Chieftain's Tasting! New Arrivals + Food = Fun

Time for another wonderful Chieftain's tasting in Burlingame!  Come and join us at the lovely La Boheme on Tuesday night, October 25th at 7 PM for a walkthrough of Chieftain's newest arrivals.  Caol Ila 14 in a Jamaican Rum cask, Rosebank 20 in sherry cask, plus two of our newest K&L exclusive arrivals - the Bladnoch 18 and the Dailuaine 27!  Other expressions will be poured as well! This will be a monster tasting all for only $25 and that includes food!!

Reservations are available here.  Your name will be added to a guest list, so no need to wait for an actual ticket!  See you there,

-David Driscoll


Whirlwind Weekend 

I could probably type up about three long articles worth of information concerning the events I participated in the this weekend, but I don't think they'd be all that interesting - mostly data about tasting notes and geeked-out explanations of what made certain spirits great.  At this point, I'm totally sapped and I just want to post a few pictures and give you a brief synopsis. Then I'm going to lay down on the couch, eat pizza, drink beer, and not move a finger until Tuesday morning when I go back to work.

On Friday, David OG, Kyle K (RWC's spirits expert-in-training), and I headed over to the Boothby Center to meet John Glaser for a whisky blending seminar, similar to the one we sponsored on Thursday night.  It was a complete blast.  John is one of those guys who knows how to make specs dynamic.  Shop talk seems like small talk when he's speaking.  It's not intimidating or scary, it's very human.

We all gathered at tables and constructed our own "Compass Box style" blend with the component whiskies that John provided.  Glaser is a very elegant, eloquent man, almost like the whisky world's version of Tim Gunn.  I kinda felt like I was on Project Runway (Project Whisky?) with Tim/John coming around to check on our progress and provide encouragement.

Our grain whisky was a 1994 Cameronbridge, I believe, and BOY did I truly resist adding anything to it!  It was so amazing on its own - rich and aromatic on the nose, but wacky and wild on the palate - much like our 1965 Caledonian we have coming soon.  Also included in the whisky kit were a 14 year old Laphroaig, some Spice Tree, and some Clynelish among others.

In the end, I opted for 50% Grain, 20% Laphroaig, 20% Spice Tree, 10% Clynelish.  John said to let it marry for a few weeks, so I'll see how it tastes then.

I'll spare you the breakdown on WhiskyFest (which was fun).  I will say, however, that the only thing there I had really yet to taste were the new 2011 BTAC whiskies and the super-hyped Samaroli single malts and rums. 

Samaroli is an Italian independent bottler who is known for great booze, but insanely high price tags.  The exorbitant cost, however, is due to their re-casking purchased barrels into new oak for further maturation.  The results are good, but not $400 good.  The rums were also quite interesting and the packaging exquisite.  Someone will buy them, but not me.

Today I met up with the usual cast of Bay Area booze characters for the Good Food Awards judging.  It felt like that scene in Rounders where Matt Damon goes into the poker game and he knows every player in the room even though it's likely been a while.  Jennifer Colliau from Slanted Door lead the way, followed by Thad, Eric, and Craig from Bar Agricole, jet-setting journalist Camper English from Alcademics.com, Martin Cate from Smuggler's Cove and many other familiar faces.  Even Carl Sutton was there to judge beer!  It was fun to reunite with these people and talk booze.

We broke off into groups to start tasting spirits by category and choose finalists which we would then taste as a panel.

I tasted the vodka category with Bourbon and Branch founder Jon Santer and Rich Brandenburg, a restauranteur who flew in from D.C.  We had a great energy going and I think we did a commendable job communicating and breaking down the winners.

Alice was in the house judging preserves.  Even Michael Pollan was there to taste beer!  I didn't speak to them, however.  What was I going to say, "Hey Mike, I like your books?"  I wasn't going to be the 50th person that day to say such a thing.  "Alice, Chez Panisse is like totally awesome!"

After a bite to eat, and a visit around the corner to a local Irish bar where Carl, Martin, Camper and I pounded some pints, we gathered at the round table to make our final decisions. I'm excited to see who will win and will post the results here later.

I'm pooped.  It's been fun liquorland, but I need some rest.

-David Driscoll


Is There a Doctor in the House?

Just got back from our outstanding dinner with Dr. Bill Lumsden, head of whisky creation for Glenmorangie and Ardbeg distilleries.  It was a blast.  We ate well.  We drank well.  What more do you need?

The Dr. is in high demand these days.  He travels all over the world doing presentations like these and his time is valuable. He's a great speaker and we were lucky to have him.  60 people got to talk with him one on one and pick his brain about what makes his whiskies so special.

