Pre-Arrivals Due In Monday

Big news! We'll be getting another nine casks this Monday, which will immediately head over to processing for pre-arrival fulfillment.  We'll be doing the Exclusive Malt selections first so that they're ready for David Stirk and his customer tasting on Tuesday in Redwood City. Please be patient as we work to get these ready. It's the busiest time of the year when you're not trying to process thousands of pre-orders, let alone with a mountain of extra work. Jason and I will be coming in early, working extra hours to get it done quickly.

We're excited! You should be excited too! Quality booze coming your way soon.

-David Driscoll


Spirits and the Modern Meal

I'll never forget some of the meals that David and I had in France last year while looking for brandy imports. Not so much because of their quality (many were indeed amazing), however, but rather because of the awkwardness with which some of them began.

"Cognac and soda?"


"Would you like a Calvados and tonic?"

Excuse me?

"Here you go!"

Thanks. A warm Cognac and soda with no ice. Wow. What a nice way to start a meal.

This is weird. "Oh, did I say that out loud? I meant this is delicious!"

I live in the Bay Area - a place where people wear exercise clothing to the movies and where steakhouses have vegan menus, therefore my experiences and commentaries may perhaps be a bit out of touch with the rest of the world. That being said, the French countryside seems to be experiencing a little of the California health movement itself. Recent heart disease levels have people rethinking their five hour, butter and cheese-soaked dinners and the French government has lowered the blood alcohol percentage limit for legal driving in order to crack down on excessive drinking. This has resulted in a new generation of the traditional French meal - a meal that isn't quite as caloric, goes without dessert, and does not finish with a glass of Cognac.

Cognac sales are down in France. Armagnac sales are down. Calvados sales are down. People are no longer beginning with Champagne, switching to Bordeaux, transitioning to Port, and finishing with brandy. They're becoming more conscientious about what they put into their bodies. This is putting the fear into spirits producers throughout France. They need to find a way to adapt, to make themselves relevant before the meal even begins. They need to find a cocktail or an aperitif they can exploit. They must find a way to survive. Therefore, Calvados and tonic, anyone?

At our Thanksgiving dinner last night we had Champagne to start, white with the salad, and red with the main course. We had dessert, but at that point people were switching over to coffee. Parents needed to drive their children back home. Young professionals like myself had to work in the morning. There was no more room for any more booze. There was an open bottle of Balvenie 1401 Tun on the counter (the same one that was leaking at K&L Redwood City last week and therefore had to be opened and tasted by the staff - hee hee) and a few of us took a nip with our pumpkin pie. However, it was merely a curiosity for most of my family members. They were more concerned with both their health and their potential hangovers than indulging in one of the most exciting single malts of the year. The final course is simply too much for many modern drinkers to handle. It's the difference between "I'm good" and "What happened?" Responsibility has taken its place and some particular spirits are taking the hit as a result.

American whiskey seems to be in no present danger. The renaissance of the cocktail scene with a strong preference for Manhattans and Old Fashioneds has more than made up for the dessert course. Single malt drinking societies and the passionate collectors have given a boost to the Scottish whisky industry. French spirits, however, much like French wines, have always been tied to the meal. Bordeaux is a food wine, not a sit-around-and-talk-to-your-friends-on-the-patio wine. It goes with hearty, rustic meals full of beef and organ meat. Burgundy is served along side fowl and rich cheeses. No one is giving up those traditions just yet because, really, who wants to only eat salad everyday? Instead of eating the whole goose, however, they may just have a drumstick. Instead of finishing the bottle of pinot noir, they may just have a glass. Dessert isn't necessary. Spirits aren't even considered.

Cognac and soda, anyone? It's a great way to whet your appetite!

-David Driscoll 



Finally here after years of waiting. Get some....

Nikka 12 Year Old Taketsuru Pure Malt Japanese Whisky $59.99 - Delicious. Richer than Yamazaki 12 and with more texture and weight. Love it.

The 15 year is already sold out, but we'll be getting more.

