Chocasmoke Coming Soon

The boys from San Francisco's Seven Stills (that's some alliteration for you) dropped by today to give me the 411 on their newest creation: Chocamoke! Distilled from chocolate oatmeal stout beer with some smokey hops thrown in for good measure. Yum. Watch for this guy next week. It's like a smokier, maltier version of the Whipnose.

-David Driscoll


Great Experiences

One of the coolest and most memorable parts of visiting the Miyagikyo distillery was the blending experience that Nikka set up for us. Just like at the Blender's Bar in downtown Tokyo, they had the components of Nikka's Pure Malt flavor profile broken down into single 12 year old profiles characterized by name: Peaty & Salty, Sherried & Sweet, Woody & Vanillic, etc. Whereas the menu at the Blender's Bar merely told you which percentages of each component comprised each of the blends, here we were actually able to taste them individually and play with them in our own personal creations. It was an incredible experience that both increased my awareness of the Nikka portolio, and left a lasting positive impression that I'll remember when talking to customers in the store.

It's easy to forget that a bottle of whisky is ultimately an experience. You're paying for the memory; just like when you go to a rock concert, baseball game, or week-long cruise in the Caribbean. I think some folks tend to lose sight of that every now and then. Maybe it's because, unlike wine, the experience of a whisky can go on for years after we open the bottle; we tend to see it as gas, or food, or some sort of staple commodity that needs to be rationed. If you're drinking purely for the sake of getting drunk, then really whisky is nothing more than another base asset. However, if you're treating whisky as something more than ethanol, something beyond an aphrodisiac, something you rank, and score, and write a blog about, and obsess about, and think about every day, then I think you have to look at each bottle as an experience. Like all experiences in life, some are more memorable than others—and it's not always the most expensive or extravagant that we remember.

Sometimes, however, there are factors outside the innate quality of the experience itself that make a moment significant. Those are the aspects of whisky that I choose to focus on rather than simply a cost analysis breakdown and a double-digit summary. There are stories, people, and moments like the afore-mentioned blending exercise that can quickly change how I view certain whiskies (like how I now view the Nikka 12 Year Old Pure Malt) because they create an experience that I'll remember more than the flavor of the liquid itself. Ten years from now you may recall where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing when you first tasted an amazing single malt that changed your life; but you might not actually remember what it tasted like. People ask me all the time if I've tasted expensive bottles like Macallan 30. Yes, I have; but I don't remember exactly where or when. I can, however, tell you exactly where I was when I first tasted Glenlivet 12: I was in my apartment in San Diego with my college roommates and we were trying to act all fancy with an "expensive" bottle of Scotch.

Looking back, that's a pretty great memory—one that I'll remember forever. Definitely worth the $24 I spent on that bottle of Glenlivet. On the other hand, sometimes an expensive bottle of whisky is the experience; like when I brought a bottle of Cristal to my holiday party last year and we all acted like blingy hip-hop artists. That, too, was quite memorable.  Glenlivet 12 isn't ever going to win any "Whisky of the Year" awards, and Cristal often gets thrown into the overpriced, overhyped, big brand marketing category, but I've had more fun with those two bottles than I've ever had with some 94 point product that I bought based on the review, tasted, and moved on from. 

-David Driscoll


Spirits Web Auction Closing Soon

Every once in a while, K&L's Spirits Department reaches deep into the vault to offer some very special bottles on the website's auction platform. Now unlike wine, we are prohibited from auctioning consignments of spirits from private individuals, which makes it all that much more difficult for us to find stuff to put on the block. Nonetheless, we've got a few gems that we've managed to hold back. Only a few hours left on these lots, so if you see something you want get at it before the hammer comes down.

1999, Karuizawa K&L Exclusive Single Cask (2 bottles)

The 1999 Single Cask ExclusiveThese cask represent one of our first great finds after taking the reins of the spirits department. This ultra powerful youngish offering and the far older sister cask we acquired from the legendary distillery after it closed will most likely be the last two casks we'll ever see state side.

Auction ends Nov 10th, 3pm PST

2011 Thomas H Handy Rye

2011, Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye

With everybody and literally their mother (I've spoken to several mums looking for the perfect gift for Jr) crapping their pants to find Jim Murray's Whiskey of the year, 2013 Yamazaki Sherry, here's a an opportunity to actually buy something that once held that title. Here it is 2013's WHISKEY OF THE YEAR - but since it's 2014 probably not as good any more, right?

