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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

8/20 - San Francisco: No Tasting

8/20 - Redwood City: K&L Signatory Single Malts

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

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


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 IN STOCK NOW


1992 Bruichladdich 21 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1988 Balmenach 26 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER


1997 Benrinnes 17 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Dailuaine 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER


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 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!


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

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!


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!


Sunday
Jan092011

All The Food Groups - New Reviews

I finally got the chance to taste the new 2010 Caol Ila 12 Year Unpeated and I must say that it offers one of the most educational experiences available in the single malt world.  Unchillfiltered, and bottled at cask strength, this release from Diageo tastes exactly like what it claims to be: 12 year old Caol Ila minus the peat.  Some Islay distilleries make non-peated whiskies, but that isn't quite the same as unpeated.  The difference, you might ask?  Non-peated implies that the distillery's original idea was to make a whisky without the use of peat - a new expression.  They decided to craft a flavor that allows their distillery to offer something different than the nor, that attempts to unveil a different side of the house style.  The Caol Ila unpeated is not a new whisky that replaces the peat with more sherry, or some other flavor substitute.  It is the same old Caol Ila, just without peat. It tastes literally as if they took the usual 12 year old and did the exact same process as always, just this time without peating the barley.  The result is like eating an Aguililla Market taco without hot sauce and focusing on how good the flavor in the meat is.  When you eat food without salt or pepper, the quality inherent in the original ingredients had better shine.  This whisky gives up the goods and with plenty of kick as well.  The sality, saline character of Islay is still present, but the beer-y, hoppy flavor is now center stage much like Alameda's St George single malt.  There are whisps of golden grainy goodness, but really no richness or fruit influence.  It is simply Caol Ila, unpeated.  It's actually quite tasty and there is nothing else we carry that hits quite that flavor profile.  An education in a bottle.

There have been quite a few questions regarding these new microdistillery offerings from the East Coast.  The best kept secret in Massachusetts is now out of the bag.  The Berkshire Mountain bottlings have made their way to California and they are acutally quite good.  I use the word "actually" because the dominant mindset has become dismissive towards small, young distillations and it is up to me to convince some of you that these are not merely new lambs for the editorial slaughter.  The gins are quite nice with the Greylock Gin representing the traditional, juniper-dominated London style and the Ethereal bringing the orange-peel citrus.  They have a corn whiskey, on which I decided to pass because Leopolds does it much better, but the Berkshire Bourbon is actually quite integrated and full of baking spices with sweet vanilla.  I think most bourbon drinkers would give it a pass should they find it in their glass.  All three of these bottlings are quite encouraging.  As you know, I wouldn't bother to bring them in if they weren't worth drinking.

Since I'm stuck on olives with cheese and crackers lately, I've really been pounding the sherry.  Tonight's bottle is a fantastic manzanilla from Hidalgo Pastrana that is all single vineyard!  That's quite odd for a sherry that is done solera style.  The average age of this briny monster is ten years, which is nearly twice what most other manzanillas are offering.  Nutty richness subtly creeps in on the entry and the palate is wonderfully clean and fresh with plenty of salty undertones.  The world of fino sherry is a world that all you light snackers and tapas lovers need to enter ASAP.  It is so refreshing and you can keep the bottle open for 4-5 days in the fridge without losing the flavor.  This is how I plan to start every meal of 2011.

After dipping into the Jerez kitty, I decided to pour me a glass of Alpine Beer Company's Alpine Ale, which we have to keep a two bottle limit on.  Located in Alpine, outside of San Diego on Highway 8, this little distillery has made quite an impression on our customers by offering beers with clean, pure flavors and creamy textures.  The Alpine Ale isn't going to pound your mouth with bitter hoppiness or dark, coating sweetness.  It rather refreshes and cleanses while preparing one for the next bite of a delicious meal.  The craft beer movement is overwelming me with so many delicious choices as of late.  It's hard not to drink a little bit of everything on nights like this.  Fortunately, I did tackle all the major food groups today - brown booze, white booze, wine, and beer. 

-David Driscoll

Saturday
Jan082011

A Shift In Sales Philosophy

Since taking over at the end of 2009, David OG and I have been very cautious with our buying (as any new buyer should be) and we've been even more careful with our volume.  Like other stores in the midwest and the east coast, we probably could have purchased multiple Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, or Elmer T Lee casks simultaneously, so that we always had at least two going at all times, but instead we only did one at a time.  This happened for two reasons - 1) we only bought a barrel if we REALLY liked it.  2) we wanted to bring in the barrel, announce it, and move it out before committing to another large purchase.  We weren't sure how large the demand was for our exclusive casks, but when the barrel of A.D. Rattray Clynelish 27 sold out on pre-order, we realized that we had created a larger market for our whiskies. 

