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


2001 Bowmore 13 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1990 Bruichladdich 24 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!


Wednesday
Apr252012

Tastings Tonight + A Fun Article

Tonight in Redwood City we'll have the Isle of Jura whiskies, while San Francisco will be pouring Benriach single malts.  The events begin at 5 PM and last until 6:30.  Free of charge.

In other news, this morning I read an interesting article (in the SF Chronicle of all places!) about Mark Zuckerberg and his nonchalance regarding Facebook's profits.  I almost laughed out loud because there's so much I relate to in his approach (except for not caring about your clothes or house).  There's a certain amount of business sense to not caring about business.  While it may seem oxymoronic, if your entire business is based around your credibility then shying away from money can be a very powerful strategy. 

For the first two years that I worked at K&L as spirits buyer I never looked at our sales numbers.  I didn't even know how!  David OG and I are required to meet with ownership on a monthly basis to discuss the department, but I would literally just nod and agree when the figures were discussed.  Like Zuckerberg, I have no interest in the money.  My primary concern is expanding our selection to as many people as possible and finding creative new ways to include everyone (without invading your privacy, however).  My satisfaction is derived from customer satisfaction.  I could probably be convinced to work for positive reenforcement if my bosses wanted to save money.  My classic only-child syndrome values "Good job, David" over a fat check for some reason.

Like Facebook, our profits have increased over the last few years despite the complete lack of business sense on my part.  I believe that profits will come if you do your job well and I've left it at that.  However, once you start focusing on $ you can lose sight of the main goal: better booze, in our case.  I know that the minute I start obsessing about money is the moment I stop doing my job well.  I don't think anyone at the top of Facebook is complaining about their financial situation right now, do you?

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Apr212012

Early Yak Impressions - Staff & Friends

Of course, we popped four bottles of our newly arrived Cognac and Armagnac yesterday to get the staff acquainted with the new brands.  Some tasted just as I remembered, while some surprised me a bit.  Here are some observations from our tasting yesterday.

-The 1985 Baraillon needs to blow off some steam.  Much like the 1975 Banff we brought in last year, it tastes much better after a day of being open.  I about had a heartattack because I had hyped this as one of the overall best, and it is, it just needs to warm up a bit.  Give it a headstart if you picked one up.  Once we had it open for a while people came back to taste and were very impressed.

-While I thought the Armagnacs would rule the day, most people were captivated by the Ragnaud Reserve Rare Cognac.  It's so much better than I remember it tasting.  I mean, I knew it was good, but now it just tastes transcendent.

-The Lassaubatju brandies taste more like Bourbon than any other Armagnacs I've ever tasted.  Nevertheless, they are not Bourbon.  They are made from grapes. While I want to help facilitate a crossover, I don't want anyone expecting big sweet corn spirit. 

-I asked our Champagne buyer Gary Westby if he thought the 85 Baraillon tasted "off."  He said, "If that 85 is wrong, then I don't want to be right."  That took a load off my shoulders.

-While I think the 85 Baraillon is the most complex, I personally plan on purchasing one of the Lassaubatju selections to drink at home.  They're just so accessible and easy to drink.  Our manager Jason commented, "We are going to crush with these.  They're too good."

-However, I tasted some well-versed friends on all four and the clear winner in their mind was the 85 Baraillon.  In the end, though, the consensus was that all four brandies kicked some serious ass.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Apr202012

The Brandy Revolution Begins

When they write the history of K&L, today is the day they will say the revolution began.  Jeez, that sounds pretty dramatic, maybe I've been watching too much Game of Thrones.  In any case, today is going to be an important day for the spirits department at K&L because our first batch of directly-imported French spirits lands this afternoon.  This project began last winter when both David OG and I got fed up with the Armagnac/Cognac selections from distributors in the United States.  Their job is to bring back interesting selections to us retailers and they weren't doing it.  The old saying that "if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself" came into effect, so David and I packed our suitcases and went to France.  Four months later, the fruits of our labor are beginning to trickle in.  

Everything we picked out on this voyage was killer - there were no mundane or mediocre selections.  The brandies were exciting, flavorful, expressive, and interesting in a way that nothing here stateside is.  Importers tend to be safe and conservative, wanting to market their goods to a broad palate.  We wanted to be brash and bold because no one likes boring booze.  The small producers with great products were there for the taking, it's just that no one was doing it.  That being said, David and I spent days driving all over France with our friend Charles Neal and we think we've found enough stuff to turn our French spirits selection into the best in the United States - bar none, without a doubt.  We won't have the most brandy, but we'll have the most interesting selection, with value at the forefront.  Therefore, if you're looking for brown French sugar water, we're probably no longer your best bet.  If you're on the hunt for magestic and profound expressions of excellence, take a look at the first batch of options below:

