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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!


Sunday Bordeaux and BBQ

Here at K&L, we work really, hard.  We've made a serious commitment to this store and the owners make it worth our while.  Last week, Clyde Beffa Jr. one of the esteemed founders, came to Los Angeles to give us a tutorial on '08 Bordeaux.  While I may be the spirits buyer, my heart will always be with wine.  Dubbed the last "affordable" vintage, the '08s showed great value and a lot of long term potential.  A stark contrast to the over priced '06 and modern '07 vintage, the 2008 vintage is more classically styled showing good acid and strong tannins.  Purchased before the dollar's precipitous fall and without the rabid fanfare of the '09 or '10s, our line up revealed a couple of real gems.  The big boys (Pichon and Cos) were rich and powerful, showing lots of potential for the long term.  Pontet Canet usual angular structure seemed rather rounded for the vintage.  The only disappointment was the Lagrange & Larcis, which one too modern and the other bit trashy.  Three incredible values emerged from the pack -D'Aiguilhe, Cantemerle, and Malescot- all showed incredibly well under $50.  Can't forget the Lynch-Bages Blanc which is relatively expensive, but showing very well considering its disappointing critical acclaim.  Needless to say, if you like a classic structure style claret and want to save a bit of money, I highly encourage you to seek out the '08 for your cellar.  The highlight of the evening, however, was a BBQ prepared by the man (Mr. Beffa) himself along with a selection of incredible wines from his personal cellar.  I'll mostly let the pictures speak for themselves. 

I don't mean to rub it in, but that's USDA Prime, some legit franks, and Monsieur Marcel's saucisson.  We'd lucked out, a customer with perfect timing had returned a lovely bottle of '96 Leoville Barton -don't ask me why.  It wasn't at all corked, but it was several days old, so onto the steak it went.  A little Amora Moutard de Dijon and we were in heaven...

 This is the finest grill on the market!!!

 The Feast begins....

Uh oh...'82 Mouton Rothschild pulled out of inventory due to leakage.  It didn't disappoint, not at all a bad bottle, just not quite living up to the hype.  Nonetheless, Bubba looks on longingly.

 '83 Pichon Lalande was probably the highlight of the evening.  Still with lots of life, vibrant color all the way to the rim and a precision that cut down the palate like a scalpel.  The 83's are often over looked and Clyde considers this one of his favorite wines ever.  Tough to disagree. 

The only dud of the evening was this bizarre private label, most likely made by Inglenook.  The clear glass did not affect the color, which was still vibrant, dark and rich looking.  Unfortunately, this bottle smelled like hot trash when it was first opened.  I was shocked to see it come back around after an hour or so, but it still didn't stand up well to competition.

 By far the most interesting offering was the '61 Hallcrest Cabernet.  Still with plenty of life, it took several hours in a decanter to fully blossom.  Hallcrest is one of the original greats of California wine.  When they set out to make world class wine in the hills above Santa Cruz, no one expected them to succeed on this level.   This is one of the earliest vintages and played an historic role in establishing California as one of the world's great wine growing regions.  A bouquet of hearty earth, desiccated currants, and masculine brute.  Bretty, intoxicating and powerful, truly a special bottle of wine that I will rank near the top of my most special and unusual experiences. 

On to Harvard & Stone where Mia Sarazen of Black Market was running the R&D bar.  She's exceptional and this was as well.  All the drinks were named after '80s films hence why I remember none of their titles.  Ingredients here: Goslings, Benedictine, and Lemon if I remember correctly.

 Another Sarazen creation.  Her punch was painfully easy to consume: vodka, sake, other stuff a blur.

The Fabulous Trinidad Sour, a Harvard & Stone classic.  The base is Angostura Bitters with Lemon, Orgeat, and Root Liqueur to balance.  Interesting, invigorating, definitely one of my favorite cocktails in Hollywood.  We finished our night thusly.  I hope you're not only seething with jealous rage, but also that you learned something! Thank you Clyde for the exceptional wine and thank you Mia for the wonderful cocktails!  

