Kyle Kurani's Weekly Update

(Video is now available - no longer on private setting as it was earlier)

Kyle Kurani knows his booze.  He's the guy who keeps the Redwood City floor in check.  He tastes everything I taste and has a knack for helping customers find the perfect bottle of whisky.  He's got a lot to talk about, but he doesn't always have time to write down those thoughts for this blog.  I thought it might be helpful to start videotaping him while he's filling carts, gleaning a bit of his take on things while he's in a thoughtful state of mind.  I'm hoping to make this a weekly thing - Kyle has a lot to add to our spirits department and I think everyone would benefit by hearing perspective from a new and motivated source.

-David Driscoll


More News Tidbits

Here are a few newsworthy items from today's run at the store:

- We'll be bringing in a handful of new whiskies tomorrow - some actual bargains!  If you're looking for something cheap, delicious, and affordable, then we've finally got some new options at your disposal.  The new Concannon Irish Whisky distilled by Cooley and finished in California Petite Syrah barrels will be $16.99, something far better than Jameson that actually costs about the same.  We'll also have Sazerac's new Royal Canadian for $19.99, a veritable steal when you think about how soft, smooth, and drinkable this baby is.  Sazerac's other project, the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon, distilled over at the old Tom Moore distillery is also coming back at a reasonable $26.99.  I've been very impressed with their new distillates - so much so that I bought an entire barrel!  We'll have that in soon enough.  In the meantime, try out the regular bottling if you've never gone that route.  Another deal of a Bourbon is the new John B. Stetson Kentucky Bourbon for $24.99, an independently bottled 86 proof drinker that's goes down way too easily.  Soft, light, with loads of baking spices, this is a great addition to the whiskey drinker's bar.  All of these are set for delivery tomorrow.

- I tasted a couple of new Hart Brother's Single Malt offerings this afternoon and was particularly impressed with their Glen Scotia 16 Year Old Single Sherry Barrel for $96.99.  Glen Scotia is one of those distilleries whose whisky either completely sucks, or shocks you because it doesn't.  This new Hart Brother's obviously falls into the latter.  Affectionately known as the "other Campbeltown distillery," Glen Scotia can also be rich and peaty, but it usually tastes rather dirty as well.  Luckily this bottling captures this distillery on one of its better days, which I actually find compelling.  It's like seeing your favorite, drunken, drug-addicted rock band making it through an entire set without messing up.  Smoky residue, oily and earthy undertones riddle this softer, more supple sherry-influenced malt.  Definitely worth trying out if you've never ventured into the Loch Lomand pool.  Also due in tomorrow.

- Tastings tomorrow!  Wednesday, as you all know, is spirits tasting day at K&L.  Free booze from 5 PM to 6:30 at the Redwood City and San Francisco stores.  We'll have Glenfarclas pouring their single malts in SF, while Laphroaig gets smoky down in RWC. 

That's it for tonight.  I hope you're all nursing one of our new Sovereign casks somewhere out there.  I can't get enough of them right now.  I'm nipping on the Girvan, loving the grains over rocks.

Nighty night.

-David Driscoll


Scattered Thoughts

The halflight of the late afternoon is permeating my apartment, giving the 80's new-wave I have pumping through my computer speakers a nostalgic glow that makes me sentimental.  It's either the music, or the gin that's making me completely relaxed and content in this moment - perhaps a combination of the two.  I've been making recipes from David Chang's Momofuku book all day, whipping up batches of ginger-scallion sauce and red dragon paste as I sip from the martini glass.  I'm all over the place right now - the perfectly scattered mindset I sometimes require to pump out an interesting blog post.  Here's the scoop:

- I didn't post about our second day at the UWE because there wasn't much more to tell.  We hit the workshops and visited with people mostly.  I've spoken with a few K&L customers who also attended and so far the feedback has been overwelmingly positive.  Much like we heard from last years participants, the UWE experience is incredible as long as you're alright with the entrance fee.  Some of our customers are already booking next year's trip. 

- David OG and I did attend the Springbank seminar on Saturday, which was a blast.  We went through several Longrow, Hazelburn, and older Springbank whiskies while hearing about the distillery itself.  I took more joy out of watching the room marvel in the experience than I did in participating myself.  Springbank is such an amazing distillery and I wish everyone could visit to see how fantastic their model is.  The whiskies simply tower over other malts.

- Speaking of Springbank, two quick pieces of news - starting in 2013 they hope to source all, or at least a majority, of their whisky from local farmers.  That means every whisky from then on would be a "local barley" release.  That's f-ing insane.  I hope they can pull it off.  Another quick factoid - they have halted their single barrel program.  This means that the 13 year old Bourbon cask and the 14 year old Madeira cask are the last two barrels we'll be able to source direct from the distillery.  Snatch those up while you still can. They're going to need all their whisky for official bottlings starting now.