Blondeau from Domaine de Lassaubatju telling us about the 88 and 89 vintages1988 Domaine de Lassaubatju K&L Exclusive Vintage Armagnac $84.99 - On our third day in Armagnac, David and I met a small producer named Blondeau who seemed to have a never-ending supply of amazing booze.  His Domaine de Lassaubatju brandies were just what we were looking for - amazingly distinct Armagnac with plenty of cross-over appeal!  While the spirits are still firmly grounded in the classic fruit and almond flavor profile, there's a distinct aroma of pencil shavings that comes from his custom-coopered barrels made with wood from a nearby forest.  The result is the closest thing we'll see to a Bourbon lover's Armagnac.  The 1988 shows dried apricot aromas with rich vanilla, a round mouthfeel, and an absolutely delicious nutty finish.  The balance is impeccible.  Imported directly for K&L, Lassaubatju represents what is now one of our best values for any type of spirit.  I don't know where else you could find a 20+ year old, full proof spirit with this type of provenance that tastes this good.

1989 Domaine de Lassaubatju K&L Exclusive Vintage Armagnac $79.99 - On our third day in Armagnac, David and I met a small producer named Blondeau who seemed to have a never-ending supply of amazing booze.  His Domaine de Lassaubatju brandies were just what we were looking for - amazingly distinct Armagnac with plenty of cross-over appeal!  While the spirits are still firmly grounded in the classic fruit and almond flavor profile, there's a distinct aroma of pencil shavings that comes from his custom-coopered barrels made with wood from a nearby forest.  The result is the closest thing we'll see to a Bourbon lover's Armagnac.  The 1989 is very whisky-like with superb richness and a concentrated blast of toasted almond skin on the finish.  Lean and streamlined, the palate gives way to baking spices and classic, woody Bourbon-like notes.  Imported directly for K&L, Lassaubatju represents what is now one of our best values for any type of spirit.  I don't know where else you could find a 20+ year old, full proof spirit with this type of provenance that tastes this good.

The humble Baraillon father/daughter duo in their warehouse1985 Baraillon K&L Exclusive Vintage Armagnac $115.99 - If there were ever a romantic ideal for French countryside distillation, the Baraillons are it.  Out in the middle of nowhere, there's nothing glossed over or touristic about their operation - they are farmers, pure and simple.  David and I absolutely fell in love with this father/daughter team even though they hardly said a word to us the entire time we tasted (they let their booze speak for itself).  This single barrel 1985 brandy is one of the finest spirits we tasted on the entire trip.  A mix of Ugni Blanc and Baco, the nose is absolutely hypnotizing - port-like with stewed fruits and sandlewood (think Glenrothes 85 or high-end Glenmorangie, but remember it's definitely NOT single malt). The palate follows up with toffee, vanilla, more fruit and stunning richness - with spice and heat on the finish that prevent the weight from becoming overly flabby.  It is spellbinding brandy.  Destined to go down as one of the best Armagnacs we've ever carried, we look forward to importing Baraillon exclusively for the foreseeable future.  Baraillon Armagnac is where bucolic romanticism and quality collide.

1900 Baraillon K&L Exclusive Vintage Armagnac $1499.99 - If there were ever a romantic ideal for French countryside distillation, the Baraillons are it.  Out in the middle of nowhere, there's nothing glossed over or touristic about their operation - they are farmers, pure and simple.  David and I absolutely fell in love with this father/daughter team even though they hardly said a word to us the entire time we tasted (they let their booze speak for itself). At first, the idea of importing an Armagnac made 112 years ago seemed like a joke, a fun idea if it could actually be done.  When Mr. Baraillon allowed us to actually taste it our jaws hit the cement floor in the warehouse.  If you had to spend some serious cash on an ultra-splurge bottle, this is the one.  Incredibly rich, with layers of toffee, fruit compote, port-like viscosity, and waves of earthy accents, the 1900 Baraillon is actually worth the high price simply because it's historic.  It's ridiculously rare and represents the hard work of the Baraillon family, decades before the current family members were even born!  It was taken out of barrel at some point in the mid-1950s and has been resting in a glass demijohn ever since.  We purchased six bottles for six lucky customers.  This isn't about luxury or bling-bling brand imagery.  This is some serious brandy for those looking to revel in it.

