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

8/20 - San Francisco: No Tasting

8/20 - Redwood City: K&L Signatory Single Malts

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!


Saturday
May212011

SF Tasting #1 Review

We finally got our first downtown tasting up and running this past Thursday and I was pretty satisfied with how it came off.  Thanks to the rabid SF thirst for whisky, we had Gitane packed and full before we had time even to pour one glass. I'm glad that everyone got the memo about this tasting starting at 5:30 because these one bottle tastings are like going to the movies - you get there when it starts, not half an hour later.  We blew through a bottle of 20 year old Bowmore in about 20-25 minutes and Andrew Morrison from A.D. Rattray combed through the crowd to answer questions and talk about his booze.  I'm going to talk to Gitane about a few things to work on for next week. They were worried about the fact that we ran out so fast and suggested we do a second bottle. However, they also want the thing to end by 6:30 so their dinner guests have space at the bar and with a second bottle I think this thing would linger on until 7:30.  I say we keep it one bottle, first 25 people, and if you can't get there at 5:30 then so be it.  There will be other tastings and other events.  In fact, I'm working on doing a 2nd tasting that would start at 7 PM on the exact same night!  We're working on turning the Hideout, located at the back of the Delva Bar on 16th St. between Valencia and Guererro, into a little after hours party where we pour a few different things - again all for the low, low price of wholesale cost!

-David Driscoll

Friday
May202011

A Time To Drink....

Most of the time I like to sit down and have a drink to unwind or to relax after a long day at work.  Sometimes, however, when the sudden loss of life occurs, a drink is a way to sit down and memorialize the people who have impacted your life in tribute.  Having grown up with professional wresting (and being heavily "into it" through out my college years as well), I'm deeply saddened by the death of Randy Savage.

This afternoon, after I finish my chores and cleaning, I will sit down on my couch, YouTube a video of Randy Savage wrestling Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III (after Savage brutally brought the ring bell down on Steamboat's throat!), pour myself a glass of high end bourbon, and pair it with a Slim Jim. 

R.I.P. Macho Man.  Tonight I drink in your honor.

-David Driscoll

Friday
May202011

Answering The Call

Last week I put out a notice on this blog beckoning to tequila companies - I needed more agave spirit.  It's not that there's a shortage of tequila on the market.  In fact, it's quite the opposite - a real glut.  The problem is that there's a shortage of GOOD tequila on the market.  Not just quality, but authenticity as well.  Who made it?  Where and how was the tequila made?  What kind of wood was it aged in?  You'd be amazed, but 95% of tequila salesmen don't know the answers to these questions because it's not about that for them.  They're interested in building the brand name and getting it into as many stores as possible to compete with Patron.

Frank Mendez called me this week and told me he'd like to come present his new family project: Gran Dovejo tequila.  While Frank and his cousin don't come from a tequila making background, they consider themselves afficionados and feel the same exasperation I do towards the current state of things.  They said to themselves: if we're going to do this, we're going to do it right - no cutting costs, no hiring a giant factory to mass produce flavorless swill, no catering to Costco, no parties with celebrities, just good tequila.  In order to do so, they tracked down Leopoldo Solis Tinoco (one of the great master distillers in Mexico) to help bring Gran Dovejo to life.  Leopoldo was so satisfied with the final result that he offered to put his name on the bottle as a sign of approval.

Let's get to the tasting notes!  The blanco is outstanding - vibrant, expressive, bursting with citrus, flowers and spices, but finishing cleanly.  The blanco is always the test of any tequila and Dovejo passes with flying colors.  This is easily the most exciting blanco I've had in over a year and it will speak to any true tequila sipper out there - a benchmark for white spirits.  The reposado is the most understated of the bunch - mild mannered, hinting at greatness, but never unleashing its true potential.  I enjoyed it and found it to be quite tasty on the finish, but it had to follow the blanco so it got dwarfed under the expectation.  I've never tasted a tequila more suited for bourbon drinkers than the Gran Dovejo añejo.  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.  Imagine a bourbon, but one where all the spice came from the spirit rather than from the wood!  This tequila spend 18 months in a barrel but it tastes like an 8 year old bourbon because the spirit itself is so expressive!  A wonderful addition to the blanco.

So that makes one new exciting tequila!  I'm glad there are still some fresh new faces out there in the agave world because I was getting a bit nervous.  There should be here by the end of next week so stay tuned.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
May192011

Thursday Tasting Tonight in SF!

