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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

8/20 - San Francisco: No Tasting

8/20 - Redwood City: K&L Signatory Single Malts

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Bourbon Barrel #344 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Bourbon Barrel #345 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1990 Glenfarclas K&L Exclusive Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER


Glenfarclas "The Faultline Casks" K&L Exclusive First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER


1998 Laphroaig 15 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1983 Caol Ila 30 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2002 Bowmore 11 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Refill Sherry Hogshead Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW


1992 Bruichladdich 21 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1988 Balmenach 26 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER


1997 Benrinnes 17 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Dailuaine 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER


1995 Glen Elgin 18 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glenlivet 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Sherry Butt Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!!


1981 Glenlivet 32 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1996 Bowmore 16 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Bladnoch "Young" K&L Exclusive Heavily Peated Single Barrel #57 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glengoyne 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Kilchoman K&L Exclusive Single Bourbon Barrel #172 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Kilchoman K&L Exclusive Single Bourbon Barrel #74 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2013 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky Still Available

2005 Island Distillery 7 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


2001 Royal Lochnagar 10 Year Old Faultline Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Glendronach 18 Year Old Single PX Barrel Cask Strength Blended Scotch Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


1994 Benriach 19 Year Old Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Blended Scotch Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


1992 Longmorn 21 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1987 Mortlach 25 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Saturday
Aug092014

Don't Step to Real Distillaz

After posting a few of my own thoughts about the "Potemkin" distillery discussion that Chuck Cowdery and Steve Ury have so valiantly taken the lead on, and that the Daily Beast turned into a much broader dialogue, I was emailed by a few actual distillers about the issue. One wrote:

I saw your post today and I think you hit the nail on the head in the way you characterized how prideful we producers feel - annoying says it.

I don't say much about this subject, mostly since I am too busy to be bothered. However, I must say my blood pressure does go up a few points when I see some folks from the media who ignore, or are too lazy to see what's going on.

I've made my feelings known concerning the issue, so rather than simply continue to blab about the subject I'll offer some historical perspective. Like I've already said, you're never going to stop this type of marketing from happening, but you can at least look to the past to see how other producers have handled it themselves. In this case, we'll look to the 1990s to see how producers of "legitimate" gangster rap handled those they thought were simply capitalizing on a fad with fake stories of real violence.

Imagine it: you're an African-American kid growing up in the early 90s in South Central Los Angeles. You witness terrible atrocities on a daily basis in your neighborhood and you feel as if the local authorities aren't doing anything about it. You feel alone, segregated, and forgotten by the world, so you write poetry or rhymes about your feelings. Suddenly, after hearing you express yourself at a local event, a man in a fancy suit offers you a million dollar contract to record a hip-hop album about urban life. You confess your heart and soul into that record, getting deep into the nitty gritty of how cold and callous the streets can be. Then the time comes for you to promote your record, but you realize that the market is suddenly flooded with similar styles of expression—some of them true, and others exploitative.

You're enraged. Here you are: an actual victim of violence and abuse in the ghetto, talking about real things that happened to you, having to compete against a bunch of suburban-born rappers who are simply making up tales of gang life and gun fights that never happened. Their phony raps are merely capitalistic efforts to benefit from pop culture's current fascination with "gangsta" rap. They're using your own story against you. You call these "wankstas" out in your rhymes, but no one seems to care.

"Man, that guy wasn't even born in Los Angeles," you tell people. "He's from a rich neighborhood in Dallas!"

"So what," people say. "His beats are tight!"

"But he's not tough!" you reply. "This is all just an act."

No one listens.

So what do you do? You release the most punishing, brutal, bone-cutting, battle rap beatdown of all time. You lay it all out on the table:

If modern distillers who actually distill want to fight back against "Potemkin" distilleries, then they're going to have to start a modern day turf war to get the public's attention. They're going to have to fight for themselves by taking to the airwaves, much like 1990s gangster rappers did in retaliation to inauthentic market saturation. If they want to see actual results, they're going to have to throw some mud and name some names—like Eazy E calling out Dr. Dre—not simply allude to the practice. Respect is going to have to become more important than price or popularity.

