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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!


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2001 Royal Lochnagar 10 Year Old Faultline Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


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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!


Tuesday
Dec072010

Favorite Whisk(e)y Distilleries

I can usually come up with some type of ranking or list for my favorite authors, musicians, or directors, but I've never (until now) thought about what my favorite distilleries are.  Is there a distillery whose body of work I admire as a whole, rather than just one expression?  Do I have enough tasting experience with multiple expressions from single distilleries to really make that judgement?  I think I have enough to at least produce a top five list.  If I had to rank 'em, based on current drinking patterns (no nostalgia for whiskies I'm no longer into), this is probably the way I would list my top whisk(e)y distilleries:

5) Ardbeg - I love Ardbeg, but I'm more in a "loved" state as of late.  The Corryvreckan was a great new release, but it needs to start moving beyond peat.  If anyone has already read through the latest Malt Advocate, there's a great article by Dave Broom about the future of Islay.  If these guys are going to survive past the current whisky boom, they're going to have to do some unpeated expressions that have more than just spice.  People are looking for complexity and depth more than just big smoke, and at some point this peat bubble is going to burst.  I'm currently almost peat-free at home (my one bottle of Rollercoaster still) having traded all of my open Ardbeg bottles to my co-worker Jason in exchange for some wine.  I could see Bruichladdich unseating Ardbeg on this list soon enough because at least they have some peated and some un-peated options - the reason they're not #5 now is because I can only afford the Rocks, Peat, & Waves and I don't love any of those malts.

4) Glenrothes - The 1985 Glenrothes is the best deal in whisky today.  $100 for an awesomely complex 20 year malt that is bursting with chewy dried fruits, custard, and fat sherry flavor.  The 1994 is good, but not as good as the 1991 was.  The new 1998 is a fresh entry with more orange peel and baking spice, and who can say something bad about the Select Reserve?  Glenrothes makes some great malts that are very accessible and very tasty.  I don't have any open in my house at the moment, but that's because they've all been emptied.

3) Clynelish - My experience with Clynelish consists of the 11 year Signatory bottling (a fantastic malt), the 14 year old distillery bottling (another great dram) and our 27 year old single barrel - awesome.  I am really loving the oily, salty, waxy, orange blossom combo that goes on inside this awesome whisky.  My favorite whisky of the year might be the Flaming Heart, and from what I understand, that vatting is loaded with Clynelish as well. 

2) Cooley - Cooley is just a monster of distillery.  They have so much good stuff out there right now: the Connemara, the Slieve Foy, the Tyrconnell, the Greenore, an awesome cask strength single barrel bottling from A.D. Rattray, and some other indy-bottled stuff under various names.  I appreciate nuance more than any other aspect in a whisky these days and Cooley whiskies have a rather graceful demeanor.  I'm a big fan - my other favorite whisky this year might just be that Slieve Foy 8 year,

1) Springbank - While I had a bit of trouble selecting the other four distilleries in my top five, I had no problem picking Springbank at number one.  I love that little bit of everything that you get in great Springbank whiskies, which therefore should also endear me to say Talisker or Highland Park.  However, the reason I love Springbank more than any other producer (at least right now) is all that chewy, oily, rich-textured maltiness intermixed with hints of smoke and citrus fruit.  The 12 year is my house bottle.  The 18 is simply amazing.  The 1968 Chieftain's bottling we had was awe-inspiring.  The Murray McDavid 9 year Yquem is by my side as I type this.  I heard that Murray McDavid may release a small batch of 18 year Mission Gold Springbank next year and I will definitely be buying one.  I love everything I have ever tasted from Springbank, new and old.  Consistancy, excellence, and variety of flavor without ever getting too crazy with crazy cask-enchancing, etc.  Whisky for whisky lovers.

In considering this list, I was including bourbon distilleries, but I simply am in a bourbon rut right now. Were I to have included one it would have been Four Roses or Buffalo Trace, but other than the BT Experimental I have sitting here, I haven't been really feeling the brown American booze lately.  Maybe it's a phase and I'll come back around later.  It happens.  I can still appreciate it and evaluate it effectively, it's just that I don't feel like drinking a glass of it. 

