Navigation
Search This Blog

Return to KLWines.com

Spirits Journal Podcast Archive

Spirits Journal Twitter Feed

K&L Uncorked Blog

K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

7/9 - San Francisco: No Tasting

7/9 - Redwood City: Ron Zacapa Rum

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

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


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 26 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER


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 PRE-ORDER


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 IN STOCK NOW!


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!


Bladnoch 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive Lightly Peated Single Barrel #303 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

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!


Tuesday
Aug022011

St. George Visit

Always one of the best views of San Francisco, the northern tip of Alameda holds one of the Bay Area's most prized establishments - St. George distillery: the home of Hangar One vodka and the mad laboratory for distillers Lance Winter and Dave Smith.  It had been a few months since my last visit, so I wanted to keep up with what was happening with these guys, as well as finalize the deal for what will soon be a new gin collaboration between St. George and K&L.

Right when we walked in, the distillation of gin was in full effect.  Fresh off the still, we were able to taste the future Mt. Tam gin, which was created using only local botanicals from the local nature reserve.  Terroir is an important concept to Lance and Dave, so they wanted to create something that reflected their local environment.  We were able to put in a glass and experience the gin at full proof - the flavors are vibrant and amazing.  This will be a big release when it is finally done.

Lance climbed up to the botanical basket and talked about the herbs and spices that were foraged for the new gin. 

Meanwhile, Dave resurfaced with a stainless steel tank full of another delicious gin that was the result of a previous experiment.  This is the future Faultline Spirits gin and the juniper flavors are bright with peppery accents. It is scheduled for a Fall/Winter release if all goes well.  Hopefully, we all will be making your holiday spirits a bit brighter.

Getting back into the single malt barrel room was another main reason for our visit to the distillery.  The success of last year's K&L/St George single malt release was so impressive that the pressure has been building for another similar bottling.  However, I don't want a future release to be anything like the previous one so that expectations can be managed. 

Dave brought out the rubber hose and started taking pulls of the barrels to coerce the malt into the glass.  We tasted a few younger releases at first that really caught my attention.  The quality of the booze going into the barrel at St. George is so superb that even the younger whiskies sing.  One of the best we tried was a two month old distillate of Sierra Nevada Bock beer that lit up our palates - full of earthy, skunky, beery flavors that danced all over our tongues.  If St. George ever got into the Bierschnapps market they would put everyone out of business in a heartbeat.  No one is even close to their level right now.  Another barrel that wowed me was a four year old malt that had spent two years in ex-bourbon and then an additional two years in Port - dynamite stuff that plays a role in their standard single malt, therefore probably not an option for a single barrel release.  There are plenty of fantastic choices here however as long as the public is open to a younger whiskey. 

Perhaps the most surprising moment of the day came when Dave poured me something out a giant green jug and I immediately recognized it as bourbon.  "Oh my God!  You guys made a bourbon!" I screamed.  It was delicious and it tasted unlike any other flavor on the market, so I was super excited.  Then Dave said, "Well, technically it's not ours, but we blended it."  That's when he revealed to me that St. George was currently preparing to become the Compass Box of American whiskey - an organization dedicated to sourcing the finest possible bourbon casks and then marrying them into unique blends of original flavors.  I couldn't have been more shocked or more excited.  The bourbon in the jug was definitely bourbon, but had a light, fruity character that was typically more subdued in other brand-market options.  It tasted like no other available release, yet still satisfied my bourbon desires.  It was exactly what they had hoped to do, and hopefully will please the public as much as it pleased me.  They're shooting for a $35 price point, which I think is fantastic.  This is a program to keep a watchful eye on.

At the end of the day we devoured some Betty's Bake Sale chicken sandwiches - a local phenomenon that has people lining up around the corner in the East Bay.  Wow, amazing eats.  Crispy batter, succulent white meat, fresh cole slaw with vinegar and jalepeños.  I couldn't eat it fast enough.  We sat outside, talked about the future projects with excitement, and admired the view.  It was tough going back to the store afterward.  Not quite as fun as hanging with the lovely folks at St. George.

