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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!


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


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Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Bourbon Barrel #345 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


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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!


Thursday
Jul072011

Borough Market

South of the Thames, near the London Bridge crossing, is London's answer to San Francisco's Ferry Building - a concentrated population of organic produce, artisan cheese and charcuterie makers, wine shops, hip pubs, and interesting restaurants open for trade every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  The selection is vast and the quality is incredible.  Just a brief visit to the market is enough to cure any Bay Area foodie of their homesickness in seconds.  That's because Borough Market is like a combination of the farmer's market, Bi-Rite, and Whole Foods, except waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better.

First off, Borough is about fifteen times as big as any high-end market we have in the States - the selection is mind-boggling and causes one's head to spin as the senses are inundated with intoxicating sights and smells.  Intoxicating drinks are also available and one can walk freely with a beverage in hand (so of course we both grabbed a Pimm's) while perusing the various stands and storefronts.  Imagine if you could sip on a beer while picking out vegetables at Whole Foods!

Sure you can get fresh fruit, crisp produce, and all the usual snacks we see in the U.S., but it's the foods we don't see at home that one should concentrate on, i.e. England's traditional meat pie!  There are numerous choices available and they all seem quite delicious.

We made a mistake eating lunch before we came because the hot meals available at Borough Market are wonderful.  Most vendors will let you sample just about anything and that leads to trouble quickly.  This giant bowl of green seafood curry was almost my second lunch.

Of course there's seafood as well.  Fresh-shucked oysters on the half shell are ubiquitous and there's a plethora of fine fish and chips with an option to choose your own fillet for deep-frying from an eye-popping selction of varieties.

Don't even get me started on all the bread and baked goods.  We opted for a half loaf of Spelt Sourdough to go with our cheese purchases, but these flower pot-baked treats had me captivated.  What a creative way to cook and present!

The cheese is what will break you at Borough Market.  We had nearly purchased a pound of various cheese before we even made it to Neal's Yard Dairy.  We tasted their Stilton and began talking to the staff about how highly we thought of their shop.  They asked us where we were from and we said San Francisco.  They then said that a guy named Adam from Cowgirl Creamery had come over from SF to work in their shop recently.  I about freaked out because Adam is the brother of our RWC store assistant manager Zach.  You're never too far away from six degrees of K&L no matter where you go.  Neal's specializes in the farm cheeses of the UK and the selection will make you drool with delight.

I was about to leave when I spotted the New Forest Cider stand out of the corner of my eye.  These guys are making some amazing, apple ciders and a good lot of them are non-carbonated.  We never see bubble-free cider in the States and I'm not sure why because it's quite nice to have a few pints without filling your stomach up with air.  They also sell apple brandy from a small distilery in Sheffield, but I was too entranced by their delicious cider.

By the time we arrived back at the hotel we had quite a booty.  Bread, meat pie, various cheeses, fruit, and some cider to wash it down.  If you're in London, you simply must go to Borough Market.  I'll be heading back tomorrow and Saturday to take in more.  Can't wait.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jul042011

Jolly Ole London Town

OK, so I'm live blogging from London and I broke my absolutely-no-work-while-on-vacation rule, but there's no way I could have remembered every detail if I had waited until I returned home.  I needed to get some of this info into print while it was still fresh in my head.  London is such an amazing city.  In fact, it's so amazing that we completely canceled our trip to Paris so that we could spend another week in London.  There was a bit more to it than just that (namely the $1100 train tickets to Paris because we waited until the end to buy them), but it was no disappointment for us - we love it here.  In fact, I'm still not sure we're coming back.  They've got Pimm's o' clock here and that's heaven for two Pimm's addicts like ourselves.

London is gigantic and London is old.  The Prospect of Whitby has been open since the 1800's and it used to serve such booze enthusiasts like Dickens, Thackeray, as well as various thieves and deviants. You can go along the Thames, through an old neighborhood, and into an unassuming pub like the Prospect and be engulfed in a historic booze milleu.  It's quite overwelming if you stop to think about it.

Pimm's Cup.  One of the most popular cocktails in England.  Horridly under-appreciated in the U.S. and rarely seen on a pub menu.  I plan to rectify that transgression.

