The Artein is Good

As you'll read in my tasting notes, I was less than excited about Glenmorangie's new Sassicaia-enhanced project, the Artein.  A lot of talk about the source of the water, and how it runs through stone and whatnot.  Then, of course, the marriage with Tuscany's most famous high-end red.  More than ever, it seemed like Glenmorangie was relying on the LVMH side of things (luxury and image), rather than the Bill Lumsden side (creativity and excellence).  Once I tasted it, however, I changed my tune.  This whisky is very well made and the wine only highlights the inherent flavors built into it.  The price is also quite fair, so I bought everything I could.  Big email going out on Friday, so expect it to sell out by next weekend.

Glenmorangie Artein 15 Year Old Super Tuscan Cask Single Malt Whisky $79.99 - Another limited edition release from the folks at Glenmorangie and this one is perhaps their best effort yet.  I have to admit that when I read about Glenmo's new Sassicaia-finished experiment, I yawned.  There are a slew of wine cask-enhanced whiskies on the market and here was simply another one to add to the pile.  However, I should have had more faith in Bill Lumsden because this is one of the best Glenmorangie whiskies in years.  The aroma is full of red berries and sweet grains, but is also very delicate.  The flavors on the palate swim with stone fruit and soft caramel before finishing in a melting glaze of cherries and cocoa.  An ultra-smooth mouthfeel full of red fruits really warms the finish - this is great freakin' single malt! The Artein succeeds because the whisky is already of quality to begin with.  In this case, the wine simply adds complexity to what was already a great blend of 15 and 21 year old casks.  Even better is the fact that Sassicaia isn't actually written on the label due to legal restrictions.  Glenmorangie doesn't need to trade on the name of Italy's most famous Super Tuscan.  The Glenmorangie malt is the focus here and Dr. Bill has created enough of a reputation on his own as perhaps the best whisky creator in the business.  One need not look any further than the Artein as proof.  It's very, very good. This will sell out fast.

-David Driscoll


Exciting Scotch Dinner - Sunday, Jan. 29th

K&L's partnership with The Consortium continues this weekend with a special scotch dinner hosted by the Tar Pit on Melrose.  The Swirl Swig Sizzle program makes learning about the world's finest wines, spirits, and food accessible to anyone in the Los Angeles area.  Join the illustrious Johnnie Mundell as he walks you through a specially designed menu highlighting the single malts of Auchentoshan, Glen Grant, Bowmore, Glenrothes and Glen Garioch.  The Tar Pit's exceptional menu of re-imagined classics and whimsical comfort food will be the perfect compliment to some of Scotland's finest whiskies.  Don't miss this special one time event and look out for future events from

Here are the details:

Single Malt Scotch Dinner at the Tar Pit

When:  Sunday, January 29th

Where: the Tar Pit
            609 North La Brea Avenue
            Los Angeles CA 90036

Price: only $75

Tickets:  please purchase your tickets HERE

Be sure to select SWIG in the drop down menu on the top left

HERE is the delicious menu for Sunday's event.  Pairings will be provided for each course.

Heirloom Beet Salad

humbolt fog goat cheese, cotton blossom honey,

pistachio vinaigrette

Seared Scallop

lobster veloute, tobiko, puffed rice

Octopus Bolognese

squid ink tagliatelle, prosciutto chips

Short Rib Mignon

chantrelle mushroom risotto, bitter greens, sunchoke puree

Bananas Foster

banana ice cream, rum caramel, candied pecans,

toasted marshmallow


We're Going to Vegas - You Should Too

Last year we got a call from a guy named Mahesh Patel who wanted us to help promote this thing called the Universal Whisky Experience.  "Where is it?" I asked.  He said Vegas.  "Ha!" I thought, "How the heck am I supposed to help promote a show that isn't in the Bay Area?"  We help John and Amy at the Whisky Advocate every year with WhiskyFest because it's a great tasting right downtown, so that makes total sense.  Was this tasting in Vegas really so great that K&L customers would be willing to take time off, buy a plane ticket, reserve a hotel room, and then pay for the tasting?  "How much is it?" I asked.  He said $500.  "HA!" I screamed in my head, "There's no way!"  I agreed to put some flyers in the store, but that was as far as I was willing to go.  The whole thing seemed too over the top.

