The Monolith Arrives

It's here. We've got our allocation. It's really good. The new Ealanta - Glenmo's special release for 2013 aged in charred new oak barrels - does one thing and it does it extremely well. It's a big, rich, seamless, warming, supple new oak-driven single malt with a fantastic burst of candied fruit on the finish. It's full of new wood and baking spices, but much more restrained than Bourbon or rye. Everyone needs a bottle like this at home. You'll invite your friends over for dinner, have some Scotch after you're done, and you'll want to taste them on a few different things. However, after they taste that super rare bottle of Ardbeg that you had shipped from overseas or that Brora you've been hoarding for years, they'll kind of look around the room, pause, and say, "Hey, can I try that Ealanta again? That was delicious." You'll sigh, wonder why none of your friends appreciate the effort it took to acquire these hard-to-find whiskies, but you won't be able to argue with their logic. One glass of Ealanta is like a tease. It's too good for just one glass. You'll kill this bottle in two weeks - max.

1993 Glenmorangie Ealanta 19 Year Old Single Malt Whisky $115.99 - It's getting to the point where the annual Glenmorangie special edition release is personally my most anticipated whisky of the year. The peated Finealta from two years back was a splendid release, super refined and very lithe on the palate. Last year's Artein was simply magical - it was easily in my top three favorites of the year. 2013 brings us another slam dunk, gotta-have-it, masterpiece release with the Ealanta: a 19 year old whisky aged in new oak from Missouri's Mark Twain National Forest. While that may not sound too interesting to the average whisky fan, it is very unusual for single malt whisky to see new wood - especially charred. American Bourbon must always be aged in new oak barrels, but Scottish single malt is almost exclusively aged in ex-Bourbon or ex-Sherry casks, which have already been seasoned with a previous liquid. The barrels used to age the Ealanta were air-dried for over two years, but were never used otherwise. The resulting flavors are not foreign, but they are intensified. The richness is richer, the oak spice is spicier, and the vanilla is creamier. This is absolutely one of the most polished whiskies I have ever tasted from Dr. Bill. There's nothing fancy going on with the Ealanta - it's simply perfect single malt whisky. Flawless. Round, robust, intriguing, with lovely baking spices and candied orange peel on the finish. I can't imagine anyone - either new to single malt or a chiseled veteran - not adoring the Ealanta. A true must-buy for me.

-David Driscoll


Woolly Whisky

It begins again!!! After announcing to Committee members a few weeks ago, Ardbeg has just "publicly" announced the existence of this year’s Ardbeg Day release. In the process they have also announced that Ardbeg Day 2013 will be known instead as ArdBOG day. I guess they've been doing some excavation at Ardbeg and perhaps they've found something extinct? Hard to say what exactly this will be, but anything with a badass looking Mammoth and a T-Rex skull on the box has got to be special right. Not only are they calling it Ardbog day, but the whisky is also being referred to as the Ardbog! Hopefully, there will be some sensible correlation between this name and the bottling, because if they are simply saying, "Hey, it's peaty. Let's call it Ardbog," I will be forced to refer to Ardbeg as Ardbog forever more. The unfortunate consequences of over marketing? Perhaps, but let's hope they've done something interesting either way. I know everybody will be asking about this stuff and we'll update you as we get more information. Until June 1st, however, we've still got Galileo (not sure how or why that's still around) and our incredible prices on the distillery's standard offerings. Looking forward to the greatest day on (peaty) earth Mr. Head, but we'll miss you this year on Islay! No whisky for sale there, unless you've got a special cask saved for us.

-David Othenin-Girard


Exciting New Stuff From Germain-Robin

Ever since St. George one-upped North Shore and showed that one could successfully sell three different gins, rather than merely two, three has remained the magic number. Local Mendocino distillers Germain-Robin, famous for their California brandy selections, have decided to jump into the gin game as well with three of their own. Under their Craft Distillers label, the portfolio showcases distiller Crispin Cain's contributions to the ever-expanding lineup. The labels and the overall packaging are as elegant as the spriits themselves. Here's a rundown of each gin's particular profile:

Russell Henry London Dry Gin $35.99 - Bright juniper aromas with floral elements and white pepper on the nose. The palate is clean and fresh with vibrancy. Lovely stuff for martinis or just sipping out of the bottle (don't act like you don't do that).

Russell Henry Malaysian Lime Gin $35.99 - The best part about the Malaysian Lime gin is that it isn't overly citrus-oriented. The pith from the lime is apparent, but it marries well with the herbaciousness of the juniper and the spiciness of the pepper. This would be great in almost any cocktail because of its nuance.

Russell Henry Hawaiian White Ginger Gin $35.99 - If you've been making Moscow Mules with vodka, the time for doing that is over. The Hawaiian White Ginger gin is the perfect replacement. While the spice and sizzle of the fresh ginger comes through on both the nose and the finish, the profile isn't dominated by it. This is a very graceful gin that moves over the palate with lithe balance.

Then there's this lovely new selection for you mezcal fans. The Mezcalero series, to me, is without a doubt the finest collection of mezcals I've ever tasted. Nothing from Del Maguey or any other bottler even comes close, in my opinion. Release #5 was one of the most amazing expressions of agave to ever cross my palate. The new #6 release is one of the most challenging, but rewarding as well.

