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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!


Saturday
Jul162011

Is There a Whisk(e)y Bubble Forming?

I'm definitely not complaining about the big boom in whisk(e)y sales, whisk(e)y drinking, and whisk(e)y production.  As we've expanded our selection and broadened our horizons over the last two years, David OG and I have been met with nothing but open arms.  Demand has gone through the roof.  We sent out an promo email for our Oban 18 stock yesterday and the RWC store sold more than 100 bottles of a $100 whisky in a matter of hours.  Our pre-arrival campaign continues to flourish with little advertising other than word of mouth and this blog, and the money we're taken in advance helps balance the books so that we can go and get even more casks than the thirteen we've already secured.  Our most expensive cask, a 1974 Ladyburn, was the first cask to sell out even with a $300 per bottle price tag.  That's simply amazing.  Our stocks are moving faster than ever and I'm under more pressure every day to fill the holes on the shelf that continue to form throughout the business hours. 

The whisk(e)y companies are not blind to what is happening either.  They've been steadily raising prices every month for the last few years because they can (you may not notice it as much because David and I would rather eat the cost than have to constantly raise our prices too).  With the value of whisk(e)y reaching extreme heights (ten year old ryes are selling for $70+!) and new distilleries popping up every where, when is the bubble going to burst?  Maybe there is no bubble and we're just living through the enlightenment where the world woke up and decided it wasn't going to settle for cheap booze anymore.  Perhaps my point of view is skewed and other retailers are not doing as well as we are, therefore prompting me to ask some of my competitors about their sales.  That's what I did in London last week.

Doug MacIvor, head of spirits management for Berry Brothers & Rudd, had only the same experiences to share with me when we literally talked shop.  BBR has seen extensive growth over the last few years and the demand for their products is higher than ever.  They've been able to enter the U.S. market with their No.3 London Gin (easily the best gin available right now) and their fantastic King's Ginger, but their Hong Kong office is seeing unparalleled demand.  We too have seen high demand coming from China, both with wine and single malts, as their economy continues to grow and their citizens look to celebrate the success with the world's great alcoholic beverages.  However, while China's economy continues to stimulate growth in the world whisk(e)y market, it doesn't explain the surge in demand from the deflated U.S. economy.

Even during the downtrodden, recession year of 2009 our whisk(e)y sales increased.  Excitement concerning whisk(e)y is at the point where collectors and enthusiasts must fight it out for the most sought-after expressions, outbidding each other at auctions and joining insider email lists like our own to get the on-sale information in advance.  The positive data that results from this feeding frenzy only encourages the producers to make more and more, much like the companies who continued to build more houses across the U.S.  We all know how that saga ended, but it remains to be seen whether the whisk(e)y industry is creating a similar bubble.  We still can't get Rittenhouse Rye and when we do it sells at light speed.  We've also seen Ardbeg and Laphroaig release special limited bottles that created an unmatched hysteria this past month at K&L. 

At this point, I can't see it slowing down. 

=David Driscoll

Thursday
Jul142011

The State of the Union

Taking a long vacation is a great way to clear one's mind and get back some much needed perspective.  Before I left for England I was a bit burned out.  I wasn't drinking whisk(e)y at all and I could have cared less about wine.  It was pretty much just beer and Campari for me.  Now that I've had some time to get away from it all, I've returned with a new appetite for booze and I've been really enjoying my daily drams this week. 

Every now and then it's good to just stop and take the pulse of the store(s) just to keep people up to date with what's happening.  I sometimes assume that everyone is following our insider emails and I can get a bit too presumptuous with the blog.  However, for those of you who only check in from time to time, here's a brief summary of what has been, is, and will be happening at the K&L Spirits Department this summer:

- Oban 18 year old landed last week.  It's a study in restraint and minimalism.  It's also very rare (we got just about every bottle available in CA) and we don't see it too often.  That's been a pretty big deal lately.

- We've seen the Ardbeg Alligator and Laphroaig Cairdeas come and go already.  We were lucky to get large allocations of each and I'm happy that we were able to offer them to you all.  While both are very good, don't feel bad if you missed out - neither are "must haves."  They're just tasty Islay whiskies and God knows there's no shortage of those right now.