- Back to the martini I've been slowly ingesting over the last twenty minutes - wowee wow!  The Faultine Gin is freaking delicious in a well-mixed martini.  I need to start tinkering with a negroni next.  Dave Smith, distiller for St. George, really out did himself.  He made a gin that might out-do his own official creations.  Dave, you're not supposed to make superior products for retailers!  You need to save those for St. George!  I cannot wait for this gin to drop.  You're all going to crap your pants.  This martini is concentrated with wonderful herbal flavors.

- Bruichladdich has come through with a replacement barrel for our Chenin Blanc catastrophy!  Simon met with David OG and myself at the UWE this past weekend and we went through some candidates.  There was a Jurancon wine barrel finish, a Calvados aged malt, and some other red wine-enhanced possibilities, but ultimately the choice was clear right from the get-go - a peated whisky from 2003 that was originally meant for the Bruichladdich 3D3 Peated release.  It's beautiful and it will turn nine years old on April 12th.  I'm excited to get this into the store and help Bruichladdich continue their dominance.  I've really been impressed with all the post-2001 distillates from them.

- So where did the DOG and I taste these Bruichladdich samples?  Most of the wine casks were tasted at the Frank Marino dragqueen Divas show in the Imperial Palace.  What a fun time!  Scotch and Cher! We got a lot of work done.  If you're in Vegas, there's no beating $60 front row tickets with free drinks at the Frank Marino show. 

- Speaking of Vegas, I will be flying back just to eat at Lotus of Siam.  It's one of the best restaurants I've ever been to - anywhere.  Not expensive, either.  Just plain good.

Back to work tomorrow.  Lots to do.

-David Driscoll


Ultimate Whisky Experience - Vegas - Day 1

Meandering our way through the Wynn hotel, through hallways of ballrooms reserved for private banquets and company meetings, we eventually stumbled upon the Ultimate Whisky Experience.  Already in session were several different special event classes where one could learn about subjects such as the Shackleton whisky recreation, or how whisky can be an investment - the one we found ourselves in shortly after arriving.  I can't say that I view whisky at all in these terms, but it was somewhat interesting to see bottles I had once tasted appear on a Powerpoint presentation with recommendations about long-term value stability.  Everyone had on suits or fine evening gowns.  People were attentive and interested (I think).  The UWE tasting was about to begin.

Inside the main hall were plenty of old faces from Scotland.  Peter Currie, formerly of Springbank and now working with Duncan Taylor, was a sight for sore eyes.  Euan was all decked out (featured above) with his wife behind the table, pouring some seriously old malts - 1969 Macallan for one.  One thing was clear right off the bat - there were some serious drams being tasted at the UWE.  This was no normal whisky event.  The room was full of high-end stuff, even if it wasn't full of people.

Our baby was in attendence - the 30 year old Brora from Chieftain's.  She was showing quite well and I think people were really impressed.  They were also pouring the Springbank 40 year - a whisky we currently sell for over $1000 a bottle.  It was magnificant.

The best whisky of the night for me was this 1985 Bruichladdich DNA cask that was oily and salty as all hell, yet still quite soft and restrained.  I was blown away.  Bruichladdich can really wow you when they're on point.

The guys from KBD were also pulling out all the stops.  Loads of old and rare Willett Bourbons were on display, including a 28 year old that really took our breath away.  Spicy and full of intense clove action - this was worth every penny of the $300 price tag - too bad it's only available at the KBD distillery.

Here's the deal with the UWE - if you can spare $500 and you love whisky it's like being a kid in a candy store.  There are loads of malts you would normally never have the chance to taste and there are so few people in attendance that tasting them is quite easy.  It's the opposite of most tastings where they run out of the best stuff in minutes.  They still had 40 year Springbank when we were leaving over at Chieftain's and Springbank themself still had plenty of 21 year old.  Glendronach had a full bottle of the 31 year at closing time and Glenfarclas still had every vintage available.  Still, it's $500 and it's in Vegas, so you'd need to have some serious extra coin, plus a few days off.

More details later.  They delivered the goods and now I'm beat.  We had a huge Thai dinner at Lotus of Siam.  I will be eating there for every meal from now on.  Simply amazing.


