A Big Month Ahead

Just thinking about all the stuff I have to get done this month has been giving me a mild panic attack lately. This is going to be a gigantic few weeks for the spirits department at K&L.

What's going on in February, you ask? What do you need to prepare for? Let me help you ready your calendar for what's coming:

- Two new K&L casks of Buffalo Trace (barrels #43 and #45)

- Two new K&L casks of Kilchoman peated single malt

- Three casks of distillery-direct Bladnoch (a young, super-peated expression, a 12 year, and a 21 year)

- All six of the Faultline pre-arrivals, as well as the three Douglas Laing Islay releases (now sold out)

- Two inexpensive surprises: a new Faultline blended whisky and a young 58% Talisker cask

- A very special Redwood City in-store tasting of Glenmorangie Companta with Dr. Bill Lumsden on Thursday, February 20th at 5 PM

- A trip to Guyana on February 16th to source rum directly from Demerara Distillers and their three ancient stills (with live blogging all week from the distillery)

- A new 16 year distillery-direct cask from Arran

- A super-tasty 8 year old Glenrothes single cask from Douglas Laing

It doesn't get any easier in March either. That's when the first casks of Russell's Reserve from the Kentucky trip arrive, along with our cask of distillery-direct Glen Garioch. We'll also be releasing the casks we found at Heaven Hill, right before we take off for Scotland and France and continue the live blog from the European continent. This brief summary, of course, excludes any possible new releases from other distilleries that I've either forgotten or haven't yet been informed about.

I hope we don't overload you. It's going to be a fun time for our customers.

-David Driscoll


From Laphroaig to Lachirioag

Much like peated whisky recently experienced its renaissance, mezcal is slowly beginning to carve out a larger niche in the world of agave spirits. Always playing second fiddle to Jalisco, the spirits from Oaxaca present spirit fans with saltier, smokier, and tangier profiles than one would normally find in the average tequila expression -- offering aficionados a broader spectrum of flavors than what they're used to from Mexico. More importantly, mezcal's moment is happening without any corporate presence whatsoever; many of the most interesting selections are being self-imported by the producers themselves and distributed by smaller companies that specialize in boutique spirits. Much like the whiskies from Islay, the mezcales from Oaxaca represent a key economic source of revenue for a remote area that hasn't seen much industrialization. However, while Islay has largely been taken over by Diageo, Suntory, and Remy Martin, mezcal production in the villages of Oaxaca is still completely in the hands of the farmers themselves.

But with many young Oaxacan men heading north of the border for employment opportunities, can a mezcal explosion revive a sparse mountainous region and create new opportunities for the locals? That's what Elisandro Gonzalez-Molina and his cousin -- both natives of San Cristobal Lachirioag -- are hoping to achieve with their new brand: Tosba mezcal.

We've been carrying Tosba since early December here at K&L, but the demands of the holiday season kept us from giving it its proper push. Our lack of presentation didn't matter, however, because this NPR interview with the boys aired last week and completely gutted our supply; we sold out within minutes. I'm meeting with Elisandro later today to discuss more opportunities for the public to taste and perhaps organize a few events here at the store. We'll also be back soon with a full write-up on each of the Tosba selections as soon as our order shows up later this week.

Stay tuned!

-David Driscoll



My favorite living actor was found dead today. This is my tribute: one of my favorite scenes in any movie of all time. All of us in the UCSD film department were obsessed with this sequence.

RIP Mr. Hoffman.

-David Driscoll


New Benriach Whiskies

It’s no secret that Glendronach is becoming one of the most respected single malts on the market, with more and more consumers becoming aware of its fantastic quality. What many people have seemed to miss, however, is that the other distillery owned by Glendronach (that would be Benriach) is releasing whisky every bit as good as Glendronach, if not better much of the time. While I love me some sherry, there’s not a distillery in Scotland that can compete with Benriach when it comes to value, flavor, and diversity combined. You can get light, heathery whisky. Dark, rich, sherry-laden whisky. Oily, smoky, Islay style whisky, too. And they’re all fantastic.

Check out what just landed…..

BenRiach 12 Year Old Horizons Triple Distilled Single Malt Whisky $79.99 - This lovely, round and supple, triple-distilled malt from Benriach is rich with barrel spice and vanilla, but soft with stonefruit on the finish before the sherry kicks in.  It's a lovely new addition to their already stellar line-up. Finished in Oloroso butts, it has a chewier, more savory ending that more resembles its sister distillery Glendronach, than what we're used to tasting from Benriach. A fantastic whisky with nice little a bump up to 100 proof.

