Search This Blog

Return to

Spirits Journal Podcast Archive

Spirits Journal Twitter Feed

K&L Uncorked Blog

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!


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


Tuesday Tasting Notes

As I’ve said countless times on this blog, the appointments that you always expect to underwhelm you always end up blowing your mind.  Take today’s meeting with Orietta Maria Varnelli for example.  Despite my extreme interest in Italian bitters (amari) and liqueurs, I wasn’t expecting too much from these products.  By the end of the tasting, I was taking as many pictures as possible, writing copious amounts of notes, and our Italian wine buyer Greg St. Clair was screaming out various praises in Italian – we were completely caught off guard and wowed by what we tasted. 

Distilleria Varnelli has been producing spirits in the Marche region of Italy since 1868.  They’re located in the slopes of the Sibillini Mountains and have been family-owned for more than 140 years.  Like most great products in Italy, their spirits are comprised of the roots, herbs, and spices found in the nearby region: things like star anise, cloves, and the incredibly bitter gentian – both its flowers and its root.  The amari are unlike any other amari I have ever tasted – likely because they are flavored with honey instead of sugar and are grounded in grain alcohol rather than brandy.

 The Amaro Sibilla (should retail for around $50) is soft and gentle on the entry, but thick on the palate, moving into herbal notes before hinting at dark chocolate.  The finish is incredibly powerful, loads of bitter herb flood your tongue and you almost can’t believe how bitter it is.  The Amaro Dell’Erborista is the real gem – it’s pricy at around $65, but for a liter bottle – and it’s completely unfiltered and unfined, giving the spirit a cloudy color.  The flavors are again founded in the gretian root, but this time on the lighter side as the orange peel and anise are allowed to shine a bit more.  The finish is once again extremely bitter!  The CaffeMoka is ungodly good.  It's the only thing I've tasted that gives Dave Smith's Firelit series true competition.  They infuse the grain alcohol with espresso and some honey.  So freaking good you'll want to cry!  The punch is like egg nog without the eggs!  That's the only way I can describe it.  The dry anisette is a purer form of Pernod or Ricard, ripe with anise flavor, but without the sweetness - almost like a better version of Ouzo (which I'm happy to have finally found).

By the end of the tasting the room was a panic.  I was running to get my camera, Greg was blabbering stuff in Italian, Kyle was trying to ask more questions, and Orietta was trying to focus on all three of us.  These should be available in a few weeks and I couldn't be more excited.  With the Italian staff on board, this should be an easy sell!

-David Driscoll


Tuesday Tasting Tonight!


Black Maple Hill 16 Year Old.  $130 a bottle.  Many have debated over its origins.  Is it from Heaven Hill?  Why is it so expensive?  Is it really that good?  Could it be from Stitzel Weller like the original BMH bottles were?  Now is the time for you to find out.  For about $5 you can come and get a glass of this amazing bourbon.  We start at 6 PM at Martin's West in Redwood City.  We go until the bottle is empty!  Come and join us!

-David Driscoll



Last Barrel Announcement!!

Well, we've finally come to the end of our exclusive K&L barrel pre-order list and we've saved one of the best whiskies for last.  All of the casks are now on the website and available for purchase in advance with special discounted pricing for those who do so.  The complete list is posted on the right margin of this webpage if you scroll down a bit.  There are currently no further plans to release anything further unless something drastic happens with Kilchoman and that sherry barrel we liked so much gets a bit more affordable.  So for now here's the dramatic finish to our first ever K&L Scotland pre-arrival campaign:

1990 Littlemill K&L Exclusive 21 Year Old Faultline Spirits Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky PRE-ARRIVAL $114.99 (retail to be $129.99) - When it was dismantled in 1996, Littlemill was not only one of the oldest working distilleries, but also one of the rarest. Finding great Littlemill is EXTREMELY difficult. We were very lucky to find this exceptional cask of ultra rare Littlemill and even luckier to get it for a reasonable price.  From a secret special source, this warehouse contained several off limits ultra rare casks. Somehow we weaseled this one cask out for the inaugural release of our own independent label dubbed Faultline Spirits.  Faultline draws a line in the sand.  It connects our three stores and expresses the monumental nature of what we plan to do. Only the finest, most rare products will be bottled under the Faultline name; this Littlemill exemplifies our goal perfectly. Littlemill is rarely mentioned these days.  Straddling the line between lowland and highland, just north of Glasgow, it's traditionally classified as a lowland whisky due to the histrical use of triple distillation. Geographically, it's more closesly linked to the highlands. In the 1930s, the distillery moved to double distillation.  This bourbon cask was perfectly aged in a cool ocean climate and shows a great deal of depth. Nose: Strong caramel, green apple peel, rich grain, and citrus blossom. Palate: Tootsie Roll, pineapple, more citrus and bit of white pepper. Complex, vibrant, truly special. -David Girard, K&L Spirits Buyer

-David Driscoll


Inside the Mind of a Vodka Drinker 

From the research journal of D. Driscoll:

Any serious reseacher should attempt to understand his subject through examination, experimentation, and, if possible, real-life participation.  Like the psychologist who enrolls himself in an asylum or the journalist who embeds himself in the battlefield, I have decided to put both my mental stability (which is already questionable) and physical well-being in harm's way in an attempt to understand what makes the vodka drinker tick.  I am doing this neither for personal glory, nor for any petty pageantry, but rather as a serious scientific study. 

