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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!


Friday
Oct212011

Arrival Times - Plan Accordingly

I sent this out on an email yesterday, but then got a message that delivery of that email was held up by something in the system.  I don't how many people actually got this message, but I didn't want to send it again and spam everyone.  Instead, I'll post that email here.  Also, if you're not on the email list, but want to be then please send me an email telling me so at daviddriscoll@klwines.com

Hello everyone,

Seeing as we’re getting to that time of the year when all the major stuff starts to happen, I thought I’d start preparing you all for the onslaught that we know is coming: the holiday season rush!  Starting this month is when all the major players begin unleashing their most prized possessions and in turn, we as a store have set as the beginning of our exclusive collection ETA.  I get a lot of emails from some of you, cursing us for tempting you further with more booze merely seconds after you’ve already purchased some.  My answer to you is – drink faster!!  No, in actuality, I wanted to type this up so that you could all plan ahead and budget your funds for the bottles most important to your heart.  So, without further ado, here is a rough timetable as to when you can expect some significant bottles to arrive.

NOTE: NONE OF THESE BOTTLES ARE CURRENTLY IN STOCK, NOR ARE THEY AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER OR HOLD AS OF NOW

OCTOBER

Talisker 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky $84.99 – We could see more of this legendary dram as early as tomorrow, but likely early next week.  Get your racing shoes on because it always goes fast.  Of course, it may be the best deal in all of whiskydom, so it’s no surprise.

Mezcalero Release #3 San Andres Huayapam Agave Mexicano Mezcal $75.99

Mezcalero Release #4 San Juan del Rio Agave Sierra Negra $75.99 – Both of these incredible and VERY limited mezcals are due in tomorrow afternoon.   In all honesty, I might be more excited for their arrival than I am for the Talisker 18.  Germain Robin always gets the premium stuff from Oaxaca, better than any other mezcals I have tasted.  These new batches, both from different species of wild agave, are incredibly pure, fragrant, and flavorful.  The Mezcalero series is always something to savor and is the best thing going right now for mezcal (at least, until the DOG and I head to Mexico this January….)

Springbank K&L Exclusive 13 Year Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $84.99

Springbank K&L Exclusive 14 Year Single Madeira Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $89.99

Glendronach K&L Exclusive 16 Year Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $99.99

Littlemill K&L Exclusive 21 Year Old Faultline Spirits Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $115.99

Bruichladdich K&L Exclusive Quarts de Chaume Chenin Blanc Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $65.99 – These might end up bleeding over into early November, but as of right now these are all scheduled to dock this weekend and hopefully make it to distribution by next week.  We should be processing pre-arrivals soon after.  REMEMBER – pre-arrival prices end as soon as these hit distribution.  That means the prices go up!  Get what you need now as it could be tomorrow that we raise them.

Buffalo Trace 2011 Antique Collection:

George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon

William Larue Weller Straight Bourbon

Sazerac 18 Year Old Kentucky Rye Whiskey

Thomas Handy Kentucky Rye Whiskey

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon – These will be arriving next week.  Looks like we’re getting more Stagg than anything else, so that should be the easiest one to get (if that helps your ranking system).  Remember, we will email you early next week concerning the raffle and we will give you instructions at that time as to how to get a bottle.

ArteNOM Tequilas – beginning early next week we should see the arrival of Jacob Lustig’s amazing new distillery-bottled tequilas.  If you don’t know what these are, check the blog at http://spiritsjournal.klwines.com for an overview and an informative podcast!

NOVEMBER

Diageo Distiller’s Editions – new batches of Cragganmore, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Dalwhinnie, Oban, and Talisker, all double-matured in their respective finishes. 

Diageo Rare Maltsthis year’s rare malts will include:

Rosebank 21 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Port Ellen 11th Edition 32 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Knockando 25 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Talisker 25 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

I have also heard that there will be a Brora 32 Year Old Single Malt Whisky, but no confirmation as to whether that will hit the states.

