Stocking The Shelves

We've got a lot of new booze hitting the shelves this week.  Taking two weeks off seemed to thin out our supply a bit, so I'm doing everything I can to fill it back up again.  Getting all of the bitters moved to a separate area in Redwood City has opened up the top of our shelves for more retail space, giving me a bit more room to expand.  Today, while I've been upstairs pumping out the orders, Kyle has been in the warehouse cutting boxes and filling carts.  Here's a sneak peek at some of our new arrivals this week:

The arrival of Tequila 916 fills a great niche for us here at K&L.  We've got the $20 price point covered for quality mixing with brands like Espolon and Calle 23.  We've got the high-end, $40+ sippers covered with ArteNOM, Arette and Gran Dovejo.  However, what about the crossover, in-between deal at $28-$32 that can easily translate into either category?  I give you Tequila 916 – a new tequila with the bright, fresh agave flavor to hold up in a mixed drink, but with the quality and complexity to warrant slow sipping.  The packaging is great, the bottles are sleek, the juice is good, and the price is fantastic.  Overall, it's a retailer's dream come true.

Tequila 916 Blanco Tequila $28.99 – The blanco is more vibrant than the average brand name bottles, focusing on the pepper and citrus rather than just going for "smooth."  As a bonafide blanco fanatic, I'm overjoyed that they went this route, rather than simply adding another neutral, inoffensive tequila to the overcrowded mix.  The alcohol is still completely in check, however, and the finish is clean, lingering with baking spices.  Whether you shoot it, mix it, or sip it, there's no way to ingest this Tequila 916 that won't end up pleasurable – especially when you consider the fact that it's less than $30.

Tequila 916 Reposado Tequila $31.99 – The cinnamon and vanilla comes wafting right out of the glass, fulfilling all expectations for a classic reposado tequila. The palate is clean and gentle, with more soft richness before finishing with a bit of white pepper.  Again, for $32 you simply can't argue with the price.  What a deal.

Tequila 916 Añejo Tequila $33.99 – Much like my appreciation for the more traditionally-styled Tequila 916 blanco, I'm once again relieved that they didn't feel the need to pump in the caramel and create a Cognac instead of an añejo tequila.  The extra barrel spice is there, more clove and cinnamon, but the agave pepper is never overwelmed in spite of it.  The finish is spicy and fun, unlike many more expensive añejos in the market.  Well done.

I think what's exciting about Tequila 916 is the fact that all three expressions are equally as good.  Usually, most brands have a blanco that stands out, but struggle with the reposado or añejo.  In the case of Tequila 916, there isn't one expression I would recommend over another – all are equally solid and represent tremendous value for the money, as well as utility.  They're obviously not made for the tequila geeks of the world, but they're not boring or bland either.  I'm excited to see what people think.

Who said all we deal with is the expensive stuff?  In conjunction with our new bargain tequilas, we're bringing in the bargain rum of 2012.  As I mentioned a while back, I met with Ricardo March from Ron Abuelo last week and retasted their line up of all-estate produced Panamanian rums.  We've carried their top-shelf Centuria rum for some time – a fantastically complex rum for serious cigar smokers – however, where was my head when I passed on carrying the seven year?  The Ron Abuelo 7 Year Old Rum is only $24.99 and has the subtle sweetness, rich molasses, and smooth texture to be the best-selling rum at K&L.  I can't imagine anyone not loving this.  You might as well hate puppies or kittens if you don't.

Here's another new product I had meant to bring in before we left for Scotland, but completely forgot to do so.  DOG has had it in the Hollywood store for a little while already, so here are his notes:

Amaro di S. Maria al Monte Bitter Liqueur in a 1 Liter bottle! $36.99 - The Vignale company has produced the S. Maria Amaro since 1911, but the recipe goes back generations before that. It was first created by the monks of the Santa Maria Monastery near Florence. In the last half of the 18th century, the monks donated the recipe to the Duke of Aosta as a show of loyalty. In 1911, Mr. Vignale purchased the recipe and began producing it for the Liguarian region. The ingredients are 100% natural with absolutely no artificial flavors or colors. Each herb, root, and plant is macerated by hand to prevent heating by mechanized processing. Any type of heating, during maceration or infusion, will result in evaporation of the essential oils and limit the potential complexity of flavor. Once the infusion is filtered it is allowed to age for a long period of time to ensure mellowness and integration of flavors. Some of the ingredients used are Chinese Rhubarb, China Root, Gentian Root, Orange Peel, Angelica, Juniper, Muscat Nut, Saffron, plus many more. This is a truly exceptional after dinner drink and highly versatile cocktail component.

Come on by and check out our newly expanded selection!  It's only getting bigger and better.

