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2015 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

1992 Clynelish K&L Exclusive 21 Year Old Cadenhead Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2001 Bowmore 12 Year Old Hepburn's Choice K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2008 Caol Ila 5 Year Old Hepburn's Choice K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Craigellachie 18 Year Old Hepburn's Choice K&L Exclusive Single Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Miltonduff 19 Year Old Hepburn's Choice K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2007 Mortlach 7 Year Old Hepburn's Choice K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2004 Smoky & Peaty Tobermory (Ledaig) 8 Year Old Hepburn's Choice K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Laphroaig 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Old Particular (Douglas Laing) Single Barrel Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Macallan 21 Year Old K&L Exclusive Old Particular (Douglas Laing) Single Barrel Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Tamdhu 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Old Particular (Douglas Laing) Single Barrel Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Tobermory 18 Year Old K&L Exclusive Old Particular (Douglas Laing) Single Barrel Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1990 Girvan 24 Year Old Sovereign K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1978 Port Dundas 36 Year Old Sovereign K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1964 North British 50 Year Old Sovereign K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Faultline Blended Scotch Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

SMWS 36.82 Benrinnes 17 Year Old "Rare Release" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1988 Blair Athol 25 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!


2001 Bowmore 12 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1990 Bruichladdich 23 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glen Ord 17 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Glenburgie 19 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glenrothes 17 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1998 Mortlach 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Sherry Butt Finish Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Imperial 18 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Bourbon Barrel #344 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Bourbon Barrel #345 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1990 Glenfarclas K&L Exclusive Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Glenfarclas "The Faultline Casks" K&L Exclusive First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Bunnahabhain Heavily Peated 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Chieftain's Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


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 SOLD OUT!


1992 Bruichladdich 21 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1988 Balmenach 25 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!


1997 Benrinnes 17 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!


1997 Dailuaine 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Glen Elgin 18 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!


1997 Glenlivet 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Sherry Butt Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!!


1981 Glenlivet 32 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!


Bladnoch "Young" K&L Exclusive Heavily Peated Single Barrel #57 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!


1997 Glengoyne 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!


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!


Friday
Dec212012

Up All Night With Vodka

I spent last night watching HBO documentaries On Demand while sipping an expensive Russian vodka. I had an absolute blast. The vodka was delicious and it went down easy. It hit the spot. It quenched my thirst. It relaxed me. It didn't send my head spinning. It didn't spawn comparisons to other vodkas I had tasted this week. It didn't make me want to write a new blog. I'm tempted to do it again tonight!

How is this possible? Why are we talking about lowly vodka on the fine spirits blog? Aren't we here to talk about flavor and history?

The first thing you're taught after you're jumped into the super geek spirits street gang is: you don't drink vodka. Why don't you drink vodka? Because it doesn't taste like anything and we're all about flavor. If you don't like flavor then we don't like you. Intimidating! However, after a few years in the super cool spirits street gang, I decided that I was tired of the rules and the "you're supposed to like this" mentality, so I decided to go rogue and become a part-time vodka drinker. Part of it was the rebellious side of me that steered toward the exact opposite of whatever authority told me to do. Part of it was my inquisitive nature that simply asked: what are people getting out of this that I'm missing?

Then it hit me.

I was talking to my mother on the way home from work last night (yes, I was wearing my hands-free mobile device) and we were discussing an NPR podcast about Bertrand Russell. My mother said to me, "I thought about you in that philosophy program and the fact that I wouldn't have been able to handle those subjects – was something in the cup, or next to the cup, or or outside the cup." The gist of her statement was: I just don't get it so I must be missing something. Originally, I had felt the same way. I had entered a graudate philosophy program because I wanted to know the secret. All of these philosophers throughout history – Plato, Descartes, Wittgenstein – who must have so much to reveal! I couldn't wait to delve deeper into their genius. After a solid year of dense manuals, pointless arguments, and condescending colleagues, I transfered to the German department. I still loved philosophy, but there was no secret. The reality was that I was a romantic in a semantic world.

Jumping into the world of wine, I hoped every romantic ideal that never materialized in the philosophy world would be found in a store full of exotic bottles. What happened was more quixotic. I charged in, ready to discover that wine was a pedagogical paradise, full of people literally thirsting for more knowledge. Wine would be that lifetime's commitment I was searching for, like a monk entering an abbey, that would take decades of hard work and tasting to truly master its meaning. However, the whole pair-this-with-this, you-can't-drink-that-with-tacos, you-must-use-the-proper-glass, this-must-be-aged-at-least-ten-years thing started to wear thin on me. More rules. Were people actually enjoying this rigid ideology? I tasted some of the world's great wines and watched others revel in their splendor. I thought they were decent wines, but nothing to write home about. What were people getting out of this that I was missing?

Then it hit me.