-David Driscoll


Don't Put All Your Booze Into One Basket

This is my sixth Thanksgiving Wednesday at K&L and I like to think I'm a bit wiser with five superdays under my belt. We're going to get absolutely thrashed today and I'm completely ready for it. There will be lines out the door, mayhem on the sales floor, and staff members running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Deliveries coming in, orders going out, and only us standing in between them. With all the madness that is the day before Thanksgiving at K&L, it's the actual holiday that I'm still learning how to deal with. I can handle the store and the stress, but getting the right booze for the following family occasion still gives me fits. Let's look at my five previous Thanksgivings to illustrate this point:

Thanksgiving 2007: I had just started working at K&L so I had no idea what to get. I basically relied on the advice of my colleagues to make my wine selections, which led to mixed results with my family. None of us really knew what we were drinking.

Thanksgiving 2008: This year I had a good grasp on things as far as selecting great wines and pairing them with the appropriate courses. I was really excited. This was my first real chance to nail this thing. I did a list with info about how each wine was made and what made it special. When we sat down and I gave a quick rundown, my family began getting restless and began interrupting me after only a minute. They were totally bored, seemingly annoyed, and it was completely unsuccessful.

Thanksgiving 2009: After learning from the misguided educational efforts of 2008, I still chose really great wines, but decided to just leave them there for people to drink at their leisure. This ended up with only about a third of the wine being consumed with some more expensive bottles being opened, but only partially drunk. Still a disappointment because people didn't care about the wine whether I told them about it or not. This was also my first T-Day as spirits buyer so I brought some great booze that no one ended up drinking because they had already drunk too much wine.

Thanksgiving 2010: This was the first year that I introduced Pliny the Elder beer to the table. It was the hit of the night. So much so that no one wanted to drink wine or spirits, so the bottles just sat there.

Thanksgiving 2011: We had a completely different group this year as half of my family went down south to visit my cousin and his new twin daughters. I opened way too much wine for a small group and watched as one of our family friends took down a $40 bottle on her own. She really enjoyed it, but I think she would have enjoyed it no matter what it was.

Let me clear up a few things here to help put this into perspective. My family loves to drink. My family enjoys beer, wine, and spirits. They all purchase booze on their own and look forward to my selections. In no way am I bringing booze to people who don't want to drink or enjoy it. The problem is me. I have certain expectations for how booze is going to be consumed, received, and enjoyed. They are impossible standards that can never be achieved. I have realized that and have finally freed myself from the eventual disappointment that will inevitably follow. Thanksgiving is not the time to bring out the big guns and show everyone how big It's a time to sit back and enjoy yourself with family. Stressing about drinking the perfect booze just means more stress!

The only times I have enjoyed really expensive wines were while dining with other K&L employees. The only times I have enjoyed really expensive whiskies were while drinking with other K&L employees (or with my friend David OG while overseas). That's not because they're the only ones who "get it," it's because they're the only other people I know who care. Why take your wife who hates James Bond to see a James Bond movie with you? Why take your mother, who hates French cuisine, out to the a fancy meal at the French Laundry? Who are you really trying to please? I'll give you a hint: it's not the other person. If you want to enjoy doing something you like to do (i.e. talk about wine or ponder a glass of single malt) then you need to do so with others who share your interests. Find a social club or a weekly meet-up group, but don't force your loved ones to carry the burden. Just because someone likes to drink doesn't mean they actually want to talk about what they're drinking. That's a very important distinction.

Thanksgiving 2012: Inexpensive Italian white: 2010 Malvira Arneis Roero. Inexpensive Spanish reds: 2011 Lesmos "Cuarteto" and the 2006 Crianza. These wines are delicious, pair well with turkey, and represent tremendous value. They're unique and different enough to generate a bit of excitement, but still taste familiar enough to be inclusive. For a starter we'll drink our new Spanish import: the Mas Codina Brut Reserva. I'll probably bring a bottle of Calvados and a bottle of Scotch just to have in case someone wants a glass later on. That's it. I bring some good booze, others drink it. If they want to know more, they can ask. If not, no big deal.

