Saturday
Oct192013

Photo of the Day: Oban

Back in 2012, David and I made the trek over to Scotland's isolated west coast and the town of Oban. The drive along the A85 was one of the prettiest we've taken in the country. The tour of the distillery was fantastic. The whisky we tasted there was spectacular. And after we left the distillery we hiked up the hill behind it and were treated to a lovely sunset view looking west out towards the Isle of Mull. 

It started to rain just after I snapped this photo and we headed back into town for a warm meal. Oban is the type of place that drives a man to drink -- not because it's desolate or boring, but rather because it's so beautiful that you can't help but have a dram while you take it all in.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Oct182013

Knick Knacks/Updates

There's a lot going on in the booze industry at this time of year. The Fall allocations get released. The mighty collectable Bourbons hit the shelves (or the raffle in our case). People start thinking about buying their loved ones a special bottle or two. And things really start to ramp up in our retail locations.

I'm already seeing a big head start for this year's holiday season. There are more orders everyday in our queue and more emails in my inbox. And we're only mid-way through October. We're looking good right now as far as preparation goes. I've got all my important, high-volume spirits items re-enforced and ready, with plenty of reserve bottles filling up every nook and cranny of the warehouse. We've got our two biggest drops of K&L exclusive whisk(e)y already processed and on the shelves. It's looking good right now. I'm very optimistic today after getting the entire store clean and tidy last night. I feel refreshed and ready, like you feel after you wash all the dishes and vacuum in your house on Sunday. Everything just looks nicer and that feeling of satisfaction sustains you through the afternoon.

Here are some tidbits you might be interested in:

- Four Roses 125th Anniversary has come and gone. We got our allocation. Ran our raffle. That's it. I didn't try it, but I'm sure it's amazing: a marriage of one 18 year old cask with two 13 year olds.

- Diageo and I are continuing to work together in the name of better booze business. We just brought the Talisker 18 back in stock and it's $129.99 -- lowest price in the state from what I can find online. I just tasted the recent batch and it's just as good as it always is. This was a benchmark whisky for me for many years. I still really love it, despite the higher price. Perspective always helps. Now that Mac 18 is $200 and Yamazaki is $155, I don't feel as bad.

- We're expecting our Glendronach and Benriach casks to hit the store in another week or two. Anyone who loves peated whisky might want to pick up the Benriach before we end the pre-order pricing. I think it's the second best cask we found this year, after the Jura.

- We're off to Kentucky this Tuesday. Expect a whole week of live blogging with photos. We got Diageo to open up Stitzel Weller, so that should be a fun day of pictures.

- Speaking of Bourbon, our Faultline Bourbon is selling much faster than I expected (but, hey, it's also much better tasting that I expected). It's proof that flavor is king ultimately. If we said it tasted it great and it didn't we'd be in trouble, of course. I called John Little and he's working on a second batch that will be identical to the first. We hope that'll get here before Xmas.

- The second batch of Fuenteseca tequila (also identical to the first) should be here within the next few weeks as well. We're not taking pre-orders, but rather we're going to just take it in and let it fly. I've been really proud of the public response and honored by the chance to involve myself in this project. I'm excited another 600 people will get to try it.

- I've heard some people saying they think the Pappy theft was just clever marketing. As if the Van Winkles needed more people lusting after their whiskey. If there's one brand that needs less marketing and excitement, it's the Pappy products.

- I recently re-tasted the Armorik single malt whiskies from France and was very impressed. They've made some changes at the Bretagne distillery and it's really turned this whisky around. The son-in-law of the owner, David Roussier, has taken over the cask selection and blending operations, as well as the sourcing of the barrels. I think the new versions are right up there with Yamazaki 12 and some of the lighter Japanese whiskies. The new 2002 vintage they plan on releasing soon is very good. I tasted my small sample again last night to make sure I wasn't hallucinating the first time around. We've got the revamped Classic Whisky (aged almost 7 years in refilled American Bourbon casks, and finished in Oloroso Sherry casks for three months - $49.99) back on the shelf in Redwood City and I am eagerly anticipating the new vintage release. This is one of the most impressive and fastest brand revivals I have ever experienced. I was feeling very, very sarcastic going into this meeting (I told their importer Christine I didn't believe her when she said they were better now), but that's why you have to taste everything. You can't know unless you taste. I'm glad I did!

- If you're a Spanish brandy or sherried rum lover (heck, any kind of sherry lover), you might be very interested in some of Nicolas Palazzi's new sherry-aged spirits. Working in partnership with Equipos Navazos (the Pappy Van Winkle of the sherry world, if there were such a thing) we've already been tricking out some of the Oloroso-aged Spanish brandy (not cheap at $70 for a 375ml, but utterly divine). Equipos Navazos is a group of bottlers that make extremely high quality, single barrel, unfiltered sherry. The fact that he's using their used barrels is insane and very exciting to us Sherry fans. Keep your eyes peeled for the rum.

Is the full moon affecting anyone else? I felt like I was having weird dreams and crazy nostalgic memories all night long. Maybe that was the booze though. And the stress. And that tab of LSD that Jim Barr slipped into my wine glass at our staff tasting.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Oct172013

This Isn't Going to Help

If you're out scouring for a bottle of Pappy 20, the odds are already stacked against you. The odds of getting one at K&L are pretty much zero. And this isn't going to help....

