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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!


Tuesday
Sep272011

Chieftain's News Plus Tastings!

I had some time to taste with Val from JVS today, who you all know is my absolute favorite person to meet with, and we had a great time tasting some of the new selections that Chieftain’s will be making available this year.  We’re so excited about what they’re offering that we decided to plan another whiskey tasting event for the end of October in Burlingame.  It should be the standard $25 tasting plus snacks and it will be one hell of a line up.  Already confirmed are the following: 1995 Allt-A-Bhainne, 1996 Braeval, 1997 Caol Ila finished in rum cask, 1998 Strathisla finished in Barolo, and an amazing 1990 Rosebank sherry cask! 

I had a chance to taste the Rosebank and it is absolutely stunning.  At cask strength, it blows anything else away that I have tasted from G&M or Signatory.  The Caol Ila is also quite nice – the same lovely cinnamon-style peat with a supple, yet restrained dose of sugar cane rum roundness on the finish.  Lovely stuff.  Here’s the real good news: our Bladnoch and Dailuaine casks are sitting in Oakland right now and they should be in shortly.  I have talked to Val about JVS holding back one bottle of each so that we can pour them at the tasting!  That means you’ll be able to try two of the amazing selections from our trip if you attend.  The Bladnoch is probably my favorite whisky from the trip, so I’m very excited about that.  Remember that once these arrive into stock, the pre-arrival price ends and the new price begins! 

Redwood City – 5PM to 6:30 PM – Sept 28th

Diageo’s Master of Whisky Steve Beal will be back in the house for another awesome vertical – this time with the Highland region’s illustrious Cragganmore distillery.  We’ll taste the Cragganmore 12 year old, the 1992 Double Matured Distiller’s Edition which was finished in Port wood, and the very limited release of the special 2011 edition 21 year old.  This is going to be another wonderful chance to taste some of the classic malts of Scotland – free of charge of course.  Walk in only, no need for reservations!

San Francisco – 5 PM to 6:30 PM – Sept 28th

St. George distiller Dave Smith will be on hand to pour out a dose of the Alameda institution’s new batch of craft gins.  The Terroir – made from botanicals sourced from Mt. Tam. The Botanivore – a seriously botanical flavored elixir.  The Dry Rye – a white rye spirit flavored with heavy amounts of juniper.  These have already been a huge success despite their very limited release.  If you’re unsure about which to buy, this is a great way to figure out which one you like the best!

-David Driscoll 

Sunday
Sep252011

Assess the Risk

We had an interesting lunch conversation today with friends about the fear of taking a risk in today's generation.  However, while gambling can certainly lead to disappointment, the greatest rewards are usually given to those who take a chance.  So many people want certainty these days - they need to know that whatever they're investing in is going to work out as planned.  They want clear instructions about what is needed from them and what exactly is necessary to achieve happiness and success.  It's the fear of the unknown that prevents people from branching out sometimes - "why take a chance on that bottle of French chardonnay when we already know that we like the California one?"

I could go on forever about this, but the subject is worth thinking about.  Part of the reason why I feel wine ratings carry so much weight stems from the fact that people are afraid of drinking a bad bottle.  Worse than that - drinking a bad bottle of wine and thinking it's good!  We need certainty even if certainty is a matter of opinion.  Life is one giant uncertainty which is why we constantly look for something to latch on to.

Look at it this way: you'll never know if little Suzie will go to the prom with you unless you ask.  The boy who never asks for fear of rejection will never know what could have happened.  The one who takes the risk may end up having the time of his life (or might end up crying in his room, but so be it).

It's ok to end up with a bad bottle now and again.  It's the understanding of the bad ones that makes the good ones so good.

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Sep242011

Still More Gin

They're a funny thing, my booze buying habits.  I'll absolutely never (with the exception of Springbank 10) buy a bottle of Scotch more than once because there's simply too much of a selection out there to waste time drinking the same one.  Same goes for Bourbon, Tequila, and rum.  Gin, however, is where my philosophy seems to contradict itself.  Despite my avid love of cocktails, I don't love experimenting with them at home.  Rather than spend 30 minutes trying to craft a new drink that I may or may not enjoy, I'd rather just whip up a Negroni or a martini and get right to the drinking.  I wasn't always this way, but I definitely am now; call it a time issue, perhaps (which also might explain my current refrain from cask-strength whisky in the home).  For this reason, I tend to only use the same two gins over and over again - BBR's No. 3 London Gin for martinis and the Ransom Old Tom Gin for everything else.

