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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

1997 Bunnahabhain Heavily Peated 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Chieftain's Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

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

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 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 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!


Tasting Panel Thursday

My mouth is officially dried out and dead numb.  For more than three hours I sat with some of my booze world peers at an event put on by the Tasting Panel magazine called "Speed Tasting."  In this special event, I was invited to enjoy the whiskies of eleven different producers who were given fifteen minutes each to present their products to our panel.  Along with me were Heaven's Dog/Slanted Door bar manager Erik Adkins, Joie de Vivre director Matthew Stuhl, Bar Agricole stud Thad Vogler, and the Tasting Panel's own Merideth May and Deborah Parker Wong.  We were given sheets of paper to record our notes, which were collected at the end of the event to be published in a future edition of the periodical.  A neat little activity, I thought, but I got lucky with the single malt theme.  Poor David OG did the same thing in SoCal a while back, but I think he got stuck with vodka (hee hee).

First up on the list was Bushmill's, so we were greeted by Diageo's own Master of Whisky Steve Beal.  I was pretty excited actually because I had never tasted any of the aged expressions from Bushmill's.  We were given large pours of the 10 year, 15 year, and 21 year.  All were tasty and a great credit to the longevity of Irish single malts.  As if that weren't exciting enough, as soon as Steve's fifteen minutes were up we said hello to Chuck from Kilbeggan & Glenfarclas.

Chuck didn't come to play around with kid stuff - he brought the goods.  Right off the bat - Glenfarclas 40 - BAM!  Suck on that!  What a freakin' awesome way to spend an afternoon, I thought to myself.  The malt is a fantastic testimony to the quality of Glenfarclas.  The price of the 40 year, while still a whopping $450, is very managable compared to comparable expressions of a similar age.  No time to really sit back and enjoy it though because we're fifteen minutes from a whole new line up.  Next came Wemyss, then a new Irish indy bottling of Cooley called Michael Collins, the Laphroaig/Ardmore, Balvenie/Glenfiddich, and a whole slew of others.  Some of the reps were very knowledgable, some were a bit green, and some were there to sell a bit of snake oil.  My favorite part of the day was when one of the guys (representing a major blend) told us about Islay whiskies - apparently they are ALL incredibly medicinal, most people cannot handle them, and if you've had one, you've had them all.  I think the quote was something like, "if you've ever tasted Laphroaig, then you've had all of them - they're all one and the same."  Erik A and I smirked at each other and kept our mouths shut.

The two best whiskies of the day, however, came near the end and I'm surprised that I still had the stamina to decipher any significant flavor.  Glenmorangie brought out their soon-to-be-released Finealta, which is a light, honey and citrus-filled malt that is incredibly delicate - all nuance through and through.  Lumsden has really created a masterful malt that should follow the Flaming Heart as runner-up for "best whisky that no one but super geeks will appreciate."  Too gentle for most people, I think, but I really enjoyed it.  Right there with it was a cask strength expression of Arran aged in bourbon cask.  It was everything you wanted in a whisky - no frills or fancy enhancements.  Big power, dark chewy fruits, waxy textures, and a hot spicy finish.  Thad and I both thought it was the best we had tasted up to that point.

Finishing off the day was a fantastic little 98 Glenrothes, which I had tasted at Whiskyfest, but had absolutely no recollection of.  Bright fruits, honey tones, orange peel, baking spice, soft sweet finish.  Everything you want from the Roth.  Overall, I was a bit exhausted when we were through, but the experience was pleasant and my co-tasters were a blast to hang with.  I think I'm going back for another round in March when they do another Bay Area event, but we'll have to wait and see.

So now I'm home, sipping on some Marie & Fils 25 year old Pineau des Charentes from my man Nicolas Palazzi.  David OG and I just got off the phone and we're both so sprung over this stuff we're like two junior high girls talking about our new hot crush.  It's embarrassing, but what can you do but swoon in the presence of greatness?  Thanks to all of you who sent birthday greetings yesterday.  Very nice of all to do so.  I am wishing for a restful couple of days as I blow out the candles.

-David Driscoll


JVS Wednesday! And a Christmas Wishlist...

