Ultimate Whisky Experience - Vegas - Day 1

Meandering our way through the Wynn hotel, through hallways of ballrooms reserved for private banquets and company meetings, we eventually stumbled upon the Ultimate Whisky Experience.  Already in session were several different special event classes where one could learn about subjects such as the Shackleton whisky recreation, or how whisky can be an investment - the one we found ourselves in shortly after arriving.  I can't say that I view whisky at all in these terms, but it was somewhat interesting to see bottles I had once tasted appear on a Powerpoint presentation with recommendations about long-term value stability.  Everyone had on suits or fine evening gowns.  People were attentive and interested (I think).  The UWE tasting was about to begin.

Inside the main hall were plenty of old faces from Scotland.  Peter Currie, formerly of Springbank and now working with Duncan Taylor, was a sight for sore eyes.  Euan was all decked out (featured above) with his wife behind the table, pouring some seriously old malts - 1969 Macallan for one.  One thing was clear right off the bat - there were some serious drams being tasted at the UWE.  This was no normal whisky event.  The room was full of high-end stuff, even if it wasn't full of people.

Our baby was in attendence - the 30 year old Brora from Chieftain's.  She was showing quite well and I think people were really impressed.  They were also pouring the Springbank 40 year - a whisky we currently sell for over $1000 a bottle.  It was magnificant.

The best whisky of the night for me was this 1985 Bruichladdich DNA cask that was oily and salty as all hell, yet still quite soft and restrained.  I was blown away.  Bruichladdich can really wow you when they're on point.

The guys from KBD were also pulling out all the stops.  Loads of old and rare Willett Bourbons were on display, including a 28 year old that really took our breath away.  Spicy and full of intense clove action - this was worth every penny of the $300 price tag - too bad it's only available at the KBD distillery.

Here's the deal with the UWE - if you can spare $500 and you love whisky it's like being a kid in a candy store.  There are loads of malts you would normally never have the chance to taste and there are so few people in attendance that tasting them is quite easy.  It's the opposite of most tastings where they run out of the best stuff in minutes.  They still had 40 year Springbank when we were leaving over at Chieftain's and Springbank themself still had plenty of 21 year old.  Glendronach had a full bottle of the 31 year at closing time and Glenfarclas still had every vintage available.  Still, it's $500 and it's in Vegas, so you'd need to have some serious extra coin, plus a few days off.

More details later.  They delivered the goods and now I'm beat.  We had a huge Thai dinner at Lotus of Siam.  I will be eating there for every meal from now on.  Simply amazing.


-David Driscoll


Knick Knacks & New Arrivals

In between getting the new Sovereign malts ready for sale and prepping for the Vegas trip tomorrow, I've neglected to write about some of the new arrivals at K&L this week, as well as address some industry news.  Let's do that now:

- First off, yesterday's big gossip around the industry was that Springbank has ceased doing business with Preiss Imports, their U.S. importer for as long as I can remember.  This isn't too interesting or exciting to most people, but for us (David OG and myself) it's incredibly interesting - namely, because they've now chosen Pacific Edge to be their replacement.  It goes without saying that we're very close with the guys at Pac Edge (I'm sure many of you have been to our tastings with Todd Smith at the store or at the Hideout), so we're thrilled that doing more business directly with Springbank should only become easier!  I think it's amazing that some friends of ours from Sacramento will now be supplying the whole country with Springbank whisky!  Pacific Edge brings in Dolin Vermouth and all the Haus Alpenz stuff, A.D. Rattray single malts, and they distribute all the Willett Bourbon labels and micro-distillery spirits like Leopold Bros.  This relationship is a perfect fit.

- Just found out that JVS will be at the Vegas tasting tomorrow and they've secured an advance bottle from our Brora cask to pour!  Our sold-out Brora cask, that is.  We're going to have to hover around their table so that no one gets their hopes up after tasting it.

- I met briefly with Sazerac yesterday and tasted some barrel samples from their 1792 Ridgemont Bourbon cask program.  Not everyone is aware that Sazerac owns another distillery along side Buffalo Trace - the old Tom Moore distillery in Bardstown.  I believe they're in the process of renaming it 1792 Ridgemont distillery, but the point is that they're creating whiskey that isn't Buffalo Trace, but rather a high-rye mashbill that represents a different program from the Harlen Wheatley distillates.  Ken Pierce operates the stills for 1792 Ridgemont and the barrel samples I tasted were all 8 year old Bourbons of superb quality.  Better yet, we should be able to retail them around $23 per bottle.  I have to make a final selection still today, but there's no doubt we're going to begin purchasing casks from Sazerac's other half. The quality of Bourbon for the price is simply amazing.

