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Wednesday
Feb172010

Smoke & Coke! Take That Jack D.

I was reading a trade magazine yesterday and there was a photo of Jimmy Page, Slash, Steven Tyler, Mick Jagger and one of the guys from ZZ Top at some Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame event with a big banner for Smokehead in the background.  Somehow the guys from Ian MacLeod got Jack Daniels out of the picture and pushed their own mystery Islay malt into the frame.  That must have taken some major PR work, but the reviews of the new "it" beverage - the Smoke & Coke - have been highly positive.  I've yet to try one myself, either with the Smokehead or any other peated whisky, but if it's good enough for these hard-drinking rock legends, it should be good enough for me.  If any of you out there have tried this flavor combination let me know.  I'm not much of a soda person.

Speaking of Smokehead, some of the blog sites out there are having some very interesting debates about the origin of the whisky.  I think it tastes like Ardbeg and many others seem to agree, but the new 18 year release is really fanning the flames of argument.  The 18 year - which we do not yet have access to - is selling for over $100 a bottle causing many to speculate as to how MacLeod can justify that price for a nameless dram, while other 18 year malts - such as Talisker - come in at around $75-$80.  I've read some retailer responses claiming that they have spoken with sales reps for MacLeod and have confrmed that the casks were indeed purchased from Ardbeg some time ago.  Because of the high demand for Ardbeg, and the lack of an Ardbeg 18 year old on the market, MacLeod may indeed be justified in charging the price that he currently is - if the rumors are true, that is.  I haven't tasted it, but I've heard it's pretty fantastic. 

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Feb162010

The Wonderful World of Bittermens - FINALLY Available!

Well the timing couldn't have been better for the highly-anticipated cocktail enhancers to hit the domestic market.  Angostura is going into full-blown crisis mode with a shortage of their market-dominating, top-selling bitter and an ETA of April before it gets back behind the bar and onto the shelf.  That leaves a gaping hole in the market and with cocktail afficionados scrambling to find a bottle of bitters in our stores, where ever will they turn?  Enter Bittermens!   Founded by former San Francisco dwellers Avery and Janet Glasser, these fantastic flavors have only been available before if you knew how to make your own homemade batch.  Can you imagine adding chocolate mole to your margarita or celery to your Bloody Mary?  Just a dash can really transform a great drink and when added to sparkling wine or soda water, you get a whole 'nother level of spice.  The first round should be in next week with VERY limited quantities before they re-up with another load in March.  The initial batch will offer Celery, Xocolatl Mole, Aromatic, Orange, Grapefruit and Lemon.  They will retail at $15.99 and I expect them to sell out in a flash.  I first read about these over a year ago and had contacted Germany's Bitter Truth in an attempt to get them shipped over from Europe.  All of the bitters are handmade made in small batches and are the definition of artisinal.  Can't wait!

-David Driscoll

Monday
Feb152010

New Murray McDavid Bottlings Arriving Next Month

Two of our most successful single malt whiskies of the last year have been from independent bottler Murray McDavid - a branch of Bruichladdich that sees Master Distiller Jim McEwan selecting some of the most interesting casks available and then often manipulating them with wine barrel acing (a brief maturation process meant to enhance the flavor).  We are about sold out of the 2000 Caol Ila aced in Ridge Zinfandel and the 1999 Laphroaig aced in Chateau Margaux - two whiskies that were standouts at last years SF WhiskyFest.  I was able to visit my local distributor recently who had cask strength samples of the new selections that will be hitting the docks this March.  I was very excited by some of them.  The real standout was a Springbank 9 Year Old aced in Yquem Sauternes cask.  The Cambeltown malt is rarely seen outside of its distillery release, so to find one for a reasonable price is a bargain.  The sweetness of the wine barrel truly enhances the malt, much like the old Bruichladdich 15 release that I loved so much.  The whisky will be diluted down by the time it gets here, but I'm super psyched to get this guy in stock.  We're working on a big deal now that should get it close to $50 a bottle and bring in most of what will be available to California.  That's a fantastic price.  Other candidates that we will likely see are a Macallan 14 and Bowmore 13 aced in Petrus.  We might do a pre-arrival price on the Springbank to offer you all a chance to reserve one in advance.  Stay tuned!

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Feb092010

New Edradour?! I Love Edradour! 

The newest bottle from Scotland's wee tiniest distillery is due to hit the shelves next week.  Named after musician Dougie MacLean's Caledonia guitar, MacLean was visiting Edradour in the summer of 2009 to help select the first cask and take part in the bottling.  Remember that only 3 men work at the distillery and they are only able to produce about 12 casks a week, which is barely enough to satisfy any kind of commerical demand.  Their standard 10 year old bottling is one of the most unique whiskies in existence, and was a runaway hit at our last Scotch tasting in Redwood City.  I can't wait to taste this new expression of 12 year old and I'm guessing it's going to make the list at our next tasting coming up March 9th in Burlingame.

-David Driscoll

Monday
Feb082010

Rollercoaster 

Word is that a new Ardbeg is hitting the world state on February 15th, one week from now.  The bottling is for committee members only, but we should be getting an allocation here, at least according to the people at Ardbeg (which is who I would want to hear it from).  The whisky will be called Rollercoaster and it will be bottled at 57.3%, composed of 10 different whiskies with the oldest being from 1997.  Some of it was casked in bourbon and some in sherry, so it will be interesting to see which flavor dominates.  As of right now we are not taking pre-orders, but more information will be made available as I get it.  I can't wait to try this!

-David Driscoll