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Wednesday
Jun042014

Some New Stuff

You've always gotta make an effort to try new stuff if you're in the retail game. You never know what might surprise you or catch you off guard. Here are some of the newer things we've brought in this week that we really enjoyed.

Traverse City Straight Bourbon Whiskey $35.99 - Located in Northern Michigan (near the Canadian border) is the Traverse City Whiskey Company which will officially open its own distillery this year (in 2014). In the meantime, they've partnered with a midwestern distillery to distill their own recipe, which is aged in new American oak for at least four years. The whiskey is definitely more traditional in style, reminiscent of some of the other LDI Bourbons on the market (I'm guessing it's LDI juice because the website said it was "created with the help of midwestern distiller."), but the grains are more pronounced and the flavor is a bit fruitier. It's a fun addition to any line up.

Arkansas Black Applejack $49.99 - This is made by a husband and wife team from Northern California who used Clear Creek's distillery to make a family recipe for applejack. They wanted to create an American applejack using the famous Arkansas Black variety of apple, so they purchased the fruit and had it sent to Stephen McCarthy in Portland who helped them distill it, along with some Golden Delicious fruit thrown in. The apples were fermented and distilled at Clear Creek distillery then put into American oak and aged for two years. The result is a robust and assertive spirit that definitely falls into the applejack category and not the Calvados brandy style. Each bottle is from a single barrel. The apple flavor is front and center, but there's more gusto behind it. For cocktail mixing, this is a must-have.

Lovell Brothers Aged Georgia Sour Mash Whiskey $35.99 -  Lovell Brothers Sour Mash is made by Carlos Lovell, whose family has been bootlegging moonshine out of Georgia since the 1960s. Now at 84 years of age, Carlos has decided to make his operation legit, creating Ivy Mountain Distillery with his daughter, Carlene. The Sour Mash is made from Georgia corn and aged in American oak barrels. It's still quite young, but there's at least a unique and interesting whiskey character going on already. It's a distillery you'll want to keep an eye on.

Rhum Clement Barrel Select Martinique Rum Agricole $29.99 - This is one of the best deals in rum--period! A select group of barrels is chosen for the Clement Agricole Barrel Select and whoever is doing the selection is doing a great job. The richness is off the charts, but while its supple and round in the mouth, the flavors are never overly sweet. The hint of agricole earthiness comes in at the end, reinforcing the special agricole flavor from Martinique. This is a great segway into the agricole category and a must-have for any serious rum fan.

Bummer & Lazarus Gin $29.99 - This lovely new gin from the Raff Distillery on Treasure Island celebrates the lives of the two most famous dogs in San Francisco history. Luckily for us, it does not take it's flavors from the same story! Instead, they begin with 100% grape brandy from California. This is redistilled with a wonderful mixture of botanicals, Juniper Berries, Orris Root, Coriander Seed, Angelica Root, Bitter Orange Peel, Lemon Peel, Cinnamon Bark and Licorice Root. The product is an fully balanced, yet full powered gin with spicy undertones and a subtle finish. Just like the namesake, Raff Distillery has created something absolutely endearing and uniquely San Franciscan! The story of Bummer & Lazarus from Raff Distillery, "Bummer and Lazarus were two stray dogs that lived in San Francisco in the late 1800s. Bummer rescued Lazarus from a fight and from that point on they never separated. Most of the time, back then, strays were killed on site because dogs outnumbered humans 2 to 1, but Bummer and Lazarus were so loved that there was a separate statute allowing the dogs not only to roam the city, but downtown San Francisco where NO dogs were ever allowed. The reason for this was these were the best ‘ratters’ in the city. When Lazarus died over 30,000 people attended the funeral and when Bummer died Mark Twain wrote the eulogy."

In addition to the gin from Raff Distillery, we've got their new absinthe which is also fantastic. I'm going to have to get over there and check out this operation because I was super impressed with both selections.

This is a fun one, too.