Whoopie! Our first ever SF Thursday night tasting! This is a test run to see how things work out and I hope they go smoothly.  I'll be at Gitane right around 5:30 with Andrew Morrison to hang out and talk about this lovely Bowmore 20 year single barrel cask strength whisky.  Pours should be about $5-$6 and that covers a full glass not a wee taste.  I'll be meeting with some other local industry folk today about possibly branching this series out should it catch on with our local community.  There's another little liquor store up the road that I'm quite friendly with and I'm sure they might want to team up for some of these (see, not all competitors hate each other!).  More on that later.  See you tonight, at Gitane, right off of Sutter and Kearny back in the little alley called Claude Lane.  Remember, only one bottle on hand, so don't expect to mosey in at 7:15 and get one!

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
May172011

Cask Strength 

I was talking with Suntory's Neyah White earlier today and we were discussing our favorite spirits of the moment when the subject of cask strength whiskey came up.  We vented to one another about simply popping and pouring at home, even though our jobs include understanding the intricate ingredients and procedures of the cocktail craft.  As a master bartender, Neyah would usually finish his day with a beer and I had to laugh because I'm pretty much the same way.  Usually the people you would most expect to be drinking fancy cocktails or old, cask strength whiskies at home are guys like us, but it's really not how we roll.  We geek out on crazy stuff all day at work, so the night time seems to be more about relief and relaxation.

This brings me to the subject and name of this post - cask strength.  The move towards bottling whisky at cask strength is a fantastic one by independent bottlers and companies as a whole.  The consumer gets access to unfiltered, unadulterated juice and a chance to proof the spirit to their own specific liking.  However, there are moments when I feel like the preference for high strength booze gets a bit out of hand. Not everything needs to be at cask strength in order to taste good or represent quality, but the alcohol world is a large and overwelming presence in many peoples' lives and so they often grasp on to a few rules of thumb to guide them.  These are usually opinions and suggestions picked up from friends or magazine articles, such as "ask for something dry" or "ABC - anything but chardonnay."  With unsure whisk(e)y customers, the new word on the street is "cask strength."

In order to help illustrate the problems that can occur with this scenario, let's look at the Clynelish 27 Year Old Cask we bought from A.D. Rattray last year.  This was a delicate and mild mannered whisky that came in at a whopping 60%.  To drink it out of the bottle without water was to completely miss out on what made it great.  Only at about 46-48% did it start to reveal its splendor.  The problems began when customers started complaining to me that I had sold them a lemon and that this was not good whisky at all.  I immediately became both nervous and defensive, especially after having several regular customers tell me it was one of the best whiskies they had ever had.  After thinking about the situation, I responded to the emails by asking the customers if they had watered the whisky down.  The answers were something like: "I never add water to my whisky," "I like my whisky at cask strength," "Why would I pay $100 for a whisky just to add water to it?" 

This was the first experience that revealed to me why large companies do not bottle their whiskies at cask strength, or if they do, not exclusively.  Whisky almost never tastes best right out of the cask.  Giving the customer a chance to decide which proof is best is completely lost on many of them because most consumers expect a finished product right out of the bottle, not a raw material to work with.  Not only did the Clynelish we sold need water to balance out the heat, it also was a pain in the ass getting it just right.  It took me an hour one time to find the sweet spot, and while I enjoyed the final result immensely, I didn't look forward to that battle very often.  If anything, it was a deterrent from opening the bottle more frequently.

This type of extra work leads me back to the beginning point regarding Neyah and myself.  Cask strength whiskies are in no way relaxing or relieving.  Please let me just pour something into a glass and zone out at the end of a long day!  Last night, I took home the one remaining bottle we had of Van Winkle 10 Year old 90 proof and it was f--king great.  In all honesty, I had never tasted it before so it was a curiosity of mine.  I've had every other Van Winkle expression numerous times and I have to say that if could have my choice today from all six bourbons, I would no doubt choose the 10 year 90 proof.  It's amazingly complex and interesting in a way that the others are not.  The pleasure in the 10 is the craftmanship, not the power and not the wood.  The 15, 20, and 23 are so massive that I need to prepare for their arrival and the 12 tastes like a lot of other good bourbons I have.  The 10 year 90 proof though is exactly what I want to come home to. 

I can think of other times when I prefered a 43% single malt to the cask strength option.  I found the Port Ellen 25 year from Chieftain's to be far superior to the cask strength 30 year and I always prefer Speyside malts like Glenrothes from the distillery rather than directly from the cask.  Having now had the Scotland warehouse experience, I can also attest to the fun of cask strength sampling and the intensity of unbridled malt.  However, I want to stress that each situation and each whisky is different, so by no means should cask strength expressions always be considered superior or a better option that dilluted expression. 

There are no absolutes in the booze world. 

-David Driscoll