-David Driscoll


Knick Knacks & New Arrivals

In between getting the new Sovereign malts ready for sale and prepping for the Vegas trip tomorrow, I've neglected to write about some of the new arrivals at K&L this week, as well as address some industry news.  Let's do that now:

- First off, yesterday's big gossip around the industry was that Springbank has ceased doing business with Preiss Imports, their U.S. importer for as long as I can remember.  This isn't too interesting or exciting to most people, but for us (David OG and myself) it's incredibly interesting - namely, because they've now chosen Pacific Edge to be their replacement.  It goes without saying that we're very close with the guys at Pac Edge (I'm sure many of you have been to our tastings with Todd Smith at the store or at the Hideout), so we're thrilled that doing more business directly with Springbank should only become easier!  I think it's amazing that some friends of ours from Sacramento will now be supplying the whole country with Springbank whisky!  Pacific Edge brings in Dolin Vermouth and all the Haus Alpenz stuff, A.D. Rattray single malts, and they distribute all the Willett Bourbon labels and micro-distillery spirits like Leopold Bros.  This relationship is a perfect fit.

- Just found out that JVS will be at the Vegas tasting tomorrow and they've secured an advance bottle from our Brora cask to pour!  Our sold-out Brora cask, that is.  We're going to have to hover around their table so that no one gets their hopes up after tasting it.

- I met briefly with Sazerac yesterday and tasted some barrel samples from their 1792 Ridgemont Bourbon cask program.  Not everyone is aware that Sazerac owns another distillery along side Buffalo Trace - the old Tom Moore distillery in Bardstown.  I believe they're in the process of renaming it 1792 Ridgemont distillery, but the point is that they're creating whiskey that isn't Buffalo Trace, but rather a high-rye mashbill that represents a different program from the Harlen Wheatley distillates.  Ken Pierce operates the stills for 1792 Ridgemont and the barrel samples I tasted were all 8 year old Bourbons of superb quality.  Better yet, we should be able to retail them around $23 per bottle.  I have to make a final selection still today, but there's no doubt we're going to begin purchasing casks from Sazerac's other half. The quality of Bourbon for the price is simply amazing.

- Speaking of Sazerac, if you're not on the whisky email newsletter, then you probably didn't hear that we snagged a good supply of Elmer T Lee and Eagle Rare for now.  They're running low on both these expressions currently and we were thinking we may not see any for the rest of the year.  Now we're stocked for the moment.  I also ordered some of their new bargain Canadian whiskey under the Royal Canadian label - it should be in stock later today.  It comes in a bottle that looks exactly like George T. Stagg, but it's all smooth, soft, easy-drinkin' Canadian and it's very well priced.  Anyone looking for something new and inexpensive will be very happy.

- Samples from Willett arrived in the mail this week and currently we're looking at two casks of 1991-distilled 20 year old Bourbon that represent what's left from Stitzel-Weller distillery.  I'm pretty sure we're in for at least one barrel, so all the Pappy 20 year old fans out there should have another crack at getting a similar product, albeit under a different label.  Pricing for Willett's 20 year old Bourbons, however, are a bit higher due to the fact that they're bottled at cask strength and unfiltered.  More on this later as the project develops.

- I'm really enjoying the feedback we're getting from staff and from customers concerning the four new casks from Sovereign.  The guys in Scotland we're importing these from are the real deal - they're one of the best sources for quality single malt in the world.  While everyone went in fast for the Caol Ila 30 (because, duh, it's Caol Ila 30), and many we're lulled in by the 45 year old age statement on the now-extinct Caledonian (both good decisions, mind you), the Girvan is going to be the cask everyone remembers a year from now.  Just like the Glendronach cask we imported last year, it was the whisky most customers were least excited about, but is now perhaps the most asked-about whisky we carry.  I get emails everyday about that Glendronach.  The Girvan will end up being the same.  The oak, butter, and honey just hypnotizes you right off the bat, while the grain flavors slowly lean out the finish.  Of the thirty or so people who have tried all four casks, more than twenty have selected the Girvan as their top choice.

- Last night was the sneak preview of our new Faultline Gin from St. George.  Customer response was extremely positive.  Dangerously positive.  It's going to be a huge hit.  Good thing we made 1,000+ bottles.

- I'm on the hunt for new Irish whiskies at the moment and, while we're hoping for some good mid-range options, I stumbled on this new Cooley-distilled Concannon Irish Whisky that was finished in Concannon Petite Syrah barrels from California.  At $16.99 it represents the least expensive whiskey we carry of any kind!  I wouldn't have bought it if it wasn't good, but it's not for the Redbreast fan hoping to save a few bucks.  It's for the drinkin' fan looking to drink and then drink some more - on the cheap.  That means it's mostly for the K&L staff.

- In the ever-expanding world of American independent whiskey bottlings, we've now introduced Temperance Trader Bourbon into the store - a Buffalo Trace-sourced whiskey bottled by Bull Run Distillery in Portland, Oregon.  It's a nice, spicy, more-herbal, less-sweet Bourbon for those tiring of the smoother, softer style.  Another fine addition to our growing selection.

That's the news for today.  We'll be live blogging from Vegas this weekend! 

-David Driscoll