Bittermilk #1 Barrel Aged Old Fashioned Cocktail Mix 8.5 oz $14.99 

Bittermilk #2 Elderflower Hops Tom Collins Cocktail Mix 17 oz $14.99 - These are pre-mixed cocktail compounds without the alcohol added. The company is out of South Carolina. I think the #2 is out of this world; a mixture of lemon juice, water, cane sugar, elderflower, elderberry, and hops. Just add gin and you're really in business. The barrel-aged old fashioned is pretty dynomite as well if you don't want to buy a big bottle of vermouth and bitters.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Jun042014

Dramarama Deal #3

Whoohoo! Lots of drama last week! A robust four-figure quantity of Ardbeg gone in just a few hours!

How are we going to top that?

We can't. But we can still have more fun; especially since it's now officially June and the summer months mean rum cocktails.

So how about a HUGE reduction on 10 Cane Rum, which is now being made on Barbados?

10 Cane Barbados Rum (elsewhere $30) NOW $13.99 - 10 Cane Rum is now being produced in Barbados, but the quality is still outstanding -- especially at this hot new price! Despite its light golden color and mellow flavor, this is a rum for mixing. Daiquiris, Mai Tais, you name it -- even basic Cuba Libres with Coke! At this price you can afford to experiment and you're not even sacrificing quality. The hint of vanilla makes it a rocks-sippable delight, but the pure cane flavor lets you know this isn't the cheap stuff.

Time to mix! I'm getting a six pack of 10 Cane and a case of Fever Tree Ginger Beer after work. Has anyone else had the FT Ginger Beer? It's like fucking crack! I can't stop drinking it!

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jun032014

More From Whisky Season 2014

We know you've been waiting patiently for these and we managed to get them ready to go just in time for our new, glossy K&L Spirits Newsletter (check your mailbox). We've finally got the pricing worked out and it's exactly where we wanted it to be. (Correction: apparently we are bottling this at 57%) Check out David OG's notes below:

Glenfarclas "The Faultline Casks" K&L Exclusive First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks Single Malt Whisky $99.99 (PRE-ORDER) - When George Grant offered us the opportunity to take multiple casks for a special exclusive bottling, we were over the moon. The creative juices began flowing. We talked about doing an ultra-aged expression, but we didn't feel we could match the outrageous cask from the 1970 vintage, which we'd acquired a couple of years back. Instead, we decided to focus on a NAS (no age statement) mixture of casks from earlier vintages. The goal was to create a high proof, heavily sherried 'Farclas that we could sell for around $100. After tasting multiple vintages from 8-15 years of age, we settled on three of our favorite casks in the 9-10 year range. At no other distillery is vintage so important and the importance of their vessel was clear when tasting these younger expressions. We've ended up with a mixture of young casks that surpass even our own high expectations. This is full fledged and powerful, yet tempered by the strong influence of that special wine of Andalucía. If you love Sherry, if you love high proof single malt, if you love powerful flavors and massively textural whisky, than this bottling is for you. Even better, if you love not spending a ton for a bespoke offering from one of the world's best distilleries, don't wait to order. We'll have more than the standard single barrel, but this bottling is still highly limited. Expect this to arrive in time for the Holidays, hopefully by early December. (David Girard, K&L Spirits Buyer)

1990 Glenfarclas K&L Exclusive Single Malt Whisky $149.99 (PRE-ORDER) - We've always loved Glenfarclas. As you may or may not know, this distillery is one of the last independently owned in all of Scotland; owned by the Grant family. It also happens to be on most knowledgeable peoples' list of top distilleries and has consistently provided us with excellent sherried speyside offerings at incredible prices. We've had success finding single casks in their vast warehouse system, but found that current market conditions have made purchasing a single cask from the Grants rather cost prohibitive. Negotiating the price down on those casks is also out of the question as wholesalers worldwide are privy to the price structure and the Grants are very loyal and fair. With that option off the table we decided to get creative. Those single casks have a set price list, but picking multiple casks for one bottling afforded us some flexibility. We knew we were onto the next crazy value, but we never imagined how versatile a multicask bottling could be. So, into the warehouse we went. George bragged about the quality of the 1990 vintage, but we had no idea how special they were until we were standing in front of the barrels. These casks are from a sequential lot of first fill oloroso sherry butts at 24 years old. Without a doubt, 'Farclas fans will be pleased, but this bottling is approachable enough for even the most novice whisky lover to appreciate. (David Girard, K&L Spirits Buyer)