I absolutely love the boys over at JVS distributing and, as well as being the nicest guys in the business, they've also done a fantastic job of bringing in exciting new single malts from Scotland.  They represent Chieftains and, since I was so blown away by our new Mannochmore barrel, I was eager to taste some new barrel samples.  Val brought me some great specimen that had the magic combination of name recognition, quality, and unique flavor.  I was really taken with the 1997 Ledaig that, at 13 years old, should be right in the sweet spot for an affordable new barrel purchase.  After bringing the pain with the $150 Mannochmore, I need a $60-$70 malt for everyday drinkers.  The Ledaig has great peat flavors, but it isn't that Islay salty peat.  When I first sipped it I felt like I was taking a bite of smoky chipotle salsa on a tortilla chip.  Very tasty and the aroma has fruit and nuts as well.  I think this is a contender for a K&L exclusive!

Next on the list was the Black Adder series, which is a new indy bottler (at least new to me) that is being imported by the guys who bring in Amrut.  While I thought the packaging was a bit odd, the malts were quite tasty.  Of these four, I thought the Auchroisk 18 and Lochranza 11 were the keepers.  The Auchroisk 18 is perfect Speyside without heavy sherry.  It reminds me of a high end Macallan, but with more character.  Rich malty goodness, nothing more, but sometimes that's all you want.  Lochranza?  Where the hell is that distillery?  Turns out, Lochranza is the name of the Isle of Arran distillery, and this indy bottle is called "raw cask," which not only means cask strength, but also zero filtration - there is sediment floating around in the bottle.  This whisky has big time flavor - dark, dense fruits with earthy notes and fat, dripping, oily textures.  Very good.

So if I could have my druthers concerning what my family members should buy me for Christmas, and price was no problem, these are what I would want (from our available in stock items).  First off, the 1951 Marie & Fils 58 Year Old Single Barrel Cask Strength Cognac from my buddy Palazzi.  If you've heard me talk about this a lot lately, there's a reason why!  This stuff is off the CHAIN!  I can't even go into my tasting notes because it changes every time.  There's so much going on in this bottle - fruits, leather, spice, intensity, grace, rusticity.  The whole chabang for $600.

Glenmorangie Manager's Choice from 1981.  This bottle has fascinated me since we first picked it up.  An old and rare option that is really peaking my curiosity.  I really want to open it!

The Black Tot Rum!  Fresh from Buckingham Palace.  Untouched since the wedding of Diana and Charles, I believe.  $1000 for the most precious source of rum in the history of the world - the Royal Navy supply!  Maybe they'll bust it out for next April's Royal Wedding.

So after yesterday's post about Brora, I got a barrage of email from customers about different bottlings.  Turns out many people feel the Brora 25 Distillery Bottling is the favorite whisky of all time for many of you out there!  Crazy.  Turns out David OG still had a couple bottles lingering down in LA that he had deactivated for some reason, so I am pulling the trigger on one.  It's my 31st birthday tomorrow, so I figured I'm worth it! 

Stay thirty everyone!

-David Driscoll




Tuesday Tasting

Got the chance to meet up with Keith from Germain Robin today and taste some of their newer products.  I'm always impressed with the boutique stuff they are doing and this occasion was no different.  On the table today was their new wheat whiskey that was distilled on a small Cognac pot still.  One word: delicious!  And that's coming from a person who thinks white whiskey is more marketing ploy than enjoyable beverage. Germain Robin, however, isn't trying to pay the bills while they wait for their booze to age - they already have a strong supply of brandy and other amazing liqueurs to do that for them.  The whiskey is simply a new adventure from Crispin Cain and they do plan on aging it.  A 2014 bottling release is already in the works.  On top of that, they are working on a "barrel it yourself" program where you can buy a case of their Low Gap and a 10 liter barrel for around $500.  This 100% Bavarian wheat spirit is fantastic now, but does that mean that it will be fantastic later?  I'm not sure if those things translate over, but I'm curious to find out.  The nose is all stone fruit and wheat crackers and the palate just gives you more.  Their spirits are always so delicate and elegant, and this Low Gap is no different. 

Also tasted their new Mezcalero - distilled in Oaxaca by Ansley Coale.  Maybe the best mezcal I've ever had.  It's so vibrant, smoky, fruity, but restrained and balanced.  The finish is a mouthful of every element working in perfect unison.  The Port Ellen of mezcal, in a world full of Ardbeg, Caol Ila, and Laphroaig archetypes.  At $69.99 it comes in a bit less than the Del Maguey bottlings, so not inexpensive but not over the top.  I can't wait to put this in peoples' hands.

