Rewards For Good Behavior

We were very busy yesterday with a line out to the front door for most of the afternoon. Lots of people were ready to get their drink on, so much of my time was spent simply ringing people up and wishing them a happy weekend. However, I did have a small break during the onslaught where I was able to answer a few whiskey questions. While I was helping one gentleman with a Bourbon inquiry, another man who was kinda hanging back, off to the side, finally asked where he could find the Larceny from Heaven Hill. I pointed it out to him on the shelf and he said thank you. He then said, "You don't have any Weller by any chance, do you? I can't seem to find it anywhere."

"No, I don't unfortunately," I answered, before launching into the scripted response. I finished the explanation with: "Basically, all the guys who can't find a bottle of Pappy have decided that the Weller Bourbons are the next closest thing, so tracking down a bottle has become rather difficult." And what did the man say in response?

Did he say, "Oh, that's not me. I'm not one of those guys whose taste is dictated by fashion."?


Did he say, "Oh, I'm well aware of what's going on. In fact, I just got back from Kentucky where I personally met with each master distiller, so I'm more than versed in the situation."?

Nope (although someone has said that to me before).

What he said was: "Wow, you've got me pegged." He chuckled, and continued: "That's exactly what I'm trying to do. I've always been a Jack Daniels drinker, but a few friends told me about other Bourbons I should try. I don't want to spend that much money on something like Pappy, however, so I thought I could maybe track down the Weller."

"You've never had it before?" I asked in response.

"No, like I said, I'm not that serious of a drinker. I just thought I'd give it a try, but apparently I'm just like everyone else out there," he said.

I was so moved by someone owning up to their actual mission, willing to admit that they didn't know anything, and the fact that he had actually never tried anything from Weller, that I marched right up to my desk, grabbed that unsalable bottle of Weller with the small dent in the cap, put it in a bag, and handed it to the gentleman on his way out.

"This one's on me," I said.

Good behavior always deserves a reward.

-David Driscoll


What Can I Do?

I get a lot of emails from people who are interested in learning more about alcohol, but aren't necessarily ready to make it a career path. The truth is: working in a retail store will greatly increase one's exposure to different types of wine and spirits. However, if you can make friends with other people who share your interests, using the strength in numbers can be just as effective. Namely, it allows you to split the cost of a tasting between one another. It's not uncommon for a few of us here at K&L to organize a dinner, come up with a menu, and ask everyone to chip in to cover the fee. Like the Bordeaux dinner we did Wednesday night at John Bentley's, just a few buildings down from our Redwood City store.

When you pool your resources, you give yourself access to bottles that might normally be out of reach. Haut Brion Blanc, for example, isn't something I'm usually able to afford. But that didn't stop me from having a glass Wednesday night!

It also helps to invite knowledgable people to your tasting; specifically, folks whose egos won't detract from the atmosphere. Don't invite anyone who will just blabber about the one time they went to Bordeaux and tasted at all the famous chateaux. There's nothing worse than being trapped in a room with someone like that. Invite people who can help you develop your own palate. That's why we asked Bordeaux expert Ralph Sands to join us.

And our owner Clyde Beffa. He really knows his shit. If you can get the store owner to come, even better.

Book a room at a restaurant and have them put together a menu for you. Bring the wines in. Split the costs. That's the best possible way to taste as much product as possible in the best possible environment. I wish we could do this every week.

P.S. To read Jeff Garneau's write up on the wine blog click here.

-David Driscoll


Three More Wild Turkey Barrels

We're finally to the end of our incredible Wild Turkey run. After selecting nine specific casks with Eddie and Jimmy Russell back in 2013, the final few barrels have come home to roost. Check out the descriptions below (including one barrel that was almost empty).

Russell's Reserve K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #2043 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99- We're back with more hand-picked K&L barrels, directly from Wild Turkey's Lawrenceburg warehouse where our spirits team visited and tasted with legendary distiller Jimmy Russell. Barrel 2403 is a gentle whisper of a whiskey compared to many of the monsters we've secured over the years. One would never think 55% upon tasting this delicate Bourbon. The aromas are classic burnt sugar and toasted wood and those notes translate into a creamy and supple mouthfeel on the initial entry. The palate then turns into herbaceous notes of pepper and dried underbrush before finishing with leaner flavors of pencil lead and savory spices. Those who just want a bottle they can pour and enjoy without the addition of water or ice will love this whiskey. It's lovely sipper that drinks beautifully right from the get go.

Russell's Reserve K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #2087 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99- Those looking for the bright spice and youthful vigor of the Russell's Reserve will want to go with barrel #2087. A veritable explosion of pepper, baking spices, dried herbs, and savory goodness takes off right from the first sip. While not exhibiting the power of something like Four Roses cask strength or George Stagg, the higher than normal alcohol level definitely helps bring the spices to the forefront and accent them on the palate. Bright cinnamon and clove carry through for at least five minutes on the finish. A lovely whiskey.

