The Hits Keep on Comin'

I told all of the Whisk(e)y Email insiders to start saving their money about two months ago.  I knew that May, June, and July were going to be non-stop excitement, packed to the brim with new releases, deals, closeouts, and a few surprises.  How do you decide what to spend your cash on when there's something fantastic you've just got to have on a daily basis?  It's not easy.  As if those G&M bottles from earlier weren't tempting enough, now there's the new High West Campfire....and it's really good.  I thought this was going to be an oddball whiskey – something you try once, appreciate the experience, but never really want to drink again.  It's not.  I could drink this all night long, and into the early morning hours.  I loaded up big, so grab it while we've got it.

High West Campfire Whiskey $53.99 - You read correctly – High West is mixing Bourbon, rye, and smoky single malt to make the Campfire – a mix of three different whiskies that tastes wonderfully balanced.  It’s rich, spicy, and just a little smoky, but it’s totally drinkable.  I know some of you out there are on the fence, not needing another oddball in the bar, but this would go down fast at poker night or any other get-together.  I’m buying a big batch of it because I think it’s going to be a hit.  All the rich wood and spice of Bourbon & rye, with that smokiness of an Islay malt. It's definitely in the style of American whiskey, rather than single malt, so the smoke almost ends up like BBQ flavor on top of the sweet wooded flavor..  Delish….

-David Driscoll


The Return of G&M to K&L

I've been really tough on Gordon & MacPhail over the last year.  Every time they've come by the store I've grilled them on both the lackluster quality of their newer releases and the higher prices they expect me to pay for them.  However, I was looking forward to Thursday's visit because their list of recent acquisitions looked promising and, if the prices were in line, I could envision several new selections finding a place in our store.  Most of the malts delivered as expected and the pricing definitely seemed better this time around.  I had a few holes to fill so I'm happy to announce that G&M is now back on our shelves with the following new selections:

Arran 8 Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Single Malt Whisky $35.99 - I've always admired the fact that G&M is not afraid to bottle some of their whiskies quite young.  This 8 year old Arran has much of the same lively fruit and vanilla character as the distillery bottling, and offers tremendous value for those looking for something under $40 that isn't Glen-something or other.

Longmorn 30 Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Single Malt Whisky $169.99 - Longmorn has become one of my absolute favorite distilleries over the past few years (expect a barrel or two in this year's direct cask program) and the value provided by Gordon & MacPhail for this thirty year expression is dynamite.  It's everything we expect from the Speyside institution known for its incredible consistency of quality: big, rich textures, creamy vanilla with lots of oil and resin, earthy components on the mid-palate, and a chewy finish that goes on forever.  Given that we only see the 16 year old stateside (which runs at a very high $100+ per bottle), I'd grab this one while it's hot.

1984 Convalmore 22 Year Old Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $135.99 - This whisky has been kicking around since 2007 when it was bottled, but I just got a good price for it on closeout and had to pull the trigger.  I think, given the new cost and the recent interest collectors have found for slient distilleries, this should move quickly.  Convalmore, located directly next door to Balvenie, has been closed since 1985 - one year after this whisky was produced.  The malt itself is fruity and full of sweet grains at a drinkable 52.5%.  A dash of water really opens it up and gives us a peek at what the distillery was capable of.

Old Pulteney 21 Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Single Malt Whisky $135.99 - Remember that this is not the "whisky of the year" distillery version, but rather a less-sweet and far more complex expression from refill-Bourbon casks.  Almost herbal in its litheness, the absence of sherry allows the delicate fruit and subtle vanilla to shine through.  The fact that G&M owns the rights to so many original vintage distillery labels makes this bottle even cooler - this was the actual OP label from the early 1900s!

1970 Macallan 41 Year Old Speymalt Gordon & MacPhail Single Malt Whisky $699.99 - Quite possibly the best Macallan I've ever tasted.  The concentration of sherry is absolutely unreal.  It's almost impossible to tell where the sherry ends and the whisky begins - it all gets lost in a seamless flavor of rich toffee, syrup, and caramel.  I have to believe that anyone who is willing to pay the price will get exactly what they expect from this bottle.  It tastes expensive, unlike so many pricier malts that get you on rarity or collectibility only. 

