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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

10/29 - Redwood City: Alexander Murray Single Malts

11/5 - San Francisco: Alexander Murray Single Malts

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

1988 Blair Athol 25 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2001 Bowmore 12 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1990 Bruichladdich 23 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glen Ord 17 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Glenburgie 19 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glenrothes 17 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1998 Mortlach 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Sherry Butt Finish Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


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


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


1997 Bunnahabhain Heavily Peated 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Chieftain's Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


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 SOLD OUT!


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


1988 Balmenach 25 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!


1997 Benrinnes 17 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!


1997 Dailuaine 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


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 SOLD OUT!


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!


Thursday
Nov132014

Back to Basics: Books

Back in the day, we used to read books to learn about whiskey. They were bound with paper, upon which information about whiskey was written. Books, as they were called, wouldn't be updated daily, didn't allow you to leave a comment, and once they were printed were often irrelevant and out-of-touch due to a quickly-moving marketplace. Some of my favorite books—Jackson's Whiskey, Cowdery's Bourbon, Straight—were written in a much different whiskey environment than today, so newcomers to booze might have to do a little extra research on the side. They're still great resources, but they won't necessarily tell you about many of the new producers who have popped up over the last decade.

Enter Lew Bryson. Lew is maybe my favorite Whisky Advocate writer because he usually writes about Four Roses Yellow, or some $20 bottle that he pounded while watching a football game. He and I have corresponded over the years via email, and we even met in person once (although since there are no updated photos of me online it took him about five minutes to realize who he was talking to). I love his easy, mellow, fun-focused, non-snobby approach and I think consumers—both old and new—will get a kick out of his new all-encompassing book: Tasting Whiskey. You'll notice they put a quote from Chuck on the front cover. It was actually supposed to be a quote from me, but they didn't think that "This is the best new fucking whiskey book on the fucking planet!" was appropriate, I guess.

And, without giving too much of his content away, Lew has fantastic reference images with easy-to-understand diagrams throughout each chapter. These pie charts of Bourbon mashbills are outstanding! They're just what I need to refresh my memory every now and again, while also providing a basic visual explanation for newcomers. But it's not just about Bourbon. There's Scotch, Irish, Japanese, and American coverage, as well as cocktail trends, craft producers, glassware, you name it.

In keeping with the theme of these posts, Lew's new book provides the basic framework for tasting, buying, consuming, and enjoying your whiskey. I've never had so much fun getting back to basics. 

You'll want a copy.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Nov132014

Respect For Your Elders: Back to Basics

I'm not sure how many of you caught the piece I wrote about Glenmorangie 10 a little more than a week ago, but it apparently struck a nerve with a number of folks. A whole slough of people I haven't heard from in years emailed me to tell me how much they enjoyed it. It was nice to hear from some old friends. Yesterday, we used that entire blog post as a marketing email to our general whisky list andto my surprisepeople actually read it. Instead of calling our customer service line to simply order a bottle or two, we had people calling in just to voice their support for what we were doing: offering a great whisky for a great price.

That's really what success as a retailer depends upon; not blogging, or emailing, or being dashingly handsome (wink, wink). You can be a terrible writer, have zero social skills, and live in a cave under your store, but if you can offer good whisky for a good price, you're going to do alright (as long as you don't offer too good of a price and go into bankruptcy). In following with some of the themes I've been touching on lately—rising prices, customer burnout, and an unhealthy obsession with shiny new things—I figured I'd put my money where my mouth is. Why not get back to basics? Five years ago we could sell standard release brands with ease; it was the special edition whiskies we had to actually explain and convince our customers to consider. Today, it's the complete opposite. In this market we can't sell enough limited edition whiskies; to the point that the big brands are now actually struggling to sell their standard marks. Limited edition whiskies are the talk of the town. We stalk their very arrival. They're the only things the internet wants to talk about, which is why so much focus is put upon their acquisition—no matter the price. That's why I'm going to stop writing about them for a while. There's no function in that subject anymore.

Don't worry: I'll still tell you when new things come in. That's my job after all. But you don't need the detailed background of a whisky destined to sell out in two minutes. The commercial side of the internet has caught up with whisky. In the past, you needed bloggers to keep you informed. Today, the whisky companies send you an email long before their juice hits the states. We're at the point where informed customers often know more about new releases than I do! That's why it's the perfect time to revisit the classics. Isn't that why we still force kids to read Charles Dickens and John Steinbeck in high school? Because even though they've been read millions of times by previous classes, there's always a new group of youngsters waiting to be initiated? While the generation I started with back in 2007 has already read all of the literary whisky equivalents, there's a budding group of young drinkers who are still learning about what's what. Are we to teach them that the only things worth drinking today are Pappy and Port Ellen? That's a bad education; one lacking in the basic pillars of whiskydom, yet that's the message being sent.

