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Monday
Feb072011

Tuesday Tasting Tomorrow: Glenmorangie Finealta

Make sure you come out and join us tomorrow beginning at 6 PM @ Martin's West in Redwood City.  The Glenmorangie Finealta will be our featured whisky of the night and pours should be around $3 a glass.  We bought two bottles this time so the liquid should last twice as long as last time.  Grab a table in the back if you want to eat together and chit chat.  You can sit at the bar and order a glass, taste and leave, or order some food and hang out.  It's completely up to you.  In all seriousness, the Finealta is a front runner to be my favorite whisky of 2011.  I really, really like this slightly peated formula.  We opened it for the staff yesterday, so that they could be prepared for the big email going out today, and they freaked out.  Everyone was crazy about it, and honestly, they should be.  It's round, elegant, balanced, and delicious.  Similar to the Caol Ila Yquem barrel but with less sweetness.  Come out and taste with us and see for yourself!

-David Driscoll 

Sunday
Feb062011

SF Saturday: One Possible How-To Guide

Today was a ridiculously nice day in the city.  It was September weather at the beginning of February!  While the rest of the U.S. is being shutdown by ice and snow, people in the Bay Area were sporting shorts, sailing ships, and enjoying the summer-like sun.  My wife and I usually spend two to three Saturdays a month traversing the city streets in search of new watering holes and delicious bites to snack on.  We rarely eat an entire meal, prefering to taste as many different dishes as possible.  Living in such a culinary wonderland, we have a responsibility to enjoy it and spending an entire day walking and eating will only scratch the surface of what's available in San Francisco, let alone the rest of the Bay.  On a day like today, one should have been ashamed to stay indoors. 

If you've never spent an entire morning/afternoon gourging on unhealthy food and intoxicating liquor, then we're probably not going to ever be close friends.  My wife and I, while both having a long, extended backgrounds working with children, have no desire for a child of our own - we love kids, just other people's kids.  We have no desire to own a house or any other financial burden because all of our free time and money would be better spent on traveling and eating at new places.  Anything that would detract from doing so would only result in our common resentment of that barrier!  Is it possible to spend hours upon end ingesting calories in an enjoyable fashion, one might ask?  Yes, and as long as you exercise you shouldn't gain a pound!  Here in this blog post is a how-to guide for constructing such an outing, should you decide to in the future.  To make this great day even more enjoyable, we brought along fellow culinary adventurer and lover of all booze, Luke O'Brien.  He too had a list of destinations to check off, so at 10:30 sharp we hit the road. 

First stop was the Jasmine Tea House to settle a bet between Luke and my wife about which Chinese restaurant has the best pot stickers.  We are big fans of San Mateo's Hot Wok Bistro so it was going to take a spectacular effort to win us over.  Luke, however, is a man to be believed and the above picture should illustrate perfectly the crispy outside of the doughy, pork-filled dumpling.  Dim sum is a great way to start your day in order to line the stomach with the necessary booze-accomodating oils and fats.  "Just pot stickers?" the waitress asked confusedly.  No time for more food, unfortunately, because stomach space must be conserved for the sake of future consumption.  A spot of tea, a few soy sauce-soaked bites, and we had to make our way over to the Ferry Building.

The Embarcadero is an amazing place to sip and sample due to the proximity of many boutique fooderies and the wonderful Slanted Door bar.  The cocktail menu is always full of exciting options and the drinks are almost always impeccably mixed.  We all ordered the Rhum Agricole Punch, a tasty blend of agricole rum, canne syrup, lime, with dashes of Angostura bitters and all spice dram, dusted with grated nutmeg on top.  On a warm day like today, you need constant refreshment and scenery only helps to enhance your mood.  The restaurant over looks the Bay Bridge on the water and makes the drinking experience more stimulating.  Discipline is key, however, because the drinks go down quickly and there is no time to waste ordering another.  We had to get up and move into the Ferry Building foray.

Boccalone Salumeria is pure pork heaven and is located just a few doors down from the Slanted Door.  The establishment is another project by the guys behind Incanto and they offer some great quick snack options for those of us on the move.  The Salumi Cone sample is about $4 and offers a salty, meaty treat that can be ingested on the go.  The meats were packed with pure pig flavor and each cut was as diverse as the next – a fantastic way to try before you buy.  The location is dangerouly close, however, to the Cowgirl Creamery and its side-station that has a grilled-cheese sandwich of the day.  Of course, if you've saved the requisite stomach space as earlier advised, fitting both into the agenda should be no problem.

