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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

9/24 - San Francisco: Monkey 47 w/Christoph Keller!

9/24 - Redwood City: Germain Robin K&L Exclusive Brandy!

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!


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


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


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


Jefferson's K&L 18 Year Old Bourbon Is Here!

Just a quick notice that the Jefferson’s 18 Year Old K&L Exclusive Bourbon is here!  It’s $74.99, it is ultra delicious, and it’s not going to last long.

There will be an email going out to the big list on Thursday, but I think I might be telling the owners to cancel it.  I have a feeling that this message to you whiskey insiders will be enough.  The staff is going to buy half of it because it’s the last chance at a piece of whiskey history.  For the price, there is not a better, more accessible, more delicious, and more rare Bourbon we carry.

If you’re in the dark as to why this whiskey is so special, remember that this is 18 year old Stitzel Weller Bourbon – the same distillery that closed in 1991 and was previously run by the Van Winkle family.  This is the same whiskey that goes into Pappy Van Winkle 20 and 23 year.  It’s also the absolute last of what Jefferson’s has.  There will no longer be any Jefferson’s Presidential Bourbon – not for us, not for any other store.  It’s gone.  The only SW stocks that we still know of are either with the Willett family (see the Willett 20 year for $170) or the Van Winkle family, i.e. the Pappy Van Winkle whiskies.  Preston Van Winkle was open enough to tell me recently that he doesn’t see their stocks lasting beyond the next 3-4 years.  Basically, the point is – Stitzel Weller whiskey is quickly on its way to extinction. 

Sooooooooo……..if you want to get a bottle, our Jefferson’s represents the most price efficient option.  Grab one, grab five, grab whatever you need.  It is going to sell and it is going to sell fast.  If you missed out on the Pappy sweepstakes, this is your next best option.  I just re-tasted it and it’s as fantastic as any other batch we’ve carried in the past.

Also finally in stock – the Hooker’s House Sonoma Style Bourbon for $35.99.  This is another hot ticket item.  If you’re making Manhattans for the holidays, it’s hard to imagine a better whiskey to make them with.  The cherry fruit from the Pinot Noir barrel aging is simply lovely.  I really think it’s going to give Black Maple Hill a run for the money once people start tasting it. 

That’s it for now.  Gotta run back to the sales floor.  Happy Holidays to all of you!  Stay sane out there on the road and in the stores.

-David Driscoll


2011 K&L Awards - Producer/Distillery of the Year

David Driscoll picks: Berry Bros & Rudd - Really the model of what I want K&L to be for the U.S., BBR took their operation to a whole new level this year with hand-selected spirits.  They had the Nolet family distill them some gin and called it No. 3 (after the address of their London shop).  Too bad the Nolets didn't keep some for themselves, or at least make a Ketel One Gin, because it's simply the best gin around right now.  BBR also bought some extra Glenrothes to make the fantastic King's Ginger, as well as bottled six amazing rums by geographical region.  A big success in the boutique spirits world this year.

David Othenin-Girard picks: Springbank Distillery - The Springbank 10 tasted better than ever this year.  The single casks we purchased at the distillery are two of my favorite whiskies we've ever carried.  The 12 year cask strength and the three 14 year sherry casks released on a smaller scale were also fantastic.  Bottomline is this - Springbank consistantly pumps out fantastic single malts.  2011 was just another example of them doing what they do best, and doing it better than anyone else.

-David Driscoll & David Othenin-Girard


2011 K&L Awards - Whisk(e)y of the Year

True, we haven't yet posted the Single Malt of the Year award, however both of us picked single malts for our overall Whisk(e)y of the Year award.  By that logic, our single malt choices should also have been the below whiskies:

David Othenin-Girard picks: 1994 Glendronach 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Malt Whisky - I very much wanted to pick the 1998 Springbank Bourbon cask we imported as well, but the Glendronach was just too appealing.  Not just to me, but to everyone else too.  It's crazy to think we almost didn't visit the distillery.  We were trying to stick to producers we knew we wanted to buy from.  Neither of us imagined we'd ever be buying a gigantic sherry butt from Glendronach.  Now it's my favorite single malt of 2011.

David Driscoll picks: Glendronach 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky - The story is this: David OG and I needed to find somewhere to stay after a long drive to the Highlands.  Glendronach offered us their guesthouse.  We accepted, but said to ourselves, "Does that mean we have to stick around and taste all their whisky?"  We had important things to be doing and Glendronach was not high on our priority list.  When we arrived we found a bottle of the 12 year sitting in our room so we cracked it.  After our first glass we said, "Wow, that's actually pretty good."  After our second we said, "Jeez.  I really, really like that."  After our third we were really excited, "Maybe we can find an older cask like that?"  That's how we ended up with the 16 year above.  Meanwhile, we've been selling the 12 year to everyone who comes in looking for a great whisky.  For the price, can you really tell me there's anything higher in quality?

-David Driscoll