Exciting Scotch Dinner - Sunday, Jan. 29th

K&L's partnership with The Consortium continues this weekend with a special scotch dinner hosted by the Tar Pit on Melrose.  The Swirl Swig Sizzle program makes learning about the world's finest wines, spirits, and food accessible to anyone in the Los Angeles area.  Join the illustrious Johnnie Mundell as he walks you through a specially designed menu highlighting the single malts of Auchentoshan, Glen Grant, Bowmore, Glenrothes and Glen Garioch.  The Tar Pit's exceptional menu of re-imagined classics and whimsical comfort food will be the perfect compliment to some of Scotland's finest whiskies.  Don't miss this special one time event and look out for future events from

Here are the details:

Single Malt Scotch Dinner at the Tar Pit

When:  Sunday, January 29th

Where: the Tar Pit
            609 North La Brea Avenue
            Los Angeles CA 90036

Price: only $75

Tickets:  please purchase your tickets HERE

Be sure to select SWIG in the drop down menu on the top left

HERE is the delicious menu for Sunday's event.  Pairings will be provided for each course.

Heirloom Beet Salad

humbolt fog goat cheese, cotton blossom honey,

pistachio vinaigrette

Seared Scallop

lobster veloute, tobiko, puffed rice

Octopus Bolognese

squid ink tagliatelle, prosciutto chips

Short Rib Mignon

chantrelle mushroom risotto, bitter greens, sunchoke puree

Bananas Foster

banana ice cream, rum caramel, candied pecans,

toasted marshmallow


We're Going to Vegas - You Should Too

Last year we got a call from a guy named Mahesh Patel who wanted us to help promote this thing called the Universal Whisky Experience.  "Where is it?" I asked.  He said Vegas.  "Ha!" I thought, "How the heck am I supposed to help promote a show that isn't in the Bay Area?"  We help John and Amy at the Whisky Advocate every year with WhiskyFest because it's a great tasting right downtown, so that makes total sense.  Was this tasting in Vegas really so great that K&L customers would be willing to take time off, buy a plane ticket, reserve a hotel room, and then pay for the tasting?  "How much is it?" I asked.  He said $500.  "HA!" I screamed in my head, "There's no way!"  I agreed to put some flyers in the store, but that was as far as I was willing to go.  The whole thing seemed too over the top.

After the tasting was over, David OG called me up from LA and asked, "Hey, do you remember that tasting in Vegas?  Well apparently it was the best tasting ever."  "Who told you that?" I asked.  "Some of my very best customers," he replied.  It seemed that Mahesh's bold attempt to create the ultimate whisky experience went over quite well with just about everyone we talked to who went.  Now we were curious.  Last month, when Mahesh called again and asked if we could help support him this year, we said yes.  We wanted to come out and see what this whole thing was about.  The selections looked great and the word on the street was the food made the ticket price worthwhile.  Mahesh said that if we were able to bring some customers, he could offer us a special deal on pricing.  "Why not?" we said.

So here's the deal.  Tickets for this thing are $525, but not for anyone who books via us.  You'll receive a significant discount if you email one of us and go through K&L.  The actual tasting show is on Friday March 2nd at the Wynn Resort, and the master classes are all day on Saturday the 3rd.  You can click on the link above and view the website for more info about who's pouring, but the lineup looks amazing.  They really bring out the old stuff as well, and the crowd is supposed to be light and managable.  We've never been to the UWE before, so this will be our first impression and we hope it's a good one.  We're all about supporting whisky education and the discount that Mahesh has offered our customers makes this much more of a value.  I hope the event is as great as I've heard and I hope that some of you can meet us there.

If you're interested in going, please email myself or David OG.

-David Driscoll


France Day 9: Final Tastes & Thoughts

As you can tell from David OG's post below, we're now home safe and sound with much on our minds.  The trip was a huge success on many fronts - it boosted our own knowledge of France's great spirits, we met directly with small producers who will be bottling exclusive brandies for us, and we got to show our customers why we take the time to do business the way we do.  Our final morning in France, before making the drive to Paris, was spent with Mr. Giard, a cider producer that Charles imports and a distiller of fine Calvados as well.  After Camut, it was going to be tough for anyone to impress us, but we were quite taken with the Giard spirits.  His orchards are beautiful and he has a quiet, humble manner that I quite appreciate from producers.

When I wrote earlier this week that Calvados producers are using gigantic barrels, I wasn't kidding.  Giard uses the biggest barrels in Normandie as you can see from the above photo.  His orchards are all haute-tige and he makes certain that his fruit is ripe before making the cider.  His bottled ciders were impeccible, so we would only assume that his spirits would be as well.  Because he's so concerned about minimal wood contact, Giard is using the largest casks he can find.

While he has since updated to a more modern still, all of the Calvados we were able to taste from Giard came from this tiny alambic still in his barn.  His spirits have a very fine, delicate flavor that he attributes to it.

