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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

9/24 - San Francisco: Monkey 47 w/Christoph Keller!

9/24 - Redwood City: Germain Robin K&L Exclusive Brandy!

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Bourbon Barrel #344 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Bourbon Barrel #345 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1990 Glenfarclas K&L Exclusive Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER

Glenfarclas "The Faultline Casks" K&L Exclusive First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER

1997 Bunnahabhain Heavily Peated 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Chieftain's Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1998 Laphroaig 15 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1983 Caol Ila 30 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

2002 Bowmore 11 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Refill Sherry Hogshead Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW

1992 Bruichladdich 21 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1988 Balmenach 25 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1997 Benrinnes 17 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1997 Dailuaine 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1995 Glen Elgin 18 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

1997 Glenlivet 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Sherry Butt Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!!

1981 Glenlivet 32 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength 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!

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

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!

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!


Tasting Schedule (plus, David freaks out like a little girl)

Tomorrow's tastings will feature Val in San Francisco pouring the debut of Kilchoman's Machir Bay which we will have in stock at that time for $53.99.  He might be a few minutes late, so stop by at 5:15 or so.  Redwood City will feature Christine Cooney pouring her selections of Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados.  Both are free of charge!

So here's the deal with the Kilchoman: if you had asked me yesterday what my favorite single malt of 2012 has been so far, I would have said it's a toss-up between the Glenmorangie Artein and the Bruichladdich 10.  Now, however, there's no doubt in my mind about what the best malt of 2012 is so far:  it's the Kilchoman Machir Bay.  Having just re-tasted it with Val a few minutes ago, I can pretty much say that I screamed like a little girl meeting Justin Bieber after tasting it.  It's that good.  I don't make any guarantees that you'll think it's that good, but something about Kilchoman really hits me on that upper level.  This is supreme whisky.  

It's no secret that we're big fans of Kilchoman here at K&L. Our recent visit to the distillery on Islay really opened our eyes to the incredible job this small farm is doing. Kilchoman is truly a tiny operation, producing on one spirit still and malting whatever they can inside their humble barn. Because of their small-scale operation, the cost of production is higher so prices for Kilchoman so far have not been inexpensive. Getting to taste the new-make whisky right off the still, I can firmly say that, in my opinion, there is no higher quality of peated whisky being produced anywhere else. The attention to detail and the hands-on distillation Kilchoman is able to give its single malts is making a world of difference. Every release has been better than the last, albeit extremely limited in supply. Finally, however, the time has come when this small farm is ready to introduce a full-time, affordable, house recipe, rather than another pricey single barrel release. The Machir Bay is not only incredibly delicious, it's a huge victory for a distillery that had to overcome huge obstacles. At $54, this is what Kilchoman fans have been waiting for - incredibly delicate, finely-tuned flavors of soft smoke, sea salt, creamy vanilla, and butterscotch. It's a more subdued version of their high-toned barrel expressions, but it's still very much Kilchoman. Think Bruichladdich meets Lagavulin. 

The Machir Bay is a vatting of 60% 3 year, 35% of 4 year and 5% of 5 year old single malt, matured in fresh bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace. The 4 year old portion was finished in Oloroso Sherry butts for 2 months. I can't stress enough how fantastic this whisky is. It's not for the super-esoteric whisky geeks, this is as accessible as peated whisky gets - soft and gentle, yet loaded with smoke, with a high-toned cinnamon finish, and a mouthful of butterscotch when it's all said and done. It's absolutely stunning and there's no amount I wouldn't buy of it. If we could buy 2,000 cases, I would.

I don't usually throw my weight behind something this strongly.  I'm always passionate about booze, but I can clearly say that this really caught me off guard.  I had to keep tasting it again and again to make sure I wasn't simply over-reacting.  If you don't believe me, I don't blame you.  However, tomorrow night at K&L San Francisco, you'll have a chance to decide for yourself.  Kilchoman has now proven to me that producing high-quality whisky for five solid years can result in whisky more impressive than what other distilleries achieve in ten to sixteen.  Even if you don't think it's as good as I do, I think you'll still be shocked at what they've been able to accomplish.  

