Mountains of Whisky Coming In!

We're selling more booze than we've ever sold in our thirty year history and I am running out of places to put it!  I am selling Ardbeg and Lagavulin by the case, so I have to squeeze these stacks of whisky into corners all over the warehouse.  Tomorrow there should be a huge drop of Walker Black and Ketel One coming in and I really don't think there is anywhere to put it.  The holiday season is upon us and people are buying almost as much of our brown goods as our red!  I remember just starting out last year and dealing with the holidays, but it seemed easier at the time despite it being the start of my rookie year.  I think we have been branching out to more and more customers, which is fantastic because I think we have a good supply of booze to offer people at pretty reasonable prices. 

So what just came in today....

Diageo limited special editions are here, and they are very limited.  As much as I don't want to believe that they are worth their expensive price tags, I am hearing rave reviews so far for these whiskies.  The Brora 25, which was part of last year's release, was an absolute dream of a whisky and the Talisker 18 year old is still one of my favorite bottles that I own.  The Auchroisk 20 is supposed to be a dessert whisky, full of fat texture, pudding-like sweetness, and baked fruits.  I've read that it's the first distillery bottling since they stopped using it in Singleton.  I'm really curious about the Cragganmore as well because it's usually such a light, fruity style of whisky.  To experience 21 years would be very satisfying, I believe.  In any case, these all retail for close to $200 so they're all out of my price range.  Thank God for the independent bottlings that allow me the opportunity to taste these great distilleries for a less demanding cost.  Speaking of Auchroisk, the Black Adder 18 bottling should be in next week and it's under $80.

 Compass Box just released their Double Single, which is even rarer and, I've heard, more delicious than the Flaming Heart.  I've got a bottle on my bar at home that I'm waiting to open, but I have to taste a few other whiskies before I get to this guy.  I'm really pumped about the idea of the blend (roughly 75% Glen Elgin single malt and 25% Port Dundee single grain).  The clear plastic boxes that both bottles come in make it difficult for me to open them!  They look so awesome on top of my fireplace that I just want to leave them as is, but I am an advocate for whisky drinkin' and I'm a fixin' to drink 'em soon.  So much stuff to get, so little time (money).

Oh, and to end on a positive note, the Rusty Blade label just got approved by the government and should be in K&L stores by next week!  I'll be going over to the distillery tomorrow to help bottle it! 

-David Driscoll


K&L Best of 2010 Awards: Liqueurs

This award was a close call, but interestingly enough I had these both for 1 and 2, and so did David.  That makes it an easy dual award.  The K&L Liqueur(s) of the Year award goes to:

David D picks: Firelit Blue Bottle Coffee Liqueur - I must first off say that I am just as floored with the Marie & Fils 25 year Pineau des Charentes, but the Firelit Coffee Liqueur dominated this year's liqueur sales.  That's not to say that I'm picking it solely because of sales - the Firelit is freakin' amazingly good.  The coffee comes through in pure, concentrated tones and the sweetness is just present enough to balance it out.  Dave Smith came through in the clutch with this liqueur and proved that he is a force to be reckoned with over at St. George.  This is what I will be buying my family members for Christmas this year.  It's the kind of thing that people taste and say, "Wow, that's great!"

David OG picks: Marie & Fils 25 Year Old Pineau des Charentes - Nicholas Palazzi, where did you come from?  All of sudden you walk into our lives and bring us these amazing Cognacs and Cognac-based products!  All of a sudden you blow our minds with what we thought brandy could be!  The 25 year old PdC is from one barrel distilled in 1985 that sat in France until Nicolas decided to bottle it.  There is nothing in the port, sherry, or liqueur world that can touch this product.  It is simply spellbinding.  Everyone who has tasted it has freaked out.  We look forward to many more dealings with Mr. Palazzi and his exquisite bottlings. 

In other news, I decided to experiment with some of the Chartreuse & Chocolate cocktails I read about in the Cocktail Chronicles today.  The idea sounded great and we have a nice little Creme de Cacao on close out. 

I decided to make both the Green Glacier and the Prospector.  The Green Glacier was my wife's favorite with it's bold flavors and spice complemented by the Angostura bitters.  I, however, prefered the Prospector with the addition of orange liqueur to round out the texture.  I like the combo of chocolate, orange, and herbs - very tasty.  I also got the secret recipe for Bar Agricole's newest Egg Nog cocktail and I LOVED it - brandy, rum, eggs, milk, sugar, nutmeg - delish!  So creamy and Christmas-y.  I will be making this drink for my family this Christmas Eve, and maybe in the morning as well!

