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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

9/24 - San Francisco: Monkey 47 w/Christoph Keller!

9/24 - Redwood City: Germain Robin K&L Exclusive Brandy!

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!


Friday
Jan282011

Friday Podcast #4 - Cooley's John Cashman

I'm getting ready to call Todd Leopold on the phone this morning when I check my email and see that Todd has fallen ill.  Rescheduling is never a problem, but Friday is podcast day! What will I have to offer instead?  I then remember that Cooley's brand ambassador had wanted to meet up today and I was not going to be at the store.  A quick phone call to my rep told me that they would be in San Mateo a little after noon.  "Why not stop by my house then?" I replied.  I set up the mic, put out the glasses, and we did the podcast from my living room! 

Available for download here and also on iTunes for regular subscribers.  Listen below if you want to use our embedded Flash player.

If you need to catch up on the old podcasts they are available here.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Jan282011

Diageo Dynamo #2

Back to my tasting notes on the Diageo Limited release bottles.  Today, Auchroisk 20 year, which has seen very limited bottlings as a DB, this being only the second in its 35 year history.  The first is of course the Singleton of Auchroisk, which was sold only in the UK.  We actually have reps out here claiming that the Singleton we get here (Singleton of Glendullan) is actually from Auchroisk, but my knowledgable tasting partners from LAWS squashed that theory pretty quickly (Glendullan is of course its own distillery and therefore would be illegal to put its name on something that isn't actually from that site).  Anyway back to the whisky:

Auchroisk, being somewhat of an enigma, had me on the edge of my seat.  This bottling is aged in a mixture of American and European oak.  The nose was exceptionally rich and buttery at full strength, if a touched closed down.  Aeration helps.  Hints of tropical fruit, toffee, nutty rich flavors of sherry poke through the veggie oil and butter.  A touch of water adds to the fresh fruit character.  On the palate, it's weighty but not the the point of being sticky.  Sweet sherry, baked fruit, ripe apple,  and vibrant woodiness.  Anymore than a drop of water is too much for this stuff even at a hefty 58.1%.  The age has rendered it exceptionally delicate and its body crumbles with the addition of any more than the most minute drop of water. Definitely one of the top malts of the night, although a touch idiosyncratic as there was some descent within the group.  All in all a really interesting bottle. 

Auchroisk 20 Year Old 2010 Limited Edition Single Malt Whisky 750ml - $179.99

-David Girard

Wednesday
Jan262011

Barrel Buyin'

I've made it known to you all (and to the vendors as well) that we are in need of some barrels.  Not empty barrels, by the way.  Casks full of brown water that will be bottled exclusively for our wonderfully loyal customers, then offered at a discount for the seventy or so people in the Whisk(e)y Club.  It's not that no one answered the call, it's that no one stepped up with anything worth buying!  Until today.  Even though I was at work before 6 AM, counting bottles in the dark winter (albeit more like summer now) morning, I still met up with a few appointments.

Dennis Tobin from Sazerac came by today to taste me on some Buffalo Trace barrels (yes, Sazerac and I are getting along fine now, thank you) and he brought the goods.  David OG and I like to confer with one another before going all the way, but we have no problem defering to one another if one of us needs to go deep with a sweet opportunity.  I pulled the trigger on what was obviously a fantastic barrel of bourbon. I'm in a "less is more" phase right now, prefering elegance to power, so I went with the most gentle, beautiful, soft, and gentle selection they had.  This is such a creamy and seductive barrel of Buffalo Trace so I look forward to offering some $20 deals in the near future.  Watch out for this one, it's a real keeper.

More bourbon coming, yet still no single malt.  My brow was beading down a mean sweat as I looked over my February whisk(e)y club member options.  I've been swimming in great bourbon as of late, but the Scottish selection has been light (hence, the trip to Scotland coming this March).  Duncan Taylor, whose octave program seemed like such a fantastic thing last year, has come under new distribution and they have been dedicated to working with us on better pricing, the main reason we weren't interested previously.  Today I went through the incredible samples they sent me and I was specifically looking for deals. Far and away, the best whisky was a 1998 12 Year Old Imperial, a Highland distillery owned by Pernod that never sees the single malt scene here in the U.S.  The intense maturation in the octave has this malt brimming with vanilla bean on the entry with a kiss of sweet grains over the palate before giving way to a delicate finish.  The best part is that the cask strength is down to 48% which means you can enjoy a robust, unadulterated flavor without having to add water. This should be in stock mid-February. 