Bruichladdich New Releases (prices not yet confirmed)

The Botanist Islay Gin $34.99-ish

The Organic (multi-vintage) $59.99-ish

The Laddie Classic $55.99-ish

Black Art 2 $169.99-ish

Port Charlotte An Turas Mor $57.99-ish

Octomore 3-152ppm $149.99-ish

Pappy Van Winkle Bourbons – No confirmation yet on this, but I would assume it can’t be much later.  Raffle will also take place here.

Bruichladdich 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Ardbeg Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $99.99 – our mingling of two Islay greats should get here mid month.

Blair Athol K&L Exclusive 11 Year Old Provenance Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $69.99 – the best source of whisky in Scotland for K&L also happens to be the slowest.  They’re in no hurry to get this here.  That’s the pace of confidence, I guess.

Kilchoman Single Bourbon Barrel K&L Exclusive Single Malt Whisky $TBA – We went in on a barrel that will be split with Binny’s in Chicago, as far as I understand.  I was very impressed with this sample and am happy to get some 5 year old Kilchoman!  These guys are slowly becoming one of my favorite distilleries.  Can’t wait to visit them next year.  This should get here late November.

DECEMBER AND BEYOND

We initially put a December timeline on our Sovereign single barrels, but the government is being a complete bitch right now with label approval and is really making things difficult.  Hopefully we can get these here, but I’m afraid it’s looking more like January now.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Bowmore 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive Sovereign Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $72.99

Caledonian 45 Year Old K&L Exclusive Sovereign Single Barrel Cask Strength Grain Whisky $149.99

Caol Ila 30 Year Old K&L Exclusive Sovereign Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $174.99

Girvan 21 Year Old K&L Exclusive Sovereign Single Barrel Cask Strength Grain Whisky $73.99 – all very good whiskies, all very likely delayed until late December

2 New K&L Barrels!!!! – we’ve kinda been keeping these under wraps until we knew more, but what the heck…

Cragganmore 21 Year Old Faultline Spirits Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $TBA – This should come in right at about $100, which again puts us WAAAAY less than the official Diageo release.  And ours is WAAAAAAY better.  Look for this late in the month with our own fancy label like the Littlemill.

1981 Brora 30 Year Old Chieftain’s Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $TBA – This is going to really put us on the map nationally.  To land a barrel of this magnitude from perhaps the most sought-after mothballed distillery in the world is going to attract some attention.  Going to be a rockin’ way to start 2012.  This will be bottled on Dec 2nd which is my birthday, so now I’m going to have to buy one.

Possible new K&L casks for January – no word yet on these, but we’ll be doing a sample run next month…

Clynelish 21 Year Old Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky

Bunnahabhain 14 Year Old Heavily Peated Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky – both could be very interesting!!

IN OTHER NEWS

I’ll be doing another podcast soon with someone at Kilchoman distillery to discuss the new 100% Islay Barley whisky I love so damn much.

It looks like David and I will be postponing our Kentucky trip for January and heading down to sunny Mexico instead.  Some of you Bourbon fans might be a bit disappointed, but if you knew what we knew, you would understand.  I can’t tell you exactly what that means yet, but let’s say this: have you ever seen a tequila over 10 years old?  Over 20?  Bottled in a single barrel and at cask strength?  You might as soon as we get back. 

Tastings for next week will be:

San Francisco – Gran Dovejo Tequilas with Frank Mendez – these are great aged tequilas, some almost bourbon like.  Make sure to go!

Redwood City – Los Osuna Tequila with Jesus Padilla – come and try these fantastic agave spirits from Sinaloa, not Jalisco.  Their blanco is perhaps my favorite.

That’s a lot of data.  Crunch your numbers and come up with a budget!  Any questions, send them our way.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Oct202011

Precocious Whisky From Islay

Floor malting of local barley at Kilchoman distilleryOver the course of history, human beings have shown time and again that they like to dismiss things that don't adhere to the standard public perception.  There is too much security in the stability of ideas to allow for something to just come along and move years of tradition aside!  Nevertheless, the long-standing belief that older malt whisky was better malt whisky has taken blow after blow since the new millenium.  While many of the new craft American distillers attempted to showcase the benefits of young American whiskies, most were less than persuasive.  A group of Islay distilleries, however, has proven over the last decade that malt whisky need not be a minimum of ten years old to have merit.  If made well, with attention, care, and precision, young whisky could actually be quite exciting; not in a new and curious manner, but actually standing toe to toe with other mature examples.  In fact, I would dare say that most of the youthful whiskies from Bruichladdich, Ardbeg, and Kilchoman are simply better than the 12+ year old standard releases from established producers.

