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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

7/9 - San Francisco: No Tasting

7/9 - Redwood City: Ron Zacapa Rum

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

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

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 26 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER

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 PRE-ORDER

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 IN STOCK NOW!

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!

Bladnoch 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive Lightly Peated Single Barrel #303 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

2005 Glenrothes 8 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Sherry Barrel 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!

1989 Cragganmore 23 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 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!

1983 Miltonduff 30 Year Old Faultline Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750m IN STOCK NOW!


Mad Men Season 5 Finale

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains references to tonight's Mad Men episode.  Do not read any further if you want to avoid knowing what happened!

I'm not going to write a long article about television and pose as a critic, I just want to mention that Megan Draper's desperate attempt to become an actress reminds me of what I've been writing about the last few days.  A girl, who is beautiful, intelligent, gifted, and an incredible ad writer, who thinks she should really be an actress.  She hates her mother for telling her the truth, that she has an artist's temperment without the ability to create any real art, that in reality not everyone can grow up to be what they want to be.  Her mother calls her ungrateful, and Megan blames her for not being more supportive.  Finally, she sinks so low that she uses her husband's pull to land an advertisement.  Don is confused.  Megan had been so adamant that she was an artist – meant for the theater, or something with meaning.  To her, advertising had never been true art.  Yet, here she was, begging for a chance to actually work again in advertising.  Despite Don's advice that she didn't want success to be given to her, that she didn't want to land a role because she was someone's wife, eventually he acquiesced and got her the part.  Megan was so happy – she felt like she was truly acting. 

Don, however, walked off the set and into a dark and smoky bar.  At the episode's end, he is approached by a good-looking woman who asks him if he's alone.  The scene goes dark before we hear the answer.  My guess is he says "Yes."  His wife, who all season long has acted as his moral compass, has just revealed that she too is capable of selling out.  Without her guidence, Don is lost.  Megan doesn't respect that advertising requires true talent, believing she's meant for greater, more "artistic" heights.  She longs to be successful in a craft she has no special talent for.  She reminds me of myself as a young kid who once thought he was too smart to work in a liquor store. 

Fortunately for me, no one reinforced my entitled way of thinking and I learned that working with booze was a fantastic opportunity I was overlooking.  Unfortunately for Megan, her loving husband did.  Now it appears he may regret it.

-David Driscoll



Yesterday evening, towards the end of our shift, I was discussing my previous blog post with a colleague.  He's much less brash than I am and he doesn't always understand why I feel the need to "blow the whistle" on things when I write.  I thought that was a funny way of looking at it.  The frustrations I experienced as a teacher and grad student are much the same as the ones I experience now as a wine store clerk.  Both academia and the wine industry are full of people who think their education means more than it does.  In fact, they think education means they're capable of more than they actually are.  They think their academic accomplishments make them more capable of deciphering quality, of formulating an opinion, and of demanding the respect of others.  However, one of the biggest lessons I learned in life was that getting an "A" in film class doesn't mean you can actually make a film.  

Yesterday's post was a hodge-podge of various examples that I feel illustrate this mindset perfectly (hence, the American Idol contestant who justified his terrible singing by referring to his grades in choir).  Why the need to actually write a blog post about this phenomenon?  Because when I first started in the wine business I was intimidated by these types of people.  I thought these people knew what they were talking about.  I deferred to them, questioned my own opinion, felt they knew more than me, and tried to emulate them as a result.  Eventually, I realized they didn't know half as much as they thought they did and that I was the fool for believing them.  My hope in "blowing the whistle" on this type of behavior is to prevent other enthusiasts from going down the same path.  You don't have to have a certificate to know about booze or to appreciate it more.

Of course, there are some jobs that require specialized education, like doctors or lawyers, but with booze the point of education is enjoyment.  It's not about pedantry.  I like to learn more about whisky because it helps me appreciate each sip a little bit more.  I have a master's degree in German, yet I am far from fluent in actually speaking the language.  How is that possible?  Because having a master's degree doesn't mean you know anything.  It means you can pass a class.  It means you can look at a set of tasks and do what's required for that specific requirement.  In the real world, it doesn't translate into anything other than that.  I learned how to speak better German by actually living in Germany and doing it.  School, private tutors, extra lessons are all helpful, but they don't replace experience.  

