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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

4/23 - Redwood City: Ardbeg Single Malts (w/the chopper!)

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

1988 Littlemill 25 Year Old K&L "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Lowland Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1996 Bowmore 16 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

Bladnoch "Young" K&L Exclusive Heavily Peated Single Barrel #57 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

Bladnoch 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive Lightly Peated Single Barrel #303 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

Bladnoch 23 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #1054 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

Talisker "The Speakeasy" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

2005 Glenrothes 8 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1997 Glengoyne 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

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!

2013 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky Still Available

1991 Cambus 21 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!

2002 Bowmore 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!

2005 Island Distillery 7 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!

2001 Royal Lochnagar 10 Year Old Faultline Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!

1995 Glendronach 18 Year Old Single PX Barrel Cask Strength Blended Scotch Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!

1994 Benriach 19 Year Old Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Blended Scotch Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!

1989 Cragganmore 23 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1992 Longmorn 21 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1987 Mortlach 25 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1983 Miltonduff 30 Year Old Faultline Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750m IN STOCK NOW!


What is Rhum Agricole?

While all rum is in some way a byproduct of sugar cane, most rums are made from molasses.  Those sweet and creamy Ron Zacapa, Zaya, and El Dorardo rums that fly off our shelves daily are examples of the most accessible - rich molasses distillates that are aged in sherry barrels for smoothing out the flavors.  Right next to those bottles on the K&L shelf, however, are bottles like Rhum J.M., La Favorite, and Batiste that seemingly are interchangable with the above mentioned producers, since all produce rum in the end.  Neverthesless, about once a month a customer will walk back into the store with an open bottle of Agricole Rhum and say to me, "I bought this here for making mai tais and there's something wrong with it.  This tastes totally herbal and weird."  "Ah yes, my friend," I'll reply, "that would be the common response to Rhum Agricole," the rum distilled not from the byproduct of sugar, which would be molasses, but rather from the fresh juice of the sugar cane itself.

Generally speaking, Rhum Agricole is produced on the French Caribbean island of Martinique where there is an actual AOC Martinique Appellation, like France has for the wines of Bordeaux or Burgundy.  However, there are other islands that produce it, such as Guadaloupe.  The link between all of the agricole producing locales is their heritage as French-controlled protectorates.  When the French colonized the Caribbean and built sugar refineries, rum was a way to make use of the byproduct.  But in 1870, when France found a cheaper way to produce sugar from sugar beets, the price of sugar plummeted and many of the refineries, which had taken out debt on their mortgages, were forced into bankruptcy.  The remaining rum drinkers on the islands were forced to get creative and Rhum Agricole was their solution - the natural juice of the sugar cane could be fermented and distilled without refinement.

Like any food or drink culture, societies are forced to work with the ingredients available to them and make those ingredients taste good (which is why street food is usually so delicious).  Rhum Agricole is a byproduct of an earthy, grassy, and sometimes funky tasting plant.  Those characteristics are therefore destined to come through in the distillate.  While I personally enjoy these flavors, I can completely understand why others do not.  When aged, the rhums are entirely sip-able, but the blancs can really throw people for a loop.  If pressed, I'd compare it to the difference between single malt whiskies and single grain whiskies - the grains have an herbal, almost gin-like flavor that is much leaner, and less soft on the mouthfeel.  Needless to say, there are some fantastic recipes for Agricole rum that have developed in the Caribbean over the years.  Doing a Google search for a few cocktails can be quite inspiring.

So if you end up with a bottle of Rhum Agricole by accident, or if you are simply curious about what makes these rhums so unique, grab a bottle of sugar cane syrup (which we sell) and a handful of limes from your local grocer as well.  Making a Ti Punch is quite easy - a tablespoon of syrup with about 2.5 oz of rum and a lime peel in the glass with an ice cube to cool it off.  A seemingly unhappy mishap could possible turn out to be life changing.  Just ask all the guys hanging out at your nearest Tiki bar.