Please post your own lists if you have the time to type them up.  I would love to read some rankings from other people.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Dec062010

K&L Best of 2010 Awards: Rum

Well this one was easy.  K&L 2010 rum of the year:

David D & David OG unanimously pick: Smith & Cross Jamaican Pot Still Rum - This is probably going to be the rum of the year for 2011 and 2012.  There simply is no rum like the Smith & Cross on the market as we have all witnessed rum's brazen attempt to attack the single malt market.  It's not that we don't love rums like El Dorado or Ron Zacapa, it's rather that they don't fit the classic definition of rum.  The Smith & Cross is not a sherry-aged rum.  It won't sweeten up your tongue.  It is a bit hot and bit intense to sip straight, but it will blend seemlessly into the best cocktail recipes from the Savoy cocktail book.  Need to make some Fishhouse Punch for your next party?  Smith & Cross is the only option.  Truly, the only option.  I was lucky enough to taste the Black Tot rum, which retails at a hefty $1000 per bottle, and I had to say that it tasted very much like the Smith & Cross.  Every major bar in the Bay Area is using this as the foundation of their cocktails.  It's the only rum I recommend for 90% of in store purchases.  No doubt about it - the Smith & Cross is the rum of the year.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Dec062010

K&L Best of 2010 Awards: Tequila

December is here and that means that magazines and newspapers everywhere will begin releasing their year-end lists of whatever is best in this world.  Top wines, top songs, top albums, top books, top films, top restaurants, you name it.  We as a culture are obsessed with lists and seeing who or what ended up in the finalists. Being an only child, my parents used to placate me on long road trips with almanacs and periodicals that focused on these rankings.  I devoured them.  I still think I can name every major Academy Award winner from 1980 to 1996 (so bring me along for pop trivia night at your local pub if you want to decimate your opponants).  Therefore, I see no reason why David OG and I shouldn't begin our own year-end list of the best spirits we were fortunate enough to taste.  There is a good amount of ground to cover and each category deserves its own focus, so today we'll start with tequila.

David D Picks: Charbay Blanco Tequila - There's a reason why every distillery I visit is most excited about pouring their eau de vie offerings - successful distillation is about purity of flavor.  While reposado and añejo tequilas are more popular here in the U.S. with their smooth textures and vanilla flavors, only in blanco tequila can one truly taste the art of distilling.  There is no wood to mask off-putting alcohols or soften the harsh heat.  It's all there in the bottle and if it wasn't distilled with care, then it won't taste good.  I find it both amazing and troubling that Charbay, located in St. Helena, was able to travel down to Mexico and make the best tequila of the year.  Shouldn't it take time to figure agave distillation out?  I don't know if it's a testimate to the craft of Markos and Miles, or a sign that Mexican distilleries are really behind the times, but the result speaks for itself.  Clean, clear, vibrant flavors of citrus fruit, agave, baking spice, and a soft, delicate demeanor.  Tasting the spirit along side other blancos just humiliates most other companies.  It's about time that craft distilling came to tequila. 

Runner up: Los Osuna Blanco Agave Azul

David OG Picks: Deleon Tequila

Deleon Diamante Blanco - Hailed as a new benchmark for blanco tequila, Deleon is opting to market a whole lifestyle of tequila drinking rather than just an old fashioned spirit. 

The marketing strategy is not just hype.  The Diamante commands a high price because the quality is there.  Without a doubt, the thick glass and ornate top cost money, but what you're really paying for is the quality of the juice.  The high-altitude, 7500 feet above sea level, and the perfectly matured piñas make all the difference.  Agave plants grown at high altitudes tend to be sweeter, with more honey, citrus, and floral notes. 

Add a family-owned distillery devoted to making only one product of the very highest quality, and you get one of the purest, softest, and most luxurious blancos ever seen.  Even at $94.99 a bottle (for blanco?!) we've had a difficult time keeping it on the shelf.

Deleon Anejo is here and just as ridiculous as the Diamante.  It's not the first Tequila to be aged in Sauterne barrels, but it certainly is the best.  It is, however,  the first and only tequila to be aged in Chateau d'Yquem barrels.  By using only first growth Sauterne barrels to ace this stuff, Deleon's commitment excellence becomes clear.  Highly respected within Jalisco as well as around the world, Deleon Anejo is a new frontier in an old (sometimes tired) category. Here's the skinny on the Anejo.  It's aged for 18 months in French Oak barrels and finished in Chateau d'Yquem wine casks - for an undisclosed period of time. Delicious, meticulous, and ultra small production you've most certainly never tasted anything like it. Richly textured, this Anejo presents a stunning range of unusual and attractive aromas.

Nose: Stone fruit, salt water taffy, pink pepper corn. Palate: Buttercream, bell pepper, and rich sweet agave fruit. The intensity of agave fruit works perfectly with the sweet first growth bordeaux finish. Gotta taste it to believe it, totally worth the $149.99.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Dec022010

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

Wednesday
Dec012010

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