-David Driscoll


Favorite Whisk(e)y Distilleries

I can usually come up with some type of ranking or list for my favorite authors, musicians, or directors, but I've never (until now) thought about what my favorite distilleries are.  Is there a distillery whose body of work I admire as a whole, rather than just one expression?  Do I have enough tasting experience with multiple expressions from single distilleries to really make that judgement?  I think I have enough to at least produce a top five list.  If I had to rank 'em, based on current drinking patterns (no nostalgia for whiskies I'm no longer into), this is probably the way I would list my top whisk(e)y distilleries:

5) Ardbeg - I love Ardbeg, but I'm more in a "loved" state as of late.  The Corryvreckan was a great new release, but it needs to start moving beyond peat.  If anyone has already read through the latest Malt Advocate, there's a great article by Dave Broom about the future of Islay.  If these guys are going to survive past the current whisky boom, they're going to have to do some unpeated expressions that have more than just spice.  People are looking for complexity and depth more than just big smoke, and at some point this peat bubble is going to burst.  I'm currently almost peat-free at home (my one bottle of Rollercoaster still) having traded all of my open Ardbeg bottles to my co-worker Jason in exchange for some wine.  I could see Bruichladdich unseating Ardbeg on this list soon enough because at least they have some peated and some un-peated options - the reason they're not #5 now is because I can only afford the Rocks, Peat, & Waves and I don't love any of those malts.

4) Glenrothes - The 1985 Glenrothes is the best deal in whisky today.  $100 for an awesomely complex 20 year malt that is bursting with chewy dried fruits, custard, and fat sherry flavor.  The 1994 is good, but not as good as the 1991 was.  The new 1998 is a fresh entry with more orange peel and baking spice, and who can say something bad about the Select Reserve?  Glenrothes makes some great malts that are very accessible and very tasty.  I don't have any open in my house at the moment, but that's because they've all been emptied.

3) Clynelish - My experience with Clynelish consists of the 11 year Signatory bottling (a fantastic malt), the 14 year old distillery bottling (another great dram) and our 27 year old single barrel - awesome.  I am really loving the oily, salty, waxy, orange blossom combo that goes on inside this awesome whisky.  My favorite whisky of the year might be the Flaming Heart, and from what I understand, that vatting is loaded with Clynelish as well. 

2) Cooley - Cooley is just a monster of distillery.  They have so much good stuff out there right now: the Connemara, the Slieve Foy, the Tyrconnell, the Greenore, an awesome cask strength single barrel bottling from A.D. Rattray, and some other indy-bottled stuff under various names.  I appreciate nuance more than any other aspect in a whisky these days and Cooley whiskies have a rather graceful demeanor.  I'm a big fan - my other favorite whisky this year might just be that Slieve Foy 8 year,

1) Springbank - While I had a bit of trouble selecting the other four distilleries in my top five, I had no problem picking Springbank at number one.  I love that little bit of everything that you get in great Springbank whiskies, which therefore should also endear me to say Talisker or Highland Park.  However, the reason I love Springbank more than any other producer (at least right now) is all that chewy, oily, rich-textured maltiness intermixed with hints of smoke and citrus fruit.  The 12 year is my house bottle.  The 18 is simply amazing.  The 1968 Chieftain's bottling we had was awe-inspiring.  The Murray McDavid 9 year Yquem is by my side as I type this.  I heard that Murray McDavid may release a small batch of 18 year Mission Gold Springbank next year and I will definitely be buying one.  I love everything I have ever tasted from Springbank, new and old.  Consistancy, excellence, and variety of flavor without ever getting too crazy with crazy cask-enchancing, etc.  Whisky for whisky lovers.

In considering this list, I was including bourbon distilleries, but I simply am in a bourbon rut right now. Were I to have included one it would have been Four Roses or Buffalo Trace, but other than the BT Experimental I have sitting here, I haven't been really feeling the brown American booze lately.  Maybe it's a phase and I'll come back around later.  It happens.  I can still appreciate it and evaluate it effectively, it's just that I don't feel like drinking a glass of it. 

Please post your own lists if you have the time to type them up.  I would love to read some rankings from other people.