Thanks to all of the local whiskey enthusiasts, we're able to make riskier and more exciting purchases because we know that there is a demand here in the Bay Area.  However, I'm seeing more orders leave the state and that means people from all over the U.S. are taking note and I want to be able to supply that demand.  It's become the case that when we bring in a barrel our customers only have about 2 or 3 weeks to decide if they want to buy it and then it's gone forever.  This puts pressure on the customer to decide quickly, and the scarcity could definitely be seen as a marketing tool where no one wants to miss out on something, so they buy because they would rather have it than not get a chance later.  While that's a model that has been very successful for us, I don't think it's ultimately how I want to run the whiskey department.  My philosophy has always been focused on education, creativity, and inclusivity, however, it's the exclusivity that has driven our sales. 

In my opinion, there is only one way to remedy this situation and I think everyone is going to like it: buy more casks.  If we always had a strong rotation of numerous K&L whiskies then each one wouldn't seem like such a "gotta buy it right now" bottle.  You might think I'm crazy for wanting to slow down the sales of each purchase, but I'm getting my heart broken by emails/phone calls from customers who want to purchase of bottle of the Mannochmore 28 or the St. George 11 and are devistated to hear they missed out.  While the demand we have created for our casks is amazing, the frustration generated by the small window available to buy them is palpable and real.  How can we reach out to new customers when our best products are constantly sold out? Having more casks to choose from at any given time would mean less attention would be given to any particular one, slowing down the rate of purchasing and giving our customers more time to try and then purchase more should they want to.

Here's the problem, however.  I've literally been begging distributors to find me more barrels.  Get me samples, let me give you tens of thousands of dollars right now!  The process is mindbogglingly slow.  They must get me a list of barrels available from which I must choose only a few to sample.  That selection then has to be relayed back to Scotland, where the samples are drawn from the barrel.  The warehouse must then file the proper paperwork and prepare the bottles for shipment to the distributor.  A month later, I might get these samples, which represent only a fraction of the overall selection.  I then taste and decide.  This usually creates one more big problem: what if I don't like any of them?  The process then starts all over.  Considering it takes at least another two months after selection to get the barrel bottled and shipped to the U.S., it could be months before we see it at K&L. 

But what if I were to go to them?  On Monday I plan on sitting down with our owners and laying out the case for my first Scotland trip.  David OG and I need five days of massive tasting to help secure more booze for K&L customers and we're going to do it or die trying.  We have insanely high standards (to the frustration of many distributors) and we will not buy for the sake of buying - even if we know it will sell.  That's just not how we roll.  The West Coast needs more independent casks of high quality single malt whisky.  There's only one way to make that happen at the speed we need it done.  Go to Scotland and take care of business.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Jan062011

Welcome To Podcasting - Interview #1 Neyah White

Well, it isn't perfect and there are still some more kinks to work out, but I managed to get the first episode of our new weekly podcast online and able to download via this link. (Mac users make sure to press "option" while clicking on the link, PC users "right click").  The first episode is an hour long and features a conversation with former Nopa mixologist and current Suntory brand ambassador Neyah White.  Neyah was nice enough to enlighten me about the current state of Japanese whiskey, the plans for future importation, and his views on the Japanese whiskey culture overall.  We also talked cocktails, the SF bar scene, and discussed our thoughts about the average American whiskey consumer. Overall a great time, which hopefully translates over into this audio recording! 

Download it to your iPhone, iPod, or iTunes player and listen in!

Or listen to it here via our embedded Flash player:

 

 

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Jan052011

Jerez, Otherwise Known As Sherry

So I'm in charge of vermouth, aperitif wines, Pineau des Charentes, and other fortified wines here at K&L, but the sherry department falls to Spanish wine buyer Joe Manekin.  I love sherry.  It tastes delicious on it's own, it mixes well into cocktails, and, when dry, it pairs well with difficult foods like olives or nutty cheeses.  When sweet, it can enhance a sweet dessert or a blue cheese plate like nothing else.  It's amazing the variety of flavors that this brandy-infused, solera-aged wine can impart on the palate.  For this reason, even though it doesn't fall under my buying domain, that I would like to start introducing more customers to Jerez.

I put together a cheese and olive plate last night and paired it with our new Valdespino "Inocente" Single Vineyard Fino.  Fino sherry is a very dry and sometimes austere aperitif that can have a salty or briny character, hence a perfect match for those garlic-macerated gourmet olives from Whole Foods and that block of aged Gouda I got from the Ferry Building last weekend.  While I love pouring spirits for our customers, I am a bit disappointed by the fact that most of my expertise helps people after their meal rather than during it.  Sherry is the closest that the spirits department can come to enhancing our gastronomy and that excites me.  There is so much to learn about Jerez and I'm in a real mood to hit the books and do my drinkin' homework.