-David Driscoll

 

Tuesday
Aug022011

Tuesday Tasting Tonight!

Come and taste the Glen Ord 12 year old from James MacArthur tonight at Martin's West in Redwood City.  Should be around $3 a glass for a very rare Diageo-owned distillery.  Come and join us!  I won't be there too long, but you can sit and stay as long as you like!

-David Driscoll

Monday
Aug012011

Miracle Mile Bitters Co.

When Louis Anderman first stopped into the store with a little brown vial, I knew it was the start of something special.  Louis is one of the most committed cocktail amateurs in the country.  When I say amateur, I mean like an Olympian.  He is a wealth of knowledge regarding classic cocktails, mixology, and gastronomy in general.  After a long and exciting developmental stage he’s stepped into the professional arena.  His products have been passed around the LA Bar scene for what feels like years (although it's only been a few months now) and he’s got a strong following with several of the city’s top bartenders.  They’ve already become ubiquitos across the finest establishments and this is without any marketing whatsoever.  By no marketing,  I don’t just mean he wasn’t advertising it or selling it under the table, he literally gave it away to friends and somehow it popped up in bars across the city.  It’s been featured on countless blogs and was featured in multiple cocktails at this year’s Tales of The Cocktail.  I’ve seen this product develop from a simple hobby into one of the finest bar phenomenon in years.  Exciting, authentic, and exceptionally high quality, the Miracle Mile Bitters Co. is producing world class products that will be standards for master mixers worldwide very soon.  We’re lucky enough to be the first major retail store to offer these bitters.  Supply is very limited so please don’t wait. 

Castillian Bitters 100ml - $15.99

This Iberian style bitter is hard to pinpoint.  There’s a definite orange peel element, but the subtlety of the other flavors is delightful.  Some coriander, cardamom, bitter roots maybe gentian, angelica give the nose an earthiness.  The nose is not powerful or overwhelming and is contrasted by the strong herbal notes on first entry.  On the palate a clear anise/wormwood character comes through with a warming herbal quality.  The garrigue elements are familiar and very appealing. 

Suggested application:

The Oaxacan Angel

2 oz Del Maguey Mezcal Vida
1 barspoon Ojio Agave Nectar
2 dashes Miracle Mile Castilian Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.
Created by David Kupchinsky, Eveleigh.

Yuzu Bitters 100ml - $15.99

This exotic citrus bitter is one of my favorites.  Exceptionally easy to use and eminently appealing, the Yuzu bitter is unlike any other on the market.  Yuzu originated in Eastern Asian and looks something like a miniature grapefruit.  The flavors are complex and fall somewhere between Lemon/grapefruit and tangerine.   While the yellow citrus rind and grapefruit aromas dominate on the nose, the palate brings a depth of spice that belies the olfactory expectations. 

Suggested application:

This or That

2 oz Death’s Door Gin or White Whiskey
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Small Hands Orgeat
1/4 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
3 dashes Yuzu Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass with fresh ice.
Created by Matt Wallace, Harvard & Stone

Sour Cherry 100ml -$15.99

The Sour Cherry bitter is probably the easiest to consumer on its own.  The nose is all freshly crushed cherry skins, fragrant red berries, but without any medicinal/cough syrupiness.  The palate feels like cherry juice squeezed right out of the hand, but develops into a strong bitter cherry pit finish.  You’re left with a bit of green cherry flavors, like chewing on the cherry stem.  Should be very interesting addition to many cocktails, particularly stuff that calls for maraschino or one of the Cherry liqueurs - Roi Rene, Heering, or Maurin. 

Suggested application:

(Variation on) Variations on a Theme

2 oz Hayman's Old Tom Gin
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1/4 oz Campari
1 barspoon Luxardo Maraschino
3 dashes Miracle Mile Sour Cherry Bitters
Stir with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Adapted from a recipe by Beta Cocktails.