Honestly, I had never put much thought into this phenomenon until Christophe Bakunas walked into the store this week with Ransom Wine Company's second gin - the Small's American Dry.  Tad Seestedt, who is the distiller for Ransom, seems to have my number when it comes to flavor profiles because I took one sip of the Small's and absolutely loved it.  Think of it as a really good version of Citadelle - focused on the juniper, with clean and racy herbal notes.  It's nothing bizarre or new, it's just a really good version of a classic gin.  Tad distills it in batches on his old-school pot still and flavors it with a combination of "naturally-farmed and wild-grown botanicals:" juniper, orange, lemon, coriander, cardamom, angelica, caraway, star anise, and raspberry.  Ransom is heavy into the historical side of spirits production and these guys seem to know everything about the history of gin, using recipes from the 19th century to help them craft both spirits. Whatever they're channeling is working. 

I love this Small's American Dry and can't wait for it to hit California in a few weeks.  It's such a pure and concentrated manifestation of what I consider to be gin's true flavor.  It might actually turn my current two-man rotation into a three-way.  Those searching for gin's next guise might find it a bit simple, but I'm willing to bet a life-long Tanqueray drinker can be converted to a Ransom fan with the Small's.

Look for it at the beginning of October. $30 estimated retail.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Sep222011

A Look at the K&L Tequila Department 

Tequila is the new Wild West both for spirits producers and for passionate spirit drinkers.  Every week I learn about another new brand, distillery, or distributor that is throwing a party in Las Vegas or having a tasting at my nearest Porsche dealer.  There are tons of distilleries making agave spirit for multiple labels and, most of the time, the person whose name is on the bottle knows nothing about how “his” tequila was actually produced.   If there was ever a spirit that was in desperate need of a quality guidebook, tequila is it. Single malts made at Talisker usually say Talisker on the bottle, but what does it mean when you find out that a certain tequila was made at Destileria Morales or Casa Tequilera de Arandas?  I can look up any Scottish or American distillery on Google and find loads of information about what they make and the style of their spirits.  Besides the NOM database on Tequila.net however, the average consumer looking for tequila help is pretty much on their own.  This is partly because many distilleries in tequila function as co-ops, where farmers can bring their own agave and use the facility’s crusher and still, or where anyone with money can pay a producer to make it for them.  Few companies own their own distillery and for this reason, tequila is still a category dominated by brand names – Sauza, Don Julio, Cazadores, and Patron. 

So what is a bonafide spirits geek to do when looking to discover exciting new tequilas?  Part of our enjoyment as aficionados comes from the information we learn about the harvesting of materials, the methods of distillation, and the cooperage used for the maturation process.  I have to admit that, as much as I love tequila and desire to learn more about it, I’m not always sure of the facts, which makes purchasing new brands an uncomfortable practice.  Buying wines and whiskies direct from the producer has always been the K&L business model because we could go straight to the source.  There are never any vagaries or advertising campaigns to consider when buying from smaller producers, just good booze made by good people.  When looking to shape the direction of our tequila department, we tried to utilize this same philosophy because at least we would know something about the products we were selling and why they were special!  For this reason tequila shopping at K&L can be a bit confusing with its many unfamiliar faces.  However, the same used to be the case with our Champagne selection until our customers discovered the big secret.  Like many agave farmers, the vintners of Champagne sell most of their fruit to big houses like Roederer and Moet.  A very select few attempt to make a living by producing wine from their own crops, but those that do can make exquisite stuff - wines of character that would never be possible on a large-production scale.  I’m finding that the same phenomenon is true with tequila, so let me tell you a bit more about some of our more interesting selections and why we carry them.

Los Osuna

Notice that I didn’t type tequila after the name above?  That’s because Los Osuna is produced in Sinaloa, just north of the tequila producing state Jalisco.  Because it’s not grown or produced within the legal confines, Los Osuna must call itself Agave Azul much like a sparkling wine made in California cannot label itself as champagne.  Besides the fact that Los Osuna’s spirits are absolutely delicious, there’s the wonderful fact that they actually harvest their own blue agave at their La Vinata field and distill it themselves at Vinata Santa Clara, their family-owned distillery at the Los Osuna hacienda in La Noria.  The Osuna family began planting agave there in the mid-19th century and distilling it by 1876.  The distillery had been dormant for much of the late 20th century until the family decided to re-establish its longstanding tradition.  Today it might be my favorite tequila we carry. 

Los Osuna Blanco Tequila $39.99 – Beautiful, vibrant, peppery, and zesty.  Classic blanco for people who like bold flavors with balance.

Los Osuna Reposado Tequila $49.99 – Simply an aged version of their terrific blanco.  More vanilla and oak character, but the guts of the original formula are still present.  Outstanding.

Gran Dovejo Tequila

Distilled at the Feliciano Vivanco y Asociados facility, which also produces Muchote and Mañana, Gran Dovejo is the brainchild of the Mendez family who took a very special approach to their project.  While not farmers or distillers in their own right, the Mendezes wanted to make a tequila of quality that also spoke to a very specific place.  They contacted the Vivanco family about purchasing some top quality agave from their Los Altos Highland farm to make a single estate tequila and the rest is history.  Rather than have the Vivancos distill it for them, they brought in a family friend to help them do it themselves – master distiller Leopold Solis Tinoco of Siembra Azul and Don Pilar fame.  The result is Gran Dovejo – a wonderful, top-shelf selection of tequilas that, rather than hide the source and production methods of their spirits, showcases the quality of hand-harvested agave distilled by a true expert.  While it’s true that the Mendez family did not grow the agave itself, they still worked carefully to source it from a small estate that did, so it’s not as if they’re a large scale operation.  Their tequilas still have little publicity and are currently treasured by those who have taken a chance via our recommendation.

