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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

10/29 - Redwood City: Alexander Murray Single Malts

11/5 - San Francisco: Alexander Murray Single Malts

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

1988 Blair Athol 25 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2001 Bowmore 12 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1990 Bruichladdich 23 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glen Ord 17 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Glenburgie 19 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glenrothes 17 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1998 Mortlach 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Sherry Butt Finish Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Imperial 18 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


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 SOLD OUT!


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 SOLD OUT!


1997 Benrinnes 17 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!


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 SOLD OUT!


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!


Tuesday
Jun072011

Bringing Back The Blends

I have a deep passion for all things retro - I still practically live in the '80s.  Therefore, I have always admired John Glaser's enthusiasm for blended whisky, a great drink for a Mad Men-themed party and the first choice of an all-but-dead drinking culture.  I don't believe that John loves blended Scotch because it's a nostalgic throwback kind-of-thing, but rather because he really finds beauty in the grains.  Grain whisky is lost on just about 99% of the single malt drinking population and I can understand why - the flavors are more herbal, the textures not nearly as supple.  However, the art of marrying well-made grain whisky with quality single malt is still a fascinating and rewarding adventure should one choose to immerse oneself in it.  It takes time though.  I didn't just pour myself a glass of John's Compass Box Double Single (a delicate balance of Glen Elgin and Port Dundas) and jump out of my chair - it took time and focus to figure out what was going on in that glass.  When I figured it out, I was spellbound.  For that reason, I've always felt that John was fighting an uphill battle because most people have no patience or desire to drink something that doesn't speak to them instantly. 

John isn't backing down from that challenge, however. 

He's more fired up than ever.

Click on this link and see what John is up to now.  I'm going to try and talk with him later this week to get some more info.  I'll also be in London at the end of the month, so hopefully I can visit with him and see exactly what the future holds. 

Stay tuned.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jun062011

No Authority 

If you think there's no authority in the world of wine critics, think again.  When Robert Parker releases his Bordeaux ratings every May, the wine world sits in anticipation, waiting with baited breath to see just exactly what they can effectively charge for their bottles.  A higher Parker score equals a higher price tag, so each point can mean the difference between hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars .  If K&L sends out an email to customers and the review of the product reads, "96 points Wine Spectator," you can expect that wine to sell out within the hour.  Thousands of people read the Wine Spectator and a 90+ review can equal big sales for the recipient of such an award.  The world of wine is such a large, complicated, and ever-expanding one, that people like me get paid to interpret it for those without the time to do it themselves.  People defer to authority because wine can be so confusing, so snooty, so high-browed that they don't dare misspeak or misstep for fear of revealing a weakness.  Most people also don't want to waste time or money on a bad bottle, nor do they want to show up at a party with a bottle that needs to be explained.  The bottle needs to speak for itself. 

The authority of these powerful critics extends far beyond points and scores.  Robert Parker's book of Bordeaux is still one of the best reference books on the region.  Clive Coates has an expansive, and all-encompassing tome on Burgundy.  James Laube wrote a great manual on California.  These guys are all-around experts whose opinions are respected as much as their knowledge.  What's interesting to me is that the whisk(e)y world has yet to produce someone as powerful or influencial.  There are and have been some profound figures, no doubt, (Jim Murray, Michael Jackson, John Hansell, Dave Broom, Chuck Cowdery, etc.) but none of them wield the same might with whisk(e)y as someone like Parker does with wine.  If I send an email out about a new whisk(e)y and I put "92 points Malt Advocate" it just doesn't have the same effect.

