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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!


Drinking For Pleasure

If you're one of the few people that happen to read this blog, but don't make it over to John Hansell's site as well, then today's posting will make a great starting point in developing a relationship with the Malt Advocate editor.  What I loved about this recent entry, entitled "The Way to Drink Whisky," is that he kept it brief and to the point, while touching on a very serious theme that grips many a whisky geek on a daily basis - the fact that drinking should be fun.  The best part is that John lists three recent drinking experiences of his own to illustrate the point - one where he actually added an ice cube to his glass of the pricy and super-rare Ardbeg Alligator ("Heavens NO!" screamed many a malt nerd upon reading that line).   On a fishing trip he actually added ginger ale to his bourbon ("What!? This guy is nuts!  That totally messes up the purity of flavor!").  It's nice when someone who I consider a world expert takes the time to share his own relaxed experiences concerning booze because it reinforces and adds credibility to the idea that drinking should be about enjoyment.  No one can claim that John doesn't really appreciate bourbon, so if you think his drinking habits reveal something about his lack of appreciation for good booze, you would be mistaken.

While John kept it brief, I'll add a bit of filler because I think it's an important subject to revisit from time to time.  Because K&L is a store that caters to true connoisseurs we have a duty to understand and appreciate the nuance of great wines, beers, and spirits.  We get people asking us for our advice everyday and from these experiences I am sometimes able to glean a bit of information about other people's drinking habits - namely, that they can seem rather devoid of fun.  For some people, having a drink isn't about relaxing or having a good time.  It's like a vacation where you end up coming back more stressed out than before you left.  There are sometimes too many rules to follow: the wines need to be paired with the perfect food, the bottles must be stored at the correct temperature and opened at the perfect time, the whisky must be sipped neat because any water or ice will dillute the purity, the beers must be craft-brewed from a small brewery and aged in barrel, and on, and on, and on until all the fun has been completely squeezed out of it.  At the end of a long day at K&L, all we want is something cheap and cold because it's easy and we don't have to think about it.

Just like I "discovered" with my vodka experiment last week, there are other reasons to drink besides basking in the greatness of unique and rare booze.  People lambast vodka for it's lack of flavor, but it's the perfect spirit for a night of dancing and drinking because it seems to intoxicate without disorienting. Cold, cheap beer is still a refreshing way to finish a work shift.  $5 Spanish garnacha is delcious in a home-made sangria.  Those of us who work at K&L spend all of our day analyzing booze, so the last thing we want to do when we get home is break open a 35 year old single malt and sit in front of the T.V.  That's not to say that I don't have a bottle or two of some special occasion stuff sitting inside my bar cabinet, but those are spirits that require time and appreciation.  Campari and soda is much more appetizing to me once I open the front door and set down my laptop bag.

Why is it necessary to remind ourselves of this from time to time? Because people can take drinking very seriously - to the point that they don't allow themselves any ability for enjoyment - notes must always be taken, photos snapped for archival purposes, blogging and posting on message boards to invite further discussion, more bottles must be hunted down and acquired to complete the perfect collection, arguments on message boards for the sake of ranking the greatest whiskies of all time, and on, and on, and on.  I get emails from people who are heart-broken, crushed, outraged, indignant about the fact that the cult bottle they wanted so much went in and out of stock without them.  I visit restaurants where people are unable to order the food they actually want to eat because it doesn't pair with the wine.  I listen to beer fans wax about the merit of Pliny the Elder and refuse to try anything else because it just isn't as good.  Is this making anyone's life happier?  It sounds like more stress!

At the end of John's article he writes:

In all three instances here, I wasn’t “John Hansell the whisky reviewer.” I was just someone enjoying whisky in a way that seemed appropriate at that given time.

The key word there is "enjoy."  Don't forget to enjoy your drink.  People first began drinking because it made them feel good.  Alcohol is not supposed to be a trophy, a mortgage, or a stress on your daily life, but rather relieve you from those things and help you to put your worries aside. 

There are many merits to fine wine and great whisky - just like literature or anything else.  However, you don't always have to read War and Peace.  In the privacy of your own home, you can read Twilight and enjoy it because you don't have to prove anything to anyone.