Gran Dovejo Blanco Tequila $44.99 – clean as a whistle, pure flavors of citrus and baking spices, zippy on the finish, but still the essence of elegance.

Gran Dovejo Reposado Tequila $49.99 - mild mannered, hinting at greatness, but never unleashing its full fury.

Gran Dovejo Añejo Tequila $54.99 – big, woody flavors of new oak mingling with the baking spices inherent in the spirit.  I've never tasted a tequila more suited for bourbon drinkers.  It has all the texture, the new wood, the spice, and the mouthfeel.  I love that they didn't let this thing get all supple, soft, and smooth because there's enough of that in the market.

Tequila Piramide

I love this tequila because to look at the bottle you’d automatically assume that it just couldn’t be good.  It’s so fun to recommend it because the customers make a funny face and say, “Really?  This one?”  Tequila Piramide is the classic example of “don’t judge a book by its cover.”  The tequila is made from 100% certified organic agave at Destileria Refugio in Arenal, Jalisco.  Everything is done by Oscar Rodriguez and his family – the growing of the agave, the harvesting of the plants, the roasting of the piñas, and the distillation of the spirit.  The tequila that comes as a result is brimming with character and full of life.  I love working with Oscar and his importer Karolina because both are charming people who only want to bring their humble tequila to those who love it.  When I ask a question about the fermentation process, they know it.  They can talk about the mineral content of the soil where the agave plants are grown.  They understand tequila.  That’s why it’s so freaking good.

Piramide 100% Organic Blanco Tequila $25.99 - zesty, full of citrus, cinnamon, and pepper.  Clean on the finish.  Lovely.

Piramide 100% Organic Reposado Tequila $31.99 – cinnamon, cloves, and baking spices galore without ever losing its gusto.  I love this stuff.

Mi Casa Tequila

The Rodriguez family planted agave in their Michoacan estate over a decade ago because the tequila industry was facing at a shortage and they felt it could prove to be a wise investment.  Little did they know that many other farmers did the exact same thing!  The resulting agave boom left them little option other than selling it off to large producers, or transporting their hand-harvested agave over to Jalisco to have it distilled into something profitable.  Unlike most producers however they were committed to making a quality spirit even if it meant taking more time and money to do so.  The fact that they're based here on the SF Peninsula is exciting because we're always dedicated to doing business with local producers.  Distilled at Casa Tequileria de Arandas in the Los Altos Highlands, where Mejor is also made, the tequilas they produce are richer and more supple due to the high sugar content of their outstanding agave plants.  These are true sipping tequilas and are smoother in texture than any of the above, making them easy crossover spirits for the uninitiated. 

Mi Casa Blanco Tequila $38.99 – remarkably pure, soft, and clean with subtle spices and delicate citrus notes.  A fantastic balance of both old and new world.

Mi Casa Reposado Tequila $42.99 - soft and slightly creamy, hinting at butterscotch and caramel, but without being rich or cloying.

Mi Casa Añejo Tequila $46.99 – lovely baking spices dance with pepper and citrus.  Well made with rarely-seen grace and lovely balance.

So now you understand why we carry these unknown, “weird,” not-Patron tequilas.  They’re real spirits made by real people who work closely with the production team and the farmers who grow the agave.  Beginning on October 26th we will be inviting these four producers into both the K&L Redwood City and San Francisco locations to meet with customers and pour their amazing products.  Stay tuned!

 -David Driscoll

Thursday
Sep222011

Nostalgic Motivation

Jesus!  Last April I went to Scotland with David OG and it was one of the best times in my life.  Yet, here I sit, alone with a bottle of whisky in my living room, feeling totally burnt out and a bit askew.  Perhaps I need to look back on the memories from our wonderful journey to find the inspiration necessary to continue this quest.

Christ! Did we really drink these whiskies?  It all seems a bit hazy at this point, but I think we must have because I took this picture.  If you've ever needed a reason to travel to Islay, I think this should provide proper motivation.

Holy Cow!  I remember drinking this with Jamie MacKenzie on the shores of the Bowmore distillery at around one in the morning.  What a fantastic experience!  Single malt whisky is awesome!  What am I doing wasting my time with wine blogging?  It's time to get back to what I know!  Let's do this.  I'm now sufficiantly motivated to get back down in the trenches.  Let's see what comes of it.

I think David OG's prayer to the Celtic Cross of Islay should come in handy about now.  We need a boost and there's nothing like the memory of Scotland to keep us going!

-David Driscoll