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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

4/2 - Redwood City: Glenlivet Single Malts

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!


Elementary School Lessons

When I was teaching elementary school in San Francisco, I learned a great deal about human psychology in the face of choice and selection.  My first P.E. time was perhaps the best example of what could happen when supply and demand influenced behavior.  I asked all the kids to spread out so that we could stretch and do our warm-up exercises, but they still all clumped together.  To help solve this dilemma, I found some small, round, colored rubber mats that I could spread out evenly and then ask the students to find a colored dot to stand on top of.  There were yellow, red, green, orange, blue and purple dots.  Problem solved, right?  Wrong.

Immediately all the girls ran to the red dots and all the boys ran to the blue dots.  The girls started screaming at each other about who had got there first and the boys began pushing and fighting over their territory.  I immediately blew my teacher's whistle and told everyone that they needed to find their own space, that there were enough dots for everyone, and that it didn't matter what color they received. While they listened and understood what I said, they didn't believe it for a second.  Every day there was a competition about who would get the red or blue dot first and those that got it would hold it over the heads of the other kids.  It soon became an obsession for some of the kids who didn't even know why they wanted it, just that they did.  The harder it was to get a red or blue dot, the more the kids wanted it and fought about it.  I eventually found some rubber dots that were uniform in color and that was the end of that. 

Another time a parent brought in popsicles for one of the student's birthday.  She had different flavors however and I told her that it wasn't going to work.  She looked shocked and asked, "What do you mean?  There are enough popsicles for everyone!"  She didn't see where I was going with this.  Wanting her to learn a quick lesson about children, I took a step back and told her to go ahead and pass them out.  Immediately the kids started screaming, "I want cherry! I want cherry!"  Once the kids figured out that cherry was the best flavor to have, the other kids who got grape or banana started crying and complaining that they wanted cherry as well.  The whole situation was about to blow up until I said, "You're going to get whatever you get, no choosing, and if you don't want the popsicle you get you can choose not to eat it."  It got them to quiet down, but it didn't end the teasing, the boasting, or the triumphant behavior of those who were able to secure the beloved cherry.  That was the last time the mom brought in different flavored popsicles.

As an elementary school teacher, I learned that if you didn't have enough red dots or cherry popsicles for everyone, you were only setting yourself up for disaster.  Children understand the basic rules of fairness and they will let you know when you're breaking them.  Kids would cry, scream, pout, and moan if they were left out, while the victorious kids would take every opportunity to rub their possession in the face of the have-nots.  I found it easier just not to participate in certain activities because playing referee all the time gets tiresome and the kids just get mad at you. It wouldn't be fair to choose favorites and let some kids get something special that they wanted. There either had to be enough for everyone who wanted one or else we didn't do it.  In the end, why would you want to make only some kids feel special when the goal is to make everyone feel equally special? 

I remember little Joanne saying, "Mr. David, why did you give one of the cherry popsicles to Lisa and not me?"

Yeah, Mr. David, why did you?

Those were valuable lessons.

-David Driscoll


Morality Issues With Booze

As I move into my weekend, my head is once again spinning as I take some time to contemplate the issues of the week.  So many different encounters, so many interesting conversations, so many questions I have for myself and for others.  Rather than toss and turn in bed while I try and push them out of my brain, I'm going to release a little of it here:

-If you love a company's whisk(e)y, but loathe the company that makes it, should you continue to drink it?  Can you separate a company's actions, policies, business model, or politics from their product?  This is a morality question that extends far beyond booze, but it doesn't really come up with liquor because the inner workings of the business tend to stay hidden.  I'm not here to expose them or judge them either, but it wears on me sometimes.

-What are the issues that would cause you to stop drinking a certain whisk(e)y? Besides price. Everyone can get priced out eventually, so that doesn't count.

-How many people actually care about the politics of booze as long as the booze keeps flowing and it keeps tasting good?

-Are hard-to-find, special releases exciting or just frustrating?

-Besides flavor, what are other factors that go into the enticement of a bottle? Does a company's image effect sales or are they irrelevant? (We're not talking distilleries here, but the companies that own them).

-David Driscoll


1512 Barbershop? Where Did This Come From?

Just met with a representative for 1512 Spirits today, a little outfit that has been making illegal moonshine for three generations.  From what I've heard (from them and from others) the guy behind this project is a distillation genius.  Can't wait to meet him.  I just pre-ordered four cases of their newest white rye batch coming out in a few weeks.  Word is they may have some older stuff hiding away as well.  Mike Barber of our SF store actually met him at his barber shop a few years back and traded him some wine for booze.  This guy still works as a barber five days a week in SF and distills at night in Sonoma County.  In any case, Mike said the spirits are the real deal.  We'll have 48 bottles of this 100% white rye in a few weeks.  It's very, very good.  I hope it's an indication of what is to come.  I plan on doing plenty o' business with 1512.