-David Driscoll


K&L Best of 2010 Awards: Rum

Well this one was easy.  K&L 2010 rum of the year:

David D & David OG unanimously pick: Smith & Cross Jamaican Pot Still Rum - This is probably going to be the rum of the year for 2011 and 2012.  There simply is no rum like the Smith & Cross on the market as we have all witnessed rum's brazen attempt to attack the single malt market.  It's not that we don't love rums like El Dorado or Ron Zacapa, it's rather that they don't fit the classic definition of rum.  The Smith & Cross is not a sherry-aged rum.  It won't sweeten up your tongue.  It is a bit hot and bit intense to sip straight, but it will blend seemlessly into the best cocktail recipes from the Savoy cocktail book.  Need to make some Fishhouse Punch for your next party?  Smith & Cross is the only option.  Truly, the only option.  I was lucky enough to taste the Black Tot rum, which retails at a hefty $1000 per bottle, and I had to say that it tasted very much like the Smith & Cross.  Every major bar in the Bay Area is using this as the foundation of their cocktails.  It's the only rum I recommend for 90% of in store purchases.  No doubt about it - the Smith & Cross is the rum of the year.

-David Driscoll


K&L Best of 2010 Awards: Tequila

December is here and that means that magazines and newspapers everywhere will begin releasing their year-end lists of whatever is best in this world.  Top wines, top songs, top albums, top books, top films, top restaurants, you name it.  We as a culture are obsessed with lists and seeing who or what ended up in the finalists. Being an only child, my parents used to placate me on long road trips with almanacs and periodicals that focused on these rankings.  I devoured them.  I still think I can name every major Academy Award winner from 1980 to 1996 (so bring me along for pop trivia night at your local pub if you want to decimate your opponants).  Therefore, I see no reason why David OG and I shouldn't begin our own year-end list of the best spirits we were fortunate enough to taste.  There is a good amount of ground to cover and each category deserves its own focus, so today we'll start with tequila.

David D Picks: Charbay Blanco Tequila - There's a reason why every distillery I visit is most excited about pouring their eau de vie offerings - successful distillation is about purity of flavor.  While reposado and añejo tequilas are more popular here in the U.S. with their smooth textures and vanilla flavors, only in blanco tequila can one truly taste the art of distilling.  There is no wood to mask off-putting alcohols or soften the harsh heat.  It's all there in the bottle and if it wasn't distilled with care, then it won't taste good.  I find it both amazing and troubling that Charbay, located in St. Helena, was able to travel down to Mexico and make the best tequila of the year.  Shouldn't it take time to figure agave distillation out?  I don't know if it's a testimate to the craft of Markos and Miles, or a sign that Mexican distilleries are really behind the times, but the result speaks for itself.  Clean, clear, vibrant flavors of citrus fruit, agave, baking spice, and a soft, delicate demeanor.  Tasting the spirit along side other blancos just humiliates most other companies.  It's about time that craft distilling came to tequila. 

Runner up: Los Osuna Blanco Agave Azul

David OG Picks: Deleon Tequila

Deleon Diamante Blanco - Hailed as a new benchmark for blanco tequila, Deleon is opting to market a whole lifestyle of tequila drinking rather than just an old fashioned spirit. 

The marketing strategy is not just hype.  The Diamante commands a high price because the quality is there.  Without a doubt, the thick glass and ornate top cost money, but what you're really paying for is the quality of the juice.  The high-altitude, 7500 feet above sea level, and the perfectly matured piñas make all the difference.  Agave plants grown at high altitudes tend to be sweeter, with more honey, citrus, and floral notes. 

Add a family-owned distillery devoted to making only one product of the very highest quality, and you get one of the purest, softest, and most luxurious blancos ever seen.  Even at $94.99 a bottle (for blanco?!) we've had a difficult time keeping it on the shelf.

Deleon Anejo is here and just as ridiculous as the Diamante.  It's not the first Tequila to be aged in Sauterne barrels, but it certainly is the best.  It is, however,  the first and only tequila to be aged in Chateau d'Yquem barrels.  By using only first growth Sauterne barrels to ace this stuff, Deleon's commitment excellence becomes clear.  Highly respected within Jalisco as well as around the world, Deleon Anejo is a new frontier in an old (sometimes tired) category. Here's the skinny on the Anejo.  It's aged for 18 months in French Oak barrels and finished in Chateau d'Yquem wine casks - for an undisclosed period of time. Delicious, meticulous, and ultra small production you've most certainly never tasted anything like it. Richly textured, this Anejo presents a stunning range of unusual and attractive aromas.

Nose: Stone fruit, salt water taffy, pink pepper corn. Palate: Buttercream, bell pepper, and rich sweet agave fruit. The intensity of agave fruit works perfectly with the sweet first growth bordeaux finish. Gotta taste it to believe it, totally worth the $149.99.

-David Driscoll