After the tasting was over, David OG called me up from LA and asked, "Hey, do you remember that tasting in Vegas?  Well apparently it was the best tasting ever."  "Who told you that?" I asked.  "Some of my very best customers," he replied.  It seemed that Mahesh's bold attempt to create the ultimate whisky experience went over quite well with just about everyone we talked to who went.  Now we were curious.  Last month, when Mahesh called again and asked if we could help support him this year, we said yes.  We wanted to come out and see what this whole thing was about.  The selections looked great and the word on the street was the food made the ticket price worthwhile.  Mahesh said that if we were able to bring some customers, he could offer us a special deal on pricing.  "Why not?" we said.

So here's the deal.  Tickets for this thing are $525, but not for anyone who books via us.  You'll receive a significant discount if you email one of us and go through K&L.  The actual tasting show is on Friday March 2nd at the Wynn Resort, and the master classes are all day on Saturday the 3rd.  You can click on the link above and view the website for more info about who's pouring, but the lineup looks amazing.  They really bring out the old stuff as well, and the crowd is supposed to be light and managable.  We've never been to the UWE before, so this will be our first impression and we hope it's a good one.  We're all about supporting whisky education and the discount that Mahesh has offered our customers makes this much more of a value.  I hope the event is as great as I've heard and I hope that some of you can meet us there.

If you're interested in going, please email myself or David OG.

-David Driscoll


France Day 9: Final Tastes & Thoughts

As you can tell from David OG's post below, we're now home safe and sound with much on our minds.  The trip was a huge success on many fronts - it boosted our own knowledge of France's great spirits, we met directly with small producers who will be bottling exclusive brandies for us, and we got to show our customers why we take the time to do business the way we do.  Our final morning in France, before making the drive to Paris, was spent with Mr. Giard, a cider producer that Charles imports and a distiller of fine Calvados as well.  After Camut, it was going to be tough for anyone to impress us, but we were quite taken with the Giard spirits.  His orchards are beautiful and he has a quiet, humble manner that I quite appreciate from producers.

When I wrote earlier this week that Calvados producers are using gigantic barrels, I wasn't kidding.  Giard uses the biggest barrels in Normandie as you can see from the above photo.  His orchards are all haute-tige and he makes certain that his fruit is ripe before making the cider.  His bottled ciders were impeccible, so we would only assume that his spirits would be as well.  Because he's so concerned about minimal wood contact, Giard is using the largest casks he can find.

While he has since updated to a more modern still, all of the Calvados we were able to taste from Giard came from this tiny alambic still in his barn.  His spirits have a very fine, delicate flavor that he attributes to it.

Sitting down to taste was a real treat.  Giard had lined up numerous single vintage selections to taste and we plowed through them with glee.  Despite his usage of large barrels, we found some of the older Calvados to be quite woody and dry.  His 15-20 year selections were fantastic, however, and we really went bananas for a 1984 vintage that smelled of tart apples and nutty almonds, with a lean, almost single malt-like sweetness on the palate. 

So what should you expect to see in a few months time?  We haven't made our final selections yet, but here's what I have on my shortlist at the moment:

1973 Pellehaut Tenereze Armagnac - Bourbon-esque aromas of vanilla and new wood, loads of fruit and caramel on the palate with prunes, toasted almonds, and barrel spice.  Earthy finish with big time length.  A real winner.

1987 Pellehaut Tenereze Armagnac - Rich and supple fruit right off the bat, subtle sweetness, glides across the palate with perfect balance of fruit and an almond skin flavor, very accessible and sure to be a big hit.

1985 Baraillon Bas-Armagnac - Wow! Amazing aromatics - stewed fruits, sandlewood, port-like richness with toffee and nuts on the palate, a long, warming wave right over the tongue with an exotic, lengthy finish.  One of the best Armagnacs we've tasted.  Think Glenrothes from the same vintage.

1900 Baraillon Bas-Armagnac - This won't be cheap (think $1000 a bottle) but man is it good.  Loads of rich, spicy wood, tons of fruit and spice, and absolutely delicious.  Anyone who wants to shell out will not be disappointed.  This is just an old demijohn from 112 years ago sitting in some rural farmer's barn!