-David Driscoll


New to the Shelf Today

Our favorite local barber is at it again, whipping up another round of small, limited distillates for those looking to dive deeper in the super-geekdom that most whiskey nerds find themselves in now and again.  Sal's newest releases are two of his best yet, really capturing the flavors of his base products quite exquisitely.

1512 Aged Wheat Whiskey 375ml $55.99 - Aged in ex-rye barrels, this lightly-colored wheat whiskey captures more of the wheat essence than the "wheated Bourbons" of the world, which use wheat in addition to corn.  The 1512 uses wheat almost entirely in the mashbill, producing a soft, wonderfully toasty spirit of fantastic quality.  1512 may be the only craft distillery in the world worthy of the "boutique" pricing needed to recoup expenses.  Their distillates are perhaps the best around for those interested in whiskey outside the box of standard, large production Bourbon and rye.

1512 Poitin Potato Whiskey 375ml $38.99 - A very limited release from 1512, this Poitin smells like a baked potato and the creaminess with which that potato essence fills the palate makes one wonder why potato vodkas couldn't be more like this.  Grab one while you can.

-David Driscoll


Tastings Tonight!

Tonight's spirits tastings will be as follows:

San Francisco will be pouring Tequila Fortaleza - one of the most classic, old-school bottles on the shelf.  If you've never had these they're a "must try" type of product.

Redwood City will have the Isle of Arran single malts with our good friend Val from JVS, however Val can't make it until 5:30 so come half an hour later than normal.

SF will start at 5 PM as planned.

Free of charge!  See you there!

-David Driscoll


Next Batch of K&L Brandy Arrives, Plus More.....

Whoohoo!  What a week this is going to be!  Tons of stuff arriving within the next few days – a whole month's worth in a matter of days.  First off, our second batch of Armagnac from our trip last January just hit earlier this afternoon.  Here's the scoop:

2000 Domaine d'Ognoas Vintage Bas-Armagnac $55.99 - For all the traveling we do to Scotland, and now France, it's very, very, very rare that we find a value-priced spirit of quality for our K&L exclusive collection.  Usually, it's simply better to pay the extra $25 and just go with something older.  That logic has held true almost 100% of the time until we happened upon Domaine d'Ognoas distillery in Armagnac last January.  As a property that's been in existence since the 1200's, Ognoas spends much of its time as an agricultural school and a training ground for young distillers.  Because of their status as a "co-op" of sorts, the operation is partly subsidized by the French government, which means the prices are insanely low!  Lucky us!  Ognoas uses local trees for their cooperage and puts a medium toast on the barrel for a kiss of sweetness in the brandy.  The 2000 vintage is a blend of 30% Folle Blance and 70% Ugni Blanc.  On the nose, aromas of pencil wood, vanilla, and marzipan come brimming out of the glass.  The palate is all dark fruit and soft cocoa, with spicy notes on the long, dry finish.  For about $50 I don't think there's any amount of this we can't sell.  It's easily the best value we've ever found spirits-wise across the Atlantic.  For anyone even remotely interested in experiencing a taste of our new French spirits import program, this is a must-buy.  Now I just hope we can get more!

1987 Chateau Pellehaut K&L Exclusive Tenareze Vintage Armagnac $79.99 - While Bas-Armagnac gets all the press, and the Haut-Armagnac gets completely ignored, the Tenareze region of Armagnac is quietly producing some of the best brandies in the world.  Much like the Borderies region in Cognac, the Tenareze brandies seem to have more fruit and a bit more life than the more classic  Armagnac style.  We visited Chateau Pellehaut on our first day in Armagnac last January and were completely overwelmed by the quality of spirit.  Using only new or first fill barrels for the beginning years of maturation, the Armagnacs have richness, weight, and spice.  The 1987 vintage was one of the most attractive brandies we tasted on the trip, or what we would call a "sexy" spirit.  There are gobs of fruit coming on the entry with a Bourbon-like spiciness that gently permeates the rest of the palate.  Beautiful concentration and a fantastic finish of toasted nuts with more round stonefruit make this one of the most accessible Armagnacs we've ever carried.  Pound for pound, I'm not sure any brandy under $100 can hang with this. 

1973 Chateau Pellehaut K&L Exclusive Tenareze Vintage Armagnac $129.99 - While Bas-Armagnac gets all the press, and the Haut-Armagnac gets completely ignored, the Tenareze region of Armagnac is quietly producing some of the best brandies in the world.  Much like the Borderies region in Cognac, the Tenareze brandies seem to have more fruit and a bit more life than the more classic  Armagnac style.  We visited Chateau Pellehaut on our first day in Armagnac last January and were completely overwelmed by the quality of spirit.  Using only new or first fill barrels for the beginning years of maturation, the Armagnacs have richness, weight, and spice.  While Pellehaut has since switched to entirely Folle Blanche grape varietals, the 1973 vintage is composed of 90% ugni blanc. The palate opens with loads of caramel and a creamy richness the spreads quickly.  The aromas are quite Bourbon-esque, with hints of soft vanilla and charred oak drifting out of the glass.  The complexity of the brandy is astounding - candied fruit, stewed prunes, toasted almond, baking spices, and earthy warehouse notes, all swirling around at the same time.  For an Armagnac of this quality, at an age of nearly 40 years old, the price we negotiated is amazing.  I'm expecting this to be one of our best selling Armagnacs ever and I expect it to really put Pellehaut on the map stateside.