Chocolate-Chili Bitters 100ml - $15.99

MMBC’s most popular flavor is a reinvention of the ever popular Chocolate Mole bitters.  Bittermens has an exceptional Xocolatl bitter, but it doesn’t capture the interplay between the heat of the chili and the depth of the cocoa bean that we get with Miracle Mile.   There’s strong clove and cinnamon on the nose with the chocolate taking a bit of a back seat.  On the palate, the heat of the chilies is stupendous and framed perfectly by intense baking spice.  The black as night bitter chocolate shines through on the mid-palate and builds to a crescendo around the spice and heat of the chili.  The finish almost feels like a bit of sweetness is poking through by it quickly disappears behind the lingering capsaicin.

Suggested application:

Clockwork Orange

1 1/2 oz No. 3 London Dry Gin
1 oz Redbreast 12 Year Irish Whiskey
1 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Stirrings Simple Syrup
2-3 dashes Mirachle Mile Chocolate-Chili Bitters
Shake with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
Created by Brady Weise, 1886.

-David Girard

Saturday
Jul302011

Drunken Rum Seminar

I tend to go on benders every now and then.  I'm generally a man driven by extremes, polarized between two poles, fluctuating frantically between yin and yang.  Sometimes I don't drink a drop for days.  Sometimes I pass out on the living room floor.  Lately though I've had the thirst, and when I have this insatiable thirst for booze I now try to make it at the very least educational.  Tonight I feel like drinking a ton of rum because I am simply curious about what makes rum unique.  What's the difference between Jamaican rum and rum from Barbados?  Does Fijian rum have a distinct profile?  What should one expect when purchasing one rum from the next?  As I posted earlier this week, rum is a melting pot of different styles and it is hardly regulated, making consumer education quite difficult.  I'm purposely leaving out sweeter, Cognac-style rums like Ron Zacapa, Zafra, Zaya, Diplomatico, and El Dorado because they all fit into the same smooth and supple mold.  Tonight I am looking to break down some unique flavor profiles, nothing more.  We'll save the book smarts for another time.  Right now, I just need to get into this booze, understand it, and break it down.  Low light photography, here we come!

Leading off tonight's session is the 1997 Rhum J.M. from Martinique, an agricole rum that is made from the freshly fermented sugar cane juice, rather than molasses.  This is a vintage dated rum from an actual AOC rhum classification on the island of Martinique, giving it regulated standards like Cognac or Armagnac.  JM has been in operation since 1845 and makes a variety of outstanding products.  This particular agricole rum has been aged in cask for about ten years, but the earthy and heavy flavors of the spirit still dominate.  Agricole rum is always funkier than rum distilled from molasses, to the point that some people who are unaware of the difference think they have purchased a tainted bottle.  This particular rum is quite mellow, but there are some serious herbal notes on the finish - freshly minced sage and grassy flavors penetrate.  Quite interesting, but not something to toy around with.  Hopefully, you know what you're getting into for $100.

Next up, Eric Seed's Smith & Cross Jamaican Pot Still Rum - the choice of champions for cocktails, but quite a tasty speciman with fantastic typicity.  This is a heavy, earthy, aromatic rum that is brimming with molasses and fermented aromas.  There is no sweetness to this rum, however, so don't let the aromatics fool you.  This is a hot and heavy rum made to cut through any tropical juices you may care to add with it. Bottled at "navy strength" and very similar to the Black Tot rum that the British would ration out to the Royal Navy as part of their munitions.  However, it doesn't taste anything like Appleton, perhaps the most famous Jamaican rum in the world.  Maybe the pot still, small batch distillation gives it more character?  Add some water to this if you plan on sipping it.  It's quite special.

Next up is the now sold-out Alchemist bottling of Gardel 10 Year Old Argricole rum from Guadeloupe (I won't hyperlink it because hopefully you got one when we still had it).  Gardel was a sugar refinery and rum distillery (these two have always gone hand in hand) that closed some time before 1990.  This independent bottling from Scotland's Alchemist series combines the sherry-aging sweetness with the earthy and powerful flavors of agricole style rum.  Caramelized richness on the nose, bold and spicy character on the palate, with a lengthy, herbal finish - peppery and earthy.  I did have the chance to taste the Berry Bros. Guadeloupe rum and it was nowhere near as powerful, but I also don't believe it to have been an agricole.  It was more mild, with vanilla aromas and a dry, spicy heat.

