Search This Blog

Return to

Spirits Journal Podcast Archive

Spirits Journal Twitter Feed

K&L Uncorked Blog

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!


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


Germain Robin's Fluid Dynamics

Man, are these little bottles going to be huge!  Germain Robin has done something very, very smart.  They've crafted four signature cocktails using their brandies and their Low Gap white whiskey, barrel aged some of them, and bottled them in 200ml, ready-to-go, squat bottles.  The labels are fantastic and the booze is even better.  The Brandy Manhattan is made with their Craft Method brandy and Vya sweet vermouth, then barrel aged.  The St. Nick uses the Craft Method with Clear Creek's Cranberry Liqueur!  My personal favorite, the Saratoga, is the Brandy Manhattan recipe, but with Low Gap white whiskey added. Who knew?!  It's splendidly delicious.  They didn't have the 1850 with them which uses Sazerac in the mix, but I'm sure it's tasty as well.  They didn't make too many of these, so I don't expect them to last until the Holidays, but for $19.99 they're going to fly.  People who don't normally even drink booze are going to be curious because of the cute bottle and the idea.  You can get about 2-3 cocktails out of each, so when you figure $10 a drink is the norm at your average bar these days, it's completely within reason.

Also on hand were releases #3 and #4 in their Mezcalero series, which if you didn't know, is the most exciting series in all of booze, in my personal opinion.  I absolutely treasure the #2 release and it looks like I'll be adding these others to my collection as well.  The #3 San Andres Huayapam Agave is smoky, tangy, bursting with citrus, and ultra clean on the finish.  The #4 San Juan del Rio Agave Sierra Negra is a pale gold color (despite no barrel aging) likely due to the concentration of "something," for lack of a better word, in the wild agave it was distilled from.  It is super tangy and far more fruity than the #3, with less tart citrus and more of an earthy character.  Both are amazing and both are distilled from different varieties of agave than the previous releases.  Their goal is to bring something new to the table with every batch and I appreciate that.  Both were distilled by different producers in Oaxaca and then bottled especially for Germain Robin with a retail price of $89.99.

These are not in stock at the moment, but should be in early next week! 

-David Driscoll


A Bruichladdich Visit

The nice part about having WhiskyFest in town is that all the major players fly in for the event and they end up coming by the store.  On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of meeting with Simon from Bruichladdich for some updates on their new whisky agenda.  The exciting part about Bruichladdich's new direction is its precision.  No more crazy, barrel-enhanced one offs.  No more 48 expression collection.  No more peated Bruichladdich, unpeated Bruichladdich.  There's now an all-encompassing idea and they're ready to consolidate.  From now on, no more Rocks, Waves, Peat.  We'll now have the Organic, the Classic, and Port Charlotte without designations or age statements.  The Organic is the everyday version of the vintage organics we've seen for the last year.  It will be a blend of 5, 6, and 7 year old whiskies, all from organic barley.  The Classic Laddie is a blend of 5, 6, 19, and 20 year old whiskies and will be a stable version of the Resurrection Dram.  No more vintages there either.  Also, no more PC7, PC8, PC9!  There's just Port Charlotte now.  The peated dram from Bruichladdich is going to retail for about $60 and is going to be a major competitor for Lagavulin 16 and Ardbeg Uigeadail.  This stuff is incredibly balanced with sweet Bourbon cask vanilla and integrated peat smoke. I was in love instantly.  Exciting!!  More Octomore on the way as well and this new batch is totally mindblowing.  It tastes like a 45% lightly peated malt, but it's actually a 60%, 150+ ppm explosion.  That's due to their amazing stills.

If you ask Simon, or even Jim for that matter, they'll tell you that the stills at Bruichladdich impact the most important element of their whisky's character.  The delicate, elegant nature of their new make comes from the small lyne arm of the Lomand still ("Ugly Betty") that makes sure only the lightest of alcohols make it into the heart cut.  There's no better example of this blithe vibrancy than their new Botanist Gin.  I've been waiting for almost a year to get this in the States and it's finally about to land!

Made with a large selection of Islay herbs and botanicals, the new Botanist Gin should take the American market by storm.  Beautiful concentration of herbal flavor, along with a smooth, supple palate that makes for one of the easiest gin drinks I've ever had.  Simon insists that the Bruichladdich stills have everything to do with this and I know Jim would agree.  The new Bruichladdich products are due to hit in a few weeks along with our exclusive Chenin Blanc cask!  Can't wait for people to try these.  Tasting them makes me realize how much I love this distillery and everything they're about.

