48 Extra Bottles from Batch 1

Our first ever collaboration with Enrique Fonseca and Haas Brothers has arrived! The pre-orders have been filled and the notices have been sent, leaving us with an extra forty-eight bottles from our initial batch of Fuenteseca Reserva Extra Anejo tequila. We sold almost 400 bottles in less than 48 hours on the initial announcement. Now I've got one bottle left for each hour it took to sell through.

They're up for grabs as you read this.

If you miss out for now, or decide that you're not in the market for a $189.99 bottle of super old, super delicious tequila consisting of the oldest tequilas ever released to the general public, then don't fret. We're already working on Batch #2 that will be identical in formula to the first. I talked to Enrique this week and he said he had enough supply to make another 500 bottles of this recipe. How could I say no? Those bottles won't be here until Christmas time, so if you're curious, grab one of the initial release bottles by clicking the link above.

You won't be disappointed. It's truly amazing in every way.

-David Driscoll


I Don't Have the Time or the Money

Two things you'll hear people say about wine or whisky appreciation that really drive me up the wall are:

"I don't have time to drink bad whisky."

"I don't have the money to make a mistake and get a bad bottle."

That's why we love reviews that tell us what's good and what isn't. I only listen to albums that get an 8.5 or above from Pitchfork. I only watch movies that get an A- review or better from Entertainment magazine. I only eat at restaurants that get four stars or better from Yelp. That way I won't waste any time or make a silly mistake (mistakes are for pussies and idiots, by the way). This whisky is good, you should get it. This whisky is bad, you should avoid it. What more do you need to know? Let me tell you the drawback of an entire population that only buys what critics like Robert Parker says it should buy: homogenization!!!!

If you follow the wine industry you may be aware of what's happening in Napa, or in France's Rhone river valley: Parker points. Big points equal big money. Big money equals wine that strive for big points. Wines that strive for big points all taste the same. Big, oaky, rich, and concentrated.

"Hey Jacques, I know you were planning on making an old school, rustic, personally-styled grenache wine this year, but if you micro-oxidize, age the wine in new French oak, and extract more fruit during maceration, I'll bet you Parker will give you a better review. If you get 90 points or more you could make some serious money!"

"Really, Francois? Why is that?"

"Because that's the kind of wine Parker likes. And what Parker likes, people will buy."

All of a sudden the entire Cotes du Rhone has become one giant, homogenized, dark, inky, fruit bomb with a hot-shot review from the Wine Advocate. 91 points! Best buy! Deal of the year!

Except that all these wines are beginning to taste the exact same. There's no individuality. No variance. It's a sea of sameness. A vast wasteland of Parkerdom that has ruined the Rhone and negated much of Napa. Big oak, big fruit, big alcohol, and therefore big points.

And, believe me, whisky is next. Not necessarily because of Parker, but because the same whiskies are getting all the love.

There's a trend going on in whisky reviewing right now. Big sherry, big alcohol, and big peat are getting big scores. We can sell a 600 bottle barrel of high-proof, first-fill sherry Mortlach no problem (and that whisky was delicious by the way), but no one wants the more nuanced stuff anymore. Lighter, leaner, more delicate whiskies are slowly morphing into sherry-finished, extra-matured, Distiller's-Edition monsters that bring the richness right off the bat. Single malt whisky is getting the Napa Valley treatment and people are loving it. That's why Aberlour A'Bunadh is currently out of stock in California, while the far-superior 16 year continues to sit in squalor.

"Is it sherried?"


"Is it peaty and from Islay?"


"Is it rare or limited?"


Hmm....I'll just wait for something that is.

When retailers and bars can't sell a certain type of whisky, that style of whisky goes into retirement. It's called the free market: capitalism decides what can stay and what can't. It's like the tag-team division in the WWE or Arrested Development on FOX: it doesn't matter how good the product is. If no one will pay to consume it, then you've got squat. Big sherry sells. Big peat sells. Cask strength sells. Everything else simply isn't one of those three.

What happens, however, when every single malt whisky becomes a 59%, sherry-aged, super-rich monster? What happens when you can't get a single barrel, hogshead Clynelish anymore? Something with a delicate touch? Something that doesn't punch you right in the mouth? Homogeneity.

You also get fairweather drinkers. People who root for the San Francisco Giants when they win, but become A's fans when they lose. Like the people who wore Angels caps and waved the rally monkey in 2002, but are now wearing Dodger blue. Like the people who flock to Bordeaux for the 2009 vintage, then stay away for 2011 and 2012 because someone said those vintages "weren't as good." There's no comprehension of what "good" is. There's no understanding of passion or loyalty. There's simply a desire to side with the winning team, to drink the "best," to run with the pack, and to be considered "up to speed."