-David Driscoll


Humble Beginnings

There have been a few interactions in the store lately that have caused me two dwell upon some early experiences in my booze education.  We had a customer in yesterday carrying Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible, scavenging through the aisles in search of the varietals she needed for her studies.  Seeing that book instantly brought me back to Millbrae, summer of 2007, when I lived with my wife (then girlfriend), our one small room in the basement of our landlord’s house, skimming that book under dim light through the characteristics of each grape, running back and forth to Safeway, purchasing bottles that hopefully fit the description. I was still going to grad school, working part-time, so spending $16 on a bottle of Bonny Doon Cardinal Zin was absolutely crazy, but I so badly wanted to know what it tasted like.  That’s how my wine education began.  Not at a dinner table, or in a beautiful wine cellar, or in a fancy restaurant, but rather on an old double mattress, in a dank, underground bedroom, with whatever I could find at the supermarket.

While stocking the liquor shelves in the afternoon, I overheard someone discussing wine glasses and how they needed to get a set for their home.  It was clear this person was new to the wine game, but he was adamant about only drinking “high-end” stuff.  Therefore, he was only interested in glassware that could support wines of quality, not low quality glass for drinking the rinky-dink, everyday slop.  Besides the misguided belief that fine wine cannot be enjoyed from an eight-dollar wine glass, the unnerving part of that conversation relates to society’s obsession with only drinking the “best,” while skipping over the unimportant parts.

Crime author Jo Nesbo has a character in his book Nemesis who only buys greatest hits compellations on CD because he doesn’t have time for anything but the best.  I laughed out loud reading that.  There’s no way to understand context if you haven’t experienced everything, but sometimes people are more concerned about appearance than actual understandingYou can’t understand Steinbeck just by reading the Grapes of Wrath.  You’ve got to read Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row, and East of Eden too, even though they’re not as famous.  Buying a fancy camera with expensive lenses won’t make you a professional photographer.  You still need to understand how to use a standard manual SLR before you’re ever going to take better pictures. 

When I look back at drinking inexpensive wine from mis-matched glasses on the floor of my overcrowded bedroom, I don’t think of those times with any sense of embarrassment.  Realizing how my experience has led me to different tastes only makes those beginning stages more important.  I could never realize the beauty of the Ridge Geyserville had I never tasted the Cardinal Zin.  I would never appreciate Tavel rose were it not for the jugs of white zinfandel I chugged during college.  Don’t feel the need to pretend you’re not from humble origins if you are.  Those roots are requisite for any serious appreciation of booze.  Any embarrassment or regret should stem from never having had those experiences, not the other way around.

-David Driscoll


Ardbeg Day - You've Got A Few Minutes....

Feast upon the glory of Ardbeg……..

Ardbeg "Ardbeg Day" Single Malt Whisky 750ml (1 bottle limit) $89.99 - This super-limited release from Ardbeg comes just in time for the annual festival on Islay and the planned June 1st Ardbeg Day celebration world-wide.  Eponymously titled the "Ardbeg Day" whisky, this marriage of casks sees an extra six months maturation in sherry casks for a richer, more full-bodied Ardbeg experience.  Ginger and wood spice on the nose leads into a spicy, yet creamy palate of burnt sugar and big time peat.  The finish shows faint traces of stewed fruit and more fresh, bright peaty notes.  Another fantastic malt from the rock star of the whisky industry.  One bottle limit per person.  These will be gone in a flash.  Grab it while you can. This will likely be the most talked about release of 2012. 

ONE BOTTLE ONLY.  Anyone who tries to buy more than one on various orders will have ALL orders cancelled.  Don’t risk it.  We’re watching you!

These are only the bottles for the North, so there should be one more drop.  LA should be getting another 30 or so if you miss out today.  Have at it. UPDATE: LA now has their bottles so all inventory is live. 