-David Driscoll


Some New Bottles of Note

I have been so busy lately that a few new arrivals have fallen by the wayside due to the popularity of other items like Kilchoman and Hirsch.  A few weeks back marked the beginning of Comandon Single Barrel Cognac here at K&L, with three different barrels available that we picked out in France last January.  In order to offer enthusiasts a taste of each particular region we chose one cask from Borderies, one from Petit Champagne, and one from Grand Champagne – each highlighting the particular characteristics of these three appellations.  All three are much more traditional than the more rustic and country-style brandies we selected with Charles Neal, showcasing grace and soft elegance rather than power or eccentricity.  I like the Borderies best personally, but all three have merit.

Comandon XO Borderies 18 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #524 Cask Strength Cognac $119.99 - Comandon's Cask Strength Borderies is bottled at a perfect 18 years old. It is definitely the most unique and unusual of the three casks from the exceptional Comandon line of Single Barrel Full Strength Cognac. Borderies is one of my favorite regions, though it is usually the least familiar for many amateurs and professionals alike. Often touted for its distinct floral characters (usually violets and iris), these characteristics are not universal. While this brandy does exhibit a distinct floral component, I did not get any violet soapy notes, but instead powerful blooming honeysuckle, plus a fabulous nutty-savory character and a soft, smooth finish. Borderies is best between 15-20 years old, and I don't think this brandy could get any better. This is definitely the one to taste for the adventurous, but will ring out perfectly for a true Borderies lover. Its overt appeal also probably makes this the easiest drinking of the three Comandon casks we bought. At this price, I can only assume that we'll all be very sad when there's nothing left. (David Girard, K&L Spirits buyer)

Comandon XO Petite Champagne 30 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #256 Cask Strength Cognac $139.99 - Each of Cognac's regions has an equal potential for quality, a distinction most producers would like you to ignore. Cognac regionality does not come from the quality of the distillate, but in its potential to age. While Grande Champagne is always touted as the finest Cognac has to offer, boasting the region's chalkiest soils, those eau-de-vie are best only after 35+ years of aging, so we often see subpar Grande Champagne Cognac sold before it's ready to drink. The resulting eau-de-vie must be adulterated with oak extract, sugar and caramel to make it palatable. In Petit Champagne, where the chalk is somewhat less prevalent, the eau-de-vie tends to reach maturity between 20-30 years. Because the marketing experts have nearly forgotten about the other regions of France's most prestigious brandy appellation, you could be one of the lucky few to experience the exquisite complexity of the finest fully matured Petite Champagne Cognac. Dense and richly fruity, even with nearly 30 years in cask, this brandy has incredible freshness and lift. At this price, the Petite Champagne will definitely be in short supply. (David Girard, K&L Spirits buyer)

Comandon XO Grande Champagne 40 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Barrel # 176 Cask Strength Cognac 750ml $169.99 - This phenomenal cask was selected from deep within the sacred paradis at the Tessendier family cellars and represents one of the most exciting finds during our trip to Cognac. While it comes from one of Cognac's negociants, as opposed to the grower/producers we generally focus on, this series of single barrel bottlings will be a compelling statement about the direction of Cognac in the coming years. In Cognac, four brands are responsible for 90% of all sales, leaving very little room for independents brands to operate and squeezing potential grower/producers to near extinction. Sometimes to find the very best products available, we need to maneuver within this framework. While the business is structured differently than our other exclusive selections, the quality is second to none. Comandon's resurrection over the last few years has been meteoric. Named "Best Cognac" at the 2010 SF World Spirits Competition, this single barrel selection from the small Comandon stocks is bottled at strength without reduction. Its beautiful art nouveau label is totally unique. Elegance and refinement remain paramount, while the intensity at full strength adds unparalleled depth. At 40-years-old, this brandy truly epitomizes the potential of Grande Champagne Cognac, allowing to taste why Grande Champagne is so coveted. (David Girard, K&L Spirits buyer)

Bruichladdich asked us to help them move some of their older, no-longer-available, limited-edition bottles that they had stuck in distribution limbo.  We've got great pricing so grab 'em while they're hot!

1984 Bruichladdich Golder Still Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml (Elsewhere $275) $215.99 - An amazing vintage Bruichladdich, brimming with golden fruits, creamy, rich vanilla, and soft, oily textures, all at cask strength proof. Classic in everyway. We've already sold most of this just via the Whisky Insider email list.