If you want some high-end with your history, you can head over to the Rules restaurant and bar - the oldest continuously-operated establishment in London, open since 1798.  Dickens used to have a private room here upstairs which you can visit and H.G. Wells was a perminant fixture at its tables.  The food is quite splendid and the drinks are practically unmatched.  Check this out:

I thought that I was making authentic Blue Moons at home with Creme de Violette, lemon juice, and gin, however, the Rules bar is taking it to a new level.  They don't use Creme de Violette as far as I can tell and the mixture utilizes crystalized violet petals instead.  It's still a gin base, but the color is actually a vibrant blue as the name would imply.  The crescent-shaped lemon peel sealed the deal for us - it's like an actual moon floating amidst the pale night sky.

If you want to visit one of London's premier drink locales, head over the Hix Bar in the Soho region for some serious cocktails and service.  Abou Jollow is running the scene there and making some outstanding beverages for the faithful who attend his service.  Chiseling ice from a giant block, Abou made me a wild highball full of PX sherry, single cask rum, Spanish brandy, lemon sherbert, green tea, and soda water which was then topped off with house-made pineapple syrup and a Champagne float!  As if that wasn't enough, John Glaser joined us for a few rounds and things got nuts.

Sneaking in a bottle of his new King Street blend, John conviced Abou to start pouring off rocks glasses of Compass Box + soda, King St. on the rocks, and a straight shot for the three of us to sample.  The new release is wickedly smooth, unassuming, and well-crafted - just as you would expect Glaser to do it.  I can't wait for it to hit the States this September and I am already excited to pop the few bottles I plan on smuggling back.  Then John pointed to two giant punch bowls of whisky sitting on the bar.

It appears that John was so friendly with Abou and the Hix bar staff because he had been there not too long ago for a blending lesson.  The staff members were allowed to create their own blends and John had taken the top two creations and created a larger scale version of each one.  Both are available to order from the menu - how freakin' cool is that!?  I only wish we could do such projects in the states!

After taking a few days to recover in the countryside, we got back to London tonight and happened to head around the corner to a local pub called Cask.  They claimed to have to largest beer selection in London.  When I got inside I couldn't believe what I saw.

We talked with C.J., an ex-pat from Maine, and his wife for practically the entire evening as we drank Mikkeller from the tap!  They have an insane selection of craft beers in bottle and a staggering selection from cask and keg that would make Bay Area beer geeks cream in their pants.  If you're in the Kensington/Chelsea area then this is a must-visit stop on your itinerary.  The fridge looked like the K&L Redwood City selection with all the hard-to-find selections that we work so hard to obtain.

C.J. recommended we try a new stout from Magic Rock distillery, a brand-new producer from the Yorkshire that had been tearing up the local beer scene as of late.  We were mightly satisfied with the result.  Full of rich flavor, but light on the tongue, it was the perfect contract to the limited-edition Mikkeller triple-IPA that was also on tap tonight.

There is so much booze culture in London that it would take you years to merely scratch the surface.  They are so far ahead of us in every way possible.  That's partially due to the lax restrictions on what they can do.  For example, you can pour booze and sell it for take-out as well.  That's insane, but that's the way it should be.  More to come in a few days.  I broke my silence but it was worth it.

-David Driscoll

 

Sunday
Jul032011

Generic Independence Day Post

The Fourth of July is a drinkers Holiday.  Fireworks, beer, bbq...what better way to celebrate our independence than by doing exactly what everyone else is doing?  At my house we do it a little different.  We celebrate our country's independence by celebrating our personal independence.  That means this year we're going to do the standards from scratch, just to prove we can.  Grinding our own meat, stuffing our own sausages, making the condiments - an idea that is both gratifying and delicious.  The one thing I won't be doing is distilling or brewing my on hooch for the party, so instead I'm going to be very unpatriotic and sip the delicious Del Maguey Espadin Especial.  What I'd love to know is how you're going to make your 4th special?  If it's Milwaukee's Best and Farmer John's franks don't bother, but if you do something special to show how much you LOVE freedom, please let us know. 

Friday
Jul012011

Oban 18 Year finally back!!!