Kilchoman's newest release, the 100% Islay Barley Single Malt, is both a great idea and a great whisky.  In trying to present the world with a single malt that actually begins and ends on Islay (all other producers source their malted barley off the island), Kilchoman worked with their Rockside Farm neighbor and harvested their own grain right next to their facility.  They continued with their own floor malting (as seen above), which as far as I know only Bowmore and Springbank still do, and fermented their own mash for distillation of a pure Islay malt.  The first release is a three year old sparkplug that drinks amazingly well now with flashes of lemon oil, peat moss, campfire smoke and the bright zestiness of a blanco tequila.  Part of the enjoyment of the whisky is knowing the story behind it, but the malt is still irresistable and charming.  I would much rather drink this, or even Kilchoman's wonderful sherry-aged 2011 Spring Release than a 12 year old Macallan or 18 year Glenlivet.  Some consumers complain about the cost, seeing that using quality ingredients is a more expensive procedure, but it's obviously not for everyone. There's always room for non-organic Safeway produce while others enjoy the farmer's market.

The newest rendition of Bruichladdich's ultra-peated Octomore series is set to make its U.S. appearance this Fall.  The five year old, over-achieving malt is smoked to a ridiculous 152 ppm and bottled at cask strength, yet the purity and delicacy of the spirit make it palatable straight from the bottle.  Bruichladdich's attention to their stills and therefore their new make spirit has allowed them to market younger whiskies with confidence.  While clocking in well over $100, there is still a passionate following for the Octomore series amongst those who appreciate peated malts, namely because the vivaciousness of the whisky is simply unmatched. 

After only appearing in annual batch releases, Bruichladdich is ready to make Port Charlotte a full time product.  While none of the whisky in their peated malt has made it to ten years old, the Port Charlotte is so good that the lack of an age statement is unimportant.  The richness is more than convincing, the textures are soft, and the balance of smoke is fantastic.  At around the $60 price point, it will immediately compete with it's other NAS cohort - the Ardbeg Uigeadail - for control over the hearts and minds of value-searching Islay lovers.  I personally find it much more satisfying than other more established and mature Islay malts like Lagavulin 16 or Caol Ila 12.  While I find both of those whiskies more than satisfactory, there's simply something more going on in the Port Charlotte whisky - a brightness or high note that stands out above the others. 

Literally every single day there's a customer at K&L who discovers that single malts are not actually single whiskies, but rather blends of numerous malts that just happen to be made at the same distillery.  I think that understanding this fact goes a long way in breaking down the walls of ageism.  Once you realize that single malts are more about mixing for flavor and less about a single qualitative age statement (unless you're buying single barrels, of course), the idea of drinking something younger seems less risky.  NAS whiskies like Ardbeg's Uigeadail, Corryvreckan, Alligator, and Supernova have helped immensely in this transition where more drinkers today have begun to open their minds.  While older and more established distilleries are playing it safe with their mild-mannered classics, younger and hipper producers are showing us that passion, skill, and dedication can sometimes trump experience.  The classic distilleries of Islay have never been more popular, but it's the younger, hungrier distilleries who are keeping it relevant.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Oct192011

K&L Spirits Podcast #19 - Tequila Importer Jacob Lustig

Jacob Lustig and I have been working together for the last year with the Cyrus Noble Bourbon label, but never did I suspect that he was the biggest tequila expert I knew.  For a gringo, Jacob's Español es perfecto and his experience in Mexico dates back to his childhood when he and his mother would travel back and forth between SF and Oaxaca.  He has worked as the head of Southern Wine and Spirits Latin department and has more than 20 years of experience working with producers in Mexico.  Listen to Jacob talk about his new Selección ArteNOM tequila label, the farming of agave, regional distinction between distillers in Jalisco, and everything else you never knew about agave spirits.  This is one of the most informative interviews I've ever done!  I learned a ton.

