Under the Volcano: Mexico Preview

On Tuesday night I will board the red-eye from SFO to Mexico City where I will attempt to find the famed French legionnaire Nic Palazzi somewhere inside of Benito Juárez aeropuerto. I'm guessing we'll eat something greasy and delicious while we wait for Jake Lustig to finish his meeting and join us for an 11:15 AM flight to Oaxaca. Running on a mere few hours of sleep, I'm assuming the majestic views of the Sierra Juárez will rejuvenate us and give us the energy we need to slug through two solid days of mezcal before we fly back to D.F. and connect with our flight to Guadalajara.

Friday and Saturday will be spent at the famed ArteNOM distilleries: Rancho El Olvido in Jesús-Maria, Feliciano Vivancos in Arandas, and Enrique Fonseca's Tequileña in the town of Tequila. I'll be live blogging, of course, whenever possible and snapping photos the entire time. Look for a colorful assault on your senses next week. I'm hoping to capture the romanticism from some of the most honest and traditional distillers left on this planet.

-David Driscoll


Back in the House

Back in stock as of today! Our two lovely expressions from the wonderful Ragnaud Sabourin. We’ve been out for a few months, so Cognac lovers can now rest easy knowing we’ve filled the void.

Ragnaud Sabourin K&L Exclusive Reserve Speciale #20 Cognac $89.99 - The vineyards of Ragnaud-Sabourin stretch far over the hills in Grand Champage. 33 hectares of Ugni Blanc with a bit of Folle Blanche as far as the eye can see. This estate is known throughout France for having the goods and we couldn't have been more impressed after visiting the property this past Spring. Today the estate is run by Annie Sabourin, who is the daughter of the late Marcel Ragnaud, and she makes sure every drop lives up to the property's reputation. The collection of Ragnaud-Sabourin selections we tasted were spellbinding, easily one of the most polished portfolios we've ever come across. The Reserve Speciale No. 20 is a 20 year old expression with supreme delicacy and elegance. The fruit is dainty, but never faint or flat, while the vanilla and caramel provide the backbone of the brandy's structure. It's simply delightful Cognac, but never overly rich or sumptuous. It's not decadent, but yet it's memorable and haunting. I think it perfectly represents the quality for which Ragnaud-Sabourin is widely recognized.

Ragnaud Sabourin K&L Exclusive Reserve Speciale #35 Cognac $169.99 - The No. 35 is a 35 year old Cognac of immense quality and seamless character. It's named after a special property (Fontevielle) from where the fruit is sourced. Locals in the area say "the Cognac is perfect" and we couldn't agree more. It's rich, supple-fruited, and textural, almost luxuriously so, and the caramel comes in on the finish to warm your mouth. It goes on forever. I think it's easy to say that this is the one of the best Cognacs we've found from this year's trip and it should make many aficionados very happy. All it takes is one sip to realize why Ragnaud-Sabourin is widely respected throughout Grande Champagne. We couldn't be more pleased to represent them here stateside.

-David Driscoll


Wild Turkey Barrels Arrive

The first batch of our hand-selected Wild Turkey barrels have arrived. You may remember when we reported live from Kentucky last September and were allowed by Eddy Russell to go into the warehouse and pick out our own selections. Well, we were pretty excited back then and we're even more excited now that the whiskey is finally here. Check out the notes below:

These are all at 55%:

Russell's Reserve K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #13 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99 - Finally, the much-hyped barrels from last September's visit to Wild Turkey distillery have arrived. Our group of spirits buyers left the facility in Lawrenceburg, KY about as impressed as they could possibly be. There are some wonderful things happening with Jimmy and Eddy Russell's traditional American whiskey. We picked seven casks in total, but only the first three have been bottled at this point. Barrel #13 is the freshest and most lively of the three, bursting with baking spices, cinnamon, and clove, before returning to an oak-dominated flavor profile of charred wood. A small bit of ripe banana on the finish adds a fruity component and marries well with the high-proof of the spirit.

Russell's Reserve K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #14 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99 - Cask #14 shows sweet vanilla and burnt sugar on the nose with a blast of herbaceous rye and more oaky richness on the palate. The baking spices start to dance towards the finish before the 55% ABV kicks in and dials up all the peppery notes from the wood. Overall, the flavors are very traditional and straight-forward, just very well-balanced and finely-tuned. A fantastic whiskey for those looking to see what Wild Turkey does best.

Russell's Reserve K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #19 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99 - Barrel #19 is the oakiest of the bunch with aromas of pencil shavings, graphite, and oak spices on the nose. The finish is deceptive, however; it's a brooding undertone of concentrated caramel and creme brulee. At 55%, however, that creaminess is difficult to pin down, so a bit of water is recommended to tame this single barrel beast.

-David Driscoll


More Poly Rum Info

Bryan Davis sent me an email last week with more information about his new Polynesian rum. Check it out:

So to tell you about the poly rum... 

When we designed the Navy rum, the internal goal was to create the hypothetical rum in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  When we designed the "Polynesian Rum"  the idea was to imagine what tiki rum would taste like if tiki were an actual place. 

Interestingly, it is the same raw material list as the Navy Style Rum.  The real difference is the engineering variables.  On the Polynesian Rum the esters are primarily short chained as opposed to long chained in the Navy Rum.  Short chained esters are light and fruity where as long chained are heavy, sweet, and deep.  

