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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!


New Product Round Up!

Here is this week’s round up of new product all of which I am very excited about.  The first is from one of my favorite agricole rhum producers, the little Rhum JM on Martinique.  Produced exclusively from fresh cane juice grown right on the grounds of this incredibly picturesque estate, Rhum JM has operated continuously since 1845. Their exacting standards put them in the top tier of spirits producers worldwide.  The only distillery in Martinique to produce rhum exclusively from cane grown right at the domain also has a fresh spring right on the property, so everything but the barrels comes right from the estate.  Rhum JM is unique in that they char their barrels with oak chips and rhum before adding the fresh spirits for aging.  Aged rhum sits for a minimum of 10 years.  In those 10 years 50% of the liquid by volume and at least 10 degrees of alcohol evaporate due to the tropical climate. 

This bottle is the finest I've had from JM.  Ethereal and boisterous, the JM shows more depth than many cognac and/or whisky out there.  Stylistically it falls somewhere in between those two categories.  The fresh cane creates a much less sweet style than many rhum drinkers are used to.  Herbaceous, citrus, floral, but not overpowering, it is an exquisite experience.  Although it's expensive, 1994 JM easily beats many competitors at similar price range in all other categories.  If you're ever gonna jump on the Rhum wagon, this is a great place to start. 

Another exceptional product that we just received is Ransom Distillery's WhipperSnapper Oregon Spirit Whiskey 750ml ($35.99).  From the distillery that brought us the exquisite Ransom Old Tom Gin, this is another grand slam.  Ransom has brought two distinct styles of whiskey together in this wonderful little package.  Corn based white dog is blended with a barley spirit containing both malted and unmalted barley.  This is then aged in a variety of oak barrels including French oak ex pinot noir barrels, fresh American oak, used whiskey barrels.  This product is aged less than two years, but shows great depth.  The sweetness is very low.  Aromatically it reminds me of some of the double distilled Irish whiskies from the Cooley Distillery.  On the palate the corn base gives off a hint of bourboniness, but the finish is all herbal and mineral.  Truly a unique spirit, which I think will be most useful behind the bar, definitely one of the better young craft whiskey available today.

Finally, something I've been pining over for years.  Nouvelle Orleans Absinthe Supérieure 68 by Jade Liqueurs 750ml ($124.99) sets the new standard for the absinthe category in the US.  T.A. Breaux essentially created the modern absinthe category thanks to his exacting science and determination for historical accuracy.  In an effort to exploit this newly created market, Mr. Breaux brought the Lucid Absinthe to the American market, while keeping his higher quality stuff for the European market.  While I think the Lucid marketing was cringe worth at best, the actual juice was fine for the price.  Nouvelle Orleans is a departure on both counts.  Named in honor of America's absinthe epicentre, this is a perfectly designed product in everyway.  Nouvelle Orleans has been on its way literally since Lucid was released.  I can only speculate about why it was delayed for almost 3 years.  Anyway, it’s here.  It’s incredible.  It’s expensive.  Get some...

Rhum JM Vieux Agricole Martinique 750ml - $249.99

WhipperSnapper Oregon Spirit Whiskey 750ml - $35.99

Nouvelle Orleans Absinthe Supérieure 68 by Jade Liqueurs 750ml – $124.99


K&L Purchases An Entire Barrel Of The Best Gin Ever

You might remember my post from a few weeks back about hanging out with Davorin Kuchan at the Old World Spirits distillery.  You can see in the picture to the left that he is filling a beaker with something magical and brown.  A whiskey, you ask?  Yes, and no.  It is distilled from grain and aged in wood, so techincally it is a whiskey, but because it was macerated with herbs and then distilled again before it entered the cask, it is in actuality a barrel-aged gin and a damned good one at that.   It only took one small sample during my recent trip to realize that Davorin Kuchan may have produced the greatest gin we've ever tasted.  Already well known throughout the Bay Area for his fantastic Blade gin, Davorin decided to experiment with adding some richness to his spirit, much like many of the Old Tom Gins do.  After 13 months in the barrel (more than most craft whiskies spend in wood these days) the juniper and citrus notes already present in the gin became aromas of baking spice and cloves, with hints of vanilla and a rounded mouthfeel - flavors of the holiday season, and just in time!  The result is so good we're not sure if we want to sip it or mix it, or both simultaneously.  The whiskylover in us decided to bottle it at cask strength as not to adulterate any of the concentrated goodness, so in the end it's more like a bottle and a half of gin, as you should add some water to proof it down.  I am convinced that this is the best barrel-aged gin available and am going to go on record here that it might be the best gin ever made.  For sipping, for martinis, for negronis, or for mixology experimentation, the Rusty Blade is as delicious and unique as it gets.  Only 250 bottles made with a retail price of $59.99.  Release date very soon, so stay tuned.