 

Oban is one of my favorite distilleries.  While it's not known for exciting or unusual bottlings, we occasionally see special limited release products beyond the standard 14 year.  Oban is not about overpowering the senses or lambasting the palate.  It's about elegance and enjoyability.  The 14 year is a standard and should be appreciated as such, but this Limited Edition 18 year is truly where Oban starts to shine.  Coming from a small batch of " American Oak Casks" this is new bottling of the 18 Year is made EXCLUSIVELY for the US market.  Often we assume that American Oak casks implies exclusively bourbon aged, but in the first whiff you can tell there's at least some Sherry influences here.  American Oak is often used for the production of Sherry Casks and throws a distinctly different flavor and color than its European cousin.  The color is a beautiful amber hue.    This is even better than I remember it, but then again distance does make the heart grow founder.  Salt and Malt all the way.  A touch of warehouse floor brings me right back to Scotland.  With a bit of air really this stuff truly blossoms.  Very rarely does a malt that encourages the appetite so significantly.  I would definitely feel comfortable serving this as an aperitif.  On the palate the fruit and salt take center stage, while the smoky malt tip toes around the back.  It's so utterly appealing, I can't stand it!!! Has some semblance of the 14 year, but every aspect is AMPLIFIED.  At 43%, this needs nothing, but a bit of air in the glass.  This is a total classic so please take advantage while you can.

Oban 18 Year Limited Edition 750ml - $99.99

-David Girard

Thursday
Jun302011

Time for some Jerez

Pardon the interruption but  the spirits blog is being temporarily infiltrated by - gasp -  lightly fortified wine!  In all seriousness, I would like to take a moment to thank both David Driscoll and and David Othenin-Girard for allowing me to use this forum to talk a little bit about one of my passions:  sherry.   I can only aspire to reach close to the level of both of my colleague's fine prose and as for pictures, well let's just say that Driscoll has a fancier camera and better photographic eye than I do!  At any rate, I hope that you enjoy these sherry posts, and as both a colleague, fellow blogger and reader of this site, I appreciate all the effort that goes into continuing to create new content, as well as the invitation to contribute to the site.  In the parlance of our goofy beer commercial, bromance picture and faux reality TV comedy filled times, "I love you guys, man!"

We're going to start off with some definitions useful for understanding sherry.  There are many more terms to learn, but I hope to tackle at least a few of them in greater detail during the course of several more posts.  I will also profile some of the bodegas whose sherries we stock.  If you're more of a pictures type of person, then scroll down to get to some very cool, artfully drawn symbols which were used in a sherry seminar I participated in several months ago.

Capataz - the cellar manager, and most importantly the person who determines a base wine's initial categorization (fino or oloroso)

Crianza biológica - ageing under flor as is practiced for fino and for amontillado

Crianza oxidativa - oxidative ageing as is practiced for amontillado, oloroso, palo cortado and pedro ximenez

Criadera - The "escalas" or stages of a solera system.  1era, 2nda, 3era, etc.  The more the number goes up, the further away you are from the actual solera level, or the source of the finished sherry.

Sobretabla - a young, recently fortified wine which is ready to enter into a solera system

Solera - 1.) the system in which a sherry is made; 2.) the entire group of criaderas that produces a particular wine, usually given a name that appears on what is commercially bottled (e.g. Valdespino Fino Inocente); 3.) the last barrel(s) of a group of criaderas, which will be bottled and released to market

Almacenista - Someone who makes sherry, stores/ages it, and sells it on to sherry shippers (whose name is the one that appears on the bottle).  Lustau has trademarked the term "almacenista."

Rocio - Transferring of wine to refresh a criadera or the solera itself

Palo cortado - classically defined as a potential fino whose flor dies off prematurely, enabling it to possibly be categorized as "palo cortado" after some oxidative ageing.  Many different definitions exist for this style; the explanation you receive really depends upon whom you ask.

Amoroso, generoso, abocado, pata de gallina - all terms referring to a lightly sweetened (through the addition of PX) sherry.  Pata de gallina is the least sweet of these (Lustau's Almacenista Pata de Gallina is a good example).

Here are some artfully drawn symbols observed several months ago during a sherry seminar.  Check them out and feel free to comment with any questions about these.

- Joe Manekin