-David Driscoll


Chieftain's Tasting! New Arrivals + Food = Fun

Time for another wonderful Chieftain's tasting in Burlingame!  Come and join us at the lovely La Boheme on Tuesday night, October 25th at 7 PM for a walkthrough of Chieftain's newest arrivals.  Caol Ila 14 in a Jamaican Rum cask, Rosebank 20 in sherry cask, plus two of our newest K&L exclusive arrivals - the Bladnoch 18 and the Dailuaine 27!  Other expressions will be poured as well! This will be a monster tasting all for only $25 and that includes food!!

Reservations are available here.  Your name will be added to a guest list, so no need to wait for an actual ticket!  See you there,

-David Driscoll


Whirlwind Weekend 

I could probably type up about three long articles worth of information concerning the events I participated in the this weekend, but I don't think they'd be all that interesting - mostly data about tasting notes and geeked-out explanations of what made certain spirits great.  At this point, I'm totally sapped and I just want to post a few pictures and give you a brief synopsis. Then I'm going to lay down on the couch, eat pizza, drink beer, and not move a finger until Tuesday morning when I go back to work.

On Friday, David OG, Kyle K (RWC's spirits expert-in-training), and I headed over to the Boothby Center to meet John Glaser for a whisky blending seminar, similar to the one we sponsored on Thursday night.  It was a complete blast.  John is one of those guys who knows how to make specs dynamic.  Shop talk seems like small talk when he's speaking.  It's not intimidating or scary, it's very human.

We all gathered at tables and constructed our own "Compass Box style" blend with the component whiskies that John provided.  Glaser is a very elegant, eloquent man, almost like the whisky world's version of Tim Gunn.  I kinda felt like I was on Project Runway (Project Whisky?) with Tim/John coming around to check on our progress and provide encouragement.

Our grain whisky was a 1994 Cameronbridge, I believe, and BOY did I truly resist adding anything to it!  It was so amazing on its own - rich and aromatic on the nose, but wacky and wild on the palate - much like our 1965 Caledonian we have coming soon.  Also included in the whisky kit were a 14 year old Laphroaig, some Spice Tree, and some Clynelish among others.

In the end, I opted for 50% Grain, 20% Laphroaig, 20% Spice Tree, 10% Clynelish.  John said to let it marry for a few weeks, so I'll see how it tastes then.

I'll spare you the breakdown on WhiskyFest (which was fun).  I will say, however, that the only thing there I had really yet to taste were the new 2011 BTAC whiskies and the super-hyped Samaroli single malts and rums. 

Samaroli is an Italian independent bottler who is known for great booze, but insanely high price tags.  The exorbitant cost, however, is due to their re-casking purchased barrels into new oak for further maturation.  The results are good, but not $400 good.  The rums were also quite interesting and the packaging exquisite.  Someone will buy them, but not me.

Today I met up with the usual cast of Bay Area booze characters for the Good Food Awards judging.  It felt like that scene in Rounders where Matt Damon goes into the poker game and he knows every player in the room even though it's likely been a while.  Jennifer Colliau from Slanted Door lead the way, followed by Thad, Eric, and Craig from Bar Agricole, jet-setting journalist Camper English from, Martin Cate from Smuggler's Cove and many other familiar faces.  Even Carl Sutton was there to judge beer!  It was fun to reunite with these people and talk booze.

We broke off into groups to start tasting spirits by category and choose finalists which we would then taste as a panel.

I tasted the vodka category with Bourbon and Branch founder Jon Santer and Rich Brandenburg, a restauranteur who flew in from D.C.  We had a great energy going and I think we did a commendable job communicating and breaking down the winners.

Alice was in the house judging preserves.  Even Michael Pollan was there to taste beer!  I didn't speak to them, however.  What was I going to say, "Hey Mike, I like your books?"  I wasn't going to be the 50th person that day to say such a thing.  "Alice, Chez Panisse is like totally awesome!"

After a bite to eat, and a visit around the corner to a local Irish bar where Carl, Martin, Camper and I pounded some pints, we gathered at the round table to make our final decisions. I'm excited to see who will win and will post the results here later.

I'm pooped.  It's been fun liquorland, but I need some rest.

-David Driscoll