Letters to the Editor

I want to genuinely thank those few customers who have already picked up their initial bottles of Cut Spike and sent me an email review. When you launch a new product like this and you hype it up, the whiskey needs to live up to that level of quality. Of course, you can't predict to a certainty how other people will react. You can only guess and hope. It can be nerve-racking, so these emails help to set my mind at ease. One of my long time customers, Richard—a man who knows his whiskey—sent me this note on Saturday:  

Hey David, good to see you today. I have to hand it to you. Cut Spike is unreal. Not sure about the whole "give it time" commentary, but as soon as I got home, I opened and tasted it with a tiny tiny amount of ice melt and it is truly delicious. I am shocked at the deep flavors of appleskins, green and black teas and a perfect amount of sweetness. How this is only 2 years old is beyond me! You might think I'm crazy, but this reminds me of the 1979 Glenfarclas Family Cask. Wow!

He followed it up with this email yesterday:

Revisiting Cut Spike again tonight, I'm realizing why I love this so much. There's a beautiful sour note that plays so well along side the sweetness. Similar to how salt brings out the best in chocolate. Another whiskey that has this really special interplay is the Bainbridge Battlepoint. Again, this is such a great find.

Thanks for the feedback, Richard. I'm hoping others feel the same.

-David Driscoll


Cognac Preview #3 — Giboin's Fins Bois

Have you ever been to a Cognac tasting or event where the producer said, "All of our fruit is Grand Champagne quality"? I have. I hear that all the time as an accolade when referring to a certain producer.

What does that really mean, however: Grand Champagne

It's the name of the most prestigious wine-making appellation in Cognac; the place where the soil is the most chalky, and the resulting fruit has the most finesse. That elegance translates over into the Cognac, of course.

It's one thing to have heard that Grand Champagne fruit makes for "better" Cognac, but it's an entirely different thing to actually know that through your own tasting experiences. If Grand Champagne is the best then why bother with anything else, right? But how do you know it's the best? Have you ever tasted Petit Champagne or Borderies expressions? When's the last time you even saw a Cognac from the Borderies at your local shop? And what about the other three satellite regions: the Bon Bois, Fins Bois, and Bois Ordinaires? Have you ever tasted anything from those inferior terrains to compare against the pre-ordained superiority of Grand Champagne Cognac?


Us neither. Until this past Spring, however, when we met with Francois Giboin and dug through his cellar in the Fin Bois region.

Giboin's estate is a classic Cognac millieu—gigantic country house, scattered papers and books, that smell that reminds you of your grandparents, and wooden antique furniture. It's the romantic ideal and a helluva place to go Cognac spelunking. The fact that we were so far outside the realm of "normal" Cognac producers sent an adventurous tingle through our spines.

And was there a difference in the flavor of Giboin's Fin Bois expressions? Absolutely. These Cognacs are nowhere near as refined as their Grand Champagne counterparts, but they have incredible merit nonetheless. The brandies are earthier, with more power and gusto. We found a lovely 1996 vintage expression that went down almost too easily. A simple, easy, to-the-point Cognac with lovely richness. 

We were ready to expand our horizons.

-David Driscoll


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