The Pappy Games

To be considered for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon this year at K&L, all those interested in procuring this precious elixer must send me their email address to be placed inside of a lottery.  We will choose twenty four names and those chosen will be sent to a large arena where they will battle to the death.  The last person standing will receive K&L's total allocation of Pappy Van Winkle for 2012.  The more pictures of yourself or your previous PPVW bottle collection that you've posted online via Facebook or Twitter, the more times we will allow you to put your name into the reaping.  Before the event begins, there will be a training session where both David OG and myself evaluate the skills of each contestent and rank the strength of each participant with a score of somewhere between 70 and 100 points (with anything over 90 decreeing a worthwhile contender).  If you're interested in participating in this year's Pappy Games, please contact me.  Allocations are coming soon and we need to determine a winner before then.

-David Driscoll


Things Are Complicated

I'm almost always thinking about booze.  Usually, it's in a philosophical sense - not about some deal I need to make, but rather about the role of alcohol in our lives and whether it actually makes them better.  Lately, I've been so bombarded by new arrivals and tasting notes that I've had little time to ponder much more than the cost of a bottle.  Some of you may appreciate that more, sick of reading my babbles about booze theory, but I hope there is an audience out there somewhere.  What struck me the other night, while watching an episode of the Colbert Report, was an interview that Stephen conducted with a prominent war journalist.  Colbert asked him for his stance (either pro or anti) on some of the confrontations he had involved himself in and the reporter responded with one of the best answers I've ever heard: it's too complicated.

Perhaps when you're young, bold, and opinionated, it can be easy to be either "for" or "against" the Iraq war, or to firmly side with Israel or Palestine.  What I found so relieving about the journalist's answer, however, was the fact that true experience taught him never to jump to conclusions.  While I've never been part of an armed engagement, I can only imagine the myriad of components to consider when trying to establish the truth of what's happening.  Yet, sitting here from far away, it seems like so many people believe they understand the intricate nature of each conflict.  This man, who had been there and experienced the war, could only say that there was simply too much to consider when trying to summarize a final opinion.  So what does this have to do with booze?

I think that perhaps I've let my own opinions about large corporations complicate my opinion about some of the products they own or produce.  Sometimes it's easy to lump an entire portfolio under the Diageo umbrella, or to dismiss big house Cognac as simply adulterated.  I've listened to other opinions about these matters and I've heard some interesting points of view.  However, the more that I work in this business, the more I am introduced to the people behind these products, many of whom completely throw a wrench in my firm-standing beliefs.  For example, last week, when Mr. Raguenaud from Grand Marnier paid us a visit - we were all less than enthused about this corporate giant and their "mass-produced" orange liqueur.  However, when we tasted with Patrick and we sensed his passion for the craft, we all left feeling a bit ashamed of ourselves.  Sure, Grand Marnier is run by luxury brand-owner LVMH and they run huge ad campaigns all over the world, but does that mean their product isn't any good?

Now that's not to say that you should support Grand Marnier instead of a locally-made or smaller-production orange liqueur.  It's just to say that things are complicated.  It's not easy to simply lump brands or products together based on an overall ideal.  I've had a few more of these experiences since Grand Marnier visited, including a run in with a tequila producer I was sure I wanted to avoid, but ended up being completely won over by his passion.  If you would have asked me six months ago how I felt about corporate-run, big-brand spirits, I probably would have given you a blanket answer.  Now, however, I need to analyze that question on a case by case basis.  There are too many facets of the booze business that cannot be summarized so easily.

-David Driscoll


The Kurani Kid Discusses Our New Liqueurs

Kyle Kurani breaks down three new liqueurs soon to be at K&L this week in another video confessional.  Look for all three starting tomorrow in the Redwood City store.


Some New Things For Cocktail Fans

Tomorrow will be an exciting day for cocktail fans as we receive a bunch of new products in the Redwood City store.  First off will be the long-awaited arrival of Germain-Robin's Fluid Dynamics 1850 barrel-aged cocktail.  The absinthe in the mix puts it over the top as the absolute best of the FD offerings, a lovely drink.  We'll also be offering three packs soon with the 1850, Saratoga, and Brandy Manhattan at a discounted price.  Fun!

I'd been wanting to taste this for a while and it finally came my way today!  The Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth from Oregon showcases all the fruit of the area's Pinot Gris wine with the lovely bitter notes of something like Cocchi Americano.  Clear Creek makes the brandy for fortification and the marriage is quite seamless.  This is one of the most delicious apperitifs I've tried in some time.  It should come in at around $25 a bottle and I expect it to be a huge hit.

Kyle and I were also quite taken with this new Calisaya liqueur, also from Oregon.  Made from chinchona bark, botanicals, flowers, and Valencia oranges, this is one of the tastiest amaro-like arrivals in some time.  Again, this is so much more versatile for cocktails than most of the other amari we carry because of the wonderful fruit and the sweetness.  Think Grand Marnier meets Nonino Amaro.  This should come in at around $42.

Look for these products as early as tomorrow!

-David Driscoll


The Shackleton Recreation

I'm sure most of you know the story about the new Whyte & MacKay release called MacKinlay's Rare Old Highland Whisky.  As the Shackleton expedition fled the coming Antarctic winter in 1909, they left behind some MacKinlay's whisky, which remained frozen until the cases were discovered under a hut by a team of scientists in 2006.  The whisky was flown back to the UK where it was analyzed and then recreated by Whyte & MacKay blenders, resulting in the limited edition bottle seen in the above photo.  The demand for the 50,000 bottle production has been outrageous and we were lucky to secure quite a hefty allocation.  The first batch sold in minutes and we've just received our second lot.  This time around I was able to taste the whisky and I found myself very impressed.  What's most interesting to me about the MacKinlay's is the fact that the grain whisky component comes from Glen Mhor distillery, just as the original Shackleton whisky did.  For those unaware, Glen Mhor distillery was completely destroyed by Diageo in the mid-1980s after being closed in 1983 (meaning the youngest possible age of the distillate would be 28 years).  It was a grain distillery in the Highland region that operated outside of Inverness, and after tasting our single cask bottlings from Girvan and Caledonian, I've become much more intrigued by the potential of more mature grain expressions.  

The grain whisky flavor completely dominates the MacKinlay's for my palate - and I love that.  It's almost smoky, but I don't think the Dalmore Single Malt used was peated, nor the Glen Mhor, but I might be wrong.  There's a wild grainy note that meanders in and out of peaty flavors before the stone fruits splash on the back palate.  The finish is classic grain, or classic well-made blended whisky - again, I was very impressed by it.  I think given a choice between something comparably priced, like Walker Blue, the MacKinlay's completely destroys the competition.  Plus, there's the fun historical and collectable elements to consider, so I'd definitely recommend the curious whisky fan to splurge on it.  I'm sure that a Google search can provide you with more detailed information, but for those interested in the whisky, have no fear - it's good.

-David Driscoll