Friday
Sep272013

Into Darkness...

When we found our cask of Caperdonich 18 year old whisky over a year ago in Glasgow, David and I were super pumped. The price was right, the whisky was good, the story was tragic, and the barrel was ours. Founded in 1897 by James Grant, the owner of Glen Grant distillery, Caperdonich was located just a few hundred meters from Glen Grant itself. I say "was" because Caperdonich distillery was mothballed in 2002 and completely bulldozed just a few years ago in 2010. Now it's completely gone forever, never to return. What was once the sister distillery to Glen Grant, actually connected underground by a pipeline, is now just a pile of rubble. There wasn't much of an outcry when it happened. There weren't many tears. Caperdonich simply faded into darkness without much of a flurry. And isn't that what many of us fear in life? That our passing will happen without much significance? What meaning did we have? Did anyone care about what we accomplished?

David and I were determined to celebrate Caperdonich's significance. The distillery made solid Highland whisky for many years. No frills or fancy flavors, just Scotch for people who like Scotch. Caperdonich distillery had its fans. Our friend Mark who used to work for Duncan Taylor was perhaps the biggest. He snuck into the property one last time to have a dram on the roof before it was scheduled for demolition. Whisky veteran Serge from WhiskyFun.com ranks Caperdonich highly in his own single malt hierarchy, alongside Ardbeg, Laphroaig, and Benriach in terms of quality. When we found the 18 year old cask from Sovereign -- with its light vanilla, hints of lemon and oil, and delicious malty finish -- we thought we had found something our customers would really gravitate towards. However, more than a year later, we're still burdened with more than 100 bottles of our Caperdonich barrel and with more whisky slated for an immanent arrival. Slow sales are how the K&L automated sales machine flags lagging products for close out. It's our own internal form of termination. In this case, a second demolition for the Caperdonich name.

Yesterday this computer program singled out our Caperdonich 18 year old single barrel whisky as a product in need of deletion. The machine decided we needed to cut our losses and move on, much like Pernod Ricard decided a decade ago concerning the distillery. Caperdonich was just not meant to exist it seems. That light, easy, Highland style just doesn't cut the mustard these days. People want big peat, or big sherry, or something that simply pops now. Now instead of a $125 dollar exclusive whisky of proud provenance and the utmost quality, our Caperdonich cask has been scheduled for close-out: it's now a $73 whisky that needs to be removed from K&L's inventory. But such is life for some whiskies and some distilleries. They never find their mark. They never reach the recognition that some feel they rightly deserve. They fall into darkness and life moves on. On to new adventures at new distilleries with new and exciting whiskies.

Rest easy Caperdonich. We will pour a little single malt out for you.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Sep262013

K&L Bar Agricole Brandy Party 10/15

October is always a lovely month in San Francisco, weather-wise. It's often when we get some of our best summer afternoons, which help make a patio party something doable in the middle of fall. It's no secret that we're close with the guys at Bar Agricole, one of the best cocktail bars in town and home to one of the prettiest patios. You may not know, however, that Thad, Craig, and Eric also travel to France now with our friend Charles Neal, hoping to find interesting spirits of their own for cocktail mixing. Much like we have our own line of K&L exclusive brandies, Bar Agricole now has its own young Armagnac and Cognac expressions that are tailor-made for their mixing needs. Therefore, instead of an Old Fashioned with Bourbon, you'll get a brandy Old Fashioned made with a Pellehaut brandy that the boys specifically designed for that purpose. It's awesome.

When I saw Thad and Craig at this year's Good Food Awards committee meeting we decided to plan a little co-sponsored party for the Fall, complete with our good friend Charles himself as a guest of honor. That's why, this coming October 15th beginning at 7:30 PM, we're inviting anyone and everyone to join us on the patio at Bar Agricole while we mix half-priced $5 cocktails and pour flights of K&L exclusive spirits as well. I haven't decided what we'll feature yet, but expect some Domaine de Miquer, Chateau Pellehaut, and Ragnaud Sabourin in the mix. Maybe $5 for a small flight of all three? We'll see. You might end up being able to drink three cocktails and taste a flight of brandies for $20. That's a pretty good deal if you ask me.

There will be no tickets for this event. I would probably bring some cash to make your transactions faster as everything will be pay-as-you-go. If you bring a stack of $5 bills and some $1 bills for a tip now and then, I think you'll be in pretty good shape.

More on this as we get closer to the date. Mark your calendars for now. You won't want to miss this.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Sep252013

Introducing the New Bouju K&L Exclusive Cognac

Our value-priced, terroir-driven Bouju Fines Saveur Cognac is finally here and it's one hot deal in the world of French brandy.

Daniel Bouju K&L Exclusive Cognac Fines Saveurs $39.99 - Francois Bouju is the man running the show these days at Bouju Cognac. He's incredibly nice, knows a lot about distillation, taught us a great deal about the region and its wines, and impressed us beyond any expectation we had going in to our appointment. His vines are planted in the best soils: rich limestone which helps to preserve acidity in the fruit, and he is a stickler for detail. The reason the Grand Champagne region makes what is considered the best Cognac is because the soil creates grapes that are fully ripe with high acidity levels and low alcohol. This is important because distillation is about concentrating the flavor of a base substance. If you've got a wine sitting in a tank oxidizing, you're going to have an oxidized flavor in the Cognac. High acidity levels help prevent oxidation while distillation is taking place and prevent the need for stabilizing sulfur (none of us want to taste a distilled fart). At the same time, you need wine with a low alcohol level as to not overpower the flavor of the fruit. Full ripeness is also necessary to have any flavor at all. You can't simply pick early to preserve acidity because your wine will taste terrible. The resulting flavor of the Fines Saveurs is a higher acid, fruit-forward style of Cognac. This is zingy, expressive brandy that exemplifies the quality of Bouju's base wine. More of a mixer, or rocks drink, than a supple sipper, Bouju is the perfect bottle for your French 75 or Sidecar cocktail. A hot deal.

