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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

8/20 - San Francisco: No Tasting

8/20 - Redwood City: K&L Signatory Single Malts

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

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 IN STOCK NOW


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 IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Benrinnes 17 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


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 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!


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

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!


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!


Friday
Dec302011

California Craft Spirits on NPR

This morning on NPR's The California Report with Rachel Myrow there was a short little segment about California produced spirits and the possibility of drinking only locally produced booze.  I get a little clip in there as does my buddy Thad Vogler over at Bar Agricole.  Rachel and I talked for about twenty minutes and I had fun playing both sides of the argument - the pro-craft movement side and the price-comes-first point of view.  Apparently, they wanted to capitalize on that Devil's advocate POV because I sound a little aprehensive!  In any case, she did a little blog post about it as well.  See what you think.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Dec292011

Spirits Tasting in 2012

Our fantastic and, most importantly, free spirits tastings will continue on into 2012 with the following schedule.  We'll take another week off after the new year begins, but we'll zoom back up to full throttle beginning on the 11th.  Here's a quick peak at what we have on tap in our Northern California locations:

January 11th

SF – ArteNOM Tequila with Jake Lustig

RWC – TBA (likely to be El Dorado Rums with Lou Bock) 

January 18th

SF – Glendronach Single Malts with David Nava

RWC – ArteNOM tequila with Jake Lustig

January 25th

SF – TBA (likely to be Tempus Fugit Liqueurs)

RWC – Glendronach Single Malts with David Nava

February 1st

SF – Four Roses Bourbon with Kurt Charles

RWC – Lagavulin Single Malts with Steve Beal

February 8th

SF – Lagavulin Single Malts with Steve Beal

RWC – Four Roses Bourbon with Kurt Charles

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Dec292011

Bruichladdich K&L Cask Update

In case some of you have super-powerful spam filters which can block out my personal K&L notices, we had to put a halt on sales for our exclusive Bruichladdich Chenin Blanc cask.  This whisky has changed inside the bottle into a malt that no longer resembles anything close to what we originally tasted.  We're not sure what has happened, but we're pooling all of our resources together to find out.  The originally sweet and supple Chenin Blanc influence has now become a tart, bitter, and astringent handicap, turning a malt that was once interesting and complex into an undrinkable throwaway.  Needless to say, we don't want anyone associating that flavor with us, K&L, or Bruichladdich. 

We're all on board to fix the situation.  Any of you who bought one of these are welcome to return it or call us up to receive a credit.  The problem seems to have turned on in November and really began to affect the malt around the beginning of December.  It is entirely possible that you've opened and finished the bottle before the deterioration began.  I've never seen a whisky fall apart like this in my life, and Jim McEwan is more than curious to figure out what went wrong.  Was it the wine?  The cask?  Some form of oxidation?  Bacteriological?  We're not sure.  All we know is that the bottle tastes terrible now and it didn't before.  There are a number of problems that can cause a wine to spoil, but many believe the higher percentage of alcohol in a spirit protects it from these issues.  I'm beginning to wonder if that's really true.

Make sure you reach out to us and our customer service department if you've been affected by this issue.  We appreciate everyone's understanding and support.  You all know there's no way we would buy a whisky that tasted this terrible.  I'm hoping to turn this around very quickly however and make some sort of "Snow Phoenix" out of this.  McEwan said he had the exact same idea.  Maybe this will all turn out for the best down the road. 

-David Driscoll

Monday
Dec262011

The Two Sides of Wine & Whisk(e)y, The Future

I was reading a book this morning entitled The 50 Funniest American Writers by Andy Borowitz, in which he writes,

Whenever you come out with a 'best of' list, you're bound to irritate people....They start bad-mouthing it, which forces people like me (me, and my many internet aliases) to defend it.  If you're lucky, the controversy goes viral and lots of people start arguing about who deserves to be on this list and who doesn't.  And all that talk 'moves a shitload of units,' to borrow a phrase from Edith Wharton.

Andy Borowitz is mocking his own book with a certain sense of self-awareness that I find refreshing.  His point is entirely true, which is why you've probably noticed that news sites have become nothing more than "Top Ten" lists and anthologies of crap.  People read that stuff, forward the link to their friends, the views add up and those hits turn into advertising money.  If reporting the news doesn't pay the bills anymore, then why not just create another quick and easy list to generate more comments in the comments field?  That's the business of reporting these days and it extends conveniently to the world of booze.  Wine Spectator's Top 100 issue is always the most read of the yearly editions, so how can they work that magic into every other issue as well?  How can we get people to read what we write?  Make more lists.  How can wine and whisk(e)y producers sell more units?  Get on those lists.

Shortly after reading the above quotation I went for a long run.  I had downloaded some NPR Talk of the Nation episodes and mid-way through my jaunt there was a piece about the science in AMC's Breaking Bad (my absolute favorite TV show ever).  It turns out that creator Vince Gilligan worked with a University of Oklahoma professor to make sure the organic chemistry of the show was accurate (if you live outside of pop culture, Breaking Bad is about a science teacher who cooks meth).  The host of NPR went on to say that accurate science was becoming quite popular in film and television this year, meaning that producers were taking the time to make sure that different processes were explained.  Other crime shows like CSI also made sure their science was sound because the audience was always ready to point out when it wasn't.  The shows that took more time to focus on those details were succeeding.  That really resonated with me.