"Have you seen Bob's wine cellar? He's got only the best wines from the best vintages."

Guess what?! Bob isn't smart or sophisticated. Bob simply read a magazine and bought what someone told him to buy. You can do that. I can do that. Anyone can buy a San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series Champions jacket and wear it proudly. Does it actually mean anything to you, however?

Do you have time to watch a baseball game where your favorite team loses? I hope so. Because that's what creates a true connection in sports. The good times and the bad. The ups and the downs. That's why winning is so satisfying when it happens.

Do you have the time to read a book that bores you to death? I hope so. Because only by reading something dull and ordinary can you recognize good writing and talented prose, and therefore be enthralled by it.

Do you have the money to buy a $25 bottle of Weller 12 year old Bourbon? I hope so. Because Pappy will only taste amazing to you after you realize how the cask selection and extra maturation make such a huge difference.

If you don't have the time to follow a team through its ups and downs, then who gives a shit if you were there when they won the title?  If you don't have the time to make a mistake then how will you ever learn what constitutes value? If you don't have the time or money to drink wine or whisky regularly, to appreciate variety and nuance, to put the work in, to recognize quality and understand regularity, then how will you know a "good" bottle when you taste one? You won't. Which means you're simply buying what someone else told you was good.

There's nothing wrong with taking someone's recommendation. I do it all the time. What's a good place to eat in New York? What's a good place to get a drink in Chicago? That's called asking for advice. People ask for my advice when buying a whisky all the time. That's what I'm here for. What's annoying, however, is when someone uses that advice to avoid any attempt at understanding, and comes to the declarative conclusion: "I don't have time to drink bad whisky, that's why I only drink the best."

The irony of that statement is that these people would never know a bad whisky if they tasted one. So how do they know what's best?

-David Driscoll


A Guide to the New Exclusive Malts

I know that we've had notes in the system for the last few months as the pre-sales have been active, but it's nice to revisit these whiskies on arrival to see how they've changed in the meantime. If you weren't aware, most casks don't get bottled the moment we make our selection. The juice sometimes stays in the cask for another four to five months, meaning that extra maturing often takes place before bottling. That can skew things just a bit, so I like to offer revised tasting notes on the blog as soon as they arrive.

One thing that I mentioned the other day is that the Bowmore definitely needed air before it opened up. I don't know if this is due to travel sickness (something that often happens with wine where the jostling and bumping shakes the liquid up and throws off the flavor) or just that the oxidation helped bring out the peat, but this whisky was totally closed and wound up on day one. By the second day it was showing just fine. This may happen to you if you open a bottle at home, or it may be that the resting period these bottles have had sitting in our warehouse for a week will help settle them down.

On to the notes! (all five of these whiskies will be in stock very, very soon)

2000 Aberlour 13 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $64.99 - Those who enjoyed last year's Faultline 10 year North Highland malt should like this Aberlour 13 as well. It's a similar oak cask flavor (sans that bit of refill sherry) with a fresh fruit character on the nose. Water really helps this whisky open up and release more fruit and vanilla. Consider this whisky the un-sherried version of A'bunadh.

2002 Bowmore 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $75.99 - Again, I'll stress aeration with this whisky. When I first opened this bottle I couldn't smell any smoke, let alone taste it. After a day, however, the whisky was right where it should be. The nose is classic Bowmore, oily peat and oak, and the whisky drinks like a pepped-up version of the Bowmore 12 distillery bottle. It's richer than both of the other Bowmore whiskies we're bringing in, despite its younger age. David Stirk's casks always have a good amount of oak and this whisky is no different.

1995 Fettercairn 17 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $89.99 - This is the sleeper hit. All ten K&L Redwood City staff members who tasted through these whiskies came away liking the Fettercairn best. It's just a classic unsherried whisky. Imagine an older, richer, woodier version of the Faultline 10 year North Highland but at a higher proof. It's nothing out of the ordinary or super special, it's just damn good. With water it really opens up.

2005 Island Distillery 7 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - Bright peat, oily fruit, and a light kiss of vanilla on the back end. To me, the closest comparison would be Laphroaig 10 cask strength, but it's not nearly as medicinal. Imagine blending your Laphroaig cask strength with a bit of Glenmorangie and this is what you'd yet. Delicious stuff and another big hit with the staff.