-David Driscoll


Booze - Why Are We Interested? Part IV

Steve posted this in the comments field for Part III and I felt it was important enough to become Part IV.  He has a blog site about eating around LA and he has guest blogged on Hansell's webpage as well.  Here is what he had to say:

"Going back to your original question, why are we interested? I think for the people I know who are real spirits afficionados, it's wholly experiential. I love whiskey for the same reason I love all manner of cheese and dark chocolate and that I seek out regional Chinese cuisines I've never had before, because it provides for a unique sensory experience. It's about experiencing the most you can in life, like an art museum (or film festival) for the palate. Whiskey offers a complexity and a combination of flavors just as complex as any museum piece. Once you get into it, it becomes an intellectual pursuit as well, as you work at identifying styles, tasting changes in expressions, sensing the difference between oaks, finishes, grains ages, or just good and bad. That's why I would nearly almost rather try a bad whiskey that I've never tasted than a good one that I have (though, sorry to tell you, it doesn't mean I'll buy the whole bottle).

As you've pointed out, there are those who drink for status or who collect trophy bottles, and those people are surely satisfying some other need, probably just as legitimate. If someone wants an uopened bottle of Stagg to decorate their mantle or loves the unlikely gamble that a given whiskey will one day turn them a profit for them, who am I to tell them otherwise? It's just not my gig.

As to intoxication, it's actually a side effect I'd rather do without. I wish I could drink without getting any more than a slight buzz, so I could taste endlessly into the night, drive home safely and suffer no ill effects, but hey, I also wish I could eat all the cheese I could find and not gain weight and that ain't happenin' either."

If you're one of those drinkers who wakes up face down on the couch because you couldn't help but taste everything in your collection, then you relate to this.  If you're one of those people who never buy the same bottle twice because it seems like a crime when there's so much out there to try, then you relate to this.  If you are truly interested in booze and finding out everything about it, then you relate to this.  Sometimes our enthusiasm can cause our skin to itch.  It sends our eyes over to the clock in search of a justifiable hour to begin imbibing.  It makes us drive half away across town just to sample a few drams or find that one missing nugget of experience we long for.   To me these are signs of honest passion and I want to thank Steve for pointing out what does constitute a serious interest in booze, especially since I've been all over the place dwelling on what doesn't.

-David Driscoll


Booze - Why Are We Interested? Part III

I was watching the movie Funny People recently and found it interesting that there was another industry, the comedy world specifically, in which insiders felt strongly about staying true to the honest form of their profession.  A group of young stand up comedians are always giving their buddy (played by Jason Schwartzman) grief for starring in a cheesy sitcom called "Yo, Teach," a show that caters to the lowest common denominator of humor.  In their opinion, stand-up comedy is the truest form their art can take, and they attempt to stay loyal to these roots.  Another film (and book) that tackles this same dilemna is High Fidelity, which depicts the tale of a small Chicago record store and its staff, who are full of dismay for their consumers and their "terrible taste" in music.  They are outspoken about their passion and constantly take offense when a customer asks for an album by an artist they do not admire.  Having been a film major in college, I can tell you that these circles work in much the same manner.  As students, we were interested in directors who were pushing the boundries of what film could be, rather than those catering to the taste of the general public.  Speaking of film, we all know the power of Sideways where a serious vinophile said he wasn't going to drink any merlot.

In all of these cases, there will always be those who feel as if they truly appreciate their passion and the essence of what it's all about.  The irritation expressed by these characters stems from what they feel is the public's interest in inferior expressions that do little to help the progression of their beloved genre.  Idiocracy is another film that we could discuss in this instance, if anyone remembers the state of television and film in Mike Judge's devolved society.

