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

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!


Corsair 100% Rye - Coming This Fall (I can't wait)

I can't say that I've been impressed with everything Corsair has made - at least that I've tasted.  But when they make something well it ends up being very good.  Their gin, for example, which we carry right now, is very tasty and will catch on I believe very soon.  It's loaded with vibrant herbs and spices and comes off fresh and clean on the palate.  When you're located in Kentucky, however, it's whiskey that should be your bread and butter and not gin.  Yesterday I got a sneak peak of what to expect when Corsair releases their 1 year old 100% rye this Fall.  One word - amazing!  Let me expand a bit on what I mean by that. 

I've made no secret that I personally am not a fan of the Tuthilltown spirits, the New York producer of young Bourbon and rye whiskies in cute little 375ml bottles.  Not only are they too expensive, they're far too young.  All I ever taste when I sip them is alcohol and green grains mixed with pepper.  I understand that it's difficult to wait when you're trying to make money producing whiskey, but if it doesn't taste like good whiskey then the novelty is going to wear out quickly.  The only other 100% rye being produced right now is from Old Potrero here in San Francisco, and I will say I'm not a fan of their rye either - mostly for the same reasons: too sharp on the palate, too much peppery grain, not enough barrel. 

After that description I could understand if someone said, "Hey David, maybe you just don't like real rye!"  Oh, but I do!  I really do, and I really like this new Corsair, even though it is a meager year in age, because they somehow managed to get it fairly rich to balance out the spice.  I had to taste it about three times to make sure I wasn't missing something.  This has all the spice that you expect from rye, a suprisingly smooth entry, plenty of kick, and a long finish that doesn't spit grain alcohol back into your tonsils.  They're only sending one barrel to California and I have already offered to buy the entire thing.  We will make it a club selection if possible.  It tastes great as a sipper, but would work magic in a cocktail.  I think it should retail for around $60 putting it on par with Old Potrero. Stay tuned.

-David Driscoll


A Great Cocktail Night @ Martin's West

I must say that, while I was very happy with the turnout and the number of people we had, many of you missed out - big time.  This was by far my favorite tasting we have done and the few single malt fans whose arms I twisted were very impressed.  Jennifer and Erik were complete pros and they gave a fascinating background to the drinks which they so artfully crafted.  The cocktail tastings are always going to be the most outgoing because I really feel like once we get you hooked, you're going to be a whole new type of drinker.  Therefore, I really try to pull out all the stops.  First of all, Erik and Jen did this pro bono, and I of course get nothing, so we lowered the price to $15.  This time the cocktails were all about an ounce of base liquor, plus the additional ingredients, so you got four decent sized drinks - all of which were elegantly mixed.  Then, as if the fun, education, and drinks weren't enough, Jennifer brought a free bottle of her syrups for everyone who attended.  Those things sell for over $10 a bottle, so by the end it was almost a wash.  If you think I'm biased (in which case you would be correct), then take this email I received from Paul this morning - perhaps the most fervent advocate and attendee of our single malt tastings:

"Hi David

In many ways, I'd have to say the cocktail evening trumped our recent single malt tastings. Don't get me wrong....the malt tastings are EXCELLENT but having Jennifer and Erik tell their background and journey and share technique was just great and added that personal passion. And of course the cocktails were fantastic. It was pretty obvious at first sip these were not ordinary drinks. The top end ingredients really showed how good it could be - saddly, I had no idea. I drove home feeling like I had an ephiphany. As Jennifer said...cocktails can be "nourishing"......she brought her own ice to ensure size and shape. man, that is flipping great!"

I hope that the next time we do this we'll get a bigger crowd and then it will be a real party!  Next single malt tasting is July 13th.  Details soon.