There is nothing to get. There's nothing to get about philosophy, other than these guys have a lot of time to think about shit that you and I don't have time to think about. There are many great lessons in the tomes of the ancients and I was understanding them perfectly fine. They just weren't as illuminating as I hoped they might be. Wine and spirits were no different. In my mind, the world's great wines were supposed to make one weep. In reality, they simply tasted like wine. Good wine, but hardly enough to change my life, inspire me to move to a foreign culture, purchase a rustic ranch home, spend five weeks sputtering bad French to the locals, then write a travelogue about how I know everything about French culture which might one day get turned into a Julia Roberts film.

There's nothing to get about vodka either! It's just a clean, easy-to-drink spirit that makes you feel good after you drink it. I'm not sure if the wheat or rye makes a big difference, or if the still type changed the texture, or if the filtration removed any corruptive cogeners, or if the purity of the water worked in conjunction with the base spirit. I don't know any of these things the way I know them about whisky. My point is: I don't think it really matters. The secret to enjoying vodka is the secret to enjoying your life. You have to relax. You have to take your mind off things. Get a few shots up in you. Stop worrying about flavor.

The moment I stopped worrying about flavor, it all made total sense. Vodka is here to take your mind off of itself. Vodka is here to ease my pre-conceived booze tension. People hate vodka because of marketing schemes where packaging and price make more of a difference than quality, but that also happens with whisk(e)y, Cognac, Tequila, and rum. Secretly, I think experts hate vodka because they can't make any money off of talking about it, the same way a professor can't make a living off of John Steinbeck. It's all right there, in your face, obvious to anyone – you don't need a guide to understand it. They want you to read James Joyce because that shit is so confusing they can get a whole semister's work out of teaching you what it means! Vodka is about drinking though, not about thinking. The Eastern Europeans figured that shit out long ago.

I drink, therefore I am.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Dec202012

30th Anniversary

Fresh off the delivery truck!

St. George 30th Anniversary Single Malt Whisky $349.99 - To celebrate 30 years in the distillation business, St. George gurus Lance Winters and Dave Smith went deep into their older stocks of single malt whisky to find some pretty remarkable casks. One barrel was the from the first that Lance ever filled at the distillery. Another was the sister cask to the original K&L barrel a few years back, but this one was aged in pear brandy, rather than apple. After tasting through and deciding which casks best represented their history, their ability, and their flavor profile, the guys married them into one very special batch of 30th Anniversary whisky. The flavors are classic St. George. Lots of fresh stonefruit, loads of that beery, oily wood profile and a strong malty finish. It's a celebration of everything that makes St. George single malt whisky so special and it's very, very, very limited. Only 12 bottles available from K&L up north.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Dec202012

K&L Awards 2012: Best Distributor - JVS

When you buy liquor for a major retailer, you can't just call up the distillery and send a truck over. There are these guys called distributors who must act as the middlemen between K&L and the hard stuff. Southern and Young's are the two big players. Wine Warehouse is a distant third, followed by Henry, and Pacific Edge here in California. Then you've got little JVS, who also act as importers for us when we buy our casks in Scotland. Every analogy you can think of about size comes into play when you're talking about distribution. The big guys are slow, the little guys are fast. The big guys are more powerful, the little guys more cunning. The big guys spend money like the Yankees, the little guys have to do more research like the A's. Eventually, the little players find a superstar, only to have that superstar poached from them like Jason Giambi.

Being a little distributor, you do all the grunt work. You drive from account to account. You try and convince guys like me to buy your products. The big guys have all the brand names. People come to them, not the other way around. You've probably heard me talk about my friend Val before. He's the guy running the show over at JVS. He's the guy who makes sure that we've got Kilchoman in stock. He's the guy who will drop everything at a moment's notice to come and pour spirits in our tasting bar. He's the guy who busted his ass for years, spreading the word about Gordon & MacPhail and Signatory, before those two companies decided to move on to the big boys. The irony now is that both independent bottlers have gone drastically downhill in California since they left JVS. Why? Because no one understands the smaller independents like JVS. It was similar to the WWE putting the heavyweight title belt on Daniel Bryan. They have the talent, but they have no idea how to use it. Young's doesn't even know that they have Signatory in their portfolio. I have to remind them.

Then there's the cask importation side. Which casks arrived on time this year? Let's see...Kilchoman, Sovereign, Exclusive Malts, and Chieftains. Hmmmm......what a coincidence! All of those casks were imported to California by JVS on behalf of K&L. Which casks are not here yet? Hmmmm.....let's see......Benriach, Glendronach, Glen Garioch, and Glenfarclas! All of these barrels are being handled by Southern and Young's, the two biggest companies, and they're all ridiculously late! I called today about our Glen Garioch cask, which was supposed to be delivered four weeks ago. You know where it is? Fucking New Jersey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Are you serious?!!!!!!

