the right) out to California for a mega-tasting event. She's the sweetest person in the world.

Thanks to the Camut brothers, Emmanuel and Jean-Gabriel, who have hosted us year after year at their grandfather's house in Normandy. We've sat around that table, roasted meats on an open fire, and drunk apple brandies dating back to 1941 together. The time we've spent with those two French giants (literally, they're huge men) has been some of the most memorable in my life.

Thanks to the Esteve family, who always provide us with incredible, ancient vintages of their heritage each time we visit their estate in Cognac. Jacques continues to be one of our great partners in the Petit Champagne region.

Finally, thanks to Charles Neal, who treats us like family when we travel through France, and allows us to party with his family each time we stay in Montreal. David and I are both very blessed to have you, Simone, Bernard, and the rest of the gang on our side each time we stay in Armagnac.

We'll be raising a glass to you all this Thanksgiving.

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Nov232014

In the Thick of It

I can't even begin to tell you the difference that two additional staff members makes on a busy pre-Thanksgiving weekend. We hired two young and energetic sales associates last month and—my God—did it make a difference yesterday. Last year at this time we were getting pummeled, barely holding our heads above water, in need of reinforcements. This year, despite a larger mob and an even more hectic sales day, we never once felt overrun or overburdened. We were in complete control, even when the line began bending around the store, past the old and rare section, and down the Rhone aisle towards the tasting bar. We gave great customer service to each and every shopper because never once did we have to look over our shoulder to see if the front counter was secure. We simply knew that someone would be there to take care of it. Again, I can't put into words what a wonderful feeling that is.

This time of year brings all types of people into K&L. From the annual visitors who only buy one bottle of booze all year, to the guys who have no intention of buying anything (they just want to come in, tell you about their collection, and brag to you about where they're been), to the folks who fill up two shopping carts in a mad holiday dash, to the people who bring in their Thanksgiving menu written on the back of an envelope, and want help pairing each part of the meal. When you're understaffed it's difficult to see the beauty in that great cornucopia of desires. When there are ten people waiting in line and some guy in a kilt pushes you into a corner and says, "Now let me tell you about the third time I visited Islay," you can't help but start squirming. When the registers are heavily manned, however, I'm up for anything. In fact, I'm loving the small talk. Sure—I'll help you find that bottle, ma'am. Of course—I can definitely help you pick out a Scotch. Wow—I had no idea that your grandkids were getting so big! Yes—it certainly does look like rain.

Bring it on. Two extra bodies can turn a nerveracking time of the year, into one of the most enjoyable. So enjoyable, that I'm going into work again right now—on Sunday! Normally my day off, but not today. I'm going right back into the thick of it. And with our fully-staffed sales floor, I couldn't be more excited about it. I'm super pumped.

-David Driscoll