I'm going to think about this for a bit.

-David Driscoll


Booze - Why Are We Interested? Part II

Last night I hosted a dinner with whisky pairings at the Draeger's Cooking School along with my co-worker Melissa Smith who did all the cooking.  It was a fantastic evening and the people who came were very interested in both the cuisine and the booze.  While Melissa cooked, I educated about whisky.  When we sat down to eat each course, Melissa revealed her techniques in the kitchen.  It was a back and forth cooking class and whisky seminar that seemed to work really well.  This is the type of experience that excites people about alcohol.  It seems like there is an endless array of information to be learned and of flavors to be analysed.  There is something romantic about this research into what makes each spirit unique, and what makes it taste so good with a meal.  Besides the idea of booze, there is the practicality of fun involved and having a solid background of understanding only enhances the fun even further.  I think one reason some people geek out about alcohol is grounded in the extension of a good time - intoxication with information is doubly rewarding.

In my opinion this is the most enjoyable and honest form that an interest in booze can take.  It does manifest itself in other guises, however.  There is also the enthusiast who has little time for education and wants someone else to do that work for him - i.e. Wine Spectator or Robert Parker.  There is too much wine available and not enough time to try them all, so some people turn to lists, rankings, and points to help guide them towards the sure thing.  I want to stress before I go any further that I am so passionate about this issue because I too used to rely on these publications for my wine and spirits education.  I thought learning about wine meant drinking what other people said was good because how would I figure it out on my own?  Let me stress that when I speak of this particular form of interest, I speak from my own personal experience (which I revealed a bit in the last entry) and not as an elitist trying to point out what constitutes a "real" afficionado. 

Using the Chronicle's top wine selections, or Jim Murray's Whisky Bible is a good way to try something new that you wouldn't normally have selected.  Expert opinion is always interesting to read and even more fun to disagree with.  Commentary always brings more perspective to any passion, but I have found that it is often misinterpreted as a guide or system to a better appreciation of booze.  It isn't.  When I started to get interested in wine, I decided I should read a bit about what was happening in the industry and I turned to the Wine Spectator for some guidance.  What eventually happened was that I would look at the ratings in the back, found the best scores with the lowest prices, and then scoured the interest looking to see which stores carried them.  Every month I drank what they thought was quality wine, and I formed my opinions based completely on the reviewer's notes.  "This wine got 90 points from the Spectator," I would tell my mom when we got together and she would say, "Oh wow!" and I would smile and feel happy because I knew she was impressed.  The pride I felt however was based on no real knowledge of my own, only my ability to hunt down the trophies of the month and show them off to people I knew.  That is embarrassing, don't you think?

Because so many people engage in this form of alcoholic interest, it has taken a completely legitimate form.  I have heard of people having parties where everyone brings a wine that got 90 points from Parker.  While I admit it can be a fun way to bring people together behind a theme, it doesn't really constitute an interest in wine or spirits, or does it?  If we only are interested in drinking the "best" then are we really interested in what's in the glass?  It seems to me like chasing points and highly-rated products reveals more of an interest in one's self - and I say that in full admittance of having done so.  It's only because I've known that form of interest that I feel I can speak so candidly about it. 

Over the past few weeks I've received close to fifty phone calls regarding either the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection or the Pappy Van Winkle bourbons, all of which are among the most highly regarded whiskies available.  They are released every Fall and will be making their way to our stores shortly.  I know however that, while these are quality spirits, most of this interest is generated by trophy hunting.  Because these bottles are hard to get, it makes them even more desirable.  Many people hoard them, buying two or three of each if they can just to be able to look at them and know they are in their possession.  I too have found myself in awe of these bottles, and understand this desire.  As much as I like these whiskies, I don't consider my interest in buying them to be founded in my passion for whiskey.  These bottlings tap into my desire to own something collectable and to buy for the sake of buying because I may not have the opportunity later.  They create a sensationalistic frenzy with no one wanting to be left out in the cold.  "You have to get one!" people tell their friends, so in the end they do and it makes them feel good. This isn't an interest in booze, is it?

I may have to do a third round before I get this all out of my system.  More later.

-David Driscoll