Auction ends Nov. 10th, 12pm PST 

Paul Marie Et Fils Devant La Porte 58 Year Old Cask Strength Single Barrel

Paul Marie Et Fils Devan La Porte Single Cask

This one is for Nicki P-Dubs, the myth and the man. Devant La Porte is the Cognac that started it all for our favorite Frenchman and it remains the best single cask cognac I've yet to encounter. Just an outrageous amount of depth and power, but somehow belies the massive alcohol content. The Chef d'Oeuvre on the opening shot! Thank you for this Mr. Palazzi. Can't wait for the next one.

Auction ends Nov 10th, 7pm PST.

PC5-PC10 plus some auxiliary goodies

Port Charlotte Tasting Lot

I'm actually shock and a little sad that this massive collection has absolutely ZERO bids right now. It's a magnificent collection of the first 6 releases of the very special (and perhaps defunct?) cask strength version of Bruichladdich's heavily peated whisky. In addition you have a few fun extras to round out what could be one of the best Port Charlotte tastings in history. Tailor made, just a mere click away. If no one takes it, we'll just split it up and get $1K+ for the PC5 by itself on the shelf. PC6-9 are already commanding upwards of $400 on the secondary market. Someone needs to jump on this before it's too late.

Auction ends Nov 10th, 7pm PST.

-David Othenin-Girard


Japan: Day 5 – Still Drifting

After roaming the streets alone this morning, we met with Naoki again for lunch and our first ride on the Tokyo subway. Just one stop over from our Ginza district hotel was a completely different landscape. Following alongside (and underneath) the overhead train tracks was one of Tokyo's most-frequented night life regions; albeit we were there in the late morning.

Everywhere you looked were the remnants and reminders of a wild Friday night; from the recycling collections full of empty sake bottles, to the guys stumbling by, still half-drunk, hovering close to the various pachinko arcades.

"Is there anything else you want to do before leaving Tokyo?" Naoki asked us. "Is there anything that you want to eat that you haven't tried?"

"Is there a good gyoza place nearby?" I asked. 

"Actually there's a very famous gyoza place just around the corner," he answered. We headed back towards the elevated line and saw the tiny Ohsho hole-in-the wall in front of us. 

"This is the party area, so there must be good hangover food options. In Japanese, we would say this is the type of place where you eat and you get grease on your shoes," Naoki said. 

"A greasy spoon!" we all said in unison.

And, yes, the gyoza were everything Naoki had promised. Perfectly crispy and fried on the outside, while remaining juicy and moist in the center. I think I've finally crossed everything off my to-do list.

We're back at the airport now stockpiling gifts and getting ready for the long flight home. I'm leaving here at 5:30 PM on Saturday and getting back at 10:00 AM on Saturday. It's been such a good day I'm really excited about the possibility of living it twice.

See you all in the store next week. Signing out from Japan.

-David Driscoll


Japan: Day 5 – Tokyo Drifter

Lots of time to kill today before a 5 PM flight back to California. Time to hit the street. Speaking of hitting the street, where else in the world can you plop down for the night on the sidewalk and just go to sleep, both legally and safely? Only in Tokyo. This guy is wearing a $300 suit; it's not like he's a vagrant. He just had a rough Friday night and needed to take a rest. There's not one piece of trash on the ground in the entirety of Japan, so add "cleanly" to my original query.

Shinanoya is one of the oldest and most-respected whisky retailers in Tokyo, so stopping by the storefront was an absolute must.

A huge, expansive, and eclectic selection of whisky awaits you inside. I cleaned up in here. There were some serious gems on that shelf.

Somehow, some way, Chris and I just stumbled upon this gigantic fish market. We had heard that visiting a fish market was something we should do in Tokyo, but we didn't know where it was and didn't want to waste time searching one out. Yet, despite our laziness, we still ended up at the fish market just by meandering right into it. To get an idea of how big Tokyo is, let me give you some perspective: just this fish market is the size of Union Square (including the mall). I'm not kidding. You have a selection of seafood that is as big as all of our department stores put together.

Whatever you want from the ocean, it's here waiting for you inside this box.

Then I spotted these empty wine bottles in a department store window display: 1997 Lanessan and 1997 Potensac. There's no way these two bottles didn't come from K&L. We bought practically the entirety of both vintages from these two Bordeaux chateaux, so the odds that these two bottles were purchased in tandem anywhere else is pretty much zero. What are the odds? A Japanese businessman probably visited the Redwood City store, bought these from Jeff Garneau, flew back across the Pacific, drank them, and used them in his window display.

Big Tokyo, small world.

-David Driscoll