Sitting down to taste was a real treat.  Giard had lined up numerous single vintage selections to taste and we plowed through them with glee.  Despite his usage of large barrels, we found some of the older Calvados to be quite woody and dry.  His 15-20 year selections were fantastic, however, and we really went bananas for a 1984 vintage that smelled of tart apples and nutty almonds, with a lean, almost single malt-like sweetness on the palate. 

So what should you expect to see in a few months time?  We haven't made our final selections yet, but here's what I have on my shortlist at the moment:

1973 Pellehaut Tenereze Armagnac - Bourbon-esque aromas of vanilla and new wood, loads of fruit and caramel on the palate with prunes, toasted almonds, and barrel spice.  Earthy finish with big time length.  A real winner.

1987 Pellehaut Tenereze Armagnac - Rich and supple fruit right off the bat, subtle sweetness, glides across the palate with perfect balance of fruit and an almond skin flavor, very accessible and sure to be a big hit.

1985 Baraillon Bas-Armagnac - Wow! Amazing aromatics - stewed fruits, sandlewood, port-like richness with toffee and nuts on the palate, a long, warming wave right over the tongue with an exotic, lengthy finish.  One of the best Armagnacs we've tasted.  Think Glenrothes from the same vintage.

1900 Baraillon Bas-Armagnac - This won't be cheap (think $1000 a bottle) but man is it good.  Loads of rich, spicy wood, tons of fruit and spice, and absolutely delicious.  Anyone who wants to shell out will not be disappointed.  This is just an old demijohn from 112 years ago sitting in some rural farmer's barn!

1989 Domaine de Lassaubatju Bas-Armagnac - Very whiskey-like, with a warming richness of wood and fruit and a concentrated blast of almonds on the back.  The finish is lean and spicy with pencil wood and a Bourbon like finish.  Hints of Buffalo Trace Single Oak stuff. 

1988 Domaine de Lassaubatju Bas-Armagnac - Dried apricot aromas with vanilla and new oak, more rounded in its flavor profile, beautiful nutty finish.  A no brainer.

2000 Domaine d'Ognoas Bas-Armagnac - nose is pencil wood, graphite, and marzipan with cocoa on the palate and long, dry, spicy finish.  What a deal!  This should come in at less than $60.

Raymond Ragnaud Reserve Rare Grand Champagne Cognac - gentle richness on the entry, but concentrated flavors of toasted nuts, stonefruit and bits of caramel.  Wonderfully elegant, yet potent.  Something fun and new for our Cognac selection.

1988 Raymond Ragnaud Vintage Grand Champagne Cognac - maple syrup on the nose with a soft, but warming palate that moves slowly with deep concentrated richness.  A long and beautiful finish.

Esteve XO Petit Champagne Cognac (1979 single barrel cask strength) - the nose has pencil wood and baking spices, with an unreal palate of dark chocolate, almonds, and damp earth.  The finish is big, explosive, and woody with hints of candied citrus peel.  WOW!  Wow.  Give us the whole barrel!

Esteve Coup de Coeur Petit Champagne Cognac - a blend of 79 and 81.  Soft citrus on the nose, good complex character of wood and fruit, with more than just richness.  Fine and elegant finish with nutty flavors.  A real bargain.

Adrien Camut 15 year Pays d'Auge Calvados (K&L exclusive) - there is no 15 year release from Camut so this would be a first.  Smooth, juicy apple flavors, an ungodly balance of wood to add richness, and a haunting finish.  There's no amount of this I can't sell. 

1984 Domaine de Giard Pays d'Auge Calvados - lovely tart apple fruit with nutty almonds and fantastic length.  Almost single malt like at times with a somewhat grainy sweetness.  Very good.

-David Driscoll


La Vie De Bon Humeur

Hopefully, you've been following our incredible journey over the last week.  We've just returned and I'm reflecting deeply on what the last week.  Most importantly, what will all this mean for you?  For one, I feel lucky to have been welcomed into the lives and homes of some of France's finest brandy producers.  We met with a culturally diverse group from the rural agricultural producer who rarely leaves the farm to the wealthy negociante who travels worldwide selling their stocks.  We have a tendency to pigeonhole the French based on our preconceived notions of their national identity (something they are indeed guilty of as well). 

The French, however, are regionally divided to a significant degree.  Each little commune (read: county) has its own cultural history, food traditions, forms of expression, and most importantly preferred beverages.  During the trip, while discussing our travels with the producers we met, a number of them expressed how astonished they continued to be by the diversity of the French Nation.  Often, while describing the richness of French food culture, they would comment on how they themselves were constantly discovering new things, even from the village over.  These products had always been there, but where totally new to them. Perhaps in more international and cosmopolitan regions like Cognac or Champagne, there is more of tendency to habituate outside influence, but in general each little place has its way of doing things.  While the French have a strong national pride, it is difficult to pin down exactly what that means to them. Some of this may stem from a sort of isolationism between the regions France, but it can't be denied that it, also speaks to this countries incredible diversity.  