While we are offering both whiskies now on pre-order, we're not expecting arrival until after Thanksgiving. Please mark your calenders accordingly--these will be tough to beat.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jun022014

K&L Spirits Journal Podcast #28 – Simon Coughlin

Many of us felt like we were losing a close friend when Bruichladdich sold the distillery to Remy Cointreau a while back. For more than a decade, hardcore fans of single malt felt like Bruichladdich was the underground success story that proved you could make great whisky without a corporate sponsor. We feared that Remy's influence would turn an exciting, fun-loving distillery into something mild and mainstream--like Green Day after they made "Dookie." Success is a strange thing. We want our friends to succeed, yet we mourn their success. Listen to Bruichladdich CEO Simon Coughlin talk openly and candidly concerning his feelings about the sale, and about his thoughts for the future.

This podcast episode can be downloaded here or on our Apple iTunes page.  Previous episodes can be found in our podcast archive located on the right hand margin of the page.  You can also listen via our embedded Flash player above.

-David Driscoll
Saturday
May312014

Nice Guys Finish First

Someone asked me the other day who I thought the biggest dicks in the spirits industry were. I wasn't able to answer the question. Not because there aren't any jerks working in the alcohol business, but because I do my best not to interact with them, so I don't really see it. Plus, when certain people have behaved rudely towards me in the past, I think it was mainly because they were stressed out, overwhelmed at a tasting, or just plain tired. I don't ever judge anyone's overall character by how they behave during one precise moment under conditions of duress (that's for Yelp reviewers). Usually, they were nice the next time I ran in to them, or they apologized for behaving curtly.

Even if I could name someone who I thought was a terrible person, I wouldn't write a blog about them specifically. The jerks of the world don't deserve any air time. While it's fun to dig up dirt for the gossip rags, it's not something I'm interested in adding to. I'd rather write a blog about the nice guys of the booze world--people who actually deserve all the positive recognition they get. Don't you want to know who you should be supporting? So here you go. The Top 10 Nice Guy List.

10. Dave Smith - St. George Master Distiller: Few people will bend over backward for you like St. George's Dave Smith. Not only is he incredibly easy-going, talented, and creative, he's also terribly sensitive to his customer's needs. It genuinely pains him when he makes anyone's life more difficult than it is. He's the first person to come by the store to pour new samples for the staff, and he's always willing to give personal tours of the distillery for those who ask. There a few in the distilled spirits industry more genuine and kind-hearted than Dave.

9. George Grant - Owner of Glenfarclas: When you think of legendary Scottish single malt distilleries, you think of Glenlivet, Macallan, Highland Park, and Glenfarclas. The difference between them, however, is the ownership. Glenfarclas distillery has been in the Grant family for centuries and it's still being run today by a guy named George. George Grant is so nice, and so easy going, that it's easy to mistake him for a hired sales rep. For a guy with his pedigree, he's incredibly down to earth and carefree, and surprisingly easy to get a hold of. He's usually the guy behind the table pouring for you at a tasting (when's the last time the Edrington CEO did that?), and it's not uncommon for him to swing by K&L without notice when he's in the area, just to say hello.

8. Steve Ury - Whisky Blogger: As if we didn't already know how nice the man behind SKU's Recent Eats was, just get to know him a bit, or talk to other people who know him--it's almost unreal how nice this man is. Not only is he ethical, considerate, and polite, but he's also quite selfless. David OG and I once made a joke and said: "You bring a gun to a knife fight, and Steve Ury to a 'nice' fight." If more people wrote about spirits with the thought and lack of ego that Steve Ury does, we'd have a much better print industry.

7. Jamie MacKenzie - Ambassador for Morrison-Bowmore: The first time David OG and I met Jamie MacKenzie was at 10 PM after arriving on the late ferry to Port Ellen. We had dinner with him at the Harbor Inn and then embarked on what was one of the most memorable nights of our lives as spirits buyers. Jamie is so full of positive energy and enthusiasm for his job that it's absolutely contagious. There's not a bad bone in his body and he's always a person we look forward to seeing when we have the opportunity.

