Tasting Schedule for the Month

It's not easy to get these things organized, but I've made some progress for the next month.  Here's what we'll be pouring in-store, free of charge for all of you wonderful customers.

November 15th

Redwood City will host a very special Tuesday night tasting with Sonja Kassebaum from Chicago's North Shore Distillery!

November 16th

San Francisco will feature the wonderful Alameda bunch from St. George Distillery pouring the new Breaking & Entering Bourbon amongst other things.

Redwood City will showcase the new barrel-aged Fluid Dynamics cocktails from Germain-Robin.

November 23rd

No tastings due to fierce holiday store traffic.  ArteNOM and Springbank will be rescheduled.

November 30th

San Francisco will have Amy Schwartz pouring the Burns Stewart Single Malts - Bunnahabhain, Tobermorey, and more!

Redwood City will feature St. George Distillery finally making it down to pour the new Bourbon.

December 7th

San Francisco will host local heroes Anchor Distilling featuring the gins and hopefully the rye!

Redwood City will feature the heavy-hitting, cask-strength Willett Bourbons.

All tastings start at 5 PM and go until 6:30.  Line ups are subject to last minute change if complications do occur. 

See you all there!

-David Driscoll


Sherry Baby

We grew up watching our mothers cook with it.  We drink single malts flavored with it.  So why is it that no one actually drinks the Sherry itself - just plain, in a glass, on its own?  I feel like every now and again we'll make an obligatory push for better appreciation of fortified spirits at K&L, but eventually that train loses steam.  Then we go back to wine and booze for a few months until we suddenly "discover" Sherry all over again.  The combination of both wine and spirits should be the perfect medium for fans of both genres, yet something never seems to click.  Sherry is delicious, it drinks like wine and keeps like whisky, it offers a variety of styles, a myriad of flavors, and wonderfully affordable price points.  What more does Sherry need to do to get our attention?

I got seriously housed on the above-pictured bottle of La Ina Fino Sherry $14.99 last night.  Briny, salty, nutty, and fresh, this 15% alcohol delight is almost impossible to put down.  Fino sherries are the Islay malts of the fortified world sans the smoke.  They pair amazingly well with olives, cheese, sardines, and other salty snacks, but I had no problem putting away this whole bottle by itself while watching Nova's The Fabric of Space.  When I woke up on the couch at five this morning with a mouth drier than the Mojave desert, I realized that Sherry can creep on you as well.  However, I can definitely handle far more glasses of Sherry than I can single malt whisky.

While most single malts are aged in Oloroso Sherry casks (a style of sherry much sweeter than fino), there are the occasional fino-aged malts.  Why they don't do it more often is beyond me (maybe a lack of available barrels).  The brine, saline, and oxidized wine notes blend beautifully with whisky and provide the perfect highlight for the oily character of Springbank in this cask strength barrel they released last year.  I also remember running through the Bruichladdich warehouse on Islay and finding a 1990 Macallan resting in a fino cask.  We did get to taste it and it was fantastic. It was unfortunately already spoken for, however (otherwise you'd all have a bottle by now). Why Laphroaig and Ardbeg haven't experimented with fino cask enhancement is a curious question.  Seems like a match made in heaven.

Besides the amazing flavors of dry fino Sherry, we've got a fantastic selection of amontillado and palo cortado offerings as well - most of which are completely dry as well.  The complexity of these wines is simply beyond the capability of many $50 single malts, yet the Sherries sell for as low as $19.99 in some cases.  Again, they'll keep for months after you open them and the variety they offer is vast enough to justify having a few open bottles in your collection.  I'm definitely going to replenish my supply with this Herederos de Argueso later today and I may spring for this 1979 Gonzalez Bypass later in the month (easily one of the best things I have ever tasted while working at K&L).  For the super geeks out there, you could read all day about yeast, flor, soleras, and the entire Sherry-making process which is much more complicated than distillation.

Sherry has so much to offer.  If you're getting to the point where you need a new adventure in drinking, this might be the road worth taking.

-David Driscoll


Spirits Tastings Today

Another day of free booze tastings is upon us.

Redwood City will showcase the Bourbons of Oregon's Big Bottom Whiskey.  You may have just noticed their appearance on John Hansell's Whiskey Advocate Blog the other day.  Come taste their stuff and see what you think!

San Francisco will be featuring smoky Scotch with Val from JVS pouring the new Kilchoman 100% Islay, an 18 year old Laphroaig from Hart Brothers, and the new Isle of Skye 12 year blend.  Yummy stuff.

Tastings start at 5 PM and go until 6:30.  See you there!

-David Driscoll


New Product Round-Up

I've been loving the developments over the past week on the blog.  Driscoll has been really delving deep into some real existential issues about how and why we do what we do.  Of course, our great motivator is the love we have for the products we sell and with that in mind I'd like to introduce a whole onslaught of new and future products.  Some we will be stocking, others will be available special order, but all are worthy of a mention here.  First, from the inventive and intrepid Tempus Fugit Spirits a new line of incredible liqueurs that will definitely be as talked about as the last ones.  Known for their Absinthe, Tempus Fugit has made waves over last year releasing the exceptional (albeit controversial) Gran Classico and the lovely Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violette.  Production for these new products is not in full swing yet, but I was so excited I just couldn't wait to share.

