2013 Faultline Pre-Arrivals, Baby


It's on. Whisky Season 2013 is back in full effect with our own private Faultline label exclusives. In case you didn't know, all of the labels have so far been designed by K&L customers. If you're a graphic designer, you may want to start throwing your hat in the ring.

Today we've got three new casks to pre-order that should be here around late-September/early-October. There are another six Faultline casks coming up after these. Check out David OG's notes below:

1997 Bowmore 15 Year Old Faultline "Palm Tree" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER $89.99 - This cask, from one of the true historical gems on the Queen of the Hebrides, is the perfect example of why I believe Bowmore should still be considered one of Scotland's best distilleries. The distillery itself is a working museum and the distillery bottlings are usually very safe and well crafted. After some "difficulty" at the distillery during the 80s and early 90s, speculation is that they were pushing the distillery to hard. Since then the Bowmore distillery has come roaring back producing some of the most consistently delicious juice we've tasted over the last several years. It's not in their nature to take risks or challenge the market place, but it's certainly in ours. Part of the reason we haven't been able to sell a Bowmore under the Faultline label yet is that when it's good, it's obvious. The bottlers are coveting their stocks and that means that highend product from the 70's which cost $300 two years ago, is going for $900+ today. We're not buying that stuff because there's just no way we could sell it all. Suppliers see those numbers, look at their young Bowmore stocks and salivate. We were incredibly lucky to find this medium aged Bowmore at this fabulous price. This is full force Bowmore in all its beautiful intensity. It's powerfully smoky and exotic. The label pays homage to a famous independently bottled Bowmore from the 1960s (David OG).

2001 Royal Lochnagar 10 Year Old Faultline Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER $54.99 - This powerful little Lochnagar is basically the only independently bottled around Lochnagar and certainly the only cask strength version on the market in the US we've seen released recently.  We managed to get a great price on this cask from the little distillery deep in the Cairngorm mountains. After ten years in a hogshead this whisky already has a lot going on. The wonderful fresh character of this miniscule distillery is at the forefront. Grass and fresh apples, with whiffs of something tannic in the background, maybe it's a bit of black tea. Texturally rather rich for the age, but it's not a massive malt. Slightly waxiness as it finishes on the pepper and grass. Fun stuff and it should be around for a little cause this cask contained just over 300 bottles, but it won't be this price forever. (David OG)

1979 Faultline 32 Year Old Single Barrel Cask Strength Blended Scotch Whisky PRE-ORDER $99.99 - (NOTE: Proof is 53.1%) This is just some sort of ridiculousness. When we stumbled across this absolutely wacky cask in a warehouse in Southern Scotland, we hadn't even realized it was in the realm of legality to sell this sort of whisky. This is from a lot of whiskies all distilled in 1979. At some point in its maturation, it was blended and rebarreled in a single sherry hogshead. It's highly likely that was done relatively recently, but honestly it could have been done two decades ago. We think that this whisky may have come either from a larger blender who was planning to add this to one of their house blends and either lost it in the warehouse or sold it as part of a larger parcel. Otherwise, we think it could have perhaps been a lot owned by a smaller broker which was ultimately consolidated as the whiskies began to evaporate. Either way, this stuff is totally unique. We have no knowledge of another cask strength single cask single vintage blended whisky being released in this country or any other for that matter. If you know differently please let us know. What's really important about this whisky is that it's absolutely delicious. It's got all the complexity and depth of the best blends and is exceptionally well balanced even at full proof. Plus, the price is uncomfortably low for the age and quality of the whisky. This is truly a unique gem plucked from a dingy warehouse, which ended up polishing up perfectly. (David OG)

-David Driscoll


Whisky as Art

While I was holed up in the Standard hotel a few weeks back, I lay in my bed, watching the Art House channel on repeat, catching the ten minutes or so I had missed from each portion of the Jean-Michel Basquiat documentary that had been on a 24-hour repeat loop. Listening to his early patrons talk about his ability, but his difficulty in breaking through to the mainstream New York modern art scene, I was reminded quite a bit of Bryan Davis and his Lost Spirits single malt whiskies. Namely, the fact that Basquiat's work was originally considered crude, rough around the edges, and primative. Then Warhol embraced him, he showed up in a few exhibits, and suddenly his paintings were cutting edge. Today, Basquiat's paintings sell for tens of millions of dollars and are some of the most coveted by art collectors everywhere.

One day Basquiat is a street kid playing around with paint. the next day his paintings are worth millions. His art didn't necessarily improve, or change, or get better, it's just that the public perception of art caught up to where he was already at. This type of phenomenon can happen when people don't understand the nature of what a particular artist is doing, especially if it doesn't match up with what they're used to. That's called being ahead of one's time. For example:

This is a self portrait painted by Basquiat.

This is a self portrait painted by Cezanne.

The Cezanne is what many people traditionally think of think of as a classic painted portrait – so romantic and rustic in its own post-Impressionist way. Can you imagine being an art collector in the early 80s and being told that you should buy the Basquiat painting instead of the Cezanne? They'd have said, "You're out of your freakin' mind!" The Basquiat looks like a cave version of street graffiti in comparison, yet today is recognized as a masterpiece of its own particular asthetic.

In a similar scenario, the people who have criticized Bryan Davis's whiskies usually do so in comparison to other peated whiskies, a la Ardbeg or Laphroaig. "I'd rather drink Lagavulin for that price," they say. Fair enough. Some people would rather look at a Monet exhibit than a Jackson Pollock display. However, much like I wouldn't compare Cezanne to Basquiat, I wouldn't compare the Lost Spirit whiskies to anything from Islay. Or Scotland, for that matter. Sure, they're both distilling barley flavored with peat, just like Cezanne and Basquiat are both using a canvas with paint and brushes. But while Scottish distilleries are producing a classic style of whisky, based on hundreds of years of tradition, Bryan Davis is creating an entirely new genre. The more I taste them, the more I'm convinced that they need to be judged completely on their own context.

