Aberlour 18 Year Open In The Bar...

After putting aside the corked bottle I intially opened (see previous post), I finally got back together with a whisky I had previously met a few months ago.  Our own Aberlour 18 Year Cask Strength Single Barrel bottling has finally hit the shelves and is available for pick up and purchase.  Getting to taste this whisky without any sherry influence is a rare treat and this bottle doesn't disappoint.  The nose is a soft blend of malted barley, vanilla, and stone fruit with more on the palate.  I really like this whisky because it simply tastes like good, old fashioned Scotch.  No sweet toffee from the sherry wood, no wine cask enhancements, and no peat.  Just the barley and the used barrel aging slowly for eighteen years.  This dram needs a bit of water to tame the 53% alcohol, but once you dillute it down to the right strength, you get an old school single malt from one of Scotland's most beloved distilleries.  I hope you like it as much as I do.

-David Driscoll


Corked Whisky

Many people have experienced the funk of the dreaded cork taint when sitting down to taste their favorite bottle of wine.  You pull the cork and there it is, hitting you square in the nose - musty, dirty earth penetrating your nostrils, bristling your nose hairs.  The disappointment sets in as you realize that the TCA (short for the responsible bacteria) has likely ravaged the flavor from every molecule of the wine, rendering it useless and, more importantly, tasteless.  TCA cork taint can manifest itself in a powerful and obvious form, or be so subtle as to be nearly untraceable.  If a wine is almost tasteless, but no TCA aromas are present, the wine may still be flawed and affected.  A "corked" bottle of wine has nothing to do with the quality of the cork, but rather the bacteria growing inside of it - a cork that crumbles and breaks from age is expected, but not one that reeks of shower mold. 

While cork taint is an inconvenient, yet necessary part of wine bottling (unless you buy screwcaps!), few people associate it with whisky.  It is rare, but it has been known to happen.  For example, a few hours ago I opened a bottle of our new Aberlour 18 Year Single Barrel Cask Strength whisky and gave it a nosing.  My worst fears were confirmed when I tasted the malt and was left with a finish of stewed vegetables and dirt, rather than sweet grains and honey.  Remember, that TCA can ruin high alcohol products like whisky as well.  I've had a corked bottle of Bruichladdich "Rocks" before, but this was my first encounter since then.  Don't hesitate to bring a bottle back to us for testing if you're ever unsure about the flavor.  If there is cork in the bottle, there is aways the possibility of bacteria in the cork.

-David Driscoll


Clynelish 27 Year In My Hands...

Isn't that label beautiful?  It has our classic logo on it and A.D. Rattray labels have maroon coloring as is, so the partnership was destined to happen!  I'm always nervous that my selections won't be as spectacular as I remember them being, so I rushed over this morning to pick up my bottle of Clynelish 27 Year Cask Strength Single Barrel whisky and taste it once again.  Bottled at a whopping 60.1%, this dram has a massive strength despite being aged entirely in hogshead.  With a bit of water added, the nose is a pungent barrage of sweet grains, juicy stonefruit, and candle wax.  The palate is a hotbead of peach puree, oily textures, and heather with a spicy kick in the teeth on the finish.  I'm so happy to finally have this whisky in my own home to sit down with and really get to know.  I have now tasted it three times and each meeting shows me different flavors than the previous one.  These decades-old, unpeated, unsherried single malts are far more interesting in my opinion because they are dense, complicated, and unyielding.  It's like reading Moby Dick or Infinite Jest - intimidating and intense.  These things take time to unlock so I hope you're all up for the challenge.  Unfortunately, these sold out during our pre-arrival campaign so if you didn't reserve one I have no more to offer.  Please email me your own opinions as I am dying to see what others think!

-David Driscoll



A.D. Rattray Barrels Arrive Today!!

Well, we're almost ready for everyone to come pick up their long awaited Clynelish and Aberlour bottlings from A.D. Rattray.  The whisky should be delivered this afternoon and transfered over to our operations department for processing and sorting.  However, we just sent out a big email yesterday about a bargain Spanish wine with big points and that put our ordering queue into a frenzy, so there are a few hundred wine orders for these guys to deal with at the same time.  I'm really hoping they can get everything done by Friday's end so that you all can have your bottles for the weekend.  Make sure you wait for an email from us before you head over to the store! In any case, they'll be in our possession and I will do everything I can to get it done quickly.  I have held some of the Clynelish back so that some people can try it and then buy another bottle, although I don't know how long it will last because the demand has been unreal.  I'm excited to crack one of these bottles open and revisit the whisky.  I always get nervous thinking it might not be as good as I remember it. 

-David Driscoll


Importance of Independents/Independence Part IV

The most important contribution that independent distributors provide us with is access to up and coming products and young, hip producers.  Think of it as an exact parallel to the music world - there's no Nirvana or Soundgarden without Subpop and there's no Pavement without Matador.  The independents take the risk on the could-be precocious and if they become superstars, then they were the pioneer.  Remember that Hangar One vodka used to be distributed locally by Lou Bock until they went national and signed with Young's.  The problem with the big boys is the size of their catalogues - they simply have too much product to promote.  Not only do they have a gigantic inventory, but their representatives are more focused on sales than knowledge.  Most of the time I know ten times more about the products than the guys selling them.  Can you imagine if you went shopping for a mattress or a TV and you had to tell the salesman about his own stock?

When I taste with with the smaller guys, I get excited.  I know I'm in for a treat when they show up holding a bag full of new samples they've scoured the countryside for.  Also part of the process is the education, as they feed my passion for learning with their own passion for teaching.  We really look forward to meeting up with one another and it feels more like hanging out with friends than running a business.  For that reason, I felt right at home when I attended the pre-opening party at the new Bar Agricole last week and saw a room full of people I love talking booze with.  One of the most impressive aspects of Thad Vogler's new project is the fact that he has completely eliminated the major distributors from the game.  Southern, Pacific and Young's have zero products available on the shelf.  No Grey Goose, no Stoli, no Beefeater's, no Patron, no nothing!!  In the old days of liquor distribution someone would have definitely "paid them a visit" about such proceedings and it's possible that Bar Agricole would have suffered some "tragic accident" as a result.  In today's brave new world, however, it's possible.  Just like it's possible to post your own music on the internet and make your own money.

Bar Agricole has great brandies like Dudognon and Duffau instead of Hennessey or Courvasier.  They pour St. George's new agricole rums instead of Bacardi or Appleton.  I find it amazing that today, because of the path blazed by independent distributors, there is a large enough audience for these underground products to support a full-time nightclub!  As far as K&L is concerned, I don't see the need to cut the big guys out of the picture, but they definitely are not our focus.  It's important to give people a choice, but also to stick to what you do best.  As a specialty boutique kind of store, I find it interesting when people complain about our lack of Jack Daniel's 1.75 liter bottles or the fact that we don't sell Seagram's.  There are literally ten stores within a half mile of here that sell these products, so why do you need us for that?  At the end of the day, I like the fact that we're a place people can come to for knowledge and information as well as a general passion for booze.  A store like K&L would never be possible without the independent suppliers we work with.

-David Driscoll