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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

10/29 - Redwood City: Alexander Murray Single Malts

11/5 - San Francisco: Alexander Murray Single Malts

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

1988 Blair Athol 25 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2001 Bowmore 12 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1990 Bruichladdich 23 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glen Ord 17 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Glenburgie 19 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glenrothes 17 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1998 Mortlach 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Sherry Butt Finish Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


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


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 SOLD OUT!


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 SOLD OUT!


1997 Benrinnes 17 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!


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 SOLD OUT!


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!


Saturday
Jul072012

New Gin (for this weekend?)

Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin $27.99 - More than any one distillery, more than any single producer, I'm completely obsessed with the products of Haus Alpenz – the small import company headed by Eric Seed, who you might call "the Kermit Lynch of the spirits world." He has a knack for traveling the globe, finding great regional spirits, and getting them back to the U.S. with fantastic packaging.  Dolin vermouth, Smith & Cross rum, Cocchi Americano – those are all from Haus Alpenz, along with many other unique and exciting products.  Eric has now introduced a new high-proof gin to the lineup.  Made by Hayman Distillers, the same company behind the Old Tom Gin we carry, this 57% London dry style gin is just what the doctor ordered for your gin and tonic, or any other cocktail where water is added, diluting the flavor of the spirit itself.  The massive proof cuts through those bubbles and keeps the gin itself at the center of focus.  Herbacious and full of bright juniper notes, this is a welcome addition to our shelf because of the value.  Most of the other "navy strength" gins are in the $40+ zone, but the Royal Dock comes in at a cool $27.99.  What a deal! I'm taking a bottle home with me tonight!

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jul062012

How Companies Profit When We Don't Know the Difference

Last year, my neighbor went to see Foreigner and Journey in a co-headline bill here in the Bay Area.  I thought it was funny she was so excited to see what are essentially two cover bands masquerading as the original act (and charging a fee as if they were the original act, to boot).  Not wanting to ruin her buzz, I kept my mouth shut and said it sounded like a good time.  She came back the next day talking about how much fun she had, how she and her friends had danced to all the hits, and how it took her back to high school hearing those two familiar voices.  I couldn’t take it at that point, so I said, “You know that those weren’t the two original singers, right?”  She stared at me with a blank expression.  “Lou Graham.  Steve Perry.  They’re not in the band anymore.  These bands have a couple of the original guys with some studio players filling out the gaps.”  All of a sudden, my neighbor wasn’t as excited about her experience.  “Well who the hell did I just pay to see then?” she cried.

There’s a reason why whisk(e)y companies pay millions of dollars for brand names. Most people don’t pay attention to what’s in their glass the way you and I do, but they do have brand recognition. “I’ve heard of Michter’s,” they say and they buy the Bourbon despite the fact that it’s no longer made in Pennsylvania.  In fact, they couldn’t care less about where it was made.  It’s not important to them nor has it ever crossed their mind.  That is, it’s not important until you tell them they may have bought the lesser version of the original thing.  No one likes to feel like they’ve spent money on something that wasn’t the real deal.  No one wants to be the person who didn’t know the difference.  “Oh, you didn’t know?  Jeez, I stopped drinking Michter’s years ago after they closed the distillery in 1989.”  That’s a line nobody ever wants to hear ­– even if they couldn’t tell the difference!  It’s not about flavor at that point, it’s about personal pride.  My neighbor couldn’t tell the difference between the old bands and the new ones. She had a blast at the concert. However, once she found out she paid big money for a karaoke jam session, she didn’t like it.

When big whisky companies start removing age statements from their whiskies and replace them with younger whiskies for the same price, it angers many of those who pay attention to booze. Nevertheless, most of the public won’t even flinch. For a majority of the population, there are more important things to do in life than follow the provenance of single malt whisky.  Kids, soccer practice, what’s for dinner, paying the bills – this is what we focus on.  "Foreigner got a new lead singer?  Sorry, I missed that. I figured if they were calling themselves Foreigner then it was probably the original band."  That’s where they get you.  You “figured” it was the same because it was called the same thing. Eddie Murphy made an entire movie about this idea years ago called the Distinguished Gentleman, where his character wins a seat in congress because he has the same name as the dead senator who once filled it ("No one actually knows their congressman is dead!"). 