6. Maurice Hennessy - LVMH: The man who carries on direct lineage from Cognac legend Daniel Hennessy is perhaps my favorite person I've met in the last year. After dining together a few weeks ago, I have a completely different take on Hennessy's products. LVMH has always been a great company to work with, but Maurice took it to a new level. Like I mentioned before with George Grant, there's nothing more impressive than finding humility where you least expect it. Maurice is down-to-earth, funny, brilliantly cynical, yet optimistic about human nature. We have become email buddies since then, talking books and other non-booze related subjects.

5. Ian Chang - Kavalan Master Distiller: I've met Ian Chang on three separate occasions and all three times have resulted in admiration. The man is soft-spoken, considerate, and completely focused on making sure you feel at ease. He's so nice that, in the face of one of the rudest WhiskyFest patrons I've ever experienced, he completely kept his cool and never let the brash behavior fluster him. He's the best thing to happen to the Kavalan whisky company because his demeanor is going to create a lot of loyalty among consumers who interact with him. When you buy Kavalan whisky, it's almost like you're doing it because you like Ian so much.

4. Jean-Gabriel and Emmanuel Camut - Camut Calvados Master Distillers: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I whole-heartedly believe that the best spirits in the world are made by the Camut brothers in Normandy; and it doesn't hurt that they are also the nicest guys EVER. Gentle, caring, inquisitive, thoughtful, loving, passionate, funny--these are just a few of the words I would use to describe these two brothers. Let's not forget generous, either. If we could, David and I would spend weeks just hanging out with these guys, going through their old stocks and eating rustic dinners in their country home. When booze tastes as good as it does from a Camut bottle, it's a wonderful thing to know your money is going to two wonderful people, as well.

3. John Glaser - Compass Box: What I love about John Glaser is his class. He's a classy guy. I don't mean he wears fancy clothes, or drives a fancy car, but rather he just carries himself with dignity. He's polite, caring, mild-mannered, and concerned. He's always willing to help a friend (me, when I need it) and he's just easy to get along with. From a whisky standpoint, what I admire about John is not only his respect for the legacy of single malt, but his understanding that a beverage should be fun and drinkable, not stuffy or esoteric. That's really an analogy for John, himself.

2. John Cross - Whisky Collector: When the Whisky Advocate's Lew Bryson emailed me a while back, saying he needed a recommendation for an article he was writing about whisky collectors, I told him: "You have to feature John Cross!" (go back to that issue if you want to read about John). John Cross is not only a nice guy to do business with, he's just a nice guy--period! He's so nice that when we broke a bottle of the sold-out 1979 Glenfarclas for a customer's order, John offered to return one of his bottles back to K&L because the idea of the other guy not getting to taste it made him upset. He's so nice that once, while picking up an auction order, John found out that our Champagne buyer Gary Westby had bid on the same lot. He opened up the box right there on the counter and handed a bottle to Gary, saying, "We should both be drinking this then." In a battle of nice guys, John would almost always reign victorious. My face lights up every time he walks into the store.

1. Jim Rutledge - Four Roses Master Distiller: Was this one even a mystery? Jim Rutledge is my booze idol; he's everything I want to be when I grow up. I don't want to be a master distiller, though. That's not what I mean. I want to be calm, collected, and generous like Jim is. I want to see the good in everyone like Jim does, and not let the annoying things in life get to me. The first thing Jim does when he visits K&L is shake everyone's hand on the staff, then go right to the shelf and sign every bottle of Four Roses with a special pen so that the next few customers can have a collector's item. He personally conducts tours of the distillery if I call ahead for a customer, and is adamant about me having his cell number so that I can contact him with any concerns I have (I try to NOT give people my cell!). Bourbon tastes that much sweeter when it comes from a Four Roses bottle because Jim is the guy who made it. He is, without a doubt, the number one nice guy in the business.

-David Driscoll