As I type this I'm sipping on this dry amontillado from Herederos de Argüeso and loving every sip.  I've got a bowl of toasty almonds and some sheep cheese to nibble on while I soak up all the toffee flavors.  Toffee normally equates to sweet, but this amontillado is completely dry.  Orange peel and nutty, oxidized notes round out the sherry and help ease it down into my gullet. 

The best part about sherry - it's inexpensive and it lasts a good while after you open it.  Spirits lovers take note - all the food pairing benefits of wine coupled with the long-lasting fortified nature of a spirit!  We should all be drinking more sherry. 

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Jan052011

Stepping it up for 2011 

As you all know we had an insane December.  I've not found anytime to write, but some how Mr. Driscoll pulls it off - honestly I've been exhausted I really don't know how he does it.  Anyway, I'm feeling renewed and refreshed after a completely mind blowing holiday season.  We've got some great news regarding some very special bottles coming in from private collections.  This includes the ridiculously rare Ladyburn 12 year (for a "reasonable" price), Glen Garioch 37 year Bicentennial, very old Dallas Dhu and even older Longmorn.  We'll post all the details as the whisky arrives.  Otherwise, as Driscoll stated in Whisky News 1/4/11, we've selected a new Four Roses Cask.  I'm really excited because we've found another great barrel and it's again a totally different recipe than previous batches.  Each of our three barrels from Four Roses have been completely different and absolutely rockin'!

The Ten Versions of Four Roses Obviously, this was a tough day at the office!  David & I lead a blessed life and would like to thank all of you who make this possible, both on the production and consumption side.  We truly are lucky to be part of this exciting industry, employed by this great company, surrounding by all these amazing people.  Thank you all for making this possible. 

While I was slammed here in LA for most of December, I did find time to frequent a bar that I've been meaning to go to for years.

The Griffin in Atwater Village has a great selection and an unpretentious vibe.  There is a dress code, which is strictly enforced.  I actually saw them turn away a guy in an Ed Hardy t-shirt.  This scores big points in my book (I guess the dress code is "NO ED HARDY" because the guy got right in after flipping his shirt).  Their only problem is the relative indifference to mixing a cocktail properly.  While the staff is attractive and genuine, they are seemingly too cool to put any actual effort into making a proper drink. 

A very boring Old FashionI was shocked to see Rittenhouse Rye behind the bar and equally astounded when I found they only use Martini & Rossi Vermouth.  Luckily for me the bartender used the vermouth like she was making a dry martini, barely a drop of the stuff hit the shaker.  Cold Rittenhouse with a dash of angostura is actually a fine drink. It's just so interesting how bars go half the distance.  Are they trying to save money?  Is it just a lack of knowledge or expertise?  All it takes is one trip to one of LA's (few) top cocktail bars to know what you're missing.  I commend them for having a relatively interesting selection of Single Malts, including some nice bottles from Signatory and many of the big names that are missing at most LA's other bars.

A nice placement from our friends at JVSThey also have some excellent American Whiskies available at reasonable prices.  That's why doing 'partial' bugs me so much.  It's hard enough to find a decent pour in LA, why not go the extra mile?  Buy some proper Vermouth, get some good cherries, teach your bartenders when and how to stir/shake and how to mix some classics properly.  They've already made the investment to carry unique top shelf spirits, if they spent a bit more money on the extras and some training this could be one of LA's best bars.

That's Van Winkle and Stagg!!!Anyway,  as you can see by the selection this a great place to order your drinks neat, skip the shaker.  That's actually a big deal for LA...sad, but true. 

My New Year's resolution was to drink better so just want to rub it in a little.  I spent my New Year's Eve polishing off several bottles Gigondas, Launois Special Club and a bottle of this...

OG New Year's Dinner and 25 Year Pineau

Paul & Marie's 25 Year Pineau Des Charentes is on of the finest desert wines/spirit I've had of any kind at any price range.  Needless to say, I SHOCKED some very experienced drinkers at my table when I pulled this one out.  The freshness is astounding.  The depth of savory and sweet are endless.  A bit of sherry funk.  A racing acidity ties it all together.  Truly one of the finest products ever to pass through my palate.  If you like desert wines at all or thought about buying this even for one second please do it NOW.  We keep saying it cause it's true.  You have to taste this to believe it.  Supplies are very low.  We've got 12 bottles coming into Hollywood this week.  Happy New Year!  Keep drinking better.

-David OG