Part of the reason I think this crossover has not occured is because whisk(e)y has no real vintage.  No one is waiting for the next seasonal release that is based upon growing conditions or weather.  Whisk(e)y bottles don't need to be kept in a cellar to mature either, therefore customers don't need to inquire about the drinking window or ask, "How long should I keep this before opening it?"  Whisk(e)y also has limited producers, distilleries, and production methods, which therefore limits the amount of information available about it.  For example, there are always new wineries or new producers making new wines from different grapes, which results in an ever-expanding universe of information that needs to be processed and deciphered.  You could write about new wines everyday and just scratch the surface of a single region, let alone the entire planet.  The whisk(e)y world is large, but it doesn't grow at the same speed.  It's methods are not constantly in flux and there is not nearly as much interest in how it is produced or the source of its materials.  Because of this, I think that whisky writers and critics have to really dig to continually find something interesting to say.

What do people want to read about when it relates to whisk(e)y?  Wine has its many facets: farming, production, cellaring, and tasting - four distinctly different subjects, each with their own culture of enthusiasts.  What does whisk(e)y have?  Those who like it and those who really like it, that's about it.  The people who really like it are interested in the distillery, understanding the flavors, and learning about why they taste the way they do.  However, I don't know one person (discounting professionals) who cares about the source of the barley, the farming methods of different grains, the bogs containing peat, the quality of the water, the weather surrounding the warehouse, or the wood in the cooperage.  Heck, I'm a professional and my interest in those subjects is mild at best.  That leaves flavor as the one overall interest of those who like whisky (not that it shouldn't be the most important, because it should), but how much can you continually say about flavor?  How long can you read about the taste of whisky before you begin to nod off?

Part of this phenomenon is obviously the result of the information age we live in.  Parker was established before the internet with its limitless blogs and amateur experts dilluted the pool.  We get our information from so many sources these days that it may not be possible for another grand publication to ever establish itself.  Now it just comes down to the simplest possible summary there is: points.  But if points haven't taken over whisk(e)y already, will they ever?  Will there come a day when a customer asks me to look up a review in the Whisky Bible?  That kind of occurance happens every single day concerning wine, but it's never happened once regarding a whisk(e)y - at least not to me.  The whisk(e)y world has no true, established authority.  Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I'm not sure. 

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jun062011

Tasting Schedule This Week

Here's what's on tap for this week in the two locations:

Tuesday - Redwood City @ Martin's West 6 PM - Springbank 18 - $6 - ish (final cost TBA) - This is one of Campbeltown's best values, especially when you consider that the 21 year retails for upwards of $600.  One of Scotland's most exciting distilleries and independently owned.  This is essentially mandatory purchase for all those Single Malt obsessed, if no other reason than to gloat about actually tasting one.  Plus it tastes great - classic Campbeltown rusticity balanced by 80% sherry casking. 

Thursday - San Francisco @ Gitane 5:30 PM - Rittenhouse 25 - $9 - ish (final cost TBA) - The oldest and best tasting rye currently available on the market.  Come taste this legendary Heaven Hill whiskey with us for a pretty nice little price. 

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jun032011

Alchemist Closeouts Coming - Advanced Warning

Get ready for some AWESOME whiskies at low low low prices.  Sometime late next week (if all goes well) we should get a large batch of the absolute LAST Alchemist bottles that were imported into the U.S.  There were dropped by the former importer and closed out at ridiculous prices. I did my homework on this deal, made sure I got over to the importer's warehouse once they arrived, tasted through these, and jumped all over every bottle of the best expressions.  The Alchemist single malts are independent whiskies from Gordon Wright, a member of the Springbank family with close associations to Bruichladdich as well.  That explains how he got all the good stuff.  There are other expressions besides the four that I cornered, and while they are also less expensive, they don't represent the slam bang deal that the others do.  There are other spirits as well such as a 15 year old Calvados, an older Armagnac, and some aged Guadalupe Agricole rhum.  Those will also be brought in most likely, but I'm sticking with these four as the highlights and I bought over 100 bottles of each.  We will be shooting out an email to the big list when these arrive but you will have plenty of time to nab as many as you want.