There are at least ten customers at K&L everyday with a list printed out from say Gourmet Magazine called the "Ten Best Wines for Ceviche" or something along those lines.  They read the list, they search for the bottles.  Interestingly enough, there are also at least ten customers who know way more than I do about whisky or they'll want to know way more than I can tell them.  "How big are the washbacks at Bunnahabhain?"  "Do you know how many first-fill sherry barrels go into the Ardbeg Uigeadail?"  It's the dichotomy between those who couldn't care less about where their booze came from and those who obsess over it.  The more information that becomes available, the more people want to know.  Regardless of whether it's the current fad, there's still a real precedent being set - basically, some people aren't going to just take things at face value anymore.  You can't have a show now about something like professional bomb defusers where they just say stuff like "cut the blue wire." You're going to have to get real about details.  Wine and whisk(e)y enthusiasts are beginning to expect the same level of respect for their intelligence.

In 2011, we saw a demand for limited-edition whiskies, for hand-crafted beers, and for locally-made wines like we've never before witnessed.  Part of this phenomenon is due to education and part of it is due to Top Ten lists.  On one hand, there were likely thousands of people searching online for things like "Best Bourbon" or "Top 10 Bourbons."  What do you think they read over and over? 

1. Pappy Van Winkle

2. George T. Stagg

etc.

The hunt for Brown October began.  On the other hand, we also had people obsessing about where the latest Van Winkle Bourbons were being sourced from, how many bottles were being manufactured, and would the quality of Buffalo Trace match that of Stitzel-Weller.  I had more than 2,000 people download my podcast with Preston Van Winkle in two weeks - more than double the amount of any other episode to date.  People wanted more information and more insight into what they were purchasing.  That access to information led more customers to K&L than ever before.

As we head into 2012, I'm predicting that education will continue to play a larger role.  There's a funny Portlandia sketch where a couple leaves the resturant they're at to visit the farm where the chicken on the menu is being sourced from.  They can't decide on the dish until they know more about how that chicken was treated.  It's a funny parody because it's true!  If you could only see the amount of emails I receive, inquiring about details and specs of certain single malts.  There's more than a trend going on here.  I don't believe that whisky drinkers will ever go back to blended brands again because they already know too much.  There's something satisfying about knowing where your booze came from, just like there's something entertaining about watching Walter White talk chemistry on Breaking Bad.  It's no longer a larger than life drama.  There's reality going on.  You can't just fool people with fancy packaging anymore.

At the same time, however, Old Pulteney 21 is still impossible to find.  I guess being the "Number One Whisky in the World" has its advantages, too.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Dec222011

Season's Greetings & Thanks

I almost thought about changing the headline of the previous post to "Jefferson's 18 Year Old ISN'T Here!" after the way it flew out of here yesterday.  Without a doubt, that is the fastest we have ever sold a whiskey of that quantity.  300 bottles of $75 Bourbon went in 19 hours.  Amazing.  It's a testament to the quality of the booze, the reputation of the distillery, and the amount of people we are now reaching with our insider emails and blog.  We used to rely on the general K&L email database when we had large numbers of great product to sell, but it appears that our ranks of insiders have grown substantially and are just as rabid as we are about drinking good product. We love tracking down a thrilling new deal - not because it's lucrative, but rather because we're excited to drink it ourselves!

What has really inspired me personally this year is the number of people who really "got into" what we were doing here.  I remember talking with ownership at the end of 2010 and telling them, "I think we should go to Scotland next year."  It wasn't as easy to make the case at that time, but after the 2011 we've had, there are definitely many Scotland trips in our future.  We thought we were getting second-rate barrel samples from vendors and believed we could get better whisky by tracking down the samples ourselves.  It turns out we were right.  The whiskies we had access to in Scotland were on an entirely different level from the ones carried by distribution sales reps. The quality showed as soon as you, our customers, had the chance to taste them and momentum has been building ever since. The lessons we learned on that trip have proved invaluable.

The amount of positive emails, phone calls, and messages we've received as a result has been simply overwhelming.  It seems that people really enjoy shopping with us for their whisky needs and that's an incredible feeling.  It's one thing to supply people with what they already want, it's an entirely different thing to provide them with something new and exciting - something different that inspires them to branch out and become more adventurous.  You would think that strong and lasting relationships would transpire between a doctor and his patients, or some other form of interaction based on trust and the ability to help someone in need - people that actually make a difference.  However, I've never experienced the kind of general goodwill, not even as a teacher, as I have from the people who shop at K&L.  I have become friends with so many of the faces I see on a weekly basis and have struck up some strong penpal relations with customers via email. People baked me cookies and brought me gifts for Christmas this year!  We're just selling booze here! :)

As you would likely expect we're going to have a record December for spirits at K&L.  The casks have been a big hit and the reviews have been kind.  I'm also quite proud that we've been able to do it the grassroots way.  We've had a ton of support from local whisky bloggers (you know who you are and we thank you deeply) who have almost always had great things to say about the whiskies.  We never paid for one piece of advertising.  We never sent samples to any reviewer.  Our casks were never written up in any major publication (surprisingly enough our Cognac was, however).  It's all from local, home-grown support and that means more to us than anything.  Even though the holidays in the retail business are absolute torture, it's still such a great gift to know that many of you are supporting us through it.  There's no fickle, points-related, media-inspired trend going on at K&L.  It's a legitimate base of awesome people who like to drink. 

So what's ahead for 2012?  There should be a pretty big announcement from us shortly after New Year's Day, as well as a huge expansion into the distilled spirits of France.  Another Scotland trip is slated for the Spring and we'll try to build on what we've already accomplished so far this year.  Right now, I'm just trying to make it through the next three days without collapsing.  Things are getting tense, emotions are running high, patience is wearing thin, and our energy supply is almost out.  However, what I want to say before we all go into holiday hibernation is - thank you.  Thanks to everyone who reads the blog.  Thanks to everyone who bought the casks.  Thanks to all of you who come every Wednesday to taste.  Thanks to all of you who talk about us to your friends. 

We really, truly, deeply, honestly appreciate all the support.

-David Driscoll