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/16/pappy-van-winkle-bourbon-stolen/2997065/

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Oct162013

A Pack of Sigs

When I posted on the Laphroaig and Cambus casks a few days back, I didn't make a big deal out of the whiskies. The Laphroaig cask is a stunner, it will sell itself, and that will be that. The Cambus is an odd duck, but it's an accessible one and ultimately the word will get out and there will be plenty for everyone. It was a gigantic sherry butt of grain whisky, so I'm not worried anyone will miss out. Today, however, we've got the two underdogs that you might want to take a risk on.

It seems odd to call Glenlivet an "underdog," but at K&L it's not a name our customers get excited about. For the discerning single malt drinker Glenlivet is something you start out with as a beginner, but then quickly graduate from. It's a relatively inexpensive brand that's made in fairly large quantities, so it doesn't necessarily fit in with our smaller, more limited edition style of whisky releases. This first-fill sherry barrel, however, is something we've been sitting on for a long time. We actually picked this cask out during our 2012 trip, but never got it bottled as part of that year's crop. Des, the warehouse manager at Signatory, was kind enough to put a "taken" sign on the cask, however (since Des looks and talks like Liam Neeson, we're always trying to get him to say "this cask has been taken" after we choose one, to which David and I start laughing uncontrollably, while Des wonders what's wrong with us).

This year, however, we made sure to bring it in and we actually decided not to bottle it at cask strength. We knew the idea of a heavily-sherried Glenlivet would appeal to a lot of budding whisky drinkers or casual fans, so we didn't want to blow their mouths off with high alcohol single malt. We wanted something interesting, yet easy to handle and we definitely got that. This 16 year old Glenlivet drinks like a 16 year old Glendronach: it's rich with loads of toffee and nuttiness, soft and supple, with a long rancio sherry finish. I think it might end up being the most popular whisky we sell this year (and with 700 bottles we should reach a large number of different customers). I'm excited for everyone to try it.

1997 Glenlivet 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Sherry Barrel Single Malt Whisky $75.99 -- Available now!

This is the sleeper cask from Signatory this year, much like the Fettercairn from the Exclusive Malts. It's an 18 year old single Bourbon cask of Speyside whisky. Not hogshead, mind you, but Bourbon cask -- smaller barrel with more richness within its wood. It's really done a number on the Miltonduff. You get richness without sweetness, ripe fruit, but with spice instead of suppleness. It's never hot, or herbaceous, however, the way a second-fill hogshead cask-aged whisky can be, with little inflection of wood upon the spirit itself. There's no question that the Miltonduff spent 18 years in first fill Bourbon. It's lovely stuff and, in the new world of 18 year old whiskies, this is far, far, far less that what you'll pay for Talisker, Glendronach, Springbank, or Macallan. Again, it's a total sleeper. Those who pull the trigger will be shocked because, well.....it's Miltonduff.

Miltonduff 18 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $79.99

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Oct162013

Feedback

I want to first thank everyone who came out to Bar Agricole for our little party last night. We had about 70+ people in the house and the event went very smoothly. Thanks to all the K&L customers who tasted, said hello, and talked with Kyle and me about the brandies. I really appreciated the turnout and the positive things everyone had to say about the spirits. It's great to know that we're making some headway with these bottles and that others besides ourselves are gravitating towards these selections.

It's always tough to be your own hype man because no one ever believes what you say. Why would they? Of course David likes it. He's the one selling it. When you get the confirmation from people, especially from discerning customers who know their booze, it always makes us feel great. Here are some of the nice things I've received via email lately from our wonderful clientele:

About the new K&L Signatory Laphroaig cask:

Just got my shipment today. Did a side by side with my 1990 Signatory Laphroaig 19 year. Yours blows it away! Both are Signatory cask strength, yours however had a bigger mouthfeel and texture and it far more interesting with intense lemon custard. Once again, I thank you! My 19 year was $180.

About the new Faultline Bourbon:

Well done on this. Opened up a bottle for dinner last night with several friends. The Faultline was the favorite of all but one of us (and second place for her) over recent NAS Black Maple Hill, Four Roses small batch, and last year's K&L Rock Hill Farms barrel.  I give the edge to the RHF on the nose, but none of those come close to the Faultline on the finish.

About the new Fuenteseca Tequila:

This stuff is outstanding. I'm writing you now more than 5 minutes after my last sip and I can still taste everything. The finish is long and flavorful, not sweet and woody.  I could write more, but I need to go pour myself another dram. I have already put two more bottles on my wait list. You have hit it out of the park with this tequila blend. Kudos to you.

There's also a great new review from Kevin at the Tequila Tourist, who gives a very straightforward and accurate account from an unbiased third-party.

About the new 1979 Faultline Blended Whisky:

The Faultline 32-year blend was amazing.  Drank it on Sunday.   I need another bottle.  How close are you to selling it out?

Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences with us. It's nerve-racking sometimes to tell people about how excited you are for your own spirits releases because everyone always assumes you're in it for the money and sales. I'm in it for the feedback, however. I'm a feedback junkie. Thanks to all of you for feeding my habit and believing in what we're doing out here.

-David Driscoll