Mezcalero Release #6 Santa Maria la Pila $75.99 - Made from Agaves Mexicano, Madrecuishe, and Bicuishe, the newest batch of mezcal from Craft Distillers is an earthy, savory beast of a spirit. Tangy fermented notes, pepper, with a hint of tropical fruit coming on the finish highlight this tasting experience. Each sampling provides the possibility for new discovery. Sometimes I get hints of banana. Other times I notice smoke and ash. This mezcal is like a chameleon. Another winner.

-David Driscoll


Help Us Ditch This 42% Maker's Mark

First they were watering it down and people freaked out. Shockwaves were sent across whiskey-drinking America: beginning immediately Marker's Mark distillery was proofing their whiskey to 84 instead of 90. A sales frenzy was born. "Get your bottle of 45% Maker's Mark before it's gone forever!" Loyal consumers ran out and stocked up, thinking it would be their last chance to purchase the iconic 90 proof whiskey. But then, less than a week later, the boys at the distillery changed their minds. Due to the high volume of complaints, they would keep the whiskey at 45% to satisfy their loyal fanbase. But what happened then? Maker's Mark had already begun production on the 42% formula and shipped these bottles out for distribution. Whoops! What a "mistake." Suddenly, anyone who stocked up on the 45% bottle was now a sucker. The 45% formula would remain the standard - it would not be collectable. Too bad you wasted your money! Meanwhile, the 42% booze everyone had been complaining about, the bottle that no one wanted, the whiskey that caused all the uproar was now the collector's item! The joke was on you - the paying customer! Last week I watched retailer after retailer buy into this agenda, using this angle to spark a run on their Maker's inventory. "Come and get your 42% collector's item! Never to be made again! Last chance to own a piece of history!" It was a good way to sell some extra hooch, crafty retailers, but at whose expense?

We say: no thank you.

Want to know how limited this whiskey is? The last time we checked with the distributor there were tons of cases in Southern California alone. Literally thousands upon thousands of bottles just in the southern half of this one state. Not just standard 750ml-sized bottles, but the big 1.75L bottles as well. Turning a mistake into a collector's item is a brilliant idea - especially when you can do it twice! But how rare is the 42% Maker's Mark really when there are pallets sitting nearby in local distribution? It sure makes for clever marketing, this whole "limited run" angle, but what about all those customers who have now bought in twice, thinking this time they were surely getting something collectable? We don't want to be a part of spreading this false message.

We happily sell Maker's Mark whiskey. We have for years. We needed more Maker's Mark in Hollywood this week so David OG ordered another few cases. Unfortunately, they shipped us the "limited edition" 42% whiskey instead of the 45% Bourbon we want to be selling. If Maker's Mark is going to stay at 45% then we'd rather just sell the 45% version and stay out of this retailing monkey business. If you want the Maker's Mark 42% Bourbon, you can have it. For five bucks. That's right. We'd rather lose money on this whiskey and blow it out of here than play into this hand. We love Maker's Mark. We're happy we can continue selling the same old product we've been selling for years. We'd prefer to keep selling it, however, rather than confuse our customers with a weaker version that is not nearly as collectable as it some people are saying it is.

We want it out of here. While supplies last (one bottle limit per person):

Maker's Mark 42% Kentucky Bourbon $5.00

Help us get rid of this imposter so we can get back to selling the real thing. The more things change, the more we stay the same – K&L, that is. We'll dump the 42% bottles for the die-hard collectors and keep the 45% bottles for the die-hard Bourbon fans. That's keeping it real.

-David Driscoll


The Salon is Back - St. Paddy's Day Rager

Ladies and Gentlemen! We're back for round two! A bigger, badder, longer, and better version of what we did the first time around is about to hit San Mateo on March 17th - St. Patrick's Day!

We decided to start it earlier as well. It is a Sunday, afterall! Beginning at 3 PM we'll be opening our doors to lucky Salon ticketholders for an afternoon of Irish whiskey, Irish beer, Irish food, Irish music, and classic Irish cinema. We're still finalizing the exact menu, but we plan to offer drink cards just like last time around, brimming with fantastic Irish options. We'll have the 2012 Midleton Very Rare on hand for sure, along with some top shelf Cooley selections and most likely a bit of Redbreast. I'm looking to do six whiskies over all, plus include the keg of Guinness into the general addmission price. You're going to get your money's worth. We plan on keeping this up until about 7PM so that gives you plenty of time to try everything at a pace you can handle. You've got all evening to get your mojo back!

The Vault 164 outdid themselves last time with all the food. There was an endless amount of fantastic grub coming out of the kitchen. People were very pleased, as was I. We'll be pumping out the jams and showing some classic films as well on the three big screens. This time around you'll use your finished drink ticket to enter into a raffle for prizes! We've got a few tricks up our sleeves. It's going to be a blast.

Like the Bourbon event, we will have information on all the spirits being poured to peruse at your own leisure, however, the Salon is more about social interaction and entertainment than whiskey education. Just keep that in mind when I start dancing an Irish jig instead of beginning a lecture on triple distillation. This is a party! An all day party! The best kind of party. Don't forget, there's a full bar available for those who don't want the brown stuff.

Are you in?

Full admission tickets are available here for $55 per person.

Guest tickets are available here for $10 per person. The guest admission includes free non-alcoholic drinks for designated drivers and all the food you can stomach. You can also order beer, wine, and cocktails from the full bar.

Let's play some old U2 albums, watch some old Daniel Day Lewis films on mute, and drink some fine Irish hooch!

-David Driscoll