There are PhDs and MAs in the booze world.  People can become Masters of Wine or Certified Sommeliers by passing various courses and attaining certificates.  I've done some of them myself.  They were helpful in organizing important information and for motivating me to actually buckle down and read more material.  However, what bothers me about any degree or title is that people use them to add credence or credibility to their opinions.  If you read that link I posted about the wine buyer at Costco, you'll notice a flurry of arguing in the comment field below.  You'll know exactly what I'm talking about if you read through a few of those.  For some reason educational accomplishments are referenced when determining another person's capabilities or intelligence, as in "He went to Berkeley," or "She went to Stanford."  That's nice, but what does that really mean?  

If you asked me to name five texts that best represented deutsche Sturm und Drang, I could give you an answer.  However, if you want me to translate an actual German conversation for you, I probably won't be able to help.  What's the goal of education?  Is it to prove to other people you're smart or talented?  Is it to impress other people or is to learn how to actually do something?  Ultimately, people are impressed by ability.  If your education helped you build a rocket to the moon, or cure a deadly disease, then people are going to be impressed.  However, just because you got an "A" in wine class doesn't mean you have good taste in wine.  It doesn't mean anything.  It means you knew how to pass a class.  There's no way anyone can learn in a six month course what K&L guys like Jim Barr and Ralph Sands have learned over decades of working in the industry.

So what's the point? Don't be intimidated by wine "experts." Don't let yourself be browbeaten by whisky "professionals."  You'll never see John Hansell touting his credentials as a "certified whisky specialist."  He's just a guy who's been drinking single malt for a very long time, yet his reviews carry more weight than anyone else in the industry.  If you want to be the next editor of the Whisky Advocate, writing reviews that thousands of people read and respect, getting a credential or certificate won't do the trick.  You need time, experience, passion and ability and those are things that cannot be taught.

-David Driscoll


I Can Do Anything - The Formula for Success

I tried to embed this video to kick start this article, but unfortunately YouTube is blocking that function, so you'll have to open a new window.  The Big Bang Theory, for all its mild, sitcom humor, is actually quite an intelligently written TV show.  I appreciate any form of entertainment that bases its content off of real human observation.  In this episode, Sheldon needs to use the university's lab equipment, but the man who gives permission only lets his "friends" have access.  Sheldon, however, doesn't realize that making friends isn't an exact science, which leads him in search of an algorithm for friendship, as well as to the local bookstore in search of friendship manual.  Some skills in life, however, can't be translated into a logical formula.  Making friends, like many other personal abilities in life, is not something that can be learned in a few hours by reading a book.  It requires a combination of experience, understanding, common sense, insight, and observation (or what we know as wisdom). 

It seems to me that the writers of the Big Bang Theory have made the same observations about our current society as I have.  Some people today believe they're talented enough to do anything, they just need practice or a few days to catch up on the required reading.  Costco's head wine buyer doesn't think selecting wine is any different than purchasing toilet paper.  Of course it isn't!  There can't be that much wisdom required to make a decision regarding one's beverage, can there?  There's nothing more aggravating than when a person believes a certain skill or talent can be mastered in matter of minutes, or reduced to the status of a simple chore.  It's the ultimate sign of disrespect towards people who actually know what they're doing.  Yet, it seems to me there are more and more people everyday who think they're good at things they are not.  I have an idea as to why this is.

As a young elementary school student partaking in California's GATE program (Gifted and Talented Education), I was told by my teachers that I was a bit more advanced than the other children.  I was told that I was being prepared for college at an accelerated rate.  I was told that once I got into college, I would get a good job and be happy.  I was five years old at the time.  I was not alone.  Thousands of other kids along side me matriculated into the real world believing we were future CEOs with no patience for the entry-level position.  When we couldn't attain success instantly we blamed society for not understanding our genius. 