While Luke and my wife wolfed down their sandwiches, I went over and got some sliced samples from the cheese stand.  The knowledgable staff (headed by the brother of my co-worker Zach) is like the K&L of cheese.  You go and ask questions, you sample, and in the end you decide on a selection.  I was in the mood for something sharp so the girl helping me suggested a fantastic cheese from Wisconsin that fit the bill. We stood in the main entrance and ate an immense amount of dairy in one quick sitting.  As if that wasn't enough milk fat, we walked over to an artisan chocolate stand and got a selection of sweet niblets that we chewed on as we walked back to the car.  When engaging in such an activity, it is important to alternate drinking and eating consistantly, so the next step had to be booze.  I had never been to one of the oldest bars in the city and had been eager to visit, so we drove over to Fisherman's Wharf.

The Buena Vista has been operating in SF for 125 years and is reportedly the creator of the now ubiquitous Irish Coffee.  Set right on the wharf with a view of Alcatraz in the distance, it's a fantastic place to get a little local history as well as enjoy a beautiful view. The tourists packed the streets outside and everyone was enjoying the incredible weather on the square. We plopped down at a table and ordered three of their specialty - the waitress yelled, "Make three please!" to the bar staff, without any need to clarify which drink she meant.

I almost never order caffinated cocktails, but in this case one needs to let the venue dictate procedure.  It's important to be open in the moment and let the specialities of the city come to you!  The Irish Coffee is wonderfully creamy and sweet on the entry with a splendid richness on the palate and warm burn on the finish.  The Buena Vista definitely has this beverage down, and it didn't take long before we had them down as well.  The waitress had barely served us our coffees before we asked her for the check and headed back south of Market for some more food.

Zero Zero was the next destination for a quick margarita pizza and some well-crafted cocktails and beer.  Luke had been eager to try their crust, and he was not disappointed.  The dough is softer and chewier than the typical pie and the sauce is light and creamy.  One of a now growing number of pizza/cocktail parlors in the city, these guys do both very well and the best part is you can sneak into the bar between lunch and dinner, without a reservation, and order food there.  We chatted with the friendly bartenders and enjoyed a Pimm's Punch and Negroni Bianco from their extensive drink menu (including Van Winkle bourbons and a nice single malt supply) before heading back to the Mission for dessert.

Luke told us that there was no way we were going home without trying out Humphry Slocombe, a wacky little ice cream shop on Harrison St. in a very Brooklyn-like part of town.  The weather was so warm that people were out sitting on the stoop and the abundance of tattooed hipsters with their young children transported us to a Williamsburg flashback as the bearded and moustached faithful lined up to get their cones.  The flavors were options such as black sesame, "secret breakfast" – a bourbon and cornflake concoction, and thai lime chili.  We tried all three and all three were outstanding. The curious selection left me dying to try more, but the sun was setting slowly and Luke had to get back home to his honey, so we hit the freeway back south.

After dropping Luke off, we headed over to Martin's West for some meat products and a quick Moscow Mule before heading home for the night.  A walk up to the top of the hill above downtown San Mateo cleared our foggy heads and lightened the load in our bellies.  On an evening like tonight we could see the lights on the Transamerica Building clearly while the planes circled above the airport in the foreground.

The day was well-organized, well-enjoyed, and well-spent.  We talked about the salads we would be eating tomorrow as we walked home and began planning our outing for next Saturday, when we would do the same thing all over again.  Eating and drinking are two of the greatest pleasures in life (if not the greatest) so make sure you make time to enjoy them properly!  Until next weekend...

-David Driscoll

 

Thursday
Feb032011

Prepping For National Pisco Sour Day

 Pisco is a Peruvian brandy that was commonplace in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. The first Saturday in February is National Pisco Sour Day in Peru, San Francisco's Pisco-loving community shares in the celebration. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The following article was written by my co-worker Chiara Shannon who has a passion for pisco.  As the store's head personal sommelier, she has been writing some excellent articles for the main wine blog, but I asked her if she would write something for the Spirits Journal as well.  Just in time for Pisco Sour Day tomorrow, Chiara has put together an overview of a spirit many know little about:

How much do you love the Pisco Sour?