-David Driscoll


No One Cares

I've been doing a good amount of thinking lately about the merit of awards, achievements, and accolades.  People are always searching for a way to display their accomplishments, vendors are constantly putting their gold medals on the label, producers never stop talking about points, and some consumers keep bragging about what they've tasted.  There are numerous publications available now that are calling this period in time the "look at me" generation. Everyone wants to be special and, more importantly, they want you to know it.  The problem with this mentality and the irony of the situation is that NO ONE CARES.

Seriously, no one gives a hoot.  In all honesty, I've found that most people care very little about many things, but they especially zone out when listening to pedantry.  Yap, yap, yap, is all they hear and who can blame them?  If I get asked to pick out a few wines for someone, I have to be very careful about how much information I choose to share.  If I say, "these wines are fantastic," that's about as much as most people want to hear.  They wanted my selection and they got it.  When I start getting into micro-climates, soil types, and the history of the region, many customers begin staring blankly and nodding their head with a zombie-like expression - a sign that I've gone too far.  Touting one's expertise can really annoy people and as one of the less humble people of the world, I've had to learn this the hard way over the years.  The point is, however, that I've learned.  I'm still surprised by how many haven't. 

I've met with numerous liquor salesmen over the last few weeks and lately I've been more than blunt in my interpretation of the market.  "But our tequila won a double gold at the SF Spirits competition! Doesn't that help you sell it?"  No, it doesn't.  You know why?  Because no one cares.  Awards are given by people in the industry to other people in the industry.  Very few people outside the industry even know what the SF Spirits Competition is, and even if they did, they still wouldn't care.  Gold medals fall slightly under the 100 point scale on the list of the least valuable evaluation systems in spirits.

I was browsing a widely-read whisky blog the other day, and the subject was concerning a few new releases that had yet to be made available.  The author was explaining how they tasted and I was excited to get some insight.  Then I read the comments.  The first few responses were from other bloggers who just HAD to let everyone know that they had also tasted these whiskies at some special tasting somewhere.  Guess what, guys?  NO ONE CARES!  I went to the site to read this one person's take, and I don't give two shits if you tasted it last week.  Save the bragging for your Facebook page.  Take a picture in front of every bottle you've ever tasted and post it there (although, I still can't promise you that anyone will care).

I was talking to a friend on the phone the other day and she said, "I don't know why everyone thinks my sister is dumb, I mean, she got her masters in education."  I thought to myself, "your sister IS rather spacey, and as far as the master's degree goes: no one cares!"  As if a master's degree separated smart from dumb, good from bad!  I have a master's degree in German and I usually don't tell anyone because most people say, "Why?" with a frown, rather than "Wow, that must mean you're smart!"  College degrees don't mean you're intelligent, in fact, I'm not sure what they're good for these days.  Chris Rock dropped out of high school, I think, and if you've ever listened to his stand up comedy, that man is a genius!

You know what most people care about? Taste, fun, and enjoyment.  Awards, accreditation, and accomplishments might make you feel good about yourself, but they don't make you fun nor do they make you enjoyable.  If you want people to like you, be nice and don't bore them by talking about how awesome you are.  That goes for people and for booze. 

-David Driscoll


Busy On My Tasting Day

An appointment with Charles Neal is an appointment I look forward to with great relish.  This Bay Area importer is consistantly bringing in the best line up of artisan French spirits in the business.  All of his products come from small farmers in the countryside who decide to bottle their own products rather than sell them to the big houses.  Charles Neal is to spirits as K&L is to Champagne.  We go over and find the little guys that no one else is paying attention to and then try and introduce them to our customers.  We currently carry a number of Charles Neal selections, such as the Dudognon Cognac, the Pellehaut Bas-Armagnac, the Lemorton Domfrontais Calvados and the 1984 Ravignan Vintage Armagnac.  Perhaps the biggest feather in Neal's cap however is the Adrien Camut Calvados collection, a small production outfit in the Pays d'Auge region.  Every time we're able to secure a new batch of these apple brandies, I usually buy as many as are available.

While I've always considered the Camut 12 to be the best Calvados in our inventory, this might change to the recent release of Camut 6 year old.  I brought my assistant Kyle in to the tasting bar today so that he could educate his palate a bit and he agreed that the 6 was simply stupendous.  Even though the Pays d'Auge brandies are twice distilled, the crisp acidity of the apples comes through clean in the spirit and the palate is bursting with juicy, ripe, spicy cider.  To me, the measure of a great Calvados is the balance between barrel and fruit, and I've perhaps never seen a finer example.  I just bought Charles out of every bottle he had available, so I'm hoping to secure a nice amount for our interested customers.

Following the departure of Mr. Neal, I had a brief visit from a small distributor in the area who is going to be bringing the small NYC producer Breuckelen Distilling to California.  I had read a bit about the gin (pictured above) online and had hoped to eventually try it on my annual excursion to the Big Apple.  However, no need to wait, as it showed up today on my doorstep.  We're hoping to have this in stock by early next month.  A fascinating gin, delicate and dainty, with nice lemon and floral elements.  Kyle felt that it would make a fantastic gin and tonic, and I had to agree.  Should retail in the sub-$30 zone.  Fun, fun, fun!

-David Driscoll