1989 Domaine de Lassaubatju Bas-Armagnac - Very whiskey-like, with a warming richness of wood and fruit and a concentrated blast of almonds on the back.  The finish is lean and spicy with pencil wood and a Bourbon like finish.  Hints of Buffalo Trace Single Oak stuff. 

1988 Domaine de Lassaubatju Bas-Armagnac - Dried apricot aromas with vanilla and new oak, more rounded in its flavor profile, beautiful nutty finish.  A no brainer.

2000 Domaine d'Ognoas Bas-Armagnac - nose is pencil wood, graphite, and marzipan with cocoa on the palate and long, dry, spicy finish.  What a deal!  This should come in at less than $60.

Raymond Ragnaud Reserve Rare Grand Champagne Cognac - gentle richness on the entry, but concentrated flavors of toasted nuts, stonefruit and bits of caramel.  Wonderfully elegant, yet potent.  Something fun and new for our Cognac selection.

1988 Raymond Ragnaud Vintage Grand Champagne Cognac - maple syrup on the nose with a soft, but warming palate that moves slowly with deep concentrated richness.  A long and beautiful finish.

Esteve XO Petit Champagne Cognac (1979 single barrel cask strength) - the nose has pencil wood and baking spices, with an unreal palate of dark chocolate, almonds, and damp earth.  The finish is big, explosive, and woody with hints of candied citrus peel.  WOW!  Wow.  Give us the whole barrel!

Esteve Coup de Coeur Petit Champagne Cognac - a blend of 79 and 81.  Soft citrus on the nose, good complex character of wood and fruit, with more than just richness.  Fine and elegant finish with nutty flavors.  A real bargain.

Adrien Camut 15 year Pays d'Auge Calvados (K&L exclusive) - there is no 15 year release from Camut so this would be a first.  Smooth, juicy apple flavors, an ungodly balance of wood to add richness, and a haunting finish.  There's no amount of this I can't sell. 

1984 Domaine de Giard Pays d'Auge Calvados - lovely tart apple fruit with nutty almonds and fantastic length.  Almost single malt like at times with a somewhat grainy sweetness.  Very good.

-David Driscoll


La Vie De Bon Humeur

Hopefully, you've been following our incredible journey over the last week.  We've just returned and I'm reflecting deeply on what the last week.  Most importantly, what will all this mean for you?  For one, I feel lucky to have been welcomed into the lives and homes of some of France's finest brandy producers.  We met with a culturally diverse group from the rural agricultural producer who rarely leaves the farm to the wealthy negociante who travels worldwide selling their stocks.  We have a tendency to pigeonhole the French based on our preconceived notions of their national identity (something they are indeed guilty of as well). 

The French, however, are regionally divided to a significant degree.  Each little commune (read: county) has its own cultural history, food traditions, forms of expression, and most importantly preferred beverages.  During the trip, while discussing our travels with the producers we met, a number of them expressed how astonished they continued to be by the diversity of the French Nation.  Often, while describing the richness of French food culture, they would comment on how they themselves were constantly discovering new things, even from the village over.  These products had always been there, but where totally new to them. Perhaps in more international and cosmopolitan regions like Cognac or Champagne, there is more of tendency to habituate outside influence, but in general each little place has its way of doing things.  While the French have a strong national pride, it is difficult to pin down exactly what that means to them. Some of this may stem from a sort of isolationism between the regions France, but it can't be denied that it, also speaks to this countries incredible diversity.  

The one factor that unites the French nation is a deep passion of the living of life.  The commitment to living well, albeit perhaps amplified in our presence, is second to none in this world.  It connects these disparate peoples who otherwise would have nothing more in common than their language.  Within each region there is at least one person who has given up everything to pursue their passion for creation.  We are lucky to have a nation on this earth so devoted to the epicurean arts.  Below are a few reminders of why:

-David Othenin-Girard

An Illicit Still & Gacogne's most exciting winemaker

Unknown Vintage ArmagnacThe Famous Armagnac Chai of Mme Lafitte