Here we used the dunder techniques to make a lot of short chained pineapple/tropical flavors while limiting the Benzaldehyde and long chained esters. In short our control over the aging process allowed us to halt the reactions at a specific point to make a polar opposite personality in the rum. 

If you want I can rewrite the technical specs for this one... 

A couple of footnotes: 

1.  This rum benefits massively from ice...  We designed it for cocktails and if you add an ice cube and let it dilute a bit you can see what it does in a cocktail.  It's quite a transformation.  

2.  The Navy rum picked up both gold - best in class - dark rum and gold for overproof rum from the Rum XP panel at the Miami Rum Renaissance in Miami.  It was a 20 person international panel - tasted blind. We didn't enter the Polynesian... At the time we didn't think we would be selling it yet.      

-David Driscoll


Whisky Season 2014 Continues!

Today we’re launching a fun little horizontal tasting that David, Kyle, and I all found quite compelling – three Highland distillery whiskies, distilled in the same year, with similar styles. The only caveat here is that the Glenlivet is from a Sherry butt and not at full proof, but it’s still fun to do these side-by-side. Check out what we’ve got for you today. Those of you waiting for super value should look no further. It’s not going to get much better than this:

1997 Dailuaine 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $69.99 -- Dailuaine is a lovely little whisky. I don't love it any less now that I've been chased off the distillery grounds. In fact the whole complex is very unusual. When we were there this year it seemed as though an endless amount of construction was at a standstill. This is also where Diageo has their "Dark Grains" processing facility, which turns the spent barley into pellets for animal feed. The dark industrial dreeriness of this distillery, hidden in a hollow not far from the hill of Rinnes, totally flies in the face of the wonderfully fresh and vibrant malt that they produce. We were actually considering bottling this at 46% because we really liked how it took water, but when we saw how reasonable the cask strength price was we decided to give you the option at home. This has a very classically Dailuaine nose of fresh malt, white pepper, and green apples. It's very off the oak and on the malt. On the palate, the pomace nature continues, with a rich oily maltiness that gives it length. Slight hints of brown sugar, almond, and vanilla pop up with water. That big malty side is tamed perfectly with the addition of water and brings out more subtle aromas on the palate. Now we have some exotic barks, subtle herbal notes, and some baked apple qualities. All in all this is a really fun whisky at an absolutely unbeatable price. (David Othenin-Girard, Spirits Buyer)

Four years ago we sold a 27 year old hogshead of Dailuaine on pre-arrival for $125. The price for the 16 year is just nuts compared to how the market has gone since then. It’s like we’re still getting 2010 pricing from Signatory. Scratch that, we ARE getting 2010 pricing from Signatory.

1997 Benrinnes 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $72.99 -- Benrinnes distillery is one of the unsung heroes of the Diageo portfolio. It's not released as a single malt in the United States and it gets very little fanfare amongst enthusiasts, but it's one of the prettiest, and more consistently-delicious whiskies we taste between bottlers. We don't taste many barrels of Benrinnes that we don't like. On this year's trip we finally made it to the actual distillery, dropping by unannounced to see if we might take a peek inside. The staff couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating (something that always seems to make the whisky taste just a bit better). As we toured the site, we learned that the fermentation at Benrinnes lasts about sixty-five hours in Oregon pine washbacks, which contributes to the fruitiness of the eventual distilled spirit. When you see something with your own eyes, hear the reasoning and the science behind the process, and then taste that result 16 years later on down the line, it can be quite a rewarding experience. The 1997 hogshead we found at Signatory is brimming with soft vanilla and a round fruity palate that makes me think of Glenmorangie, but even more expressive. The finish is impressive, meandering between brandied cherries and sweet iced tea. At cask strength, the whisky is absolutely perfect -- no water needed. I think our selection of 1997 Highland whiskies is going to be very popular with our value-focused customers. The Benrinnes might be the best of the bunch. (David Driscoll, Spirits Buyer)

The crazy part is that the pricing on the Benrinnes is about the same as the Benrinnes 12 we offered two years back. That’s how good of a deal these casks are. Thank God for Signatory this year.

Above, you see the now-legendary 1997 sherry butt bottling from last year’s Signatory drop. We now present to you its sister cask.

1997 Glenlivet 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Sherry Butt Single Malt Whisky $72.99 -- Well, after kicking ourselves multiple times about not buying several casks of the fabulous heavily sherried 1997 Glenlivet last year, we arrived back at Signatory to find that, of the 25 casks that were available last year, only three were left. When we opened the first one, we honestly looked at each other in disappointment. It was hollow, lighter colored and slightly bitter. The second cask was even less appealing. Finally, we opened the third and final cask to find that dense deep 'livet that we remembered from last year. If you remember last year's cask, we bottled it at 46% because it tasted absolutely incredible at the lower strength and it gets the price down about $40 a bottle. Think classic sherry flavors here, toffee, baking spices, dried raisins, exotic wood, coffee, cocoa etc. It's rich, textured, soft and long. But, what's so impressive about this cask is that we were able keep the price down. While malts all over Scotland were 40-50% higher this year and Signatory's prices were indeed higher, we've decided to lower our margins to keep us in the same relative range as last time. We know that we could get $100 for this whisky all day long and those who tasted it last year know why, but this is only $6 more than last year's pre-arrival price and still below what we were asking on the shelf, plus the whisky is a year older! I believe this cask to be at the very least the equal of last year's offering, so you can imagine it will be just as prized by our customers. (David Othenin-Girard, Spirits Buyer)

Send any questions or comments our way!

-David Driscoll