-David Girard


Kilchoman - To Buy Or Not To Buy

Here's an interesting scenario where I am going to pander a bit to the comments field - I actually could really use some input.  We have the opportunity to purchase a five year old sherry barrel of Kilchoman, the new Islay distillery that is wowing people with its precocious young whiskies.  So far the quality of their malts has been fantastic, but the prices are still a bit high for some consumers who compare it with older expressions from other distilleries that cost less.  I'm a big believer in the idea that great whisky is worth whatever you think it's worth, regardless of the age statement, but if we were to pull the trigger on this project we would be looking at around $100 a bottle for a cask strength speciman of Kilchoman.  Granted, the sherry really helps enhance this malt and help it to seem far more mature than its actual age.  The mix of rich sweetness with smoky peat is quite nice, but sherry barrels are big and therefore so is the committment.  My question is this: how many people are interested in Kilchoman?  I myself haven't seen customers swooning over it, so I'm a bit hesitant to go deep on something like this, but maybe I'm just not witnessing a more passionate global response?

-David Driscoll


Hot Hot Hot!

Springbank 12 Year Old Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - I got a fantastic price on this and I bought everything available.  They sent me a sample of this ages ago, but it didn't arrive until now.  This is a limited release from Springbank and it's fantastic.  More like the 10 year than the 15, this is an oily, dense and savory malt.  It has all the nuance of the 10, but more power and a bit more richness.  The 10 year Springbank is my favorite malt in the world, so getting an updated version of it is exciting.  Chewy fruits, supple and gum-smacking textures, hints of smoke, power on the palate, long on the finish.  Get it while it's around.

-David Driscoll


Drinking For Pleasure

If you're one of the few people that happen to read this blog, but don't make it over to John Hansell's site as well, then today's posting will make a great starting point in developing a relationship with the Malt Advocate editor.  What I loved about this recent entry, entitled "The Way to Drink Whisky," is that he kept it brief and to the point, while touching on a very serious theme that grips many a whisky geek on a daily basis - the fact that drinking should be fun.  The best part is that John lists three recent drinking experiences of his own to illustrate the point - one where he actually added an ice cube to his glass of the pricy and super-rare Ardbeg Alligator ("Heavens NO!" screamed many a malt nerd upon reading that line).   On a fishing trip he actually added ginger ale to his bourbon ("What!? This guy is nuts!  That totally messes up the purity of flavor!").  It's nice when someone who I consider a world expert takes the time to share his own relaxed experiences concerning booze because it reinforces and adds credibility to the idea that drinking should be about enjoyment.  No one can claim that John doesn't really appreciate bourbon, so if you think his drinking habits reveal something about his lack of appreciation for good booze, you would be mistaken.

While John kept it brief, I'll add a bit of filler because I think it's an important subject to revisit from time to time.  Because K&L is a store that caters to true connoisseurs we have a duty to understand and appreciate the nuance of great wines, beers, and spirits.  We get people asking us for our advice everyday and from these experiences I am sometimes able to glean a bit of information about other people's drinking habits - namely, that they can seem rather devoid of fun.  For some people, having a drink isn't about relaxing or having a good time.  It's like a vacation where you end up coming back more stressed out than before you left.  There are sometimes too many rules to follow: the wines need to be paired with the perfect food, the bottles must be stored at the correct temperature and opened at the perfect time, the whisky must be sipped neat because any water or ice will dillute the purity, the beers must be craft-brewed from a small brewery and aged in barrel, and on, and on, and on until all the fun has been completely squeezed out of it.  At the end of a long day at K&L, all we want is something cheap and cold because it's easy and we don't have to think about it.

Just like I "discovered" with my vodka experiment last week, there are other reasons to drink besides basking in the greatness of unique and rare booze.  People lambast vodka for it's lack of flavor, but it's the perfect spirit for a night of dancing and drinking because it seems to intoxicate without disorienting. Cold, cheap beer is still a refreshing way to finish a work shift.  $5 Spanish garnacha is delcious in a home-made sangria.  Those of us who work at K&L spend all of our day analyzing booze, so the last thing we want to do when we get home is break open a 35 year old single malt and sit in front of the T.V.  That's not to say that I don't have a bottle or two of some special occasion stuff sitting inside my bar cabinet, but those are spirits that require time and appreciation.  Campari and soda is much more appetizing to me once I open the front door and set down my laptop bag.

Why is it necessary to remind ourselves of this from time to time? Because people can take drinking very seriously - to the point that they don't allow themselves any ability for enjoyment - notes must always be taken, photos snapped for archival purposes, blogging and posting on message boards to invite further discussion, more bottles must be hunted down and acquired to complete the perfect collection, arguments on message boards for the sake of ranking the greatest whiskies of all time, and on, and on, and on.  I get emails from people who are heart-broken, crushed, outraged, indignant about the fact that the cult bottle they wanted so much went in and out of stock without them.  I visit restaurants where people are unable to order the food they actually want to eat because it doesn't pair with the wine.  I listen to beer fans wax about the merit of Pliny the Elder and refuse to try anything else because it just isn't as good.  Is this making anyone's life happier?  It sounds like more stress!