Bruichladdich Legacy Collection Series VI 34 Year Old Single Malt Whisky 750ml (Elsewhere $500) $399.99 - 94 Points from the Malt Advocate - "The sixth and last bottling from the Legacy series. Legacy 6 is a marriage of six casks from 1965, 1970, and 1972. Soft and mellow on the nose and palate, with unbelievably restrained oak for such a mature whisky. Delicious notes of coconut, soothing vanilla, caramel custard, and banana cream, peppered with spice notes of cinnamon, mint, and teaberry that emerge on a soft finish that fades out gently. (Vol. 17, #1).  Only 1704 bottles of this classic 34 year old elixer were produced. A true standout among the classy and elegant whiskies we have ever carried, this all-bourbon-cask-aged malt has the complexity on the nose that only older and distinguished drams can offer: soft honey, spices, oil and wax, grains, cereal, and more - all swirling in and out of your senses. The palate shows all of these profiles and more with touches of citrus and white fruits. Delicate, dainty, and refined, this bottle belongs on the shelf of the most serious of serious collectors. A true masterpiece.

...and then there's my new favorite whisky!  The Bank Note from A.D. Rattray!

Bank Note Blended Scotch Whisky 1L $19.99 - My friends the Morrisons over at A.D. Rattray have really outdone themselves with this, their fantastic Bank Note Blended Scotch for $19.99 a liter!!!!! Now, granted, some of the 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. 

-David Driscoll


2012 K&L Single Malt Pre-Arrivals Coming Soon

That list of K&L exclusive whiskies that's been sitting on the right-hand margin of this blog for almost a year is coming to an end.  The original title was "K&L whiskies available for pre-order" until they actually came into stock and became just plain available.  Every week we had people logging in and checking to see if we had added anything new to the selection, thrilled to see which casks would be released next, how much they would cost, and what our notes had to say.  I'm happy to say that we're almost ready to begin that exciting time once again.

After the Camut 15 Year Old Calvados hits next week it will pretty much mark the end of our French import campaign (just the 1979 Esteve Cognac remaining thereafter) and we'll begin the annual march toward Fall arrivals. With the exception of the Faultline Littlemill 21 year and the Springbank 14 year, our whiskies from 2011 are nearly gone.  In Redwood City we're already clear of the Glendronach, Cragganmore. and Girvan with dwindling stocks of Bowmore, Springbank 13, and Caol Ila 30.  Pretty soon we'll be completely sold through, which means we bought exactly the right amount - just enough to last until next year's supply comes in.

Why do we sell the whiskies on pre-order and why should you consider buying them untasted and unseen?  We've put a lot of thought into this process and we knew that we wanted to offer blog readers, email insiders, and the general internet whisky enthusiast the opportunity to get a discount without having to join a club.  We did have an actual club briefly, but it was too much of a pain to manage properly and it excluded people who didn't drink fast enough for their monthly quota.  We decided that anyone who supported our direct import whisky program should have the opportunity for more attractive pricing, so we concluded that offering discounts for pre-orders was the way to go.  Therefore, ordering in advance not only secures you a bottle (remember, 2010's Clynelish 27 alongside last year's Ladyburn and Brora sold out completely on pre-order), it offers anywhere from $10 to $30 off in the process.  Granted, you have to put your faith in our judgement, but really you have to do that whether the bottles are physically here or not anyway.

I'd start looking for the first few selections by the end of next week.  I'll be clearing out the margin within the next few days and replacing the title with "2012 K&L Single Malt Pre-Arrivals" very soon.  All in all we should have over twenty casks to choose from before we're finished and the first ones should start arriving in late September.  I have absolutely no doubt that this year's selection is going to smoke our previous one in terms of value, quality, and overall excitement.  Both David and I have been very keen on avoiding unnecessary purchases and sticking to our guns concerning pricing.  I expect complete customer satisfaction and I can't wait to get this thing going! Yeehaw!

-David Driscoll


Spirits Tastings Tomorrow!

Sorry for the absence over the past few days.  If you didn't notice, our system and website crashed over the weekend and I happened to be playing manager on Sunday and Monday (normally my two days off).  It was not fun trying to write receipts with pen and paper, run all over the store to get pricing on each bottle, and total it up with a calculator. 

Then today was staff education day and I was on the books, so I had to do four hours of spirits training for both locations up north. 

I've been swamped.

Anyway, tomorrow's tastings are Fidencio Mezcal in San Francisco with Todd Smith (amazing spirits!) and a  sampling of 916 Tequila and 1792 Ridgemont Bourbon in Redwood City with SWS.  Both tastings start at 5PM and last until 6:30.  See you there!

-David Driscoll