John Hansell, a man who rates fine whisky for a living, drinks bourbon and ginger ale in his free time, so we're all free to let our guard down as well.

-David Driscoll


New Arrivals/Back In Stock

Kilchoman 2011 Spring Release Islay Single Malt Whisky $64.99 - The new release of Kilchoman sees some sherry wood making its way into the mix.  The rich and rounder highlights really help balance out the spice of the young, smoky, spicy bourbon-aged malt.  This is the best release of Kilchoman we have tasted to date and the sensational quality only speaks to the greatness this distillery will eventually achieve.  The Spring release has loads of smoke, iodine, and salty notes with hints of oloroso in the background.  Slightly denser and more concentrated that any of the previous releases.

Springbank 10 Year Old Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky $54.99 - I was getting a bit nervous that this was going to be out of stock longer.  But that's the beauty of Springbank - they bottle to order so every batch is different.  Can't wait to try the new load.

Big Peat Islay Vatted Malt Scotch Whisky PRICE REDUCTION (formerly $99.99) NOW $59.99 - This vatted malt hits all the right notes and completely justifies its higher price.  Not only is is a crazy blend of Islay's finest: Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and the rare Port Ellen, it is exactly what you expect when you taste it.  The aromas are of smoke, and salty seaweed with a slight medicinal note, and the palate shows more campfire smoke with a saline and herbal character.  The finish is rockin' and the length on it is incredible.  It lingers in your mouth for minutes as hints of fresh chopped spearmint and pepper start to appear.  This is an apply named whisky that is very much a big and peaty drink.

Douglas Laing's Original & Authentic Double Barrel 8 year Macallan & Laphroaig Blended Malt Whisky PRICE REDUCTION – NOW $59.99This unique bottling of two special single malts defies its category.  The rich Speyside character of Macallan contrasted by the brine and smoke of Laphroaig.  One of the finest young vatted malts I've tasted in years.  Awesome!!!

2000 Domaine Labet Marcs du Jura $39.99 - Can you believe we found a Marcs from the Jura?!  Wine and spirits geeks unite!  Made from savignin, ploussard, and chardonnay skins then aged in oak for ten years!  Like the richest grappa, yet also exotic and slightly oxidized like a Vin Jaune.  One of the most intriguing and exciting spirits I've tasted in years.  My love for the wines of Jura and my passion for spirits finally collide!

Louis Roque Vieille Prune $39.99 - From the historic Louis Roque distillery located in the sleep town of Souillac.  Imported by the legendary Charles Neal, Roque specializes in Vieille Prune from Gascony.  Perhaps the finest in class, certainly the best of what's available in the states, prune uses only the best Gascone Plums.  With the depth of a cognac and the finesse of a plum brandy.  Esoteric, yet familiar, this Vieille Prune has an unparrelled richness.  Bursting with asian spice and ripe fruit, you'll want to keep this one in stock once you've tried it.

Reisetbauer Austrian Blue Gin $47.99 - The most esteemed producer of eau-de-vie in Austria has now released an Austrian gin!  Vibrant, spicy, and dry in a way that London dry gin only wishes it could be.  Intense, pure, and flavorful to the max.

Paolucci Amaro CioCiaro Liqueur $18.99 - According to a highly trusted source this is the closest available substitute for the old incarnation of Amer Picon.  The Amer Picon is a highly sought-after cocktail ingredient, which is not distributed in the United States.  Not many people know that in the 1970s the formula for Amer Picon was quietly changed.  Amaro CioCiaro is the closest you'll get to that original Amer.  It's soft, subtle, sweet, citrus, is offset by a pleasant bitterness.  A must for any cocktail nerds bar.

-David Driscoll


Tuesday Tasting Notes

As I’ve said countless times on this blog, the appointments that you always expect to underwhelm you always end up blowing your mind.  Take today’s meeting with Orietta Maria Varnelli for example.  Despite my extreme interest in Italian bitters (amari) and liqueurs, I wasn’t expecting too much from these products.  By the end of the tasting, I was taking as many pictures as possible, writing copious amounts of notes, and our Italian wine buyer Greg St. Clair was screaming out various praises in Italian – we were completely caught off guard and wowed by what we tasted. 

