Cognac Preview #2 — Michel Forgeron

And just when you thought your head was about to explode with all the new K&L exclusive whiskey that just showed up, we're about to pound you with the second wave of French exclusive arrivals (just in time for BrandyFest, no less!). Michel Forgeron is a Grand Champagne Cognac producer that we're very excited to be working with. He represents the first distiller we've met in the Charente who is interested in maturing his brandy more like the Scottish mature their whisky. Part of the reason Cognac never achieves that rich, spicy, assertive character is because the French love topping up their barrels to prevent evaporation. While that practice does help in the hopeless fight against the angels, it does so at the expense of concentration.

You'd think the French would stay true to their own products, but the truth is that France consumes far more whisky than they do brandy. In fact, France consumes more whisky than the UK or the US. Hard to believe, right? But true. That being the case, you'd think it was just a matter of time before cask strength, single barrel, and age statement labeling infiltrated the world of French brandy. You'd be right to think that, because it's beginning to happen. Michel Forgeron is already selling vintage-dated, cask strength, single barrel releases in his gift shop. We were hoping to extend the reach of that gift shop to California when we visited him this past Spring.

Even though there are some fantastically-descript expressions available from Forgeron, we're going to begin with small steps and hold true to the VS, VSOP, and XO formula for now. However, seeing that his basic line ranges from 45% to 50% in ABV, you're in for a real treat with these Cognacs. They're bold, woody, spicy, and much more lively that the ubiquitous expressions that strive for "smooth" and "no burn." Michel Forgeron also said one of the coolest things to us when we asked him why other producers weren't looking to bring Cognac into the next generation:

"Most Cognac producers don't even drink Cognac," he said with a snarl. "They do it because they were born into it. They don't even like Cognac, most of them."

Michel is not afraid to piss people off. We love this guy.

-David Driscoll


Midwest Invasion

Oh, you thought we were done with the Cut Spike? No way! There's a serious micro-scene happening in the midwest right now and they're reaching out for west coast K&L to collaborate! Check out David OG's latest find. You can read his notes below:

Cedar Ridge K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Iowa Bourbon $59.99 - Amid all the controversy in the craft whiskey market these days (e.g. sourced whiskey, label laws, ridiculous prices, and all too often poor quality) a choice few distillers have sat quietly back and focused on producing excellent quality product and trying to sell it for a relatively reasonable price. Cedar Ridge is heading for that select group. Founded in 2005 by Jeff & Laurie Quint, they distill all their products in an 80 gallon European pot still. Their bourbon was released in 2010, the FIRST Iowa Bourbon (wow) to be released since prohibition and they've been aging stocks for over 7 years now. The mashbill is 75% corn, 15% rye and 10% malted barley and Cedar Ridge fills 53 gallon new charred Missouri Oak barrels. This is, for me, is one of the few bourbons wholly produced by one of the new wave of craft distillers to rival the quality of the industry leaders in Kentucky. It is one of the first craft distilleries to offer us bourbon over 4 years old in single full size barrels at full strength. The nose is all sticky caramel and spice. Hints of cinnamon covered apples, dried underbrush, and sweet oak. Textural nuance at the full 57.9%, showing a medium to full body that turns up the spices and sweet grain notes on the tongue whiles balancing with a mild drying oak and a great rich cocoa finish. There is no question that the little distillery in Swisher, Iowa is one to watch. -- David Othenin-Girard

- David Driscoll


You Be The Judge

Just got off the phone with my buddy Erik Adkins, the manager for Hard Water in San Francisco. I've agreed to let him be the sole on-premise outlet to sell Cut Spike by the pour. That means, in the near future, you'll be able to walk into the best American whiskey bar on the planet and order the best American single malt by the glass. Even better, I'm going to schedule a launch event where we do $4 pours of Cut Spike to let as many people as possible taste what we think is the most exciting new small producer in the U.S.

That way you can be the judge and you won't have to rely solely on my own heavily-biased opinion. I'll let you know when we set a date.

-David Driscoll


Cut Spike Arrives

After all that hype, you can finally try Cut Spike for yourselves. I don't think you'll be disappointed. We wouldn't have taken on this much responsibility and product (being their sole online retail outpost) if we didn't think this was something special. However, if you're expecting 12 year old Scottish single malt that tastes exactly like Macallan, then you might be a bit bummed out. It's a honeyed, sweet vanilla profile with a rich malty mouthfeel, but it's still young. Nevertheless, we think it's the next big thing.

Cut Spike Nebraska Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - At first we couldn't believe our mouths. We knew that Cut Spike single malt had just taken Double Gold honors at the 2014 San Francisco Spirits competition (the highest possible honor), so obviously other people thought it was good, too. But after tasting so many mediocre American attempts at single malt whisky, we had become accustomed to the idea that the Scottish style of distillation would never be recreated here at home. There would be spin-offs, and experimental gasps at greatness, but that supple, malty profile would simply be something we needed to import from abroad. Then the folks at Cut Spike sent us a sample of their two year old Nebraskan single malt whisky made from 100% malted barley on a pot still crafted in Rothes, Scotland. Fermented at the brewery next door to Cut Spike in La Vista, the malt was matured for two years in new American oak with varying levels of char. The result is an incredible hybrid: soft, barley and vanilla-laden whisky that tastes somewhat like your standard Scottish single malt, but has its own unique character simultaneously. It's the kind of whisky that you taste once and enjoy, but then the next day suddenly crave intensely. It impresses you instantly, yet doesn't really reveal its full character until weeks later. The new oak blurs seamlessly into the malty mouthfeel, adding a richness on the finish normally not tasted in standard Scottish selections. The Cut Spike is a major accomplishment for American distillation, pure and simple.

-David Driscoll


The Bar Agricole Version

I thought this marketing image from Bar Agricole's mailing list was worth posting. Props to the BA boys for this wonderful piece of inspiration.

Still plenty of space at next week's big Brandyfest event if you want to go. Plus, we've got a new container of brandy docking as I write this, so we might be pouring all new K&L exclusives before they're released. Brandyfest is going to be awesome.

-David Driscoll