If you want Cognac that tastes like oak chips and caramel coloring, this isn't the Cognac for you. The wine takes center stage with the Bouju Fines Saveur and it all starts here: in the ground, in the vineyard, outside the Bouju estate. I'm really excited for people to try this!

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Sep242013

Pre-Arrival Updates

Good news!

The first wave of K&L exclusive whiskies is almost upon us! We just got word from JVS that our Exclusive Malt casks have arrived and should be ready for delivery within the week. Then we just have to process the pre-orders and we'll have four casks ready in the store for purchase! Hopefully we can schedule a tasting of those four selections -- the Aberlour 12, Bowmore 10, Fettercairn 17, and Island Distillery 7 -- very soon. We also got word that our Faultline 32 year old blended whisky has arrived as well. Expect this to be ready before the end of the month, along with the sold-out Fuenteseca Tequila selection that we blended a few months back.

The Signatory casks are also expected any day now, so that will add another five casks to our mounting total. Get ready for the onslaught because it's coming. And once it starts moving it's very hard to stop (spending money).

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Sep222013

True Love

Earlier today I was watching a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain where he eats at a Sizzler in LA's Koreatown with Korean artist David Choe. Bourdain cheekily calls the restaurant "free from snarkologists" in an attempt to make it sound cool, but really he's only there because of Choe. David Choe genuinely loves Sizzler. It's not an ironic enjoyment, or a funny experience for him to post on Instagram later that evening. Choe grew up in a traditional Korean family that cooked dinner each night. They rarely ate out. If they did, it was usually at McDonald's. Sizzler was only for special occasions, which Choe would get very, very excited about. Because of these cherished childhood memories, Choe still loves hitting the salad bar and filling up on taco shells with meatballs, despite the fact that he's wealthy enough to eat wherever he wants. And he's not ashamed of it. But, really, why should he be?

Choe's experience is not unfamiliar to me. My wife feels the same way about many American chain restaurants. She grew up in a traditional Mexican family. Her mom did not work. She stayed home, took care of the kids, and cooked every meal herself. Eating out somewhere like Round Table Pizza was a big deal. To this day my wife still loves eating Kraft Mac and Cheese from the box, chomping down on sugary cereals, and getting grilled cheese sandwiches from the roadside diners. Unlike my childhood upbringing, where home-cooked dinners were interchanged with Pop Tarts and Taco Bell, these were things she rarely got to do. She looked forward to them, cherished them, and knew of no reason to be embarrassed by them. She feels the same way today. What's wrong with eating at Red Lobster? Nothing. Unless you're ashamed of being an everyday American.

Many everyday Americans are ashamed of these "culture-less" experiences and they like to pretend they've moved beyond them. Living in the Bay Area today you'd think no one grew up with TV, everyone read literary novels as a teen, and travelling the world was just something their families did. Try inviting an everyday Bay Area native to Sizzler. "You're kidding, right?" Try inviting an everyday San Franciscan over to watch a few episodes of the Big Bang Theory. "I'm too busy doing something outside." Yet what do we truly enjoy doing as everyday Americans? I don't mean what we act like we enjoy doing, like the myriad of exercises we pretend to love because it looks good on our Facebook profile, I mean honestly: what is it we truly love?

There were of course moments in my life when I was embarrassed about some honest truths. I wasn't always proud to be from Modesto, the hometown of serial killers, murderous bikers, and adulterous politicians. People have often made fun of me for being from Modesto, as well as for my obsessive relationship with professional wrestling. Yet I steadfastly watch it because it makes me so incredibly happy. I love Modesto because it's home and I associate it with happy times. I don't care how much methamphetamine we're producing over there, it's where I was raised and I love it. I don't care if I look unsophisticated because I like watching muscular men roll around on a mat, pretending to fight, with an outcome that's scripted for dramatic effect. I don't care about what people think anymore because I am an adult, and adults should be mature enough to admit what they like and stop pretending. Pretending is for junior high kids and teenagers –– for people who are still trying to find their way and fit in. We're too old for that shit.

Yet, we love to pretend in the booze world. We like to pretend we drink for the flavor and not for the intoxicating effects. We like to pretend that we're not influenced by points, ratings, and reviews. That we think for ourselves when we don't. We like to pretend that wine and spirits are more than just beverages, that what we drink says something about the people we are, when it really says more about the people we wish we were. We document these experiences as proof, evidence for the world to see, that we're not just everyday, run-of-the-mill, Sizzler-eating folk. We live cultured, educated lives. We get it.

But while some of us are out there pretending, others are out there enjoying themselves. Truly enjoying themselves. I hope I am one of them. I'm not always so sure.

-David Driscoll