So let's take a break from the hoopla. I'm going to at least. Let's revisit the classics.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Nov112014

Two Neat Peats

We brought a lot of sherry action on our recent boat from Scotland, but surprisingly not much peat. Aside from the 12 year old cask strength Bowmore (also in sherry), there wasn't much smoky goodness in the Signatory selection. No matter, however, because we've got you covered on other fronts. Right now the two best deals in peated whisky are in stock and available with plenty of inventory. After retasting these today, I'm convinced you won't do much better for the money. It's not often we get new, limited releases that are both plentiful, affordable, and this tasty.

Compass Box Great King Street "Glasgow Blend" Scotch Whisky $42.99 - Imagine the regular Great King Street, but richer, fuller, and with a healthy dollup of peat smoke. That's all there really is to know! Just a super tasty, well-formulated blend from our buddy John Glaser; a recipe made from a very high proportion of Highland and Islay single malts, combined with Lowland single grain whisky. Matured in a combination of Sherry oak, American oak and French oak casks, this is a well-priced deal while we have it.

Big Peat Islay Holiday Edition Blended Malt Whisky $66.99 - The Big Peat Xmas Edition won best blended single malt from the Whisky Advocate in 2013, and the new edition, in my opinion, is better than last year's. Imagine the lithe, briny character of Ardbeg Uigeadail with the baking spices and cinnamon peat of Laphroaig and Caol Ila on the finish. At cask strength, it really comes on strong at the back, letting you know this isn't some watered-down well drink. The flavors are potent and balanced from front to back. Of course, there's a bit of Port Ellen mixed in as well, just for the fun of it. Those who take the plunge on this bottle will be well-rewarded. It's another solid attempt from the Big Peat team.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Nov112014

Chocasmoke Coming Soon

The boys from San Francisco's Seven Stills (that's some alliteration for you) dropped by today to give me the 411 on their newest creation: Chocamoke! Distilled from chocolate oatmeal stout beer with some smokey hops thrown in for good measure. Yum. Watch for this guy next week. It's like a smokier, maltier version of the Whipnose.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Nov102014

Great Experiences

One of the coolest and most memorable parts of visiting the Miyagikyo distillery was the blending experience that Nikka set up for us. Just like at the Blender's Bar in downtown Tokyo, they had the components of Nikka's Pure Malt flavor profile broken down into single 12 year old profiles characterized by name: Peaty & Salty, Sherried & Sweet, Woody & Vanillic, etc. Whereas the menu at the Blender's Bar merely told you which percentages of each component comprised each of the blends, here we were actually able to taste them individually and play with them in our own personal creations. It was an incredible experience that both increased my awareness of the Nikka portolio, and left a lasting positive impression that I'll remember when talking to customers in the store.

It's easy to forget that a bottle of whisky is ultimately an experience. You're paying for the memory; just like when you go to a rock concert, baseball game, or week-long cruise in the Caribbean. I think some folks tend to lose sight of that every now and then. Maybe it's because, unlike wine, the experience of a whisky can go on for years after we open the bottle; we tend to see it as gas, or food, or some sort of staple commodity that needs to be rationed. If you're drinking purely for the sake of getting drunk, then really whisky is nothing more than another base asset. However, if you're treating whisky as something more than ethanol, something beyond an aphrodisiac, something you rank, and score, and write a blog about, and obsess about, and think about every day, then I think you have to look at each bottle as an experience. Like all experiences in life, some are more memorable than others—and it's not always the most expensive or extravagant that we remember.

Sometimes, however, there are factors outside the innate quality of the experience itself that make a moment significant. Those are the aspects of whisky that I choose to focus on rather than simply a cost analysis breakdown and a double-digit summary. There are stories, people, and moments like the afore-mentioned blending exercise that can quickly change how I view certain whiskies (like how I now view the Nikka 12 Year Old Pure Malt) because they create an experience that I'll remember more than the flavor of the liquid itself. Ten years from now you may recall where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing when you first tasted an amazing single malt that changed your life; but you might not actually remember what it tasted like. People ask me all the time if I've tasted expensive bottles like Macallan 30. Yes, I have; but I don't remember exactly where or when. I can, however, tell you exactly where I was when I first tasted Glenlivet 12: I was in my apartment in San Diego with my college roommates and we were trying to act all fancy with an "expensive" bottle of Scotch.

Looking back, that's a pretty great memory—one that I'll remember forever. Definitely worth the $24 I spent on that bottle of Glenlivet. On the other hand, sometimes an expensive bottle of whisky is the experience; like when I brought a bottle of Cristal to my holiday party last year and we all acted like blingy hip-hop artists. That, too, was quite memorable.  Glenlivet 12 isn't ever going to win any "Whisky of the Year" awards, and Cristal often gets thrown into the overpriced, overhyped, big brand marketing category, but I've had more fun with those two bottles than I've ever had with some 94 point product that I bought based on the review, tasted, and moved on from. 

-David Driscoll