The one factor that unites the French nation is a deep passion of the living of life.  The commitment to living well, albeit perhaps amplified in our presence, is second to none in this world.  It connects these disparate peoples who otherwise would have nothing more in common than their language.  Within each region there is at least one person who has given up everything to pursue their passion for creation.  We are lucky to have a nation on this earth so devoted to the epicurean arts.  Below are a few reminders of why:

-David Othenin-Girard

An Illicit Still & Gacogne's most exciting winemaker

Unknown Vintage ArmagnacThe Famous Armagnac Chai of Mme Lafitte


France Day 8: Camut

Just like with wine, the decisions made in the orchard by the Norman apple farmers will have a large impact on the eventual flavor of the cider and the Calvados distilled from it.  Just like with wine, there are shortcuts.  We talk about the flavors of whisky, the quality of the wood, the skill of the distiller, but we never talk about the barley, the beer, the yeast, or the vintage because there's really nothing else to talk about.  With Calvados, much like Armagnac, you've got to be a farmer first, a cider maker second, a distiller third, and a cellar master fourth.  It's a lot of work and, like any job, some people choose to do the minimum amount required just to get by.  Others, however, take their profession seriously and dedicate their lives to it - they believe in it and they get a sense of pride from doing it.  We were talking in the car on the way to Camut, comparing spirits producers and athletes.  There are some athletes with raw natural ability and others who succeed through sheer hard work and determination.  When you combine both of those elements you get Michael Jordan - or, in the world of fine spirits, you get Camut Calvados.

As I wrote earlier, Calvados producers are farmers first.  The great part about growing apples, as opposed to grapes, is that you don't have to sacrifice livestock space.  In fact, apple trees and cows thrive together because the cows eat the grass around the trees and maintain the soil with their manure.  The Camut brothers, Jean-Gabriel and Emmanuel, have a few different orchards and some have horses instead of cows.  All of their trees are haute tirages as opposed to basse tirages, which means that the trunks are longer and the fruit higher off the ground.  Basse tirages means the trees are grafted and grown closer to the ground.  The advantage of this is a faster and more plentiful production soon after planting the orchard, however, there can be no animals on the sight because they will disturb the branches and eat the fruit.  Haute tirages is the more difficult method - it takes longer for the trees to produce and you get less fruit.  However, the animals and trees can co-exist and the fruit is more flavorful and concentrated.  The Camut orchards are 100% haute tirages because everything they do is about quality and flavor, rather than money and ease.

The Camut estate has been around since the late 1700’s and the tradition of making Calvados has changed little since Adrian Camut, grandfather to Emmanuel and Jean-Gabriel, brought his family’s technique to high esteem.  Besides a belief in the importance of traditional apple farming, the Camuts take a very old school approach to distillation as well.  While even the smaller producers are using industrial grade wood-chipper-like machines to shred their apples before pressing, the Camuts are using a tiny grinder that looks like it could pass maybe a dozen apples at a time.  Emmanuel believes it’s important to do as much by hand as possible in order to control quality and flavor.

Their old alambic still is also their pride and joy.  Not only was it built by their grandfather, it was designed by him as well and works differently than a traditional Calvados still.  Much like an Armagnac still, the alambic at Camut introduces the cider from the top of the still, down into the chamber so that the vapors from the boiling cider below must pass through additional cider as they make their way to the top.  The Camuts believe that the distillate is more apple-like this way.  If there’s one thing that Camut has going over every other Calvados producer I have tasted, it’s that their Calvados tastes more like fresh apples than anyone else’s.

When it comes to barrel aging, the Camut brothers are believers in minimizing the amount of new oak to touch their spirits.  In Normandie, the brandy producers are typically using incredibly large barrels to age their spirit because of the importance of the apple to the flavor.  The warehouse at Camut is simply jaw dropping because they have stocks dating back to the 1920’s.  After a long night of booze and brotherhood, we made our way into the chai for some barrel tasting.  In one of the larger barrels was a fifteen year old blend that tasted like magic.  I have a feeling that we might be on the verge of a K&L exclusive with this one, something the Camut estate has never offered to any retailer before.  The shocker of the night was when Emmanuel climbed to the top of the warehouse and pulled a sample from the 1945 vintage – still in barrel!  It was the color of coffee, but it was somehow still alive, brimming with fruit and zest even after 67 years.  It was mind-blowing and ranks among the top spirits I have ever tasted, purely because of my disbelief in its durability.

I could go on forever about the technicalities of the Camut Calvados, but there’s only so much the reader can take!  What you need to know is this: the Camut brothers do everything the hard way because it tastes better.  It’s more expensive to make, it takes longer, and it requires a true commitment to quality, but it’s worth it.  I would rank their older expressions among the greatest spirits in the world.  Think old Port Ellen or Brora for a single malt comparison, or Michters for a Bourbon analogy.  Think DRC or Lafite for wine.  Think the very, very best.  That’s what these brandies are.  They are the best – hands down, bar none.  They're also incredible people with a passion for keeping their grandfather's legacy alive.  The stop at Camut was perhaps my favorite visit to a producer ever and we will be working hard to bring you all an exclusive bottling.

-David Driscoll