La Boheme in Burlingame did an excellent job as well.  The staff was on it and the food was great.  Just about everyone who left told me how surprised they were about the quality of the meal.  Many said they would go back again in their own time.  I guess my little secret is out now.  La Boheme has been so great about hosting us that I almost hate for anyone to know how good of a job they can do.  Especially for the reasonable price of $75.  Our guests were treated to 12 glasses of whisky, pan-seared foie gras, a tuna tartar salad, a choice of seabass, rib eye, or duck, and a dish of pastries for dessert.  I thought it was an outstanding value. Everyone else seemed to agree.

Thanks to Dr. Bill, LVMH, and La Boheme for making this evening happen.  Our K&L customers thank you.

-David Driscoll


Breaking & Entering Bourbon Is Here

OK – more big news that has reshuffled our schedule.

We just bought the distributor out of the new St. George “Breaking & Entering Bourbon” but the big shipment got delayed until tomorrow.  I am getting about 240 bottles today (of which over 100 have already sold) and that's everything in they have until next week.  Let me explain why this is a big deal.

First of all – St. George is looking to become the Compass Box of American Bourbon.  Most of us don’t realize that many of our favorite Bourbons -i.e. Black Maple Hill, Johnny Drum, Hirsch, etc – are already blends of numerous different whiskies from unknown distilleries.  The difference between them and St. George is that St. George WANTS you to know that.  They WANT you to understand what they’re doing.  They think their special blending skills are EXACTLY what makes their portfolio so strong.  They’ve succeeded.

For the last few months I’ve been meeting up with Dave Smith and his trusty palate Anthony Rosario for updates on this project.  I’ve been kept up to date every step of the way and I’ve been very excited about the results.  I was not ready for it to be in stock this week, however, so I was a caught a bit off guard when they said it was available.  People are going to go nuts for this, especially the bars who are frustrated with the frequent out of stock problems of BMH.  I know that a bar in the East Bay bought the first 15 cases which was why my order didn’t show up yesterday as originally planned.

What does it taste like?  It’s the epitome of handcrafted.  Every flavor is in check and every texture seems to have been thought out.  Just when you think it’s going to be a bit too thin, the fruit jumps out.  Just when you think it’s going to be too sweet, the spice kicks in.  It seems perfectly designed for the Bourbon drinker’s palate.  It’s neither rich, nor lean.  Neither full-bodied, nor light.  It’s like Baby Bear’s porridge – just right.   Cloves, cinnamon, dried fruits, charred oak – it’s all there.  The finish is graceful and the flavors are precise. 

The price is right too.  $33.99 for this stuff.  They’re not telling who gave them the booze, but it’s more than one distillery.  This is the beginning of a fantastic product from two guys who take tasting very seriously.  I’ve tasted with Anthony and it’s like hearing a master seminar about your tongue.  Their dedication shows.  I’m excited for everyone to taste it.

If you want me to put in an order to hold for you please let me know.  We’ve moved the Cognac email to next week and the big list will get an email about the Bourbon tomorrow instead.  This will sell very fast once the 450,000 person database gets the info.  Anything from St. George, like the gins, blows out of here due to both their and our super loyal customer bases.  This isn’t like a “single barrel” thing where you have to get it now because it’s limited, but I have the feeling that what is available is going to go quickly due to both retail and restaurant/bar demand.

-David Driscoll


Faultline Launches! Our Very Own Cognac

As you can see from the photo above, we’ve finally received our amazing single barrel, cask strength Cognac from France and the juice is freaking unreal good.  We can’t label the age statement on the bottle, but for you insiders I can tell you: it’s about 19 years old and it’s from the Borderies area of the countryside.  Nicholas did an amazing job sourcing a barrel this good and you’re all going to benefit from the hard work it took to get it here.  It’s not easy finding people in Cognac to do this type of thing.  Single barrel brandy is not the rage in France.  Actually, it’s not the rage anywhere, but when you find something as good as this there’s no way you’re going to blend it!  It doesn’t taste like 61% because it’s so fruit-forward and expressive, but great spirits are all about balance – this is one of the greats.   

I’ve tasted the new Faultline Cognac about five times now and each time has been different.  The nose is incredible – caramel, intense cloves with cinnamon, stewed apricots, harmonious!  The palate is lighter than the amber color suggests – lively bits of toffee come in at first, but then the whole spirit turns spicy with herbs, baking spices, vanilla, and even some citrus!  It’s wild, but the Cognac never loses its composure.  Bourbon drinkers should love this.  Adding some water only softens the heat and opens more of the flavor! Best of all, this is something that absolutely no one else is doing, let alone selling.  For proof of what you’re drinking, here’s a link to a video of Nic Palazzi filling it himself in the countryside.


Here’s the deal however – there are only 200 bottles of this.  10 have sold already and we have an email going out to the big list tomorrow.  These may last the month, or maybe only the rest of the week.  I’m not sure how the rest of the K&L database is going to respond to the email, but I expect it to be a big hit.  If you’re interested in one of these, now is a better time than later.  $129.99 for a 19 year old, single barrel, cask strength, unfiltered Cognac.  It's definitely worth it.

-David Driscoll