Chiara reaches to finish the last drop of her Pisco Sour on wedding night.My husband Derek and I love this historic Peruvian cocktail so much, it was the signature drink served at our wedding.  Derek lived in Peru for a year in his early twenties, where he needed to perfect his Pisco Sour making technique to satisfy patrons of the chic Lima bar where he worked as a bartender.  The Peruvians were not quick to accept that a gringo from New York could make proper Pisco Sour, but he eventually won them over (and even scored a spot on the local news for his talents!). So naturally, he takes this Pisco Sour business seriously. The wedding was back in 2007, when Pre-Prohibition cocktails had yet to hit mainstream cool, and it took the bar manager and staff of our five star catering operation several tries, carefully and rather gleefully presided over by Derek, to get it just right.  

 

Pisco About Town

Pisco and Pisco Sour appreciation has come a long way in San Francisco since I first wrote about this great cocktail on UnCorked back in September of 2008 and shared Derek's recipe (below). Almost concurrent with my September 08 posting, the doors to the U.S. Flagship of Peruvian Celebrity Gaston Acurio's La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, opened its doors on San Francisco's Embarcadero. In addition to a making killer Pisco Sour, La Mar offers an extensive selection of Pisco and Pisco-based cocktails.  They also host Pisco tasting seminars for enthusiasts and professionals. I attended one sponsored by BarSol pisco and it was quite enlightening.  

Pisco was widely available in San Francisco from it's first appearance 1839 up until Prohibition. It attained world fame in 1887 when Duncan Nicol aka “Pisco John” created the Pisco Punch cocktail at the Bank Exchange Saloon. Credit for inventing the Pisco Sour is given to the English expat Elliot Stubb, who first served the cocktail at his bar in Peru in the 1870s. Photo courtesy of livinginperu.com.

Award-winning Pisco Sours are churned out at Pisco Latin Lounge, the Pisco Bar next to Hayes Valley's cozy Peruvian resto Destino, with Union Square's Cantina as a solid runner-up for a good Pisco fix.  And these days, mixologists at the Union Square speakeasy Bourbon and Branch and SOMA's Heaven's Dog and Bar Agricole not only know what you're talking about when you order the Peruvian cocktail, but they deliver the goods proper.  

 

Even Pisco itself- the brandy that forms the base of the cocktail - has gotten a lot better too.  No more kitchy bottles of below-rate Pisco in the shape of Incan statues...new producers like Campo de Encanto and Viñas de Oro are crafting artisanal, award-winning Piscos worthy of any spirit collection.

*

SHAKE

Why not give the Pisco Sour a try today? Derek's recipe is very pretty simple and straighforward:

Derek's Pisco Sour Recipe 

(from the September 08 posting of "Cocktail Craze: The Pisco Sour")

2 parts Pisco

1 part lime juice

.75 part simple syrup

one egg white

Shake with very little ice or blend. Top with cinnamon. Note: Other recipes call for a garnish of bitters instead of cinnamon, but Derek says that cinnamon is what they use in Lima.

**

SHOP

Buy Campo de Encanto and Vinas de Oro Pisco at K&L Wine Merchants !

***

TASTE

Prefer to have the professionals make one for you?  No Problem: there is a lot of Pisco being poured this weekend in San Francisco...

Sat 2/5 9pm-2am @ Cantina  Special Pisco menu and $5 Pisco Sours all night long, plus DJs spinning South American jams and hip hopDetails

Sat 2/5 @ La Mar Cebicheria Peruana   $5 Pisco Sours all day  Details

Sat 2/5 5 pm-1 am, and Sunday, 2/6, 3-9 pm @ Pisco Latin Lounge $5 Pisco Sours all day on Saturday and Sunday, plus $3 beers for those not yet convinced of Pisco's magic.  Details

 

**** 

PARTY! 