What a day! I'm on the couch now with a Hibiki and soda watching Food Network, confident in the fact that we just got two fantastic barrels everyone is going to love.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jan252011

Tuesday Tasting Notes 

Finally got a chance to taste this new Glenglassaugh that is now being imported again to the U.S. and, man, is it ever tasty.  The 26 year is off the chain good, a malt built for me in every way - oily and chewy, dried fruits with vanilla and honey, herbal elements on the midpalate, and a long grainy finish.  Superlative stuff, but for $265.99 it had better blow me away!  I bought a few for the store in case anyone out there is going to throw down for something super special anytime soon.  I might have to eyeball it for myself when I run out of super high-end juice.

Also part of the group were the two new Black Adder malts from Tomatin and Caol Ila, although the latter is bottled as Peat Reek (with an awesome Celtic warrior on the label, no less!).  Both are raw cask and bottled straight out of the barrel, both are very tasty.  I continue to be massively impressed by the Black Adder line and I really get a kick out of their bizzare labeling.  It's just so completely removed from current single malt reality, but still very cool in its own way - kind of like Naploeon Dynamite or Max Fisher from Rushmore.  The Tomatin is lean and grainy, but packed with concentrated flavor and high-proof so nothing gets dilluted.  The Caol Ila is just a classic Islay malt at full throttle for a reasonable price.  Tomatin should come in at around $90, which is fantastic for an unadulterated malt of that age.  The Caol Ila should be $69.99 or so, also a nice price for such a pure whisky.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jan242011

Staff Education - Blending

Every Tuesday is staff development day where one of our regional buyers opens about 20-30 wines from their selection and traverses between both SF and RWC stores to give us some education.  I lobbied to be on this list for 2011 but, alas, there are too many K&L employees who do not drink spirits to justify giving me one of those spots.  They did give me permission to hold impromptu training events whenever I felt it necessary, so I decided to take my lovely Sunday crew for a little blending action. 

After talking to John Glaser about starting with experimental vatting in his London apartment's kitchen, I was inspired to try something like that here.  There's obviously no point in vatting whiskies that have already been vatted, so I would have to find some bottles that were from single barrels, and if they could be cask strength, even better.  Here's what I went with:

The Auchentoshan 18 would make a great base.  Light, fruity, high proof at 56.9% and interesting.  I wanted some peat so we chose the Ellenstown 12, which I understand to be a single batch of Ardbeg, also coming in at cask strength 57%.  To add some oily richness we took the fantastic Glencadam 22, while at only 43%, should help to proof it down a bit as well.  You can tell I was looking for something similar to the Flaming Heart with these ingredients. 

To help prepare the staff for what the blends could possibly taste like, I had created a few on my own in advance and had given them a week to settle down and integrate.  The staff's job was to taste the three ingredients on their own, then taste my sample blends, and attempt to create their own blend into the empty glass bottles that I provided them.  We would then taste each blend after a week to see how successful they were in creating their own expression.

The blends I had created were as follows: Batch 1 - 25% Auchentoshan, 50% Ardbeg, 25% Glencadam. Batch 2 - 33% of each.  Batch 3 - 50% Ardbeg, 50% Glencadam.  The flavors of all three blends were interesting, but #2 was easily the most balanced and drinkable.  Equal amounts of each really went a long way in balancing the flavors out. 

While we didn't have enough time to taste everyone's blend yesterday, I was present to watch our Australian/NZ wine buyer Jimmy C in action.  He has had some experience with wine blending in Australia and he took his craft very seriously - really measuring things out and getting intricate with the meshing of flavor profiles.  His final batch was something like 50% Glencadam, 30% Ardbeg, 20% Auchentoshan and it smelled amazing.  I can't wait to go back and try it today.

The point of this article?  Blending is a fun exercise in understanding how single malts are structured.  When the master blenders are putting together a new batch of Talisker 10, how many different batches of Talisker are they using from different ages and different flavors, I wonder?  You can play blender in your own kitchen by doing the same experiment.  Get some friends to pitch in some cash, buy some single barrel cask strength expressions, and get creative. 

-David Driscoll