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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

4/23 - Redwood City: Ardbeg Single Malts (w/the chopper!)

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

1988 Littlemill 25 Year Old K&L "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Lowland 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!


Bladnoch 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive Lightly Peated Single Barrel #303 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Bladnoch 23 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #1054 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Talisker "The Speakeasy" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2005 Glenrothes 8 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Sherry Barrel 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

1991 Cambus 21 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


2002 Bowmore 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


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!


1989 Cragganmore 23 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 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!


1983 Miltonduff 30 Year Old Faultline Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750m IN STOCK NOW!


Wednesday
Oct202010

Independently Bottled For Costco

I'm not implying anything negative by this (yet), but word on the street is that Bruichladdich master Jim McEwan has some serious business on the West Coast next week.  I was invited to meet with him in SF on Monday afternoon, but when I asked if he was available Tuesday I was told, "he has to go to Livermore to meet with the heads from Costco."  What in the heck does Costco want with Islay's most indie of whiskies?  More importantly, will Costco be willing to bring in products specifically for single stores?  Are they going to make him mass produce super-sized, Costco quantity casks?  I'm very curious to find out more about this development.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Oct192010

Best Whisk(e)y For $50ish - What Do You Choose?

When you work in a retail store you spend most of your time stocking and helping customers.  Doing both often gives you a better understanding of whisky than tasting it because you have to be able to select the right product for the right occasion.  Knowing your options is important and with the amount of stocking I do, I'm familiar with every single one of them.  A majority of customers are looking for something accessible, maybe for a gift, and they usually want to keep it around $50ish.  Is there a one-size-fits-all whisky at that price?  For $100 I almost always recommend the 1985 Glenrothes because it's such an awesome malt, but what is really astounding for half the price?

When we opened a bottle of Springbank 10 yesterday I was reminded of how much a love this whisky.  You really get everything - subtle hints of peat, rich malty goodness, dried fruits, oily textures, and a long salty finish.  It's only after you've spent a few weeks tasting average, run-of-the-mill single malts that you truly appreciate what Springbank is offering with their ten year.  I used to think that the Ardbeg 10 was the best deal for around that price, but now I'm not so sure.  While the Islay giant is probably more pleasing to hardcore fans of the style, I think that Springbank is a safer choice, plus the level of complexity in the 10 year is really unparalleled by many older expressions from other distilleries. 

I think maybe Springbank gets overlooked by those shopping by age (which is honestly not a smart thing to do if you're browsing, by the way) rather than by distillery.  I'd rather taste 10 glorious years from Springbank than I would 18 from Macallan, and I like Macallan. 

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Oct172010

K&L Whisk(e)y Club Goes To Old World Spirits

Davorin's aged peach brandy and his newest framboise

Just when I thought that we had peaked on our first ever K&L whiskey club field trip to St. George, along came Davorin Kuchan and his Belmont microdistillery's many miracles, which wowed us even more.  I like to make Old World Spirits a regular hangout, trying to get over and catch up with Davorin about once a month if possible.  However, no matter how many times I think I've tasted everything he's got going, the Croatian master distiller pulls out something new that I never saw coming.  He loves having that rabbit to pull out of his hat, you can tell by the twinkle in his eye and his little smirk after I start raving about how awesome his newest creation tastes.  I knew that if I brought some of my most passionate customers over to meet him that they too would fall under his spirited spell.  Davorin did not disappoint as he unveiled his freshly distilled unaged rye as soon as we walked in. 

Getting the full 170 proof right into my glass was a real treat.  The rye is legit and has everything you'd expect aroma-wise, but there's a twist.  Davorin is distilling it two times and using eau de vie yeasts in the fermenting process, resulting in a lighter and fruitier whiskey without losing any of the concentrated rye flavor.  I can't wait to see how this ends up tasting after some time in charred new oak.  Davorin said his wood is on the way, so it won't be long until he beings the maturation process.

As we gathered around the table and began to discuss the distillation process, we needed to only look a few feet to our left for a functional example of every explanation Davorin provided us.  We were lucky enough to have caught him on a work day, so the steady stream of peach eau de vie splashing gently into a bucket was music to our ears the entire time we were there. "Go on over and put your glass in so you can taste it," he told us and no one had to be told more than once.

Free run peach spirit

Getting to taste the peach spirit at such a high proof on its first run through the still was amazing.  The aromas at the point of the process are so much different than those eminating from the final product.  The Kuchan peach eau de vie is brimming with floral and crisp peach aromas, while the first run spirit is ripe with peach pie and cobbler.  We all took a step back and were completely taken with the experience.  Truly a geek-out moment for all us spirit nerds in attendance.  Not only did we get to taste the peach spirit off the still, but we also got to watch Davorin unbarrel a fresh batch of fermenting peaches and load them into the boiler to begin making a new batch - all the while sipping on whatever happened to find its way into our tasting glasses.

Davorin makes some fantastic eau de vie and we have long carried his peach, pear, and walnut brandies, but soon to hit the line up will be a fantastic new framboise made of 100% raspberry distilled eau de vie with a bit of fresh raspberry juice added in at the end.  Not only does the brandy taste like the pure essence of raspberry fruit, it also brings along the earthiness of the seeds and the tannin of the skins.  The flavors are remarkable and I think it will end up being the most successful of all his fruit based products. 