-David Driscoll


Bring On The Haters

 I've touched on this topic before, but I couldn't help mention this troubling phenomenon again, seeing that it's a pet peeve of mine.  Another well-written Jon Bonne article for the SF Chronicle gets nothing but seething responses from the commenting public, many of whom are out simply to trash something for the sake of it (at least the comments that I made it through).  I honestly don't know how Jon deals with it, except for maybe just ignoring it all together.  The irony of the entire thing is almost laughable, considering Jon wrote an article about how mis-information concerning wine only breeds more hatred from people who don't drink it or understand it.  What I find most interesting is the overwhelmingly obvious fact that most who commented negatively seemed not to have read the article - they're just there to gang up on people.  I absolutely loathe comment boards that function as a way to bully, berate, or debase people (SF Gate is only slightly better than  It's even worse when that hatred is based on ignorance because the comments are not only mean, they're entirely illogical and stupid. 

Jon is completely right when he says that cheap wine is exactly that.  The point isn't to avoid cheap wine, only to at least call it what it is, rather than callously claim that wine is always overpriced.  The truth is this: there are cheap wines that taste good and there are expensive wines that do not.  However, there is no all-encompassing fact, statement, or judgment that can collectively categorize all wine together (which is what people do when they say good wine shouldn't cost more than $3).  People love the idea of rich people getting screwed by their own inability to recognize quality.  They eat that stuff up.  HA!  Stupid rich guy thought he was paying $100 for good wine when in fact it's all the same as the $3 bottle!  I'm sure that has happened, but the truth is that some wine is expensive because it's better than others. The most obvious problem is that some people don't understand what "good" actually means when it comes to wine, despite Jon's attempt to shed some light on that subject.

"Good" is no different a term with wine than it is with, say, a car.  Is a Porsche a better car than a VW Golf?  That depends on what you're basing "good" on.  Horsepower?  Gas mileage?  Storage space?  What are the criteria?  All of those things seem go out the window however when the word good is used with wine.  Everything is combined into "good," even if it makes no sense at all.  Commenters who felt the need to write, "I don't need to pay $15 for a bottle of wine, when I can get my $3 bottle at Trader Joes," are really saying something to the equivalent of "I don't need to buy a Porsche because I just need something to get me from Point A to B."  There's nothing wrong with that statement.  However, if you claim that your junker is "just as good" as a Porsche, you're going to get laughed at.  Maybe it suits you better than a Porsche, and maybe a Porsche is a totally impractical car for you, but why state that your old Dodge is "better?" 

What people really mean by statements like that is that they're happy with where they're at - and that's great!  How nice to be content with minimal material goods in life.  However, if you're so content with your life then why are you on SF Gate posting about how much better you are for not drinking expensive wine?  Jon was definitely not saying that cheap wine is a dumb idea.  He was responding to an article that says expensive wine is a dumb idea!  Again, there is no secret conspiracy where all expensive wine is really just bulk wine with a different label.  And, yes, people who like wine can definitely pick out well made ones from the bad ones in a blind tasting.  However, all it takes is one over-priced California Cab getting a bad score, or a sommelier choosing Charles Shaw at a blind tasting to make everyone think the opposite.  That was Jon's point.  And he's totally right.  It's not even an opinion.  It's a fact! 

Nevertheless, the flood gates open and the vitriol spews......

-David Driscoll


Tasting Schedule for the Month

It's not easy to get these things organized, but I've made some progress for the next month.  Here's what we'll be pouring in-store, free of charge for all of you wonderful customers.

November 15th

Redwood City will host a very special Tuesday night tasting with Sonja Kassebaum from Chicago's North Shore Distillery!

November 16th

San Francisco will feature the wonderful Alameda bunch from St. George Distillery pouring the new Breaking & Entering Bourbon amongst other things.

Redwood City will showcase the new barrel-aged Fluid Dynamics cocktails from Germain-Robin.

November 23rd

No tastings due to fierce holiday store traffic.  ArteNOM and Springbank will be rescheduled.