Russell's Reserve K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #554 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99 -Barrel #554 was already half-empty when we tasted it having evaporated at an incredible speed even for Kentucky standards. That phenomenon usually translates into a more concentrated core of oak flavor, which the nose initially suggests as well. Big vanilla and intense wood are apparent right from the initial whiff. The palate is rich and spicy, but not nearly as sweet as the nose seems to tease. The flavors are bold and big, but always balanced by the alcohol and the herbaceousness also enacted by the oak. The finish is extremely woody and this is where the extra concentration really leaves its mark. Dried leaves, forest floor, and sage all linger for minutes after the whiskey has been consumed.

-David Driscoll


We're Not Out of the Woods Yet

The great American whiskey shortage is no longer a secret. We're no longer spending hours of our day explaining to customers why they can't get Black Maple Hill anymore, or why getting things like Weller 107 or Sazerac rye are still difficult despite the increases in production. After years and years of blog posts, emails, and phone conversations, our entire customer base is pretty much up to speed on the situation. Plus, we're starting to see a few glimpses of blue in those dreary Kentucky skies, with larger drops of previously unavailable whiskies happening more frequently.

That being said, other scenarios are getting worse rather than improving. The situation with the ports on the West Coast is playing the most significant role in the current shortage of brands like Glenlivet, Aberlour, and other basic expressions you don't expect to be absent from the liquor store shelf (we've been out of both of those whiskies for almost a month). However, the situation with Japanese whisky supplies has nothing to do with dock strikes and everything to do with demand. Many consumers have already felt the pinch with Yamazaki 12 and 18 stocks, or experienced the recent difficulty in tracking down a bottle of Hibiki. The word finally came in from Suntory this week regarding the future of allocations and distribution: one case per store, per month. That means we can only get six bottles of Hibiki 12 per month total. It's a bit like the three bottles of Weller 12 we're allowed to buy per week: not even enough to last fifteen seconds on the website. It comes in and goes right back out in the blink of an eye. Basically, if you want to buy these bottles from us, you have to troll our website 24/7 to see when they land and hope that you're the fastest clicker. It's not going to be much fun.

Nikka supplies, in contrast, have been strong and unchanging, but I did hear a few rumblings this week from my friends in Japan. The 12 year old Pure Malt will be losing its age statement due to supply issues (that's been a long time coming), but it turns out that the popularity of the Japanese show Massan & Ellie, which tells the story of Masataka Taketsuru's journey to Scotland in 1918, is having a drastic effect on the consumption of Nikka whisky at home. Basically, it's exciting the local populace into drinking so much Nikka whisky that the company is now burning through supplies at an alarming rate. But, of course, we American whiskey drinkers have been down this road already. We know what's going to happen. It's just that now it's going to happen in Japan. Basically, if you're as big a fan of the Nikka whiskies as I am, now might be a good time to put an extra bottle or two aside.

Scotland looks good for the moment. As you probably saw from our most recent arrival of K&L casks, the prices are looking more reasonable and the availability is better than it's been in years. David and I will be heading back across the Atlantic in a few weeks to do some more digging and keep the supply flowing. In the meantime, don't expect the Pacific supply chain to unloosen any time soon. They're tightening their belts, getting ready for their own shortage over on that side of the world.

-David Driscoll


The No-Compete Clause Has Expired

That's right. Four years after selling Hangar One vodka to Proximo, our boys at St. George distillery are finally back in the vodka business. While the local heroes, Lance and Dave, over in Alameda were not allowed to sell a vodka of their own for 1,460 days, that didn't mean they weren't going start working on a few forumulae. Time has now passed, and the contract has since expired, which means it's time to get your vodka drink on. Let me now introduce you to the new St. George vodkas.

St. George All Purpose Vodka $24.99 Made from 100% American grain and fruit, the "all purpose" vodka is soft, lithe, and clean; finishing with a rounded mouthfeel that is both simultaneously refreshing and gentle. The supple weight comes from Bartlett pears, which are distilled to 95% to create the expression.  

St. George California Citrus Vodka $24.99 - Infused with California Bergamot, Valencia, and Seville oranges, the bright citrus flavor comes from 100% Lindcove produce. All the oranges were both infused and distilled in separate batches before being blended together to create the final magic. Add pizzazz to a Cosmo, or accent a vodka-cran, but amari like China China or Nonino also play well with this lovely, elegant expression.  

St. George Green Chile Vodka $24.99 Made from California jalapenos, habaneros, serranos, and both yellow and red bell peppers, each pepper is actually infused and distilled separately before being blended together. The still is also packed with cilantro and a bit of lime peel to add extra brightness and flavor. Try this in a Bloody Mary, add it with tequila in a Margarita or Paloma, and even a Pina Colada. It's incredible!!!  All hail the new kings of American vodka.

After four years of exile, the boys from the East Bay are back to claim the vodka crown and the throne. All hail the return of the king. St. George vodkas are back at K&L where they belong.

-David Driscoll