But, if history tells us anything (especially in the case of fake gangster rap), it's that it pays to have a tasty product rather than an authentic story. How did the story turn out between Eazy E and Dr. Dre? Not well for Eazy E. He was the real deal, an actual drug dealer and gangster in Compton, and a very talented rapper who simply rhymed about his real life, but he passed away in 1995, not long after the above video was released (although he and Dre did make peace before his death). And what happened to Dr. Dre, who according to Eazy E simply fabricated his tales of thug life in Compton? He just recently became the richest hip-hop artist in history, inking a $3 BILLION deal with Apple for his own Beats Electronics company.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Aug082014

Aged Grappa Sampler

Alright, I've made it clear that I want to make one final push to create some new interest in what I feel is one of the most misunderstood and least-appreciated spirits in the world. Grappa is the chamber music of the booze business; it's a dying art that is really only appreciated by older generations, through whose generosity alone it continues to exist in a rather subsidized state. It's clear that single varietal grappa offers little crossover interest to the average aged spirits consumer, but barrel aged grappa is an entirely different story.

What if there were a way you could taste 9, 12, 15, and 20 year old grappas distilled from nebbiolo? Marolo's awesome sample pack allows you to do just that, with the 9 and 12 year being aged in French oak, and the 15 and 20 year olds being done in acacia wood! Marolo does not produce full-sized bottles of their older expressions, but you can purchase them individually in 200ml size bottles as well. We currently have a few in stock. I just think the sample pack is waaaay cooler. Especially the packaging. For artistic style and elegance, the Marolo grappas win best packaging and best labeling. Their beautiful labels destroy any other brand (you should Google search some of their hand-blown glass bottles).

All aesthetics aside, the aged grappa speaks for itself. These are like fine Cognacs, yet they never lose that earthy, vinous character endemic in all pomace distillates. I'm buying one of these for myself (and I might buy the rest of them if no one else does!)

Marolo Barolo 9-12-15-20 Year Old Sample Pack (4 x 200ml) $139.99 

-David Driscoll

Friday
Aug082014

Things To Think About

-It's hot. Today was slow. The blog server wasn't working all morning. I've now been watching Food Network programming for three straight hours. Here's what's on my mind:

- If dissatisfied customers (of any business, not necessarily K&L) were willing to give their feedback to a manager or owner face-to-face, rather than anonymously take to the internet later, would they go away so angry? Our manager bends over backwards to help our customers, as do I, so I can't imagine anyone leaving unhappy after talking to one of us and working out the issue. If the internet age is making us more afraid to interact with one another in person, then we're all in trouble.

- Is it bad that I can drink an entire bottle of red wine and not feel a thing?

- What is it that you hope to discover when you search internet sites about booze each day? News? Gossip? Validation?

- If any one wants to get me a Christmas present, this would be a good start:

- If there were 10, 12, 15, and 20 year old grappas, would the average whiskey fan care, or even be remotely intriged?

- Walking before and after work can burn more calories than running if you keep at it every day. I've lost a few pounds by accident.

- If I had only $20 to spend on any liquor bottle in the store it would still be Four Roses Yellow Label. If I had only $30, I'd choose the Rhum Clement Barrel Select. That rum is seriously amazing. $40-ish, I'd choose one of our Dickel barrels. Those casks are so interesting, rich, and intriguing beyond what most American whiskies offer right now. For $50, maybe the Ognoas XO Armagnac? $60 is an easy choice: the 2002 Thorin Vintage Cognac. $70? I'd step it up and do the Signatory Glenlivet 16 for $80. $100 no question: I'm a big fan of the Rhetoric 20 Year Bourbon. Say all you want about provenance, perceived scarcity, or the parent company: it's tough to compete with that juice. Michter's 20 is $450 a bottle and the two I just recently acquired sold off the internet not even five minutes after I received them in.

That's it for now. Big Friday tomorrow. Brandyfest needs planning. Caol Ila 30/Glenlivet 32 email going out. Say bye-bye.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Aug062014

Closeout "Deal"

We have an automated program that combs through our inventory and marks down long-standing products when they don't sell at the appropriate speed. That means I might walk into the store one day and say, "Holy Christ! When did we start selling ________ for that price?!" That happened today when I noticed we were selling the 1985 Talisker 28 Year Old for a loss (yes, for less than what we paid for it). I wasn't particularly surprised about the discount because, like I said, this type of thing happens. It was the fact that I had just tasted this whisky for the first time about a month ago and I was absolutely blown away. In all honesty, I think the 1985 Talisker is the best single malt whisky I've tasted in the last year; maybe even longer.