More than twenty five years later I am watching the terrible results of the GATE program all around me.  Young adults from my generation believing they possess special abilities they do not.  I know an old friend who went to Berkeley and was a talented scientist until one day she wanted to be a baker.  After a year of making terrible cupcakes, she quit, blaming others around her for her failings.  Another former friend was a talented teacher until one day he wanted to form a band.  He couldn't sing, play an instrument, or write a lyric, but he was determined he could "pick it up" in a few weeks.  He never understood why no one went to his shows.   Our teachers repeatedly told us, "You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it."  Unfortunately, my generation took those words literally.  Oh, former educators, what damage you have inflicted upon this world.  The truth is that some people are inherently gifted and talented, a result of being born with something special or an aptitude for specific skills.  Others work hard, pay their dues, learn from experience, and eventually acquire humility, or a respect for their craft.

As a professional wine and whisky salesperson, I've learned that you can't understand wine from reading Wine Spectator magazine or the Wine Bible, or any other manual.  They're certainly helpful in attaining an overall perspective, but they will never replace time and experience.  The only way to truly understand alcohol is to drink it, think about it, dwell on it, and appreciate it - over and over again.  Nevertheless, there are always a few people who think they can master the whole thing in a few weeks - find a list of the ten best wines, track them down, drink them, and there it is - that's wine appreciation in a nutshell.  What more do you really need to know?  There are no shortcuts, however.  There is no "friendship algorithm."  Knowledge is power, but only if it's coupled with experience.  That's a fact some from my generation still fail to understand.

In the end, I guess it's about perception or even results.  Too much positive reinforcement has lead many skilled musicians or athletes to believe they can also act.  Actress Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook has made her millions, only re-enforcing her belief that she's an actual chef.  Unfortunately, she became so deluded by this association that she thought hanging out with rappers actually made her a rapper too!  I'm sure that some guy out there has managed to purchase everyone of Jim Murray's top whisky picks, re-enforcing his belief that he's an actual collector and appreciator of single malt.  Some people do manage to convince others that they have wisdom when they're actually borrowing someone else's (I've managed to trick some people into thinking I know something about whisky).  Ultimately, I have to believe they'll eventually be exposed, either by the judges on American Idol, or by a sheer failure to achieve.  Hopefully, like me, they'll learn from those experiences.

-David Driscoll


Kyle is Back to Talk New Booze

It's been almost a month since we heard from young Kyle Kurani, the enthusiastic spirits expert in our Redwood City store who is both capturing and breaking hearts with his series of videos.  Today we catch Kyle in the warehouse with the big stacks, talking new booze and new arrivals to the K&L spirits department.


Dusty Morning

While we all know that Steve Ury is the dusty hunting king of California, K&L customer Matt Prinz has been making some headway in the Bay Area.  Foraging deep into the some of the less-traveled neighborhoods of the North, he's been able to amass quite an interesting collection of old Bourbons.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term "dusty hunting," it refers to rummaging through old liquor stores in search of forgotton or "dusty" bottles that they never got around to selling.  You'd be amazed at what's still sitting in the warehouse of your local corner supplier.  Matt brought me a few to sample this morning and we had a blast tasting through them.  I admit complete ignorance to the history of American whiskey, the brands, the producers, who made what, etc.  One of the best ways to fill in the educational gap is to get your hands on some of these old dusties.  Even if the Bourbon isn't great, each bottle is still a window into what America was drinking over thirty years ago.  Most of the whiskies pictured above were light, lean, mellow, and made for drinkin', much different than the Bourbons we currently have on the shelf.  Personally, I've never been much of a scavenger, so I really appreciate Matt's time and effort.  What a great way to start the day!

Speaking of Bourbon, our newest barrel just arrived in Redwood City today - a fresh batch of 1792 Ridgemont Reserve $26.99 bottled exclusively for us!  The bummer about this whiskey for you non-local customers is that the bottle, due to the wide shape and size, costs more to ship so it may be something more for those living nearby.  However, this is the ultimate summer Bourbon just in time for the summer!  Light, soft, fruity, mellow, easy to drink.  Maybe a bit too easy to drink.  I can already picture my friends and I putting one of these away in a half hour.  I can already picture not remembering what happened.  I love that we have a single cask that isn't big, woody, spicy, and rich.  It's nice to switch things up every once and a while.  200 bottles available!

-David Driscoll