Of course, saying that someone is "ahead of his time" is an easy way to deflect criticism when it's aimed at ability and talent. Sometimes an artist isn't ahead of his or her time, they're simply not all that good. I don't think that's the case with Bryan Davis, however. Every time I taste a new whiskey from him it's better than it was previously. And he's getting more creative, more ambitious.

Maybe his whiskies are a little rough around the edges and primitive. But maybe that's the direction we're going with American single malt and maybe Brian is paving the way.

It's too early to tell right now, but there are a lot of people who appreciate his whiskies already and recognize his talent.

-David Driscoll


Photo of the Day II

Cutting peat outside of Port Ellen on Islay.

It was rainy, misty, and cold that day and it made us crave a glass of peated whisky. In fact, looking at this photo makes me want a glass right now.

-David Driscoll


Photo of the Day

Shadows of the trees on the chai at Chateau Ravignan, one of our Bas-Armagnac producers.

I'm very sensitive to weather and lighting when it comes to my mood. My fondest memories usually have to do more with the seasons than any particular event – walking home from school in November, playing outside in the Summer, etc. When I think of early Spring now, the transition out of Winter and into a softer light, I often think of Gascony now – the way the trees looked and the color of the sky.

Memories like that are often linked to booze as well. Thinking about early Spring makes me think of Gascony, which makes me want to drink Armagnac. Nostalgia plays a big role in why I like what I like. I know many people who can't stand the taste of grappa, yet I associate it with my parents staying up late in the Summer time after dinner. Today when I drink it I get a warm sensation – both in my stomach and in my heart.

-David Driscoll


Scattered Thoughts

For all of you asking when we would get Elmer T. Lee back in stock, we've got it right now. The distributor for California, Young's Market, was out of stock for almost a month meaning that no retailer could reorder during the shortage. I got a lot of questions about when I was planning to order more, but I had to reply with, "I can't order more unfortunately. It's out of stock." That's how rumors of a Bourbon shortage get started, people take this information and run with it, yet in this case it was true: there wasn't any Elmer T. Lee to be had. This week Young's got another shipment from Buffalo Trace, but, since many retailers and bars had been out of stock for weeks, the demand was pent up – everyone bought in for double the amount they usually did, emptying out Young's Market instantly (along with all the Weller 107 that came with it), meaning that it's once again out of stock. The retail world of buying from distribution works just like the consumer version from retailers. Currently I've got 30 bottles of Elmer T. Lee until they're gone again and I'm out. That doesn't mean you won't find other stores that have it (just like some stores still have their Weller 12 and Rock Hill Farms), it just means that we might face a few periodic shorages here at K&L. I did try to put in another 20 cases for delivery next week, so hopefully those show up and fortify us until the inventory catches up. Again, I'm competing with everyone else who's hoping to avoid their own inventory issues.

I met with David Suro-Piñera from Siembra Azul tequila yesterday and received what was the equivalency of a graduate course in agave production. David has been working in the tequila business for thirty years and today contracts his Siembra Azul tequila from the Vivancos family distillery, otherwise known as NOM 1414 (the same as the ArteNOM reposado and Gran Dovejo tequila). I think our best tequilas at K&L are from Feliciano Vivancos, but it seems that David took his production methods to the extreme, specifying even the type of jima from the agave production – the process in which the penca (the agave leaves) are pulled from the ground. David went on to describe how the jima can affect sweetness, bitterness, and ultimately the flavor of each tequila. He prefers to control flavor via the jima, which to him is the most important process of tequila production overall.

We'll be bringing in Siembra Azul tequila next week, but you can check out the side label above that reads like a page from a technical manual. I'm hoping to bring David on for a podcast episode in the near future. He said some things yesterday that made my jaw drop concerning agave and the history of tequila production. Some of these ideas were very controversial (like his opinion that blue agave, the only species from which tequila can be made, is on the verge of extinction due to monoculture). Oh...and his tequilas are fantastic. The blanco is a revelation of pure agave flavor.

Every now and then people ask what I'm drinking at home, just out of curiosity. I'm currently in the midst of a big herbal liqueur phase. I've been doing a bottle of wine with dinner every night and then going straight to the Zwack - a Hungarian liqueur that drinks much like an Italian amaro. I recently got a great little sample kit from Diageo (yes, we're now trying to be friends and work together - remember?) that had the regular Zwack, plus their new plum Unicum along side the regular Unicum. It also came with these thick little shot glasses that remind me of the kind Karen Allen drank out of in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I've really been enjoying all three in the evening. We currently have the standard Zwack in stock as usual, but we're still waiting on the other two. I think they're quite fun and hope they help nurture in a new tradition of herbal liqueur enjoyment here in California.

Zwack has kind of a fascinating history. It was invented by a Dr. József Zwack in the 1790s who was the physician for Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones's role in Amadeus "Well then...there it is."). His son eventually founded the Zwack company in 1840 and it thrived into the early 1900s. Communism soon came to Hungary, however, and the Zwack family wasn't about to see their recipe become property of the Red Army, so they fled to the U.S. According to legend, the recipe was torn into four pieces and smuggled out to America, while a fake Zwack recipe was given to the new regime. When communism fell in the late 1980s, Peter Zwack returned to Hungary and repurchased his family's company from the state where they once again began making the original formula.

And that's the short version! In any case, I've been alternating between Zwack, Chartreuse, and the new Dolin Genepy as of late. My digestion has actually improved, so maybe I'll keep this up.

-David Driscoll