I just polished off the last little bit I had of this rum (this full bottle in the picture is for a friend) and it is one of the most amazing, complex, and exciting rums I've ever tasted.  The Berry Bros. 11 Year Old St. Lucia is expensive and worth every penny of the price.  It exudes fruit tea, menthol, eucalyptis, and cherries.  It explodes on the palate and makes me want to try more rum from St. Lucia.  However, I did try some Chairman's Reserve rum from St. Lucia the other day and it tasted NOTHING like this.  Why is this rum so amazing and where did it come from specifically?  This is the problem with poor regulation - there's no information!

The rest of the BBR rums.  Let's start with the Panama 10 Year - hints of fruit, subtle toffee, mild sweetness and a rather spirity finish.  Is it from Don Jose distillery possibly?  The home of Zafra?  Maybe.  Could I pick Panama out of a line up?  No chance.  It's rum.  Nothing stands out other than that it makes me happy to drink it.  Barbados 11 Year - the home of Mount Gay distillery and and likely the origin of the rum industry as a whole.  These guys on the Caribbean island have been distilling since the 1600's and dealing with pirates, scallywags, and all that.  This is a luxurious rum - loaded with sweet tropical fruits, but not sweet in itself.  Barbados could be the quintessential style of rum and this tastes like what you expect good rum to taste like - honey, molasses, golden fruit, yum.  The Fijian 9 Year smells an awful lot like the Smith & Cross - big, heavy, earthy molasses with a load of fruit and honey mixed with tea.  This is really quite nice and very special.  I've never seen another Fijian rum in my retail career so this is very unique.  It's probably from Seven Tiki distillery located next door to a large sugar refinery and the only producer on the island that I'm aware of.  The Grenada 13 Year is a combination of the Fiji/Jamaica style with the Barbados - richer and fatter mouthfeel, but an earthy and heavily aromatic nose.  Lots of fruit and honey as well. 

In the end, what does this teach me about the regional differences of rum?  I'm not sure.  I can definitely pick out an agricole rum from a flight of other rums, and I might be able to sniff out a Jamaican, but as for the other guys I'm still pressed to find a real difference.  Only more tasting will solve this dilemma.  I have more work to do before I hit the hay.  Rum is fascinating to me.  What a fun job!

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jul292011

Thursday Pics

Thursday started off slow, but finished with a bang.  Our search for small production, "authentic" tequila continues to progress.  Another local importer came by to taste us on their tequila made from their family's estate grown agave in Michoacán.  Technically that's not tequila country (although the neighborhood around K&L in RWC is known as "little Michoacán"), but they decided to bring their piñas over to Jalisco and have them distilled properly.  I love these tequilas because they're the result of one family's necessity.  The Rodriguez clan only planted the agave in the first place because of the shortage taking place in the late 1990's.  However, every other farmer decided to plant agave as well, so then came the glut.  They were faced with tough decision: lose money or learn how to distill it.  The result is Mi Casa tequila and this stuff is good.

Something about their soil in Michoacán gives the agave a larger size and a higher sugar content, so these tequilas are quite supple despite their graceful flavor.  They tend towards the creamy, butterscotchy type textures, but they never lose the agave flavor.  The bottles are also quite beautiful, showing a lovely picture of the Rodriguez estate on the back.  I'm really excited for the public to try these because they're well priced and very accessible.  They taste expensive.

After hours was our fantastic Willett tasting at the Hideout in SF's Mission District.  We had a sell-out crowd that packed both floors and the bourbons were exquisite.  The 16 year old came from a Stitzel-Weller wheated cask (the original Pappy Van Winkle juice for those who don't know it) and was a HUGE hit.  People were begging for more and I couldn't blame them - it's a 140 proof, full-throttle tour de force.

Drew from the Willett family was also on hand to talk about the booze, their new distillery opening this Fall, and just mingle with the enthusiastic drinkers on hand.  Todd from the Hideout was so jazzed about the turnout that we immediately decided to do this on the 3rd Thursday of every month.  Look out SF!  Whisk(e)y flights at the Hideout are here to stay.

-David Driscoll