Encanto Pisco Mustache Brigade Bar Crawl - Starts at La Mar at 5:30, then to 15 Romolo around 7pm, with after-party at Cantina from 9pm till closing. The party at Cantina will feature $5 Pisco Sours and shots of top shelf Pisco de Encanto offered by no other than the man himself, Encanto Co-founder Duggan McDonnell.  Details

Pink Mammoth 7 Year Anniversary - Dance off all those yucca fries tonight @ Mighty for the seventh anniversary of the Pink Mammoth dance music-themed Burning Man camp. There will be an open bar of Vinas de Oro Pisco drinks, plus free food from Skool and Kitchenette. Wacky attire encouraged. $7 before 10:30 if with RSVP!

 

Thursday
Feb032011

BB&R is Blowing Up!!!

As you can see the K&L Spirits Blog is not only about Whisky!  Pisco Sour day is celebrated below, as well as the new Rum from Berry Bros.  Today, I'd like to talk about another great product from the venerable wine & spirits retailer in London.

BB&R's No. 3 London DryNo. 3 London Dry Gin 750ml - $39.99

Specially bottled for Berry Bros & Rudd in London, this gin was created to exemplify the classic London Dry style. Unabashedly juniper driven, the riveting No. 3 gets its name from the historic home of Berry Bros at No.3 St James Street in London, where they've been operating continuously since 1698. The No. 3 pushes tradition to the extreme using a simple 3 fruit and 3 spice recipe. The nose is all citrus and piney juniper. On the palate the juniper is balanced perfectly with spicy coriander and verdant cardamom. The finish brings the earth telltale prickle of angelica root and continues with surprising length. An exceptional product, distilled for one of the most important British wine & spirits businesses in history, by the Brits traditional rivals, the Dutch? I'm sure they weren't expecting that in 1698, go figure. An excellent collaboration.

The Legendary King's GingerKing's Ginger Liqueur 750ml - $39.99

From a century old recipe created in 1903 by Berry Bros & Rudd in London specifically for King Edward VII, King's Ginger Liqueur is a top class ginger liqueur unlike any other.  Voluptuous yet vibrant, His Majesty used it to "stimulate and revivify" himself.  Appreciated by the Sporting Class ever since, we've waited along time for its arrival.  The sublime liqueur's base is Glenrothes Single Malt Whisky.  Carefully macerated ginger root and lemon peel are slowly steep in this heady and expensive base.  It has various uses namely as a warming agent on a cold night, after dinner as a digestif, as an invigorating component to a cocktail, with tonic or as a spritzer.   The color is shimmering gold and the body is perfectly rich without being sappy.  Delicate and subtle for all the intensity of flavor, King's Ginger is a must have for any serious tippler.

 

Thursday
Feb032011

Saturday Is Pisco Sour Day!

Walter Moore, co-chair of the fabulous SF-based Campo de Encanto Pisco brand, stopped by the store today to remind me that this coming Saturday is National Pisco Sour day.  His partner in crime, the smooth-talking Duggan McDonnell is down in Lima as I type this, getting behind the stick for a week long Peruvian party with the locals.  These guys must be pretty excited because their stuff has been chosen as the official pisco for the party, an honor that seems almost impossible to be true, considering it's run by foreigners and has almost zero recognition outside the Bay Area.  That should tell you something about the quality of Encanto (which I whole-heartedly vouch for). 

Walter will be running a pub crawl here in SF to celebrate this Saturday, culminating at Cantina around 9 PM where they'll be shelling out $5 Pisco Sours while a DJ pumps out the jams.  If you're feeling like more of a home body, Duggan left this recipe for us domestic mixologists:

All's Fair In War & Pisco (a most passionate cocktail)

In a tall glass pour:

2 fingers Encanto

1 part fresh citrus

2 parts ginger ale

add ice, stir, and float a small amount of red wine on top

As you can see in the above photo, our pisco selection has doubled to four outstanding selections, the Encanto on the left and the three new Viñas de Oro piscos, all from different varietals, and all absolutely stellar in their quality.  There are so many more interesting drinks that include pisco for us to experiment with, including the sour, that can be tweaked for additional flavor.  There is really little need for vodka in this day and age with the emergence of pisco.  It functions in many of the same ways, but with more depth, texture, and flavor.  Heck, Duggan's new recipe is pretty much a Moscow Mule that's been altered just a bit.  I know what I'm drinking tonight.

-David Driscoll