Distilleria Varnelli has been producing spirits in the Marche region of Italy since 1868.  They’re located in the slopes of the Sibillini Mountains and have been family-owned for more than 140 years.  Like most great products in Italy, their spirits are comprised of the roots, herbs, and spices found in the nearby region: things like star anise, cloves, and the incredibly bitter gentian – both its flowers and its root.  The amari are unlike any other amari I have ever tasted – likely because they are flavored with honey instead of sugar and are grounded in grain alcohol rather than brandy.

 The Amaro Sibilla (should retail for around $50) is soft and gentle on the entry, but thick on the palate, moving into herbal notes before hinting at dark chocolate.  The finish is incredibly powerful, loads of bitter herb flood your tongue and you almost can’t believe how bitter it is.  The Amaro Dell’Erborista is the real gem – it’s pricy at around $65, but for a liter bottle – and it’s completely unfiltered and unfined, giving the spirit a cloudy color.  The flavors are again founded in the gretian root, but this time on the lighter side as the orange peel and anise are allowed to shine a bit more.  The finish is once again extremely bitter!  The CaffeMoka is ungodly good.  It's the only thing I've tasted that gives Dave Smith's Firelit series true competition.  They infuse the grain alcohol with espresso and some honey.  So freaking good you'll want to cry!  The punch is like egg nog without the eggs!  That's the only way I can describe it.  The dry anisette is a purer form of Pernod or Ricard, ripe with anise flavor, but without the sweetness - almost like a better version of Ouzo (which I'm happy to have finally found).

By the end of the tasting the room was a panic.  I was running to get my camera, Greg was blabbering stuff in Italian, Kyle was trying to ask more questions, and Orietta was trying to focus on all three of us.  These should be available in a few weeks and I couldn't be more excited.  With the Italian staff on board, this should be an easy sell!

-David Driscoll


Tuesday Tasting Tonight!


Black Maple Hill 16 Year Old.  $130 a bottle.  Many have debated over its origins.  Is it from Heaven Hill?  Why is it so expensive?  Is it really that good?  Could it be from Stitzel Weller like the original BMH bottles were?  Now is the time for you to find out.  For about $5 you can come and get a glass of this amazing bourbon.  We start at 6 PM at Martin's West in Redwood City.  We go until the bottle is empty!  Come and join us!

-David Driscoll



Last Barrel Announcement!!

Well, we've finally come to the end of our exclusive K&L barrel pre-order list and we've saved one of the best whiskies for last.  All of the casks are now on the website and available for purchase in advance with special discounted pricing for those who do so.  The complete list is posted on the right margin of this webpage if you scroll down a bit.  There are currently no further plans to release anything further unless something drastic happens with Kilchoman and that sherry barrel we liked so much gets a bit more affordable.  So for now here's the dramatic finish to our first ever K&L Scotland pre-arrival campaign:

1990 Littlemill K&L Exclusive 21 Year Old Faultline Spirits Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky PRE-ARRIVAL $114.99 (retail to be $129.99) - When it was dismantled in 1996, Littlemill was not only one of the oldest working distilleries, but also one of the rarest. Finding great Littlemill is EXTREMELY difficult. We were very lucky to find this exceptional cask of ultra rare Littlemill and even luckier to get it for a reasonable price.  From a secret special source, this warehouse contained several off limits ultra rare casks. Somehow we weaseled this one cask out for the inaugural release of our own independent label dubbed Faultline Spirits.  Faultline draws a line in the sand.  It connects our three stores and expresses the monumental nature of what we plan to do. Only the finest, most rare products will be bottled under the Faultline name; this Littlemill exemplifies our goal perfectly. Littlemill is rarely mentioned these days.  Straddling the line between lowland and highland, just north of Glasgow, it's traditionally classified as a lowland whisky due to the histrical use of triple distillation. Geographically, it's more closesly linked to the highlands. In the 1930s, the distillery moved to double distillation.  This bourbon cask was perfectly aged in a cool ocean climate and shows a great deal of depth. Nose: Strong caramel, green apple peel, rich grain, and citrus blossom. Palate: Tootsie Roll, pineapple, more citrus and bit of white pepper. Complex, vibrant, truly special. -David Girard, K&L Spirits Buyer

-David Driscoll