-David Driscoll


Embajador Mezcal - The Best Deal We've Ever Offered For Quality

We've been trying to convince our whisky customers who love the smoky flavor of island malts to try some of our best mezcals for some time now.  While most coinoisseurs are used to paying $60 and up for their favorite single malts, asking the same price for a rather exotic and unknown adventure has made most people uneasy.  However, when we met Efrain Nolasco, an organic agave farmer and distiller from Oaxaca, we knew we had found the right person to bring mezcal to the masses.  His mezcals are the same spirits being bottled by other more expensive brands, only without the expensive price tag.  I also went out to three of the best bars in SF last Friday (Nopa, Smuggler's Cove, Comstock) and all three carry his Benezin mezcal - people who drink for a living seem to be in agreement that his products are quality.  If you've ever been curious to find out more about this smoky and intense export from Mexico, this is the time.  I just tasted these again last night and I was stil just as impressed as I was when I first tasted it.  This is a one time deal so when these are gone - that's it.  I can get a few more cases on top of what we have in stock, but not much more.  Try it and stock up if you like it.

 Embajador Blanco Mezcal de Oaxaca $19.99 -

Embajador Reposado Mezcal de Oaxaca $21.99 - This is perhaps the greatest deal I've seen since I took over as spirits buyer last August!  If you've ever been curious about high quality mezcal (not the guaranteed hangover with the worm in the bottle) but never wanted to pay $60+ just to experiment, we've just found an amazing, one time only deal.  For the past few years, Efrain Nolasco, born and raised in Oaxaca where mezcal is king, has been making organically-certified mezcal.  He works with a co-op for local farmers in the small town of San Juan del Rio where the best agave is harvested.  We carry two mezcals from him that are 100% organic and the cleanest, most pure mezcals I've yet tasted.  Because of our success with these two bottles, he recently reached out to us and told us he's been sitting on two other mezcals that he made before he was certified and that, since he wants to focus on being an organic producer, he's willing to cut us a deal.  The Embajador Blanco is made from organic agave but cannot label itself as such - hence the low price!  This is smoky, vibrant, tangy, spicy and clean mezcal that can hold its own any day of the week with the pricier Del Maguey bottlings.  For $19.99 it is the best price we have ever offered for a spirit of this quality.  The Embajador Reposado is made from organic agave but cannot label itself as such - hence the low price!  It has some barrel aging which smooths out the smoke and spice that penetrate the core.  A wonderful mezcal that sings of purity.  For $21.99 it is a complete no brainer. Mezcal is an underappreciated and overlooked product, but if we continue to get deals like this, it won't be long until the rest of the world starts paying more attention.  Now is the time to indulge your curiousity - these won't last long.


Chieftain's Are Back With A Whole New Line Up

Just tasted through the newest line up of whiskies from indie bottler Chieftains' and I was very very impressed.  Best of all: we will be tasting all of them at Martin's West on July 13th so mark your calender!  These are the ones I am ordering for the store, the rest are available for special order online.  All of them are single barrel and bottled at 43%.  They are not in stock yet so you cannot order them until later in the week.

1991 Longmorn 13 Year Chieftain's Speyside Whisky $59.99 - This is the type of whisky that you recommend for anyone - regardless of preference.  It is a perfectly balanced Speyside malt that should please anyone who likes to drink single malt - a simple combination of soft fruit, malty sweetness, and a hint of vanilla.  The straw colored whisky has a soft and supple mouthfeel and the finish is long and rich.  With all the over the top flavor profiles in the malt world today, it's simply refreshing to find a whisky like the Longmorn from Chieftain's that is as classic and traditional as Scottish whisky gets, with a price that's very reasonable for a single barrel 13 year old.  My highest recommendation.

1996 Dalmore 11 Year Chieftain's Madeira Finish Highland Single Malt Whisky $64.99 - This independently bottled single barrel expression of Dalmore is a fantastic example of how barrel finishing can enhance a whisky without changing too much of the original character.  The always fruity and floral Dalmore is brightened by the Madeira notes - the whisky zips and sings its way accross your tongue on the entry, bursting with flavor.  The finish is soft and subtle with hints of vanilla and a kiss of sweetness.  A beautiful Highland malt only made better.

