I'm out of town visiting my parents for the long weekend and while putting away their newly-arrived K&L booze delivery, I discovered some amazing, unopened bottles lingering in the rear of their spirits closet. My parents (and myself every now and then) used to make regular visits to both Germany and Italy to visit close friends. It appears that my mother has been stowing some special bottles away in her suitcase over the years, now for the benefit of her aperativo-loving son.
First off - Biancosarti! The white version of Campari sold almost exclusively in Italy. Made by the Campari Group with a different blend of special herbs and spices, I've actually never tasted it, but that will all change later this evening.
Secondly - plum liquor and an herbal bitter from a small hunting village in rural Germany! How fitting that last night I dreamt about my good friend Kalli only to have my mother tell me this morning that she bought these bottles while accompanying him on a hunting trip. Kalli was a teacher with whom both my mother and I spent many a summer in Iserlohn with, before he succumbed to cancer a few years back. My mom keeps these bottles in memorial to him, so I'm not sure if we'll open them, but I'm tempted. In Germany, you have to hunt on private property, so you have to get permission from the landowner before you go. The farmer on whose land Kalli hunted produced these liqueurs and allowed my mom to sample them.
There are so many different variations of herbal and bitter liqueurs being made throughout Europe that it's mindboggling. Every town you visit seems to have their own traditional version that differs slightly from a neighboring village or region. Someday I'm going to taste every one of them and write a book about it that only twelve people will ever buy.
I do not write for a living, but I do, in a way, live to write. I am constantly thinking about new things to add to this website, not in an effete manner meant to expand our literary consciousness, but in a simple and straightforward manner than is easy to read and succinct in character. I enjoy it because there's no pressure and I can say what I please. However, after a conversation I had with Andrew Morrison this week, I began to ponder the anxiety I would suffer from were my salary dependent upon whisky reporting. Not only the stress of deadlines and finding the next great story, but the personal turmoil I would face in keeping my writing fresh and interesting. The subject was raised when Andrew mentioned Dave Broom, a well-known and highly-respected booze writer whom I have never met, yet am obviously aware of. Andrew spoke highly of Broom and I made mention of his intricate and sometimes hyper-descriptive level of sensory. Andrew laughed, saying, "he's got to keep it interesting, I mean it's his job to come up with new flavors and descriptors!" Suddenly my former academic past came flashing before my eyes and I began to look at things a bit differently.
If you're a collegiate-level literature professional, your job is to familarize the budding youth of tomorrow with many of the same manuals from the past. Moby Dick, Ulysses, and the Oddessy are a few examples of texts repeatedly hailed as lapidary forms of stylistic integrity. Lying underneath the mountain of praise these classics have cultivated over the last century, however, is the larger and more significant reason for their continual portrayal: they provide an endless amount of interpretation. As a professor, one can carve out their own philosophical focus and differentiate themself from a pack of other like-minded intellectuals who have simply retaught what was already surmised. The point is that whisky also offers these same opportunities for people who have the desire and the ability to recognize them, as well as the diction and the syntax to make them sound interesting.
Guys like Dave Broom make whisky writing interesting and that's their job. Even if you've never tasted the flavors he's describing, you've got to admire his ability. Thank goodness that all I have to do is sell whisky because it's not easy to do what he does.
Hooray! The new batches of A.D. Rattray Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malts are coming in next week. I got to taste the new samples right away and fell head over heels for a new 20 Year Old Auchroisk that we'll be bringing in for a bargain $79.99! We bought every bottle they had (95 to be exact), so while we didn't get the whole cask, we got everything that was imported into the U.S. save for a few bottles. Anyway, here are the notes for the new samples. Bottles will be in stock as of next Thursday.
Auchroisk 20 Year Old A.D. Rattray Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $79.99 - We recently purchased a cask of 22 year old Auchroisk from Scotland. It was so good and such a value (when you compare it to the 20 year old from the offical distillery release that sells for $180) that it sold out very quickly. Merely days later, we stumbled upon another batch of Auchroisk that may be an even better value! We loved it so much that we immediately called the distributor and purchased every single bottle they had available. At $79.99 it's literally $100 less than the distillery version and just as complex. The nose is fat and oily, ripe with stewed fruits and bursting with aromas. The palate almost seems peated as it drips of earthy smoke and rustic wood. The finish is all roasted nuts and sweet grains. This is a 20 year old, cask strength release of a great Speyside distillery. A no brainer purchase. You'd be crazy not to buy this one.
Glen Ord 12 Year Old A.D. Rattray Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whiskey $65.99 - Glen Ord is quite an interesting distillery. We don't see it too often in the United States and the ones we do get can be wildly different from one another. This is a grimy one from A.D. Rattray and I mean that in a good way! Lots of thick, earthy, smoky oils run through this malt and the hints of vanilla and lemon zest that accent the finish make every sip that much more pleasant. A fun and interesting whisky that speaks well of the Glen Ord distillery style.
Craigellachie 8 Year Old A.D. Rattray Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whiskey $65.99 - There's no doubt that this precoscious little youngster comes from a sherry barrel - the nose is bursting with rich honey and dried apricots mixed with rum raisins. Oily, supple, and very Springbank like on the palate, this is not one to be missed. A fantastic whisky and, at cask strength, a big one as well!
Cooley 11 Year Old A.D. Rattray Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Irish Single Malt Whiskey $89.99 - While the 1999 barrel we had from Cooley was quite successful, this new cask is even better. More vanilla, more citrus, more nuance, and all at cask strength - something very rare for an Irish. This tastes like a huskier version of the Slieve Foy 8 Year Old, another delicious independent bottling of Cooley. Good stuff!
MacDuff 10 Year Old A.D. Rattray Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whiskey $65.99 - There's nothing like good, old-fashioned single malt whisky and this MacDuff is a throwback, similar to some of the older Glen Grants I have tasted. The nose is a subtle and balanced whiff of vanilla with sweet barley, the palate a dance of soft fruits and delicate flavors. This is lovely stuff.
Both of these will be in stock by the end of the day, as long as the deliveries go as planned!
Mastersons 10 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey $64.99 - Another independently-bottled Canadian 10 year old rye, a la the Jefferson's and the Whistlepig. This one from 35 Maple St. bottlers is much richer than the Jefferson's, but more rye like than the Whistlepig. Nice, supple flavors of vanilla and molasses combine with rye grain spice and subtle herbal notes. This makes a nice sipping rye and is thoroughly enjoyable.
Corsair Experimental Kentucky Rye Whiskey $49.99 - Once again we'll be the only store in California to land any of Corsair's delicious young rye. We didn't bother with an exclusive label this time around, but the whiskey is still exclusively ours. This was a huge success for us last time around and was a surprise favorite of many a customer. Here are the notes: The American craft whiskey movement is starting to gain some serious steam and we're happy to be helping its momentum. We've had to search high and low to find the tastiest, most exclusive products available and this time we wound up at one of Kentucky's newest distilleries. Available only at K&L in California, this whiskey is from a 100% rye mashbill giving the flavor a true injection of peppery spice. Because rye whiskey needs legally to be only 51% rye, most distilleries lower their production costs by adding corn and barley to the remaining 49%. To get a pure rye spirit is very rare and to get one with any kind of age on it is even more difficult. While young, the Corsair has really taken to the new oak barrels and explodes with vanilla, cherries, and a touch of smoke.