At my last tasting group we had old Lagavulin, old Port Ellen, an older bottle of Caol Ila 18, and numerous other relics of whisky's "golden" past; however, despite all of these wonderful single malts and their impeccible quality, I still think the superstar is the Talisker 28. Which is to say, I would take the Talisker 28 over the most recent edition of Port Ellen, over the stunning Lagavulin 37, and over any number of other bottles that are no longer available anyway. I wasn't alone in my praise. Many of my tasting group friends were also astonished by the Talisker—it's evocative salinity and intense brine character. At this stage in the game, when you've tasted so many delicious whiskies from all over the world, you're not just looking for quality, but also for individuality. I've never had a Talisker with this much maritime action. It invokes the sea and coastal air in a way that few Islay whiskies I've tasted ever have.

I haven't done much investigating online to see what other critics think about the 1985 Talisker, so I don't know if it was a boom or a bust with the experts (nor do I really care). All I'll tell you is that if you like Island whiskies and you're looking to treat yourself, you can capitalize right now our loss. It's not often that we can't sell something this good for a profit.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Aug062014

The Lost Art of the Full Meal

I went to the Van's in Belmont last weekend to have dinner with friends and, boy oh boy, did we do it right.

- gin martini to start (w/olives)

- bottle of clean aperitif white wine w/ appetizers

- aged Bordeaux with our steak dinners

- glass of whiskey with dessert

And we did this over the course of three hours. I felt great when I got home that night. I wasn't full, drunk, or sick to my stomach, just completely satisfied in a way that I rarely am these days. Every itch had been scratched, every indulgence had been responsibly indulged. Now granted I can't (nor should I) eat and drink like that every night, but it makes for a lovely bookend with booze on both sides every now and again. It's a slow, progressive way of eating that allows me to dip into each one of my alcohol-related interests, rather than simply choosing one and sticking with it.

Yet, for as wonderful as these experiences are (to me), they're an entirely lost art in the United States today, and are becoming so in the old world as well. The past two years while David and I have been in France, we've spoken with Cognac and Calvados producers who worry about the effect that modern living is having on their livelihood. Lower blood alcohol driving limits have put a serious kibosh on the post-dinner nightcap, and younger generations are moving more towards pre-dinner cocktails anyway (which is why we ended up drinking warm, iceless Cognac and tonics while visiting producers—at least they're trying!). Even in Italy, grappa and amari producers (like the Noninos, who talked about this in our recent podcast interview) are having to embrace the mixology trend in order to stay relevant. It's ironic to me, that in this neo-renaissance of old world practices and ideals—organic, hand-picked, rustic, and old-fashioned—there's still a relative amount of Darwinism going on. Not everything can be made cool again, and post-dinner digestivos are definitely missing this new boat of enthusiasm.

In fact, grappa is getting to be so irrelevant that I'm almost considering eliminating it from our selection. Grappa doesn't mix well into most drinks, it has a dubious reputation with most Americans (almost like tequila did in the early 90s), and it isn't necessarily inexpensive. However, for any connoisseurship to grow and prosper there needs to be an appreciation of quality—an ability to recognize what makes a spirit taste better or different than its competitors. Not only do few people understand what makes one grappa better than another, few people care to understand. Ten years ago no one gave two shits about where their Bourbon was made or what made it taste good. Today, people are willing to spend ten hours on the internet fighting about it. Grappa and other post-dinner oriented spirits are going to need that injection of enthusiasm to survive in this new era.

However, if there isn't another way to drink grappa—other than as a delicious sipper at the end of a long meal—how are more folks going to take an interest? I don't see it happening. We live in the age of five minute meals and twenty-four hour work days and there's little tradition of long dinners in the United States as is. It's a tradition that's died out, just like many grandkids don't speak the language of their grandparents. I just hope I can still get a glass of it every now and again when I do have the time to enjoy it.

In the meantime, I'm going to make one last effort.

-David Driscoll