- Steve McCarthy's new batch of Oregon single malt just landed if you're looking for a super delicious peated whiskey.  It's the best version of the white label I've ever tasted.  Gone are the green notes on the finish.  Everything is supple, in check, and balanced.  A masterpiece that will go under the radar of just about everyone who assumes it just can't be that good.

- After reading John Hansell's rave review of the new Hart Brother's 18 Year Old Laphroaig, we worked hard to get our guys at JVS to bring it into CA for distribution so we could carry it.  It's a very tasty old Laphroaig and I was really impressed upon the first sip - it's delicate and retrained with just a tease of the medicinal and peat smoke, elegant almost which is amazing for Laphroaig.  I also really enjoyed the Hart Brothers 18 Year Old Mortlach because when you find a good Mortlach, you grab it.  It's the quintessential Speyside malt and we don't see enough good examples in the U.S. 

- Davorin Kuchan stopped by the store yesterday and he has revamped his absinthe tremendously.  The new batch is night and day better than his older stuff.  This is more vibrant, more potent, and more tasty than it's ever been.  I'm looking forward to getting it on the shelf because I think that it will be perfect for cocktail enthusiasts who want a 375ml half bottle of something great for mixing, rather than opting for a whole 750ml bottle that lasts forever.

- I've met a slew of people lately who have recently tried a Pimm's Cup for the first time and can't believe how good it is.  You just pour this herbal stuff over ice, add lemon soda or ginger ale, and a whole bunch of fruit.  That's it.  So easy, yet so refreshing and delicious.  I told someone in London last week that no one in the U.S. knows what Pimm's is and they were shocked.  It's everywhere in England, but has yet to catch on over here.  If you need a photo, check out my old post from London here.  Everyone should be drinking pitchers of this over the summer.

- David OG and I are super excited about all the casks we've ordered from Scotland (which are available and listed over on the right side of the margin), but we're not done yet.  We've just hooked up with another bottler and worked out a new deal to bring in more unique single barrels, including some amazing grain whisky barrels. 

Grain whisky.  Much maligned and currently not on the radar of any single malt drinker as the blends have been banished to the back burner and the malts have become the hot ticket.  Guys like John Glaser however have inspired us to take another look at the quality of grain whisky.  The herbal and sometimes spicy flavors of grain whisky are not for everyone, but when done properly they can exhibit some amazing flavors.  When mixed with ice and soda, they excel above most single malts as well.  Jim McEwan has put out some amazing samples of superb grains in his Celtic Heartland collection and the Compass Box Double Single was another inspirational dram.  However, it’s still an uphill battle when trying to convince people to try grain whiskies and what store would be crazy enough to buy two whole barrels of it?  Well…….we would.

David and I tried these whiskies, loved these whiskies, really wanted to buy these whiskies, but knew it would take a stupid low price to be able to justify it.  These are curiosities, not sure-fire winners.  These are for the ultra whisky geeks, not the everyday fan.  These are for the adventurous and brave, people who would rather buy whisky than food.  These are as esoteric as it gets.

They are…….

1965 Caledonian 45 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Grain Whisky – Closed forever in 1988, Caledonian was a Lowland grain distillery that was once famed for having Europe’s biggest patent still.  This whisky is all caramel and Sauternes on the nose, rich and enticing aromas of sweet goodness.  The palate however is grain all the way – lean and herbal, odd and exciting, crazy cool and super fun.  A difficult malt to truly explain.  What do you think this is going to cost?

1990 Girvan 20 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Grain Whisky – The home of the old Ladyburn distillery, this is the perfect sister bottle to our “Rare Ayrshire” cask that is now sold out.  Girvan contained the now defunct ladyburn, but was more known for its role in creating the Black Barrel brand available in Scandinavia and Latin America.  This is another whopper of a whisky that is difficult to describe.  Dry, herbal, grainy on the nose, but the palate is expressive and clean, finishing with apples and pears in a fruity flurry of flavor.  So much fun, but so weird!  How much do you think this will be?

Pricing is not finished yet, but let me tell you that these will not cost anything near what you think they will.  Given the price, the scarcity, the age, and the quality, the prices are unreal.  More on those however when they’re finalized (yes, I’m leaving you hanging).

- I've decided that I no longer want to have comments for any of the blog posts.  This isn't because people who read here aren't responsible or interesting (because I love reading the comments from people here), but rather because I just don't like the direction that the internet is heading.  I think that comments have ruined websites like SFgate.com because they now write articles that cater to getting more comments.  I don't want to end up like that, so I'm canceling them as of now.  Just send me an email if you want to comment on anything.