As SKU pointed out yesterday, the “Golden Age” of booze probably ended about three years ago.  At K&L in 2009, you could walk into the store and get any whiskey you wanted for a reasonable price.  Now we have to keep things in the back, start a waitlist, and email people if they’re lucky enough to give us their money.  In 2009, there was enough whisk(e)y for everyone.  Now supply is running short, driving up prices, and sending enthusiasts into a frenzy while trying to source their favorite juice.  When shortages occur, companies take liberties with their brands. They drop age statements, use younger whisky to fill the bottles, replace one distillery with another, and charge us the same price.  We pay it because we don’t know the difference.  It has the same name on it, right?  What more do you need to know?

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jul052012

Two Whiskies No One Will Buy (but we carry, nevertheless)

Highland Chief Blended Scotch Whisky $12.99 - Anyone who is finding their bottle of Great King Street being emptied on too regular a basis should look here.  This is a little blend put together by the Hart Brothers independent bottler and I think it's just what we needed for our inexpensive blend category.  This easily drinks better than Dewar's or Famous Grouse and it's cheeeeeeeap! If you're outside on a warm day with some ice and soda, don't waste your good single malts.  This is fantastic alternative that has just enough vanilla and malty flavor.  I have gone through a bottle on my own (although, in honesty, I don't remember doing it).

Islay Mist 8 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky $24.99 - Worst name ever.  Terrible label.  Ugly combination of colors.  Great whisky.  Fabulous price.  With the amount of sherry and smoke going on in this bottle, I could probably be convinced this was Bowmore if I tasted it blind on the rocks.  I've tasted it about ten times now and each time I think it's going to expose its lesser qualities, but it never does.  Solid stuff.  Far better than Johnnie Walker Double Black and much less expensive.

Not excited about these?  That's OK.  These are for parties, when you need some Scotch and you don't want to break out the good stuff.  The best part is that no one even knows what these bottles are, so they also won't know how little you paid for quality sauce.

With all of the price increases coming, we should be happy to see fun little values like these.  Check out my man SKU's latest post today for another great synopsis of the current dilemma.  I've been posting in the comments this afternoon.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jul052012

Whisky Season 2012 Continues: Two New K&L Casks

The above picture is the tiny little malting floor at Kilchoman where they do their own in-house 100% Islay single malt, made from barley grown right there at the farm.  When we went to Kilchoman last May to pick out a cask, we never thought any of these precious local barley barrels would be on the table.  There is so little of this whisky available and why would the distillery want to sell of their precious commodity to a little store like K&L? Sometimes certain people just get along, however, and deals can be struck through common interest and friendship.  David and I really love John MacLellan, so we bullied, I mean charmed, him into releasing us two casks instead of one.  Each is totally unique from the other, throwing completely different spices into the mix.  If they hadn't been so unique we never would have taken them both - we simply had to have them!  Much like Meryl Streep in Sofie's Choice, we said, "Please don't make us choose!"  Therefore, we have returned with both barrels under contract: a stunning five year old sherry cask of Kilchoman, full of earth, peat, rich sherry, and smoke, along side an ultra-rare sherry cask of 100% Islay, originally planned only for the 2012 Feis Ile Festival visitors.  Both are available for pre-order now at a discount.