1979 Faultline 32 Year Old Single Barrel Cask Strength Blended Scotch Whisky $109.99 - This cask is of unknown origin, but we know it's a blend and we know all the whiskies were distilled in 1979. It's nothing out of the ordinary, but it's just good blended whisky. The grain component isn't all that pronounced either, so it could pass for a lighter single malt whisky if you didn't know it was a blend. Nice richness rounds out the finish and the fruit comes out. It's more of a fun surprise than anything super amazing. It's ridiculously priced as well.

I'll be processing pre-orders all morning then we'll try nad get these babies into stock. Maybe by the end of the day.

-David Driscoll


Phase 1 Completed

Pre-arrivals are being processed for our five Exclusive Malt casks as we speak. Orders are in the system. Bottles will be headed to San Francisco, Redwood City, and Hollywood as early as tomorrow morning -- both for pick-up and for in-store sales. These are going to be hot!

I'll be headed over to the warehouse tomorrow to start processing the K&L Exclusive Fuenteseca Tequila pre-orders. Almost everything we have is already spoken for, but the good news is that I talked to Enrique Fonseca and Jake Lustig this week and we've got enough tequila to make a second batch. Hot damn!

Signatory is delivering their six casks on Tuesday and we'll do the same thing with those malts next week. That will be phase two.

Get ready!

-David Driscoll


Increased Quality?

One of the things you'll often read concerning wine regions around the world is how the increased awareness surrounding wine appreciation has led to an increase in wine quality. Vineyard management knowledge is at an all time high, sanitation has never been stricter, and there is enough demand worldwide to justify spending more money on better equipment. The combination of better viticulture, better science, and better production has resulted in better wine almost across the board. Over the last twenty years there is hardly a place left in the world that isn't making better wine than it was two decades earlier (unless you count some of the modern practices in places like Napa). Many cabernets are more approachable in their youth. Many pinot noirs are fleshy and sweet rather than tart and tannic. Chablis wines are round and crisp instead of astringent and green. Winemaking is pretty much in a better place now that it has ever been before.

The increased quality of wine, coupled with the increased interest in drinking it, has led to higher prices. People are simply willing to pay more for something that tastes the way they want it to taste. As many of the world's finest wines --wines that were often undrinkable in their youth and needed decades in the cellar-- are being made in a more drinkable style, prices have only gone up as a result. In my mind, a wine was always more valuable because it would age and continue to improve, rather than show well right off the bat. That's what made a great wine great. Now, however, it's a different story. People are increasingly opening Silver Oak, Caymus, Pontet-Canet, and Opus One wines less than two years after the vintage date. The rich, supple, fruit-concentrated flavors are what modern drinkers are after, rather than the savory, delicate, integrated character of an older, more mature wine. With a more approachable style comes a more saleable product --one that can be enjoyed quickly and then repurchased quickly.

Winemakers aren't the only ones, however, praising the increased quality of their craft. Ask any distiller in Scotland about his whisky and he'll tell you that it's never been better, and for the same reasons: increased knowledge, better equipment, better wood for maturation, and more money invested in the process. Not only is the whisky tasting better, but, much like with wine, it's tasting better at a younger age. When you ask these guys about the current shortage of whisky, they're not all that concerned. Dropping the age statement and replacing the product with a younger version isn't the end of the world because, in their minds, the whisky is better than it's ever been. I've literally been told by several major distillers the exact same line: "Yes, the whisky is younger, but it's also better than the whisky we were making twenty years ago." With wine, there's no question most products are better today than ever. But is the increased quality in whisky as palpable?

I think single malts need to be judged on a case-by-case basis. Some whiskies are just not as impressive as they once were, simply because there's less stock to make them with. Older whiskies were once married into 12 and 15 year expressions to add richness, whereas today there's barely enough 12 year malt to keep the age on the label. Some distilleries, however, are indeed making better whiskies at a younger age. Glen Garioch comes to mind immediately, as does Arran, but peatier whiskies have a distinct advantage in my mind. David and I have been very, very impressed by the quality of young peated whiskies we've tasted over the last year. Our new 7 year old "Island" distillery malt is going to shock the pants off of you. As will two three year old malts we plan on bringing in very soon from Bladnoch and another big, big name.

In some cases, the quality of young single malt whisky is indeed better than it's ever been. I'd never dreamed we'd be able to make people happy selling three year old single malt whiskies in the past, but today it's a reality. One wonders if it's more out of necessity, however.

-David Driscoll