There will be no Pappy at my table. No Four Roses. No K&L Exclusive single barrel Scotch. No limited edition Cognac. No fancy, pre-Prohibition cocktails. I know I'm supposed to be writing an article about all the fancy booze I'll be "drinking" (in the fictional, fantasy K&L spirits buyer world, that is) in order to get you all to buy some. That's what holiday booze articles are for: getting the general public to feed into the romanticism and react with their credit cards. However, I want you to actually enjoy yourselves. I'm not going to lie. You don't need trophy bottles to enjoy Thanksgiving. In my opinion, it's probably the worst day of the year to drink them.

If you're eating Thanksgiving dinner with Robert Parker or your weekly wine tasting group, then by all means break out the old Burgundy. If you're carving the bird with the Malt Maniacs or the LA Whiskey Society, then bring your Port Ellen and Brora stash. Those people will actually enjoy, appreciate, and marvel in what you're offering. If you're dining with your family, however, I'd suggest bringing it down a notch. Forcing them to sit through wine pairings, boring lectures, tasting notes, and booze history is quite torturous. You can't force people to love something as much as you do (especially in the span of a few hours). In the end you'll be the most disappointed, knowing that you put so much effort into making Thanksgiving perfect, but ended up isolating your family members as a result.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and prepare my first annual Thanksgiving movie screening. We'll start with a retrospective of Jean Claude Van Damme's early films before a segway into some older WWF matches from the early 1990's as we continue to get more intoxicated. I know my family is going to love it!! They're going to love my passion for these classics! Who wouldn't?

-David Driscoll


New Stuff for T-Day

Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally, our single barrel of Bruichladdich has arrived. I had no idea when this was going to get here, but it's in stock as of now in Redwood City.  SF will get some tomorrow and LA later in about a week.

2003 Bruichladdich K&L Exclusive Peated Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $72.99 - Originally slated for Bruichladdich's short-lived 3D3 Peat expression, this malt began its life in Bourbon casks until it was dumped into a refill Sherry butt for extra maturation. That classic Bruichladdich tang is on the nose, the briny aromas that meander between rich, earthy, and tart. The peat shows itself first, bringing bright smoke and peat moss similar to Laphroaig, before the mild dose of Sherry kicks in, finishing more like Lagavulin with some nice oak and caramel. After a disasterous recall on last year's Chenin Blanc barrel, this new offering from Bruichladdich comes just in time for the holidays to fill the hole. Now that Remy Martin has acquired the once-independent distillery, we're not sure if this will mark the end of the independent cask program at Bruichladdich. Is this the last time we team up with our friends on Islay, or is this just another great chapter in an incredible relationship? We hope to continue our business with Bruichladdich, but if this peated cask is the last of its kind, it's a hell of a way to go out. Big smoke, big flavor, tons of complexity, lots of chewy richness. This is Islay through and through. It's Bruichladdich at its smoky best.

This stuff is very special. I can't wait to do another one of these if they're all going to be as good as this.

Germain Robin K&L Single Barrel Alambic Brandy $56.99 - Labeled as single barrel no. 125, batch 2012-F, this is our first collaboration with the legendary Ukiah distillery, known for its exceptional California brandy. Aged in French Limousin oak, this brandy begins with a lovely flurry of fresh fruit before settling into more classic Cognac flavors of caramel and subtle toffee.  The balance of this batch is impeccable and the brandy is decidedly better than the standard Craft Method in our opinion.  Germain Robin already makes an amazing and affordable brandy, so we weren't going to take a cask unless it was significantly better or different than the standard expressions.  In this case, it's both. Round, supple, but full of life and character. This is a bottle you won't want to miss. Only 108 bottles available.

This just in from St. George. Dave Smith and I tasted some samples of the Faultline Gin Batch 2 today. We took thin-skinned oranges, juiced them, distilled the juice, then put the peels in a rotisserie-style smoker to give them a bit of an edge before putting them in the gin to macerate.

Thin peels!

Into the smoker.

The result.

You really get the rotisserie flavor in the gin. Does it still taste like gin? We'll see what you think.  It will be here before Xmas.

-David Driscoll