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Thursday
Apr242014

Six New Dickels For You To Pick(le)

I am very excited to tell you about these six new casks that have just arrived. They are without a doubt the most exciting single barrels of American whiskey we've been able to buy in some time. I don't think I've been this pumped since our first barrel of Four Roses showed up, mainly because these six barrels of Dickel mark the first time we've had something new and different to offer in a very long time.

Just like with Bourbon, corn is the main component for Tennessee whiskey and it's important in particular because of Dickel's 84% corn mashbill that results in a full-bodied, creamy sweetness, setting it apart from its Kentucky brethren. While no one really gets overly-excited about the mellow, mild, reduced flavor of Dickel #8, I can promise you that when that flavor is concentrated into a single barrel and bottled at 103 proof, it's a much more dynamic experience.

The point is: these barrels are freaking delicious!!! 

Here is something you need to know before buying these bottles, however:

1) They are wide, squat bottles so if you're shipping these we have to pack them separately into a different box.

2) While the 12 pack box these bottles arrived in clearly dictates which barrel these whiskies came from, the label unfortunately does not. We have therefore stickered each bottle with a barcode and barrel code to make sure you can tell which whiskey is from which cask.

Let me also say that I don't think any one barrel shines over the others. They're all very similar in profile with only subtle differences. The first description is only longer because I'm cutting out the intro on the other five (it's not because I like it more!).

George Dickel K&L Exclusive 9 Year Old Single Barrel 03L29 G78-2-26 Tennessee Whiskey $44.99 -- Production methods really haven't changed at George Dickel distillery since 1959, nor have the practices -- they've been making old-fashioned Tennessee whiskey from corn the only way they know how. That's why when Dickel announced they would begin doing a single barrel program with retailers we were amazed (and excited). Just like with Bourbon, corn is the main component for Tennessee whiskey and is important in particular because of Dickel's 84% corn mashbill that results in a full-bodied, creamy sweetness that sets it apart from its Kentucky brethren. It also passes very slowly though charcoal after distillation, allowing it to pull out all the impurities they don't want in the whiskey, resulting in a soft, mellow, and smooth spirit. But now imagine all that sweet corn richness from a single barrel at 103 proof! Barrel G 78-2-26 has an instant hit of big bold vanilla spice and rich barrel char before mellowing out into a creamy candy corn palate, accented by more baking spices. The higher proof really brings new life to the richness, bringing a boldness reminiscent to the Pappy Van Winkle Bourbons, which also combine that potency of sweet with heat. There isn't enough whiskey like this to satisfy the pent up demand. I'd buy 100 barrels of this if we could.

George Dickel K&L Exclusive 9 Year Old Single Barrel 04F29 L56-5-5 Tennessee Whiskey $44.99 -- Barrel L 56-5-5 is more like a Bourbon than any of the other five casks we found mainly because it starts off with that pencil shaving aroma and wood-driven character before the sweetness hits. The mid-palate turns more herbaceous, but the higher proof and the sweetness from the corn prevent it from overtaking the experience and throwing the entire profile out of balance. The finish is a flutter of barrel char and caramel. Lovely stuff.

George Dickel K&L Exclusive 9 Year Old Single Barrel 04F29 L56-6-20 Tennessee Whiskey $44.99 -- Barrel L 56-6-20 brings more spice and barrel richness than sweet corn, however, and explodes into a barrage of mint, anise, cinnamon, and herbaceous goodness -- all without sacrificing the inherent creaminess. This is the exact profile that Bourbon fans are lamenting the loss of these days -- that bold spice that's equally matched by barrel richness. The finish is all burnt vanilla and creme brulee. YUM!!!!

George Dickel K&L Exclusive 9 Year Old Single Barrel 04L28 N54-3-6 Tennessee Whiskey $44.99 -- Barrel 04L28 N54-3-6 has lots of graham cracker goodness with plenty of spicy barrel char action. There's a burst of sweet vanilla on the mid-palate and more toasted oak on the finish. It's a tad less sweet than the other five and even a bit of an amaro note on the back end. This should be a big hit for Manhattan drinkers.

George Dickel K&L Exclusive 9 Year Old Single Barrel 04L430 N55-3-2 Tennessee Whiskey $44.99 -- Barrel 04L430 N55-3-2 has a concentrated core of charred oak, caramel corn, and big spice. The palate explodes and the high proof balances out the richness perfectly. It's a match made in heaven.

George Dickel K&L Exclusive 9 Year Old Single Barrel 3L29 G78-5-8 Tennessee Whiskey $44.99 -- Barrel 3L29 G78-5-8 has lots of wood tannin and dark oak goodness, but a bit of burnt sugar and creme brulee on the backend. This is most nuanced of the bunch, but that's not saying much. It still explodes at 51.5% ABV and still brings the sweet corny goodness, albeit in a more subdued manner.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Apr242014

Orphan Barrel Bonanza!

REVISION: I should note that we received conflicting reports about the mashbill of the Old Barterhouse. The Whiskey Advocate reported a while back that all the mashbills are the same (non-wheated), but Diageo told me repeatedly that the formula was wheated, hence why I wrote that in the description. I wrote those notes a while back when I first tasted the whiskey and forgot to update them before we did the email, so since the mashbill is indeed 86% corn, 6% rye, and 8% barley, I apologize. I was going off what the brand told me at our appointment (which we all know is not always the best thing to do!).