Kilchoman K&L Exclusive Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $99.99 - Getting to taste fresh Kilchoman, right of the still, was one of the highlights of the trip this year for David and me. Something magical is going on inside this tiny farm distillery. Their formula is so delicious, even as a white dog, that it hardly needs much aging at all. However, we were very curious to see what five years in a first-fill sherry cask would do to soften up some of the spice. Sitting in the warehouse with manager John MacLellan, we tapped into one of the fresh butts and poured ourselves a sample. This malt is loaded with fresh earth, chewy oils, petrol and peat smoke, mossy, dried grass, and a maritime sea air note that really hangs on the finish. It's a beast of a whisky, showcasing everything we love about both Kilchoman and sherry-aged Islay whisky. Of all the Kilchoman whiskies we've tasted, this one by far had the most maturity and was precocious beyond its years. It was only a matter of seconds before David and I looked at each other, nodded, and added another distillery-direct cask to the list. Years from now, when Kilchoman is one of the most sought-after malts in the world, no longer bottling private casks, we'll look back and say, "We used to buy them right out the warehouse."  These are heady days for Islay fans.

Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $109.99 - Our single sherry cask of standard Kilchoman was an easy choice. The malt was simply brilliant, so good that any Islay fan could easily fall in love with its power and complexity. It was the other barrel, however, sitting in the corner of the warehouse that brought out the whisky geeks in David and me. We had heard rumors that Kilchoman was sitting on a small batch of sherry-aged 100% Islay single malt, their ultra-delicious and incredibly-limited whisky made from a small crop of barley grown and malted entirely at the distillery. It's no secret that the rest of Islay buys their barley from Diageo's Port Ellen malting facility, but circumventing that route is difficult, not to mention costly. Is it worth it however?  The answer to that question is a resounding "YES!"  The spice on Kilchoman's all-Islay whisky is totally different from the standard make - think blanco tequila meets smoky mezcal, with lots of citrus. When you add a sherry barrel to that equation the spice turns to cinnamon red hots, the fruit tropical and hedonistic, the peat to a sweet and vibrant tang.  At cask strength, the malt overwhelms the palate, almost like a giant party in your mouth. We had to push hard for this cask, but when you see two young buyers jumping up and down and hugging each other in your warehouse after tasting it, it's probably hard to say "no."

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jul032012

Hot 4th of July Deals

Hot whiskies.  Hot Prices.  Hot Deals.

Glenmorangie 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky $83.99 (elsewhere $99) - If I had to pick my favorite whisky from the LVMH line up, including all the Ardbeg expressions, I'd easily choose the 18 year old from Glenmorangie.  It's the best whisky they make for the price and everybody likes it – beginners, casual sippers, experts, whisky geeks.  It's so gentle, supple, rich, and full of flavor.  The problem for me at K&L was getting a competitive price.  I've got plenty of $100 options that are more exciting to many of our serious whisky fans, but at $83.99, now we're talking! Removing $16 from the price tag makes a world of difference.  All of a sudden we're talking serious deal!  It's not that the Glenmorangie isn't worth $100, because it is.  It's just that it's really worth $83.99.  Kyle and I both agree that this is the hottest deal in the store.  Soft stone fruit, caramel, creme brulee, vanilla, all the way to the finish.  We won't be able to sustain this pricing past this order, so when we sell through we have to raise it back up.

Old Pulteney 17 Year Old Single Malt Whisky $79.99 - If you thought that the "Best Whisky of the Year" Pulteney 21 was great, then you'll really like the 17.  David OG, Kyle, and I all scratched our heads when Jim Murray came out with that award because, much like John Lennon famously said about Ringo ("He's not even the best drummer in the Beatles!"), the 21 isn't even the best Old Pulteney whisky, let alone the best in the world.  The 17 year is the better option, brimming with dried apricots, sweet cereal grains, and plenty of mouth-smacking goodness.  It's simply good, ole' fashioned Scotch for people who like Scotch.  It's the clear winner of the bunch and it also happens to be riding its older brother's coattails to higher pricing.  We cleaned out every bottle in the state to sustain this fantasic deal as long as possible. Once we sell through the price will take a $15 increase up to around $100 a bottle.  I love the OP17 for $80.  Will I still love it at $100? Hot whisky can command a hot price.  None hotter than ours at the moment!

-David Driscoll