This is the fabulous Kina l'Avion d'Or.  Watch out Lillet and Cocchi Americano, this is a traditional Kina Aperitif recipe coming from a hundred year old recipe from a distillery in Switzerland.  Richer than expected, it doesn't have the light heartedness of the Americano, but it certainly makes up for it in term of depth.  This label is not approved yet, but hopefully something like it will be.  The nose is deeply perfumed and wild!  The palate has the perfect interplay between bitter and sweet.  This is sure to be a classic.

Here is another stunner from Tempus Fugit.  One problem we've had in mixology is the lack of proper Creme de Menthe.  Our prayers are answered by this fabulous offering.  Even the great liqueur producers from France cannot match this stuff.  Incredibly fleshy and fresh, the flavor is strong Spearmint rather than the typical pepperminty thing we're used to.  Should change the way most people feel about The Stinger.

Few things have bothered me more than the Creme de Cacao I've tasted in the past.  This is a whole new world.  The stuff is SOOO rich.  Basically the texture of maple syrup.  The nose is pure cacao beans and vanilla.  More complexity than any chocolate flavored liqueur I've ever tasted, they've managed to capture the true depth of the Cacao bean in a way that is both satisfyingly familiar and totally unprecedented.  Think of mixing these two with some cream for the best Grasshopper that anybody has had in a hundred years.

The history of Fernet is a controversial one.  Fernet Branca is unquestionably the King of Amaro, but its history is one that's shrouded in secrecy.  The official line is that it's creator Bernardino Branca, initially created the recipe with the help of a "Doctor Fernet" to lay credence to his claims that the drink had medicinal purposes.  Future generations of Fernet-Branca marketing departments have spent a lot of energy dismissing this story as fiction, claiming instead that no other person besides Bernardino was responsible for the recipe.  According to the records of the small Matter distillery they purchased this original Fernet recipe from a widow of Luigi Branca in the 1930s for an astounding sum of money.  Supposedly, this original recipe came from Friar Angelico and was bequithed to the widow Branca after Luigi's death.  The image and name Angelico Fernet appears on the original documents from the sale of the recipe.  While Fernet-Branca claims to have not changed their recipe since its release in 1845, this alternate history seems to contradict those claims.  I'm certainly not in a place to tell you who's history is the truth, but I will tell you that this stuff is delicious!  Totally different from what you'd expect.  Less bitter, less menthol, more herbal and much more Saffron.  Absolutely delicious.  Cremes should be here by the end of November, expect the fabulous swiss spirits early next year.  Another new product round up coming at the end of this week. 


Completely Unique

I spent some time over the last five days sampling the most recent of our new casks with friends, fellow whisky enthusiasts, and a few familiar customers.  The arrival of five new K&L whiskies (with another due tomorrow) has been very exciting for us, especially seeing that neither David OG nor I have tasted these whiskies since last April.  What I realized for certain after drinking these special malts again was that we truly have gathered together a collection of whiskies linked by the common thread of individuality. 

Here's what I mean: if five months from now, after most of these whiskies have probably sold out, you were to come into the store and say, "Hey David, remember that Bruichladdich Chenin Blanc cask you guys had? What else do you have that tastes like that?" I would likely stand there, stare blankly at you, turn and stare blankly at the liquor shelf, and then say, "Nothing."  There is literally nothing that tastes like this new Bruichladdich Chenin Blanc single malt.  There's nothing this salty, this savory, or even with this type of fruit.  Some of the people who tried it looked at me dumbfounded afterward.  Others immediately put in an order for multiple bottles.  Regardless of their personal opinion regarding taste or quality, everyone agreed that they had never experienced a whisky like that before.

The new Faultline Littlemill 21 year release was no different.  "What's that flavor I'm getting?" was the response from about five different test subjects.  Lowland whiskies seem to soak up Bourbon casks almost like Cognac does, so there's a little bit of that caramel thing going on, but then there's this fruity and savory note that comes out of nowhere with a hint of peat that ruins any brandy comparisons.  Same thing goes for the Littlemill as for the Bruichladdich - there's nothing else we have or have ever had that tastes similar to this whisky.  The closest I could come would be the 37 year Ladyburn cask we imported earlier this year, but that wouldn't be really the same.

Even the Glendronach 16 year PX cask we just received is truly without peers.  An atavistic malt that definitely harkens back to the old school of Speyside, but never really fits in with the crowd.  There's too much earth and rancio flavor happening on the palate to compare with the likes of Macallan or even Glenfarclas.  There's too much power to compare it with something even as strong as A'Bunadh from Aberlour.  Again the question - if you were to ask me what else tastes like this cask I would probably say: "Imagine Glendronach 12, but older, more leathery, with tons of pop and way more going on."  There are too many "buts" in that sentence to make a solid link to another malt.

Is it normally easy to compare one malt to another?  Yes and no.  When I'm talking about comparisons, I'm speaking from a sales point of view - my job is to help someone who likes one particular malt find another that he or she likes.  For example, when a guy came in last week and said he loved the Springbank 9 year Sauternes cask we had a while back, I recommended the new Springbank 14 year Madeira cask we have and the Glenmorangie Nectar d' Or.  Both were solid choices and he wrote me an email to let me know how much he was enjoying them.  If someone likes Macallan 12, I'll give them Glendronach 12.  If someone likes Lagavulin 16, I'll give them Ardbeg Corryvreckan.  None of those recommendations are identical, but they're along the same lines.

However, if someone comes back and says, "David, what do you have that tastes like the Ben Nevis Octave cask you imported earlier this year?" then I'm stuck.  The whole reason we selected these casks in the first place is because they stand out from the rest of the whisky shelf.  They're synonymous with nothing.  They're completely unique. 

-David Driscoll