November 30th

San Francisco will have Amy Schwartz pouring the Burns Stewart Single Malts - Bunnahabhain, Tobermorey, and more!

Redwood City will feature St. George Distillery finally making it down to pour the new Bourbon.

December 7th

San Francisco will host local heroes Anchor Distilling featuring the gins and hopefully the rye!

Redwood City will feature the heavy-hitting, cask-strength Willett Bourbons.

All tastings start at 5 PM and go until 6:30.  Line ups are subject to last minute change if complications do occur. 

See you all there!

-David Driscoll


Sherry Baby

We grew up watching our mothers cook with it.  We drink single malts flavored with it.  So why is it that no one actually drinks the Sherry itself - just plain, in a glass, on its own?  I feel like every now and again we'll make an obligatory push for better appreciation of fortified spirits at K&L, but eventually that train loses steam.  Then we go back to wine and booze for a few months until we suddenly "discover" Sherry all over again.  The combination of both wine and spirits should be the perfect medium for fans of both genres, yet something never seems to click.  Sherry is delicious, it drinks like wine and keeps like whisky, it offers a variety of styles, a myriad of flavors, and wonderfully affordable price points.  What more does Sherry need to do to get our attention?

I got seriously housed on the above-pictured bottle of La Ina Fino Sherry $14.99 last night.  Briny, salty, nutty, and fresh, this 15% alcohol delight is almost impossible to put down.  Fino sherries are the Islay malts of the fortified world sans the smoke.  They pair amazingly well with olives, cheese, sardines, and other salty snacks, but I had no problem putting away this whole bottle by itself while watching Nova's The Fabric of Space.  When I woke up on the couch at five this morning with a mouth drier than the Mojave desert, I realized that Sherry can creep on you as well.  However, I can definitely handle far more glasses of Sherry than I can single malt whisky.

While most single malts are aged in Oloroso Sherry casks (a style of sherry much sweeter than fino), there are the occasional fino-aged malts.  Why they don't do it more often is beyond me (maybe a lack of available barrels).  The brine, saline, and oxidized wine notes blend beautifully with whisky and provide the perfect highlight for the oily character of Springbank in this cask strength barrel they released last year.  I also remember running through the Bruichladdich warehouse on Islay and finding a 1990 Macallan resting in a fino cask.  We did get to taste it and it was fantastic. It was unfortunately already spoken for, however (otherwise you'd all have a bottle by now). Why Laphroaig and Ardbeg haven't experimented with fino cask enhancement is a curious question.  Seems like a match made in heaven.

Besides the amazing flavors of dry fino Sherry, we've got a fantastic selection of amontillado and palo cortado offerings as well - most of which are completely dry as well.  The complexity of these wines is simply beyond the capability of many $50 single malts, yet the Sherries sell for as low as $19.99 in some cases.  Again, they'll keep for months after you open them and the variety they offer is vast enough to justify having a few open bottles in your collection.  I'm definitely going to replenish my supply with this Herederos de Argueso later today and I may spring for this 1979 Gonzalez Bypass later in the month (easily one of the best things I have ever tasted while working at K&L).  For the super geeks out there, you could read all day about yeast, flor, soleras, and the entire Sherry-making process which is much more complicated than distillation.

Sherry has so much to offer.  If you're getting to the point where you need a new adventure in drinking, this might be the road worth taking.

-David Driscoll


Spirits Tastings Today

Another day of free booze tastings is upon us.

Redwood City will showcase the Bourbons of Oregon's Big Bottom Whiskey.  You may have just noticed their appearance on John Hansell's Whiskey Advocate Blog the other day.  Come taste their stuff and see what you think!

San Francisco will be featuring smoky Scotch with Val from JVS pouring the new Kilchoman 100% Islay, an 18 year old Laphroaig from Hart Brothers, and the new Isle of Skye 12 year blend.  Yummy stuff.

Tastings start at 5 PM and go until 6:30.  See you there!

-David Driscoll