Meanwhile, I tasted with Todd from Pacific Edge today and my friends the Morrisons over at A.D. Rattray have really outdone themselves, it seems.  Next week we'll be bringing in their fantastic Bank Note Blended Scotch for $19.99 a liter!!!!!  Now, granted, some of you high-browed single malt drinkers out there might not even flinch about something like this, but trust me, anyone interested in pouring a whisky on the rocks is going to have a new house bottle - forever.  At this price and for whisky this drinkable, I can't see anyone coming close to touching the Bank Note.  The sherry influence is there, soft vanilla and all that, and the grain comes clean on the finish like any other blend.  However, with 40% actual single malt inside each bottle, the supple richness is much more lengthy than say Walker Black or any other comparable blend.  I'm buying loads of this.  If the public won't touch it, believe me, K&L staff members will be happy to have it all for themselves.

There's also a new "blended single malt" called the Islay Cask soming in for around $50.  It's mainly Laphroaig and it tastes like Laphroaig, soft, supple, bright peaty notes, high-toned baking spices, all that.  Plus, the a fantastic new 20 year old Bunnahabhain single cask that really delivers for about $120. 

Oh yeah, and I haven't even gotten to all the new Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte, and Octomore coming tomorrow.  I'll have to address that when it arrives!

-David Driscoll


It's Memorial Day....Drink Your Booze

I'm in Modesto, spending the weekend at my parents' house, eating well and drinking my fair share in the warm, Central Valley weather.  Even though I brought plenty of booze with me to sample, my parents have a large selection of wine and liquor (as do most people who have remained in contact with me since I started with K&L).  After diving into some of the single malts I received in Scotland, I opened the cabinet under the sink where my mother stores most of her supply and found a treasure trove of great stuff: Camut 6 year old Calvados, High West Rendezvous, Labet Marc des Jura, No. 3 gin, Firelit Coffee liqueur, Kuchan's Walnut, even a freaking bottle of Berry Bros & Rudd Guadaloupe rum!  "Wow!" I exclaimed, "You guys have some great stuff!" As if they had ordered it all on their own.

When my liquor cabinet gets too big to handle, I bring bottles to parties, pass samples off to friends, or load up a box for my parents in Modesto.  I simply can't drink all of it.  Between the wine, the beer, and the cocktails, it's not always easy to make it through dessert and on to the nightcap.  When we visited France last January, this was a major concern of the brandy producers.  People were becoming healthier, driving laws more stringent, so most were trying to drink less, and spirits were the sacrifice many French citizens were making.  Looking through my parents' liquor supply, I realized that my generous donations to the Driscoll booze cabinet were presenting my mother and father with the same dilemma I had hoped to shed: when the heck are we going to drink all of this?

It's all so delicious! What should we drink right now? We only have enough room for one, so which will it be?  I can't decide with all of these options!  We ended up going with the Port Ellen because that's what I had planned for in advance.  The 200ml bottle of the 25 year 5th Release had been a generous gift from some friends at Diageo and I had been looking forward to sharing it with my parents.  No time to get sidetracked now.  Stick with the original plan. 

For anyone who loves to drink as much as I do, a well-stocked liquor supply can become a guilty burden from time to time – a neglected stepchild that gets overlooked.  I know many of you out there drink only spirits, forging a fantastic relationship with brown water due to a lack of interest in red or white.  For the equal opportunity drinkers like myself, we sometimes have to choose one or the other because work, exercise, or other responsibilities await us the following morning.  That's why it helps to devise a plan for consuming your liquor.  I have to decide in advance what we're going to drink and it aids my plan to eventually sap each and every bottle.

Memorial day is a fantastic excuse to drain something special.  Look through your supply and use today as the special occasion you've been waiting for to open that Brora 30 you bought earlier this year.  There's no point in saving this stuff because we all know we're all going to keep buying more (even though we promised ourselves we wouldn't).  Every bottle we add to the collection presents another challenge to be conquered. I'm a minimalist.  I don't want fifty open bottles in my house.  I want ten to fifteen and I want to drain one before bringing in another.  That's why we're drinking Port Ellen this weekend.  I'm in Modesto, my family is here, they've been following the blog, they understand what makes it so special, so let's f-ing drink it.  I might die tomorrow anyway.

Done.  Happy.  Satisfied.  Guilt free.  Phew.

-David Driscoll