- Speaking of Sazerac, if you're not on the whisky email newsletter, then you probably didn't hear that we snagged a good supply of Elmer T Lee and Eagle Rare for now.  They're running low on both these expressions currently and we were thinking we may not see any for the rest of the year.  Now we're stocked for the moment.  I also ordered some of their new bargain Canadian whiskey under the Royal Canadian label - it should be in stock later today.  It comes in a bottle that looks exactly like George T. Stagg, but it's all smooth, soft, easy-drinkin' Canadian and it's very well priced.  Anyone looking for something new and inexpensive will be very happy.

- Samples from Willett arrived in the mail this week and currently we're looking at two casks of 1991-distilled 20 year old Bourbon that represent what's left from Stitzel-Weller distillery.  I'm pretty sure we're in for at least one barrel, so all the Pappy 20 year old fans out there should have another crack at getting a similar product, albeit under a different label.  Pricing for Willett's 20 year old Bourbons, however, are a bit higher due to the fact that they're bottled at cask strength and unfiltered.  More on this later as the project develops.

- I'm really enjoying the feedback we're getting from staff and from customers concerning the four new casks from Sovereign.  The guys in Scotland we're importing these from are the real deal - they're one of the best sources for quality single malt in the world.  While everyone went in fast for the Caol Ila 30 (because, duh, it's Caol Ila 30), and many we're lulled in by the 45 year old age statement on the now-extinct Caledonian (both good decisions, mind you), the Girvan is going to be the cask everyone remembers a year from now.  Just like the Glendronach cask we imported last year, it was the whisky most customers were least excited about, but is now perhaps the most asked-about whisky we carry.  I get emails everyday about that Glendronach.  The Girvan will end up being the same.  The oak, butter, and honey just hypnotizes you right off the bat, while the grain flavors slowly lean out the finish.  Of the thirty or so people who have tried all four casks, more than twenty have selected the Girvan as their top choice.

- Last night was the sneak preview of our new Faultline Gin from St. George.  Customer response was extremely positive.  Dangerously positive.  It's going to be a huge hit.  Good thing we made 1,000+ bottles.

- I'm on the hunt for new Irish whiskies at the moment and, while we're hoping for some good mid-range options, I stumbled on this new Cooley-distilled Concannon Irish Whisky that was finished in Concannon Petite Syrah barrels from California.  At $16.99 it represents the least expensive whiskey we carry of any kind!  I wouldn't have bought it if it wasn't good, but it's not for the Redbreast fan hoping to save a few bucks.  It's for the drinkin' fan looking to drink and then drink some more - on the cheap.  That means it's mostly for the K&L staff.

- In the ever-expanding world of American independent whiskey bottlings, we've now introduced Temperance Trader Bourbon into the store - a Buffalo Trace-sourced whiskey bottled by Bull Run Distillery in Portland, Oregon.  It's a nice, spicy, more-herbal, less-sweet Bourbon for those tiring of the smoother, softer style.  Another fine addition to our growing selection.

That's the news for today.  We'll be live blogging from Vegas this weekend! 

-David Driscoll


Temporary Halt on Sovereign Sales

We're going to hold off on selling more of the Sovereign Caol Ila and Bowmore malts until we can fix the labels.  There has been a small misprint on the front and we'll be getting corrected versions in the mail shortly.  Thanks for your patience.  The Caledonian and Girvan whiskies are still available and ready to go.  Thanks for your patience!

-David Driscoll


Tastings Tonight!

WHOOPS!  I put next week's tastings on the blog instead of tonight's tastings!  My mistake.  Tonight....

San Francisco hosts Templeton Rye.

Redwood City hosts Dave Smith and his Firelit spirits.  PLUS......Dave will have a sneak peak at the new Faultline Gin!!

Next week will be Glenfarclas and Laphroaig.

Tastings start at 5 PM and go until 6:30 PM.

Free of charge!

-David Driscoll


Sovereign Testimonials

If you haven't met Kyle Kurani, he's the other spirits guy at the Redwood City store.  He's the person on the floor talking about booze while I'm on the phone talking to vendors.  Kyle knows a ton about whisky and he's got a lot to say concerning it.  If you've ever wondered about what other K&L staff members think about our exclusive casks, here's a quick look into their point of view regarding the four new Sovereign whiskies that just arrived.  Jeff Garneau, our resident Bordeaux expert in Redwood City, also chimes in from the wine drinker's perspective.

-David Driscoll