Tasting at Ragnaud with Mrs. Ragnaud-BricqRaymond Ragnaud K&L Exclusive Reserve Rare Cognac $115.99 - This Grand Champagne Cognac from Ragnaud represents our dedicated efforts to find excellent Cognac without the use of an additional sweetners or traditional boise.  Distiller Jean-Marie has spent the last thirty years perfecting his pot-still brandies into delicate expressions of the fantastic terroir in the area.  He is a firm believer in the idea that the limestone-rich soils of Grande Champagne produce wines which, when distilled, create brandies capable of aging in barrel for eternity.  While we originally came in search of single barrel Cognac, we tasted a few out of the cask and soon realized that Grand Champagne Cognac doesn't taste all that great in its youth - and by "youth," I mean anytime in the first twenty years of its life - nor does it taste too great out of the barrel.  Usually the blends have more complexity because the expressive "young" brandy is balanced with the richness from older vintages. The Reserve Rare was our favorite of the expressions, exhibiting beautiful concentration and the elegance we've come to expect from world-class Cognac producers.  Gentle richness on the entry leads into flavors of toasted nuts, stonefruit, and vanilla, before finishing with a soft dash of baking spices.  A masterful Cognac that managed to seduce us with subtlety and style, rather than with sweetness and weight.

Remember, this is only the first wave!  There are more selections due in every week until the end of May. The great part about these selections is that they're not all single barrel, limited quantity, so we will be able to re-order once the first batch sells out.  I have a feeling that we were too conservative with the 1985 Baraillon, so you might want to snatch that one while it's here.  The big K&L email goes out April 23rd, so you blog readers have the head start to pick first. 

I'm so excited for these I could simply burst!  Send any questions are way and we will happily supply you with the extra information you need.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Apr192012

Arriving Tomorrow

I had lunch with my good friend Val today and we tasted some new single malts - new Chieftain's arrivals, plus a few other knick-knacks.  I had a beet salad and some pierogi at a Polish restaurant called Bona in Menlo Park (where I'll now be eating every week) before settling down to business.  Tomorrow will bring some fantastic new expressions to the Redwood City store, including:

1998 Aberfeldy 13 Year Chieftain's Single Malt Whisky $75.99 - Absolutely delicious Highland single malt whisky.  Soft, textural, hints of banana and other fruits with vanilla and soft oak.  Wonderful stuff.

1997 Bunnahabhain 14 Year Old Peated Single Malt Whisky $82.99 - Oily, briny, smoky, all that stuff.  Lovely Islay malt. 

1997 Caol Ila 14 Year Old Chieftain's Rum Finish Single Malt Whisky $89.99 - The rum doesn't pop all that much on the palate, but there is a nice sweetness that mildy inflects on all the smoke and peat.  Really tasty.

Macallan 13 Year Old Hart Brothers Single Malt Whisky $75.99 - Now here is a Macallan we're actually excited to sell!  Wonderful fruit, toffee, and richness with a fat mouthfeel.  Delish.

Arran Machrie Moor Peated Single Malt Whisky $69.99 - A new NAS (no age statement) lightly-peated whisky from the Isle of Arran distillery.  Very light-bodied and easy to sip.  Pleasant and charming.

Kilchoman Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $115.99 - The oldest and richest Kilchoman we've yet tasted.  Powerful, complex, loaded with brine and smoke.  Massive.

Fun stuff.  Look for this on the web tomorrow!

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Apr192012

Finally, Arette Has Come Back to K&L

When I first started working at K&L we had this tequila brand called Arette.  I loved it so much I actually drove to the town of Tequila and visited the distillery on my vacation to Mexico in 2008.  When I took over as the spirits buyer in 2009, I made the marketing of Arette one of my top priorities - I simply couldn't get enough of this stuff!  Then something bad happened.  There was a mix-up with their supplier or their importer (we're not sure what actually happened) and we ended up with some bunk-ass Arette tequila in a different bottle on one of our orders.  The quality was no where near as good and we closed it out.  We never resolved the dispute. I was crushed.

Fast-forward to 2012: Arette has new packaging, lower pricing, and the same great flavor that I remember it having.  The Blanco is simply to die for and now it's $10 cheaper than it used to be!  Floral, vibrant, hints of cinnamon and citrus, all coming together in perfect harmony.  The Reposado almost tastes a bit soapy at first, but then it finishes with such brilliance you completely shrug it off - one of the most dynamic repos we've ever carried, loaded with fresh cloves and cinnamon on a warming palate.  We used to sell this for $59.99 and it was worth every penny - now it's $43.99!  New to the dance is the Gran Classe Añejo - an ultra-rare aged expression that starts off lean and spicy, much like the ArteNOM tequilas, but finishes with incredbile richness - lots of wood, caramel, and vanilla, but it never tastes sweet or viscous in any way.  

Needless to say, I'm absolutely thrilled to have these back again.  While I continue to profess my undying love for the ArteNOM series, they're not for everyone.  Some people want their tequila to pop, to burst in your mouth with flavor, and that's exactly what the Arette tequilas do.  They're flavorful and expressive, with extreme delicacy and grace.  Welcome home.

-David Driscoll