My intial research began sometime ago while tasting with a reputable vodka producer.  This vodka, which will remain unnamed to protect the integrity of this report, uses several species of potatoes to create its spirit and each group of potatoes is fermented and distilled separately, then blended together at the final stage.  On this occasion the producer had sourced isolated samples of vodka from each species of vodka to create a tasting that would highlight the flavors of each one.  Never had I witnessed such an attempt to create a singular flavor with vodka, a spirit that is generally heralded for its absense of flavor, and I was utterly fascinated, to say the least.  However, after tasting each one individually and struggling to take notes, I came to the conclusion that I could not tell a single one of these potato vodkas apart from the next.  I was discouraged, but at the same time energized, knowing that I had some serious work to do if I was going to understand this mysterious spirit.

A few weeks after completing the potato vodka experiment, I threw myself into countless samples of vodka from numerous producers and foundations.  Wheat vodkas, rye vodkas, brandy-based vodkas, sugar cane vodkas, and anything else I could get my hands on.  Some were distilled twice, while others were distilled as many as seven times - each process rendering the spirit more neutral.  After more than a month of serious examination, I had determined only that some vodkas were better than others, but had yet to ascertain just what made them so.  It was neither the flavor nor the lack of flavor and it rarely had anything to do with texture.  Certain vodkas did standout due to their clean profile and pure finish, with no trace of alcohol or burn despite being half-composed of ethenol.  I assumed that this was the goal of a fine vodka, but it wasn't until I tasted the Potocki vodka from Poland that everything clicked in (for more information on that examination please view footnotes 14.1 or consult the scientifically-minded KLS Journal 6.9.11)

The Potocki tasting would forever change the way that I understood vodka and would propel me into a series of personal experimentation from which I wasn't sure if I would wholly emerge.  Nevertheless, this past evening, I decided that for the sake of research and for the understanding of future generations, I would attend a private function where alcohol would be served and imbibe nothing but glasses of vodka with some ice for hours at a time.  My intent in putting myself under such strained circumstances would serve my study in proving two possible hypotheses: 1) over-indulgence should help in understanding the difference between intoxicated states based on traditional methods (i.e. beer, whiskey, wine) and that based on flavorless hyperdistillation 2) perhaps the side effects of such an onslaught (i.e. headache, vomiting, nausea) could also effect personal preference for vodka over traditional methods.

Upon arrival at the testing grounds, I made sure to appear unassuming and perused all of the options available for the evening.  Although I knew exactly what I would be drinking, I wanted to make the experimental conditions as relaxed and authentic as possible.  Throughout the course of the night I consumed nearly seven glasses of straight vodka with some ice.  The flavors were minute, but with each sip I seemed to enjoy it more.  I found myself no longer thinking or focusing on flavor, but rather simply enjoyed myself and my evening.  By midnight I should have been thoroughly intoxicated, but my mind and body were still going strong - what could have been causing this strange phenomenon?  By previous measures of traditional methods, I should have been either passed out or babbling in the corner, but I was able to walk out of the confines completely in sound mind.  Could it be that the vodka drinker is attracted to his subject based not necessarily on flavor, but on the consequent state of intoxication and its allowance for increased enjoyment of stimuli?  Hypothesis number one achieved.

After returning home I purposely put myself to bed on the couch as a safeguard against any possible drunken behavior that could seriously anger my female counterpart.  However, there seemed to be no need as I settled down and proceeded to fall asleep within seconds.  Only at one point in the night did I wake up and at that time I was quite dehydrated, but more than able to fetch some water to quell the thirst.  At 8:30 AM I finally awoke from a slumber with a minor headache, but no apparent nausea or other common side effects of traditional methods.  Some aspirin and some water quickly soothed the trouble and I was able to ingest some toast and engage in morning conversation with my female counterpart before heading to work.  Currently, I am standing in the lab and typing this report with little notice of any ill effects from the previous evening other than general apathy. Hypothesis two seems to be proven and should become more clear after studying the results of further research and self-experimentation.

Could it be that the cleaner the spirit (i.e. the more it is distilled) the more focused and clear the intoxicated state?  Could a cleaner spirit also therefore result in more mild side effects from intoxication?  Could this mean that the mind of a vodka drinker is a mind more engaged on enjoying itself and the other pleasures of life, rather than focusing obsessively on flavor and authenticity?  The only way to answer these questions is through further testing.  After cleansing my body today with constant dosages of water, I plan to continue my experimentation later in the week.  I hope to ingest an entire bottle of vodka in a controlled environment to test whether the positive results of these hypotheses were the result of flawed research or impacted by outside events.  Either way, the mind of a vodka drinker is clearer in my mind and closer to understanding than perhaps ever before.

-David Driscoll - June 12th, 2011