BenRiach 17 Year Old Septendecim Single Malt Whisky $84.99 - Straight-forward peated whisky from a Bourbon cask, this is a lighter, classic Highland-style whisky with a healthy dollup of peat on the back end. An oily, resinous note marks the finish. It's well-balanced and tasty from front to back and really adds to the Benriach portolio, which is becoming one of the strongest and most-impressive in the industry.

BenRiach 17 Year Old Solstice 2nd Edition Single Malt Whisky $99.99 - This peated, port-finished malt from Benriach is an absolute home run. It's got rich, dark-fruited flavor and blast of campfire smoke on the finish. It's a straight-up challenge to Lagavulin 16 in style, with both the richness and the peat--and it's better executed. Really good stuff. This is what I wished the Laphroaig Cairdeas would have tasted like!

Oh…and if you missed out on the Cairdeas, David OG just got another 60 bottles in Hollywood

BenRiach 25 Year Old Authenticus Single Malt Whisky $279.99 - The Authenticus is a mature, peated malt from Benriach that offers more wood than the 17 year expression and a softer touch of peat. It's serious whisky and really calls into question some of the higher priced competitors who are offering similar styles of whisky for much higher prices. Benriach really dialed it in with this whisky.

We also have a peated cask on the way just for K&L. Good times ahead.

-David Driscoll


Bryan Davis Returns Again

From the darkness, there emerges a new light.You may remember our friend Bryan Davis -- the madcap, romantically-inclined dreamer/distiller who built a steam-powered still out of wood in the middle of a Salinas artichoke field and decided to make 100% California, peated single malt whisky. He's untraditional, unapologetic, and a bit unorthodox, but he's one of the most exciting and unpredictable producers I've ever met. I won't see him for months and then he'll just pop into the store unannounced with a bottle of something new to try. When I saw him in the Redwood City store this week he not only had a bottle of rum in his hand, but one crazy whopper of a story as well.

I had heard the rumors, but Bryan was here to confirm them: he was indeed forced to bulldoze his entire operation. Why? Because of TCA, or as we call it in the wine industry: cork taint. The TCA gets into the wood, the wood gets turned into cork, the cork goes into the bottle, and the wine gets spoiled. In this case, the TCA got into Bryan's still and his barrels, rendering his entire operation and all of his mature whisky useless. There is a swimming pool nearby the location of Bryan's former still. The chlorinated water from that pool somehow leaked into the ground and began mixing with the dried leaves and other matter in the dirt. Chlorophenol becomes TCA when it interacts with airborne fungi, so without being aware of it, Bryan's pool was creating a den of cork taint right below his wood-built operation. Tens of thousands of dollars later, Bryan was left with a mound of rubble.

Bryan's cryptic photo of his new stillLike a phoenix rising out of the ashes, Bryan got right back to work and built a new still out of copper; a better, more powerful machine ready to tackle more traditional spirits in a traditional manner. He decided to invest in some Grade A molasses from Domino and try his hand at rum. Rum is not normally distilled from Grade A molasses, however. It's usually distilled from fresh sugar cane juice (agricole), the honey from the boiled sugar cane juice (Ron Zacapa), or black strap molasses (what's left after the first five rounds of molasses have been sulphured to death and every last crystal of sugar has been scraped free). Grade A represents the class of molasses before all that reduction has taken place. It's the kind you could put on your pancakes. Bryan distilled his Grade A molasses to a high proof and matured the spirit in new American oak, seasoned with sherry. The result is something in between Smith & Cross and El Dorado: big richness, big alcohol, big funk.

The result is exactly what you would expect from a navy style rum, but it has something earthy and bizarre that lets you know who made it. It's easily adaptable into a standard cocktail like a Dark and Stormy, but also capable of lending new perspective into something like a Mai Tai. It's already in the bar at Smuggler's Cove and it's already lining the shelves of our San Francisco store. Also, in classic Bryan Davis fashion, it's affordable and well-priced for the size and scale of the operation: $44.99.

We've got a few right now. We'll have a lot more soon.

I'll also have a lengthy interview with Bryan in the near future, breaking down all of this madness into minute detail. Stay tuned!

-David Driscoll