This episode can be downloaded here or from our podcast page at Apple iTunes.  Previous episodes can be viewed by clicking the Podcast Archive link located in the margin on the right hand side of this page.  You can also listen via our embedded Flash player above.

Sunday
Oct162011

Tequila From a Distillery

You may remember my article from a few weeks back about our attempt to bring in tequila made by the same people who market it.  Much like we do with our Champagne selection, we have chosen to seek out smaller grower/producers who are interested in tequila and the process of making it, rather than just the money from selling it.  Today, I met with Jacob Lustig who works for Haas Brothers in San Francisco.  He's the guy who brought us Cyrus Noble Bourbon and a few other interesting mezcals.  What I didn't know about Jacob was that his principle position at Southern Wine & Spirits for more than a decade was as manager of the "Latino/Hispanic" products i.e. tequila and mezcal.  Jacob was actually born in San Francisco, but moved back and forth between Oaxaca and the Bay Area beginning as a 6 year old.  He and his mother would plant agave for fun while there and Jacob took a serious interest in the plant.  When he attended UCSC as a college student, he specifically studied the history of the Mexican liquor business.  While working at Southern, Jacob noticed that all of the relationships between U.S. conglomerate companies and Mexican distillers ended with all the boutique producers left in the dust.  Everything was about bulk, rather than quality.  After 11+ years at SWS, Jacob finally decided to use his long-standing relationships and his encyclopedic knowledge to help bring his favorite producers into the country.  He quit his job and started working as an importer. 

With his new Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion line up of artisan spirits, Jacob has created a series of bottles that lets the consumer know exactly where the tequila is from, who distilled it, and where the dstillery is located.  In fact, each tequila is named after the actual NOM of the distillery that produced it (Norma Oficial Mexicana - given to each distillery and printed on every bottle of tequila and mezcal).  This is exactly the kind of transparency I've been begging for!  Consumers (at least our consumers) want to know where there booze is made!  They want to know the differences between the facilities and the type of agave they are using.  Jacob is well aware of this and, more importantly, he is able to articulate them.  I was so blown away with his presentation today that I will once again be resurrecting the K&L Spirits Podcast for a one hour conversation about tequila this evening.  All of the following tequilas were made especially for Jacob and his label.  Here's what we tasted and what will be arriving this week:

Seleccion ArteNOM 1079 - Jesus-Maria, Jalisco (Mountain Agave 6,200 ft. Alt.) $TBA ($40-ish) - Rancho El Olvido is tequila's highest altitude distillery.  The agave grown at this level hits a higher BRIX sugar level owing to a porous soil and a climate that stresses the agave more.  The nose is packed with lime, pepper, and other citrus fruits, but it isn't overly zesty.  It's there, but it's subdued and concentrated.  Amazingly flavorful considering it's so mild!  A delicate dance of black pepper and baking spices.  Part of the elegance is due to the fact that these guys do not add agave nectar to re-ferment the mash (a practice that is currently legal and results in big, smooth, candied tequilas).  Because agave nectar is 100% agave, the bottle can still claim to be 100% agave even though it's the same as chapitalizing a wine.  This tequila offers purity, authenticity, and quality for a very affordable price.  Highly recommended.

Seleccion ArteNOM 1414 - Arandas, Jalisco (Mountain Agave 5,400 ft. Alt.) $TBA ($45-ish) - Destileria El Ranchito has been owned by Feliciano Vivanco since the post-revolutionary period of 1919-1929.  They hold 2,000 acres of estate grown agave and distill everything on traditional pot stills.  Their fermentation process is what makes them very unique - something about the yeast and their climate creates a bready, yeasty, banana nut aroma and flavor.  This is an incredibly understated reposado that absolutely blew me away with its uniqueness and mild-mannered profile.  Nutty, bready, with cinnamon bursts and spicy cloves on the palate.  Very unique and very, very good.