That's where we're at.  Until next time!

- David Driscoll

Wednesday
Jul132011

Good Food Awards

My good friend Jennifer Colliau from the Slanted Door called me up a few weeks back and told me she had been made the chair of the newly added spirits board for a group called the Good Food Awards, an organization dedicated to recognizing domestic producers who create beer, cheese, coffee, pickles, chocolate, and charcuterie in humane, responsible, and environmentally friendly ways.  She asked if I would be on the board with her (and a slew of other Bay Area spirit people) to help get people interested in participating.  I took one look at their website and loved what I saw - I was in.

Starting now, any distillery who meets the guidelines can enter -

• Utilize ingredients that are traceable and that they can speak to where they come from.
• Do not contain any genetically modified ingredients.
• Contain no artificial additives.

Anyone interested in entering can contact me for more info.  Entries will be taken until September 1st via the website.

Can't wait to see how this goes!

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jul122011

Tuesday Tasting Tonight!

I'm jetlagged as all hell, but I'll still be heading over to Martin's West tonight to give you all a sneak peak at the soon-to-be-sold-out batch of Highland Park 16 Year Old Calvados aged single malt from the Alchemist collection.  Price will be $4 a glass and we will have one bottle which will be opened right at 6 PM!  Don't miss this chance to try before you buy!  When the email goes out to the big list tomorrow these Alchemist bottles will be a thing of the past!

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Jul102011

Berry Bros & Rudd - A London Visit

Berry Bros & Rudd is the shining example of what a wine and whisky merchant can strive to achieve towards - an international company with offices all over the world, bottling their own casks of liquor acquired from the relationships formed over three centuries of business.  This storefront has been around since the late 1600's when it opened as a coffee merchant.  The store itself is more like a museum than an actual place of business. There are bottles to see and choose from, but most of the selection is buried under the building in the many rooms and cellars.  The main entryway still has the scales that were used to weigh coffee beans.

When the coffee business ceased and the booze business began, BBR began using the scales to weigh customers as they awaited their wine.  Apparently it was pricey to visit a doctor and receive one's measurements, so BBR offered it as a gratis service for their loyal patrons.  The original logs are still located at the front desk where one can trace the growth of notable historical figures such as Lord Byron.

The whisky room is where I met Doug MacIvor, a Scotsman who moved to London as a boy and is now in charge of the liquor operations for BBR.  He tastes and purchases all of their independently-bottled single malts and even does the blending for their own line of vatted malts.  He was nice enough to take me around the store and into some of the more historical rooms in the building. 

Behind the main storefront is a small and cozy lounge where one can quietly taste and concentrate on some serious whisky analysis.  It also happens to be the room where the owners sat one evening and created a little brand called Cutty Sark.  You might have heard of that whisky before. 

Underneath the first floor is the famous Napoleon cellar where BBR still holds private events and corporate meetings with important guests.  It's called the Napoleon celler because Napoleon used to visit and have a few drinks within it while plotting his subsequent invasion back into France.  There was also once a tunnel that connected it with the royal palace where deliveries of wine would be transfered subterraneously to the king and queen.  It's quite a sight and the room itself is filled with ancient relics.

Bottles from the 1600s adorn the glass cases attached to the inner walls.  They are embossed with family crests for identification purposes because bottles were once more valuable than the commodities they contained. 

The reserves of old wines and whiskies in the storeroom await the visitation of significant guests for whom they are intended.  Some of the selections are incredible and I spent a few minutes just staring in awe.  Did I tastes some whisky at BBR? A little.  Did we discuss some future business?  Of course.  However, visiting the St. James St. location is like visiting Westminster Abbey or the London Tower, it's an experience in itself and needs to be given its proper due.  Visiting Berry Bros. and Rudd is a must-do for any whisky fan who finds himself in London just because of the history.  It was and continues to be the destination for any distinguished drinker and connoisseur of fine spirits.

And, yes, we will probably be bringing in some casks with them in the near future.  Needless to say both David OG and I are excited about working with such an extablished and esteemed company with a flawless reputation for quality drink.  We can only hope to achieve the same lofty heights.

-David Driscoll