-David Driscoll


Still Stocking - Now Working On Bruichladdich

While Kyle is busy stocking all the new booze from today's earlier post below, I'm frantically adding all the tasting notes in the system for the new Bruichladdich releases.  Then I've got to get it all on the shelf!  Here's what just arrived:

Octomore 4.2 Comus Heavily Peated Islay Whisky $189.99 - Peated at 167 ppm and run at a slow drip through the still, the Octomore from Bruichladdich is the peatiest whisky in the world. At a whopping 61%, this new 4.2 Comus release has been finished in Chateau d'Yquem casks, adding richness to the bright, almost cinnamon-like peat of the Octomore whisky. Rich golden raisins with a peaty punch in the face. Tropical fruits smoked and caramelized to high Heaven. This is not for the faint of heart, yet it's something everyone should try at least once (and perhaps several times for the truly hedonistic).

Octomore 4.1 Heavily Peated Islay Whisky $189.99 - For a whisky peated at 167 ppm, the peat almost blurs, much like light does on a starship entering warp speed. Big smoke, big spice, earth and bog, heather and flowers, all passing through the palate like a rocket. It's everything Bruichladdich promises it to be and more. It's also 62.5% so watch out.

Bruichladdich Black Art 2nd Edition 21 Year Old Islay Single Malt Whisky $169.99 - Always one of Bruichladdich's more esoteric offerings, yet by no means less brilliant, the Black Art series alludes to Jim McEwan's almost devilish ability to conjure up flavors never-before seen in single malt whisky. Using a combination of various wine casks, this 21 year old whisky undergoes a transformation that takes the rich, oily textures of old Bruichladdich and combines it with cherries, blackberries, currants, and a melee of other red-fruited delights. The vanilla and oak come smoothly on the finish. It's a decadent whisky and it's always quick to sell out. Grab it while it's here.

PC8 - Port Charlotte Ar Duthchas Islay Single Malt Whisky $99.99 - Bruichladdich's Port Charlotte project only continues to progress and evolve into some of the best peated whisky in the business. This eighth release is full of salty sea spray with doses of citrus and bright peat tones on the nose, combining with the oily, textural mouthfeel that defines this distillery. Soft oak on the finish smooths everything out. Another great achievement.

Port Charlotte An Turas Mor Islay Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - Finally! We've got a full-time peated expression from Bruichladdich, not a one-off, limited release we all have to rush out and secure. Not that you shouldn't get one of the An Turas Mor immediately because it might be the best deal in peated Islay at the moment. For $60 you get more sweetness than Ardbeg, less oil than Bowmore, less sherry than Lagavulin, and more richness than Laphroaig. Creamy, yet peaty at the same time. This is the missing link for peated Islay we've been desperately waiting for.

Bruichladdich Organic Islay Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - While the Bruichladdich 10 is getting all the accolades, as it should, the new permanent Organic release is quietly winning over distillery visitors with its gentle grain and vanilla character. Made from the barley of organic Scottish mainland farms, the clean and malty nature of the whisky shines in a way that other straightforward Scotches seem to miss. That's to say that a flavor profile some find boring or bland in basic single malts seems to work fantastically well with the Organic. No longer simply a limited vintage release, the multi-vintage vatting smoothes out some of the harshness from the previous 2003 release and reigns in the power. The citrus is delicate, the vanilla elegant, and the notes of honey and blossom wither in and out on the palate. A wonderfully easy-going whisky made by good people and very special barley.

-David Driscoll


Stocking The Shelves

We've got a lot of new booze hitting the shelves this week.  Taking two weeks off seemed to thin out our supply a bit, so I'm doing everything I can to fill it back up again.  Getting all of the bitters moved to a separate area in Redwood City has opened up the top of our shelves for more retail space, giving me a bit more room to expand.  Today, while I've been upstairs pumping out the orders, Kyle has been in the warehouse cutting boxes and filling carts.  Here's a sneak peek at some of our new arrivals this week:

The arrival of Tequila 916 fills a great niche for us here at K&L.  We've got the $20 price point covered for quality mixing with brands like Espolon and Calle 23.  We've got the high-end, $40+ sippers covered with ArteNOM, Arette and Gran Dovejo.  However, what about the crossover, in-between deal at $28-$32 that can easily translate into either category?  I give you Tequila 916 – a new tequila with the bright, fresh agave flavor to hold up in a mixed drink, but with the quality and complexity to warrant slow sipping.  The packaging is great, the bottles are sleek, the juice is good, and the price is fantastic.  Overall, it's a retailer's dream come true.