Selecction ArteNOM 1146 - Atotonilco El Alto, Jalisco (Mountain Agave 4,620 ft. Alt.) $TBA ($55-ish) - Casa Tequileña is owned and operated by Enrique Fonesca, known as El Arquitecto.  A fifth-generation grower and master distiller who holds one of the largest plots of agave in the industry, this añejo is made to showcase the oak without overshadowing the agave.  The nose is amazing!  Again, subdued and needing to be coaxed, but incredible when it finally arrives.  Nutty aromas with toasted vanilla, but neither rich nor oaky.  Warm baking spices on the palate, which is incredibly lean for an añejo!  Black pepper and fruit on the finish with more roasted nuts.  Divine!

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Oct152011

Self Conscious & Defensive Drinkers

In life there are certain subjects of knowledge that society seems to value above others.  While we may believe that the study of medicine, the law, or business will ultimately bring us respect, no one wants to talk about those themes while letting loose at a cocktail party (unless everyone in the room happens to be a lawyer or a doctor).  Meanwhile, the people who have not chosen the path of mainstream education, like the guy who dropped out of high school and now plays in a band on the weekends, are the ones holding the attention of your dinner guests.  The uniqueness of personal experience will always trump education in a coolness competition. I know this because I've been on both sides of this divide.  At one point in my life, I was a scholar.  I studied for my masters in German literature and totally thought about the ideas of Kant, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein. I totally thought this was cool and interesting.  I was totally alone in that assumption. 

You would think that terminating my future as a literature professor and beginning a career in a liquor store would make for less interesting conversation or even garner me less respect.  However, when people at a party find out that I know something about booze, it's all we talk about for the rest of the night.  Like I mentioned above, booze is simply one of those subjects that everyone feels they should know something about, but don't.  Maybe they know a little, a tidbit that someone told them once as guidance, but ultimately people seem to be fascinated by other people who understand alcohol.  I get pelted with questions about wine, whisky, and drinking in general once the K&L name gets dropped.  While at times the attention I get can be very flattering, there is a serious downside to this.

If you're reading this blog it probably means that you too know something about alcohol, so you may have found yourself in a similar situation when the conversation turns to booze.  This is usually a guy thing because it has mostly to do with ego, but maybe it happens with women too.  Since booze is one of those things that everyone at dinner or a party enjoys, the knowledge of booze becomes more valuable than say something truly worthwhile, like knowing how to save a life or the education of impoverished children.  When other people drinking realize that you actually know something about what you're all imbibing, they get self-conscious and defensive - instantly.  It's completely insane, but it happens 100% percent of the time, which is why I now try and refrain from talking about wine or spirits at any social gathering where I don't know anyone.  Usually it's very methodical and tends to manifest itself in one of the following examples:

1) "I think it's silly to care so much about something like alcohol."  Well, I'm not the one trying to talk about this!  People are asking me.  You asked me what I did for a living, I told you I worked in a liquor store.  Then everyone started asking me questions and that's it!

2) "I lived in France one time, and we drank wine everyday, and I stayed with the guy who made it, and he worked at a very prestigious winery, Chateau something or other, and HE knew everything about wine, and he told me...."  If you know something about booze, someone at that party definitely knows someone who knows more about booze than you.  You think you're so cool?  Well guess what everyone, you're not.  There's a guy in France and he knows way more than me or any of you about booze!  So suck on that.

3) "Have you ever had Macallan 30 year?  Oh, no?  Well let me tell you - it's the best.  Have you ever had Highland Park 40 year?  Yes?  Oh, that's not that good."  The test.  Someone who also knows a little about booze will definitely test your might by peppering you with questions to see exactly where you're at.  He'll most likely give himself away as someone who knows very little in the process.  However, as soon as he knows something you don't.....that's what you'll be talking about for the rest of the conversation.

Either by discrediting, competing with, or testing one's experience, someone in the room will always attempt to take out their anxiety on anyone who understands alcohol.  It happens at wine tastings, social gatherings, bars, dinner parties, family reunions, you name it.  If people are gathering and drinking, then at some point the subject will come up.  I used to chime in when that happened, but now I know better.  Maybe people like us who drink and understand alcohol are a threat because we enjoy our lives?  Maybe we're all to be snuffed out like members of a Bacchus cult?  Maybe it's that we've spent our free time learning about something that others don't make time for?  I'm not sure.  It's not like someone who understands booze is the most interesting person alive.  Besides, that guy only drinks Dos Equis anyway.

-David Driscoll