 

Davorin takes a sample of the barrel-aged Blade ginNot everything at the distillery is fruit based however, as Davorin is becoming best known for his delicious Blade gin.  Made with more of a citrus focus, Blade is becoming the absolute go-to gin for all citrus-based cocktails, so I made sure to whip us up a round of Corpse Revivers while we were there topped off with Davorin's Le Sorciere Absinthe Bleu.  He makes the traditional green absinthe as well and we made sure to taste both complete with water dripper and a flashlight to catch all the cloudiness of the luge.  Davorin has a small barrel room that houses his zinfandel brandy as well as a few other experiments.  One of those trials that seems to have gone unbelievably well is his barrel-aged Blade gin that was undoubtedly the highlight of the afternoon.  When he drops this later this year, the current barrel-aged options like Ransom and Citadelle Reserve won't know what hit them.  This is the real deal - rich, wood-enhanced herbal goodness bursting with spice and citrus.  You could use it in a cocktail, but it tastes so good straight sipping that you probably would never make it into the kitchen to grab the ice and the shaker.  It might rule our holiday season at K&L if Davorin can release it in time.

We ended the tour with a round of brandy barrel samples and a taste of Davorin's now sold-out walnut liqueur.  He hopes to get a new batch of walnuts later this month to begin distillation on a new batch of brandy.  The small group that made their way over to join me was completely won over by the end of the afternoon.  Davorin held our attention for over two hours of lecturing, tasting, sampling, and distilling.  With his convenient location and endless barrage of tasty products, Davorin has been winning over other Peninsula enthusiasts for the last year with his Friday night flights held on the last Friday of every month.  If you get the opporunity, head on over and pay him a visit because it's as much fun as it is educational.  You won't get the Whisk(e)y Club VIP tour, but you'll still get fantastic time out and a whole new appreciation for fruit-based spirits.

Don, Dennis, and Ryan inspect the must-David Driscoll

 

 

 

Friday
Oct152010

Power Rankings - 10/15/10

I haven't done these in a while, so I thought it would be fun to show the current top selling whiskies at K&L.  These rankings are based on both in store and internet sales.  I know that people are usually curious about what other people are buying, so here's your chance to find out.  As of yesterday, these are the faster movers at all of our locations combined:

1. Lagavulin 16 Year Single Malt Whisky

2. Ardbeg 1990 Airigh Nam Beist Single Malt Whisky

3. McCarthy's K&L Exclusive Single Cask Barrel Strength Oregon Single Malt Whiskey

4. Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt Whisky

5. Glenlivet 12 Year Single Malt Whiskey

6. Black Maple Hill Small Batch Bourbon

7. Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

8. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Bourbon

9. Glenfiddich 12 Year Single Malt Whisky

10. Macallan 12 Year Single Malt Whisky

Pretty standard list.  No real surprises, right?

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Oct142010

Who Gives A S--t About Awards?

Double Gold - San Francisco Spirits Competition.  Silver Medal - World Spirits Festival.  What does this mean and who really cares about these so-called prestigious awards?  It seems that every week when I open a new box of bottles, there is another product with a sticker posted on the front label that cries out, "Look at me!  I'm good!  Now you know how good I really am!"  Somebody asked me earlier today in the store about a whiskey selection and they said, "Well maybe I should get this one because it won the gold medal."  I then showed her the other fifty bottles on the shelf that had also 'won' gold medals and that seemed to put things in perspective for her.

Recently on a more prestigious whiskey blog site, there was a discussion about industry folk getting upset when their product received a low score.  John Hansell himself wrote that not every whiskey can be the best ever - there simply have to be some bad ones out there.  However, it seems that more and more products have found a way to become distinguished on the retail shelf, be it the shiny gold of a medal sticker or a necker tag that displays how points it won from Paul Pacault.  There are enough awards out there for everyone and somehow every major brand has found a way to win one of them.  It seems that in today's high-end liquor store there really are no bad products, or even mediocre ones for that matter.  It's sort of like Who's Who From America's High School Students, but the alcoholic version.  You get a letter telling you how great a young scholar you are and then you pay a fee to be posted in a "prestigious" catalog of pupils, and to top it all off, they charge you for the actual book you appear in.  In return, students get to add it to the long list of acolades on their college resume as a distinguishing mark in their favor.  A mutually beneficial relationship if their ever was one, this formula has been adapted for the liquor and wine world with astonishing efficiency.

Now before I get carried away, I am 100% behind some form of consumer advocacy in the liquor world.  Just this morning I was shopping for SLR cameras and I consulted CNET and Consumer Reports for advice.  The difference between these non-partisan services and the spirits competitions however is night and day.  One offers detailed information about a specific product, pros and cons, positives and negatives, while the other simply states (as broadly as possible): good, very good, best - that's it.  If someone does bother to add a bit more information, that description is carefully censored to cut down to the bare bones necessity - 92 points, nuff said. 

I could probably write about ten pages of examples to illustrate my point, but this is a blog and blogs are made for quick, succinct updates that can be read in a few minutes.  Let me say this and I'll leave it at that: medals are meaningless, points even more so.  For every expert out there who loves a product, I'll find you someone who hates it and vice versa.  Expert panels will always exist, but we as retailers need to stop relying on them to sell products because they're ruining this industry and our ability to educate customers.  Whiskies are not trophies.  They should not make you cool for owning one or envious for not owning one.  Whiskies are drinks and they are meant to be enjoyed with friends.  Some are better than others.  Not all whiskies are for everyone.  If it got 97 points and you hate it, don't drink it.  If it got 75 points and you love it, then who gives a shit?  Drink it and move on.  This is supposed to be fun.

-David Driscoll