1985 Glencadam 22 Year Chieftain's Highland Single Malt Whisky $105.99 -
This a single barrel expression of Glencadam, an eastern Highland distillery that sees most of its whisky end up in blends like Ballantine, but they do have a 15 year old single malt available abroad.  The 22 year from Chieftain's is a golden amber color and an outstanding example of complexity without the addition of peat of cask finishing - it's all in the distillation and the age.  The nose is a barrage of aromas and the intial sip presents loads of oily flavors as well as a concentrated grainy character that gives way to vanilla and herbs on the mid-palate.  The finish is long and brooding.  A fascinating whisky.

1982 Port Ellen 25 Year Chieftain's Islay Single Malt Whisky $265.99
- Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!  WOW!  On the few rare occasions I've been able to sample the now-extinct Port Ellen (the legendary Islay distillery closed in 1982), it's been an absolute pleasure, but this Chieftain's bottling takes the cake.  Tasting a great Port Ellen is like finding that perfect and all-too-ellusive middleground that doesn't exist with today's Islay malts.  If you can imagine taking the best parts of Ardbeg's Beist, Bruichladdich's 16 year, and Bowmore's 18 and integrating them in a fashion that cannot be improved upon in any way, then you might come close to imagining what this whisky tastes like.  Delicate malt with perfect whisps of smoke infiltrating the sweetness of the grain, and a fantastic balance of richness that doesn't overwelm you like the Lagavulin 16 can sometimes do.  I would buy a case of this if I could afford it.  This bottle proved to me that Ardbeg is only my favorite distillery currently in operation.  Port Ellen - I love you.

1968 Springbank 39 Year Chieftain's Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky $375.99 - Sheer whisky perfection.  Only 132 bottles came out of this single barrel Springbank expression and they are glorious.  The amber beer color is beautiful and the whisky is everything you hope it will be: toffee, very faint hints of smoke, spices, herbs, and a gigantic finish of rich wood and malt.  Springbank independent bottlings are very rare and should not be taken lightly.  Only 18 bottles are available in California, so do not wait on this.

-David Driscoll


Cocktail Recipes: The Vesper (variation)

So after reading the Chronicle's much better summation (see the link in the post below) of up and coming aperitifs, I was motivated to try the Vesper #2 that Heaven's Dog has added to their cocktail menu - without actually driving up to Heaven's Dog.  I already had a bottle of the Cocchi and some brandy at home, but I needed a bottle of the Ransom Old Tom gin - something we carry, but that I had never actually tasted.  It's made in Oregon and is barrel aged with just a touch of sweetness - more so than the Heyman's which I had just run out of.  Upon tasting the Ransom I was very impressed.  It was more what I had originally expected Old Tom gin to taste like.

If you're wondering what Old Tom gin is exactly, it's a style not a brand.  London Dry gin is called dry to distinguish it from slightly sweet gins.  Old Tom gins are always a bit sweet as they were the original ingredient in the Tom Collins.  From Wikipedia: The name purportedly came from wooden plaques shaped like a black cat (an "Old Tom") mounted on the outside wall of some pubs above a public walkway in the 1700s England. After a pedestrian deposited a penny in the cat's mouth, they would place their lips around a small tube between the cat's paws. From the tube would come a shot of Gin, poured there by the bartender inside the pub. They mix better than dry gins with sweeter cocktails like the Martinez or the Negroni.  The Vesper, however, sees no addition of sweet vermouth, so it's interesting that HD decided to go down that route.  I see the merit in this cocktail however and after getting a tip on what the basic formula should be I was ready to get down to business.

I tried to follow the classic cocktail mentality that your drink should always be at least 50% of its base - so:

1 oz. gin - .5 oz Cocchi - .5 oz. brandy - this tasted OK, but the Cognac overpowered.

I decided to beef it up a bit on the Cocchi and rather than decrease the brandy, I added more gin - that's the sweet spot!

What a fantastic cocktail.  You get all the herbacious qualities of the gin, the bitter notes from the Cocchi, and the brandy just helps to smooth it out a bit.  This is what James Bond wished he would have ordered in Casino Royal, rather than some bizzare vodka/gin/kina Lillet martini. 

-David Driscoll