Macallan 18 Year Old Alchemist (elsewhere $150) $79.99 - I've seen this as high as $150 in other countries and over $100 in the UK, but it is not available in the U.S.!!  While not as heavily sherried as the standard distillery offering, the Alchemist version still brings the elegance. Vanilla, hints of stone fruit, soft textures, a smooth and lasting finish, and hints of sweet baking spices - everything one would expect from well-aged Macallan. Do not wait to secure your order. These could very well sell through in minutes.

Macallan 15 Year Old Alchemist (elsewhere $80) $65.99 - While everyone else is out there eyeing the fantastic price on the Macallan 18 Alchemist, trust me folks, the 15 year is the jewel of the bunch. This whisky simply explodes with flavor in the traditional Speyside style. Big, chewy, intensely rich flavors of toffee, raisined fruit, candied orange peel, and thick, malty goodness. This is personally the best Macallan I've had in....well, I can't actually remember tasting another Macallan I liked this much! Simply wonderful whisky and I can't recommend it highly enough. This whisky delivers the goods in everyway possible, both for beginners and for single malt experts. Stock up for holiday gifts, or save for yourself because once this is gone, that's it forever. At this price it's hard to decide how many I want!!

Bruichladdich 15 Year Old Alchemist (previously $75) $52.99 - Gordon Wright, the man behind the Alchemist bottlings, used his great relationship with Bruichladdich to secure this super batch of whisky from their library of casks. It's everything you want from the classic style of the distillery - grassy, herbal aromas that lead into a saline, and fruity palate. The finish is rich and warming, brimming with toasted vanilla and barrel spice. When you think that that standard distillery bottlings of Bruichladdich 15 retail for over $70, you realize what a crazy, ridiculous price this is for a whisky this good. Classic in every way and one of the best deals we've stumbled across in some time. This won't last long - especially once our old whisky buyer and Bruichladdich super fan, Susan Purnell, realizes it's here. This is unavailable anywhere else in the U.S. right now, so grab it and grab it quickly.

Highland Park 16 Year Old Calvados Finished Alchemist (unavailable in the U.S.) $72.99 - Currently unavailable anywhere else in the U.S.! A rarely seen gem has suddenly re-emerged and fallen right into our lap at a ridiculously low price! This Calvados-finished Highland Park is astoundingly good, supremely delicious, and likely to sell out as fast as it came in! Imagine all the grace and balance of Highland Park, with the campfire smoke and sweet grains, maturing inside of an apple brandy cask! I couldn't believe my mouth when I tasted this! The apple highlights linger softly on the entry and brood slowly on the palate before they give way to the bit of peat smoke and subtle richness that coat the finish all the way down. I've never seen a Calvados-aged HP and I don't think I'll ever see one again. After tasting this, I can't imagine why that would be the case - this stuff rules.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jun022011

Piramide Is Here! El Autentico

A while back I posted an article on this blog asking for"real" tequila. There's a glut of tasty tequila on the market, but no one knows anything about it.  Where did it come from?  How was it made? Heck, who even made it?  That info is irrelevant to most people, but tequila is one of the last few spirits we stock where the people selling it have nothing to do with the people making it and I want to change that.  That's when Karolina from Piramide called me up and was so happy that I could speak some Spanish because she had to tell me about her family's new tequila.  Made from 100% certified organic agave plants, these guys grow it, harvest it, distill it, import it, distribute it, and promote it.  They can tell you about the soil in Jalisco where it is grown and about the pure fermentation process that results in the virbrant flavor.  The bottle is simple and to the point because they're all about the spirit inside.  The blanco is zesty, full of citrus, cinnamon, and pepper. The finish is clean and the texture is supple, remarkable tequila with no frills.  The reposado straddles the line between spicy and smooth with fantastic depth of flavor.  Cinnamon, cloves, and baking spices galore without ever losing its gusto. I love this stuff and the price is incredible, but I also love to support people who are passionate about making tequila.  Thank heaven we've found some.

Piramide 100% Organic Blanco Tequila $25.99

Piramide 100% Organic Reposado Tequila $31.99

-David Driscoll