Speaking of Port Ellen, I'm really getting into a mothballed distillery phase - which is scary because it's expensive.  Luckily I was able to score one of the Cheiftain's Port Ellen 25 Year bottles, which I absolutely treasure and like far more than the 1979 distillery-bottled 30 year at cask strength.  Rosebank 19 is next on my list and I'm trying to find a nice Brora (the old Clynelish distillery) to take home as well.  I've been looking into some new "old and rare" purchases as well so that we can offer more options to customers.  Littlemill, North Port, Ladyburn, and Banff are also on my list.  Many of these I'm sure are pricier than currently available malts, and probably not as good as many of them, but it's all about the romanticism for me.  The idea of it is what drives me to spend!  That's probably not good for my finances.

-David Driscoll


The Future of Booze Journalism?

There is soooooooooooooooooooo much booze information out there on the internet.  If I spent all day reading the newspapers, magazines, blogs, and related message boards, I wouldn't even scratch the surface of what is readily available.  Critics, experts, everyday drinkers, Tweeters, Facebookers, bloggers, and tasting groups all have a voice and they are all using it.  Some of the sites are consumer-focused with reviews, point systems, retail sources, and availability.  Others give information about new releases.  Many are travel-related and give detailed accounts of regional specialties.  There are also many different mediums being used to spread the joy of booze to others.  Articles, videos, podcasts, and photos are all forms of media that are manipulated to showcase information.  Many are enjoyable and informative, but how useful they are is very subjective.  I find it fascinating how many people are determined to be involved in some way or another.  My involvement is professional, but I do enjoy it.  My purpose and intent is to share the information that I perceive from my unique position.  However, there are so many other people who work fulltime as lawyers, teachers, whatever, and they know more than I do from drinking whiskey as a hobby.  These folks spend so much time sharing their passion with others and many times do a more effective job than people who actually get paid to do it.  What I'm getting at here is a questioning of the importance of booze journalism and what actually constitutes an effective example of it.  I'm reading more and more articles in major publications that are simply struggling to be relevant, while simple everyday enthusiasts are writing research paper-style projects about vintage reports, distillation techniques, and personal profiles of industry professionals.  I'm finding that everyday the line between professional and amateur gets even blurrier and that the larger than life figures who have been revered for their expertise are rendering themselves more irrelevant.  A large part of this phenomenon, I believe, stems from the passion and enthusiasm being displayed by the hobbyists in contrast to the professionals who have to constantly find the next thing to write about.  Most people who work in the industry want to take a break from alcohol at the end of the day, while those who work a different job come home, pour a drink, and really geek out.  That passion is spilling over into personal blogs, and many of these pet projects are becoming outstanding resources for those interested in all things booze.

-David Driscoll


Dickens Faire Fun

Well my new camera didn't come in time for the Dickens Faire, so I had to bring along my 8MP Canon that takes terrible low lighting shots.  Of course, the entire fair was dim and warm, perfect for the atmosphere and terrible for my photos.  In any case, this should be the last time we see such grainy images, so bare with me.  Dressed up in our finest Victorian attire, my wife and I met up with Davorin Kuchan from Old World Spirits and had some drinks in old London town. 

We met up at the Bohemian lounge where Davorin's Blade gin and La Sorciere absinthe were on full display.  I had a Poe Cocktail (absinthe with Champagne) and Davorin ordered a Sazerac, but these were just precursors for Davorin's pocketed flasks - full with homemade Fishhouse Punch and his recently-finished brandy.  Davorin, myself, and our wives enjoyed the drinks while the bartenders came over to sample as well.  It isn't always the case that the customers pour their own drinks for the bartenders, but that's how it usually ends up when I roll out to a bar, and the same goes for Davorin (who is usually the one making my products!).

Of course the Prohibitionists were out in full swing, preaching the ills of alcohol consumption.  The costumes were very well done and my wife perhaps had one of the best, as people kept stopping to take pictures with her rather than the hired actors.  There were town drunks as well who had their own bottles full of booze and walked around looking for someone to buy them another.  We parked up next to one of these vagrants and bought some hot apple ciders which we then spiked with more of Davorin's brandy.  That zinfandel-based spirits mixes really well into just about anything.  I've never had such a tasty cider beverage!

The food and ale was fun as well.  We ate lunch before we arrived, but couldn't help and nibble on the more appropriate snacks like Yorkshire Pudding (fried doughy bread smothered in beef gravy) and roasted chestnuts.  The Dickens Faire is an extravagent event that is a blast for adults and I'm sure for kids as well, although some of the hysterical musical performances were full of sexual innuendo ("Everyone knows a miner has a long shaft and the butcher a giant sausage!" went one of the tunes).  It goes for the next few weekends at the Cow Palace and I would advise anyone who loves British themes and a Christmas Carol to take part.

-David Driscoll