When you need something done fast in the business and you need it done well, you don't call the big boys. You call Val at JVS and he gets shit done. No haggling, no prices that don't match up, no refunds due, no missed deliveries, no mismatched products, no mistakes. You need a cask, he'll get you that cask. You need a sample of something? It's there on your desk by the following morning.

What a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE difference between small distribution and major distribution. JVS gets it done. Chieftain's, Arran, and Kilchoman are all on the right team. JVS makes the playoffs this year and every year by busting their asses and working harder than anyone else.

Distributor of the year for 2012. No contest.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Dec192012

Old Scotch, Back in Stock

We've been out of these whiskies for some time and we'll likely be out of them again soon. Might want to grab these while they're here for a last minute gift!

Bunnahabhain 18 Year Old Islay Single Malt Whisky $109.99 - Color: Rich golden amber Nose: Liquid caramel bubbling on the stove, banana cream pie, macadamia nut brittle and the blowing sea breeze coming off the Sound of Islay. Palate: It lies on your palate like heavy syrup that coats your mouth. The flavors are all creamy butter; toasted almonds and Brazilian nuts, fresh pipe tobacco and a sea brininess that is a classic taste of Bunnahabhain. The weight of the 18 year old is very heavy like your favorite blanket on a cold winter's day. The finish is extremely long and warming with just a wee bit of spiciness. What a stunning dram!

Oban 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky $99.99 - Always tough to find - this is a limited edition bottling for the US only.  As the cannister states, "only so much can be made, it is never enough."

Old Pulteney 21 year old Single Malt Whisky $129.99 - Rated the #1 Whisky in the World by Jim Murray's Whisky Bible for 2012.  Get it while you can because there's likely to be a run on this once the word gets out.  Aged in a combination of Bourbon and Sherry casks, the 21 year has loads of dried apricots and a supple mouthfeel.  The expression, which was created at the Pulteney distillery in Wick, Caithness, scored a record-equaling 97.5 points out of 100 and in doing so became only the third single malt to have claimed the title since its inception in 1994. (There are another 12 cases coming to NorCal this Friday)

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Dec192012

K&L Awards 2012: Best Discovery - Jacques Esteve

While traveling to Scotland has given us the opportunity to purchase some amazing whiskies, everything we buy is a one-off. We have to buy barrels with finite quantities of juice that will last a couple months until we sell through. Then we have to hope we can do it again. Our French spirits program, with the help of our friend Charles Neal, has worked much like our direct import wine program - we find small producers that are not represented in the U.S. and import their booze right to our store. We can consistantly offer the same products from the same producers because we're importing their standard portfolio, not something made just once for our store. It gives people a reason to shop at K&L. You can't find these wines or these spirits anywhere else domestically and, over time, people begin to depend on them.

Normally when you're dealing with a smaller producer, you're getting something a bit different from the norm. When we buy a cask from Kilchoman, it's a much younger, spicier single malt. Same goes for when we buy casks from small independents. There's a big difference between our barrel of Bunnahabhain and the standard distillery expressions. In the U.S., there's a large chasm between, say, the rye from Old World Spirits and something like Rittenhouse. Cognac, however, is a big industry made of little producers. Remy, Hennessey, and all the large houses buy all of their product from the same little guys we're buying from. Take Jacques Esteve, for example. He sells a ton of his brandy directly to Remy and Hennessey. That's where his financial stability comes from. The income he earns from his big house contracts allows him to focus on making more serious Cognac under his own family label.

When you drink big house Cognac, you're essential drinking a marriage of many different brandies. If you drink Hennessey XO, there's probably some older Jacques Esteve brandy swimming around in there. However, why not buy it straight from Jacques Esteve himself and get an older, undiluted Cognac for less than half the price? That's what Hennessey does! That's why we wanted to go to France and that's what we did when we got there. The Esteve brandies are not different, unique, or outside the norm of standard Cognac. They're simply richer, more supple, more textural, and more delicious. The Coup de Coeur we imported costs about $90 and blows every other Cognac we have out of the water. I don't see how anyone could go back to big house Cognac after tasting it. It's a combination of 1979 and 1981 vintage brandies and the length and complexity of flavor are astounding.

The best part about Jacques Esteve's Cognac is that we can keep buying more! True, the Tres Vieille Reserve de Famille is a single cask of 1979 bottled under his standard label, but we're heading back over in March to find more sustainable expressions. The Coup de Coeur is fully-stocked and loaded for the holiday season. It's a brandy we hope to have on our shelves for some time. I can't remember a spirit at K&L that has had a larger influence on the category as a whole. There have been some fun single barrels in the past, but nothing we could continuously sustain. That's why discovering the Jacques Esteve Cognacs and securing their exclusivity for K&L was probably the best thing we did all year.

-David Driscoll