Tequila 916 Blanco Tequila $28.99 – The blanco is more vibrant than the average brand name bottles, focusing on the pepper and citrus rather than just going for "smooth."  As a bonafide blanco fanatic, I'm overjoyed that they went this route, rather than simply adding another neutral, inoffensive tequila to the overcrowded mix.  The alcohol is still completely in check, however, and the finish is clean, lingering with baking spices.  Whether you shoot it, mix it, or sip it, there's no way to ingest this Tequila 916 that won't end up pleasurable – especially when you consider the fact that it's less than $30.

Tequila 916 Reposado Tequila $31.99 – The cinnamon and vanilla comes wafting right out of the glass, fulfilling all expectations for a classic reposado tequila. The palate is clean and gentle, with more soft richness before finishing with a bit of white pepper.  Again, for $32 you simply can't argue with the price.  What a deal.

Tequila 916 Añejo Tequila $33.99 – Much like my appreciation for the more traditionally-styled Tequila 916 blanco, I'm once again relieved that they didn't feel the need to pump in the caramel and create a Cognac instead of an añejo tequila.  The extra barrel spice is there, more clove and cinnamon, but the agave pepper is never overwelmed in spite of it.  The finish is spicy and fun, unlike many more expensive añejos in the market.  Well done.

I think what's exciting about Tequila 916 is the fact that all three expressions are equally as good.  Usually, most brands have a blanco that stands out, but struggle with the reposado or añejo.  In the case of Tequila 916, there isn't one expression I would recommend over another – all are equally solid and represent tremendous value for the money, as well as utility.  They're obviously not made for the tequila geeks of the world, but they're not boring or bland either.  I'm excited to see what people think.

Who said all we deal with is the expensive stuff?  In conjunction with our new bargain tequilas, we're bringing in the bargain rum of 2012.  As I mentioned a while back, I met with Ricardo March from Ron Abuelo last week and retasted their line up of all-estate produced Panamanian rums.  We've carried their top-shelf Centuria rum for some time – a fantastically complex rum for serious cigar smokers – however, where was my head when I passed on carrying the seven year?  The Ron Abuelo 7 Year Old Rum is only $24.99 and has the subtle sweetness, rich molasses, and smooth texture to be the best-selling rum at K&L.  I can't imagine anyone not loving this.  You might as well hate puppies or kittens if you don't.

Here's another new product I had meant to bring in before we left for Scotland, but completely forgot to do so.  DOG has had it in the Hollywood store for a little while already, so here are his notes:

Amaro di S. Maria al Monte Bitter Liqueur in a 1 Liter bottle! $36.99 - The Vignale company has produced the S. Maria Amaro since 1911, but the recipe goes back generations before that. It was first created by the monks of the Santa Maria Monastery near Florence. In the last half of the 18th century, the monks donated the recipe to the Duke of Aosta as a show of loyalty. In 1911, Mr. Vignale purchased the recipe and began producing it for the Liguarian region. The ingredients are 100% natural with absolutely no artificial flavors or colors. Each herb, root, and plant is macerated by hand to prevent heating by mechanized processing. Any type of heating, during maceration or infusion, will result in evaporation of the essential oils and limit the potential complexity of flavor. Once the infusion is filtered it is allowed to age for a long period of time to ensure mellowness and integration of flavors. Some of the ingredients used are Chinese Rhubarb, China Root, Gentian Root, Orange Peel, Angelica, Juniper, Muscat Nut, Saffron, plus many more. This is a truly exceptional after dinner drink and highly versatile cocktail component.

Come on by and check out our newly expanded selection!  It's only getting bigger and better.

-David Driscoll