David OG and I were talking about an interesting phenomenon on our last trip to Scotland, regarding how we get our deals done for K&L: namely, the idea that being a spirits buyer can't be that hard, right? Has anyone ever said to you, "Hey, you take good pictures. I should get a camera like yours." No? Well maybe they've said, "Hey, I like your outfit, I should shop where you shop." The insinuation when someone gives you that type of "complement" is that you're only as good as the camera you use, or the store you shop at -- there's nothing of your own talent or skill involved. 

The same type of conversation happens when David and I make something happen for K&L. "Wow, good deal, someone must owe you guys a favor," a person will inevitably mention. Or.....maybe we just know what we're doing? How else would we track down a gangload of the two hottest whiskies to hit the market this year, in quantities that will allow you all to snag a bottle without entering a raffle or diving over your opponent? You think these just fell into our lap?

So how did we get them? Uh.....it was....my camera, I guess.

Barterhouse 20 Year Old Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey $89.99 (NOTE: this item ships as a 1.5L) The mysterious 20 year old expression arrives! The Old Barterhouse is the most talked about American whiskey of 2014 and its got the gusto to back up the hype. The rich, spicy, and full-bodied palate bursts with sweet vanilla and creamy corn, showcasing the richness that only 20 years in a new charred barrel can offer. This is as close as you'll get to Pappy 20 and it's about $40 less per bottle. Consider yourself lucky if you managed to get one.

Old Blowhard 26 Year Old Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey $169.99 (NOTE: this item ships as a 1.5L) I can't remember the last time we saw a 26 year old Bourbon at K&L - even when the good old days of mature Bourbon were in full swing. To find an American whiskey with this level of maturity and for this price is shocking, especially in this bare market. The ethereal Old Blowhard is almost ghostly in its elegance. It's not rich, powerful, or in-your-face. The Blowhard is soft, delicate, and simply graceful in its profile - the wood flavors are haunting, rather than blunt. I've never tasted another Bourbon like this whiskey before, and I don't know whether I will again considering the scarcity of older stocks. This will be one of the most coveted bottles we sell this year.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Apr242014

I'm Talking to the Other Guys

Let me describe the scene to you: there are these guys, they act like customers so that they can get on to our insider email lists, they read this blog obsessively, but really they have their own stores and their own work to do, so they try to use all of our public information against us. If we run lower margins to create a buzz, they run and complain to the brands like little tattle-tales, saying we must be getting insider pricing. If we use our skills to acquire better allocations of difficult to find products, they whine about how K&L must be cheating the system. More importantly, they prey on our every word and whim to see what we're doing next by infiltrating our newsletters and sales blasts, hoping to God they can get a head start on the two Davids.

Well, guess what? I'm on to you guys! You're going to have to change up your strategy.

Nevertheless, I'm gonna drop a few bombs today in your honor. Check back later today for some fun stuff.

So long everybody!

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Apr232014

One Week Until We Party

I was practicing my chops last night in preparation for next week's Olmeca Altos "limeless" tequila dinner. After testing out a number of martini-like cocktails, I found I really liked the Hernandez -- taken from the OA website -- which uses:

2 oz. Olmeca Altos blanco

0.5 oz of sweet vermouth

0.2 oz of maraschino liqueur

2 dashes orange bitters

1 dash Angostura

The influence of the sweeteners are very mild and the bitters accent the spiciness already embedded in the tequila itself. It really drinks like a subtle, yet elegant tequila martini because, ultimately, that's the dominant flavor you're tasting. For those coming to our big party next Tuesday night at El Sinaloense, you'll be getting one of these the minute you walk into the place. I'll be behind the bar mixing away while you get settled into your seat.

We still have a few seats left if you want to join us, although I'm fine with our numbers right now considered I'm already on the hook for thirty Hernandez cocktails!

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Apr222014

Don't Forget to Enjoy Yourself

The K&L Redwood City crew enjoying a beer at the end of a long day

The idea that we always need to be achieving something is a very American concept. In the novel Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche notices that people in the United States "spend a lot of time doing, instead of being." Many of us are thinking about the next task, rather than the current moment, and we tend to quantify those accomplishments to help give them meaning. I am very, very guilty of this.

Due to my recently-overloaded schedule, I haven't been able to do much running lately, but I did find some time yesterday to do about seven miles. I had been thinking to myself, "I need to exercise. I'm going to gain weight if I don't get out there soon." Like many Americans, I associate "healthy" with "thin" and I'm often more worried about my calorie count than my body's basic nutrient needs. These are natural associations that go along with a very American way of living -- counting numbers, calculating stats, thinking of life as a series of equations that need to be solved.

My French friend commented on this phenomena the other day, telling me: "It's because you all grow up watching baseball, keeping track of batting averages, and figuring out who's best based on statistics rather than on-field play. Us? We play soccer. We don't care about the stats. We basically just run around for a while until something good eventually happens. That's a metaphor for French life, really."

When I got back from my run yesterday morning I was in a great mood. I had forgotten the other main reason why I like to go jogging: it makes me feel amazing! It's not just about maintaining my weight, making sure I burn off the necessary calories, and keeping my metabolic rate high. Those are the statistical aspects I tend to obsess about, but they're all secondary to the sense of happiness that blankets my soul after I finish a long route.

My French friend was right. If I run long enough, forget about all the statistical benefits, and focus on the moment, something good always happens eventually. I end up remembering that running is an enjoyment, rather than a responsibility. There's an easy analogy for whisky embedded in that philosophy.

-David Driscoll