At the end of John's article he writes:

In all three instances here, I wasn’t “John Hansell the whisky reviewer.” I was just someone enjoying whisky in a way that seemed appropriate at that given time.

The key word there is "enjoy."  Don't forget to enjoy your drink.  People first began drinking because it made them feel good.  Alcohol is not supposed to be a trophy, a mortgage, or a stress on your daily life, but rather relieve you from those things and help you to put your worries aside. 

There are many merits to fine wine and great whisky - just like literature or anything else.  However, you don't always have to read War and Peace.  In the privacy of your own home, you can read Twilight and enjoy it because you don't have to prove anything to anyone.

John Hansell, a man who rates fine whisky for a living, drinks bourbon and ginger ale in his free time, so we're all free to let our guard down as well.

-David Driscoll


New Arrivals/Back In Stock

Kilchoman 2011 Spring Release Islay Single Malt Whisky $64.99 - The new release of Kilchoman sees some sherry wood making its way into the mix.  The rich and rounder highlights really help balance out the spice of the young, smoky, spicy bourbon-aged malt.  This is the best release of Kilchoman we have tasted to date and the sensational quality only speaks to the greatness this distillery will eventually achieve.  The Spring release has loads of smoke, iodine, and salty notes with hints of oloroso in the background.  Slightly denser and more concentrated that any of the previous releases.

Springbank 10 Year Old Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky $54.99 - I was getting a bit nervous that this was going to be out of stock longer.  But that's the beauty of Springbank - they bottle to order so every batch is different.  Can't wait to try the new load.

Big Peat Islay Vatted Malt Scotch Whisky PRICE REDUCTION (formerly $99.99) NOW $59.99 - This vatted malt hits all the right notes and completely justifies its higher price.  Not only is is a crazy blend of Islay's finest: Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and the rare Port Ellen, it is exactly what you expect when you taste it.  The aromas are of smoke, and salty seaweed with a slight medicinal note, and the palate shows more campfire smoke with a saline and herbal character.  The finish is rockin' and the length on it is incredible.  It lingers in your mouth for minutes as hints of fresh chopped spearmint and pepper start to appear.  This is an apply named whisky that is very much a big and peaty drink.

Douglas Laing's Original & Authentic Double Barrel 8 year Macallan & Laphroaig Blended Malt Whisky PRICE REDUCTION – NOW $59.99This unique bottling of two special single malts defies its category.  The rich Speyside character of Macallan contrasted by the brine and smoke of Laphroaig.  One of the finest young vatted malts I've tasted in years.  Awesome!!!

2000 Domaine Labet Marcs du Jura $39.99 - Can you believe we found a Marcs from the Jura?!  Wine and spirits geeks unite!  Made from savignin, ploussard, and chardonnay skins then aged in oak for ten years!  Like the richest grappa, yet also exotic and slightly oxidized like a Vin Jaune.  One of the most intriguing and exciting spirits I've tasted in years.  My love for the wines of Jura and my passion for spirits finally collide!

Louis Roque Vieille Prune $39.99 - From the historic Louis Roque distillery located in the sleep town of Souillac.  Imported by the legendary Charles Neal, Roque specializes in Vieille Prune from Gascony.  Perhaps the finest in class, certainly the best of what's available in the states, prune uses only the best Gascone Plums.  With the depth of a cognac and the finesse of a plum brandy.  Esoteric, yet familiar, this Vieille Prune has an unparrelled richness.  Bursting with asian spice and ripe fruit, you'll want to keep this one in stock once you've tried it.

Reisetbauer Austrian Blue Gin $47.99 - The most esteemed producer of eau-de-vie in Austria has now released an Austrian gin!  Vibrant, spicy, and dry in a way that London dry gin only wishes it could be.  Intense, pure, and flavorful to the max.

Paolucci Amaro CioCiaro Liqueur $18.99 - According to a highly trusted source this is the closest available substitute for the old incarnation of Amer Picon.  The Amer Picon is a highly sought-after cocktail ingredient, which is not distributed in the United States.  Not many people know that in the 1970s the formula for Amer Picon was quietly changed.  Amaro CioCiaro is the closest you'll get to that original Amer.  It's soft, subtle, sweet, citrus, is offset by a pleasant bitterness.  A must for any cocktail nerds bar.

-David Driscoll