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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

4/23 - Redwood City: Ardbeg Single Malts (w/the chopper!)

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

1988 Littlemill 25 Year Old K&L "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Lowland 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!

Bladnoch 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive Lightly Peated Single Barrel #303 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

Bladnoch 23 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #1054 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

Talisker "The Speakeasy" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!

2005 Glenrothes 8 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Sherry Barrel 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

1991 Cambus 21 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!

2002 Bowmore 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!

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!

1989 Cragganmore 23 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 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!

1983 Miltonduff 30 Year Old Faultline Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750m IN STOCK NOW!


It's All About ME!

A few days ago my pal SKU, knowing my penchant for hating on internet comment boards, sent me the funniest link I've seen in ages. NPR, a wonderful news outlet that attracts some of the most pedantic people, pulled a fast one on its "readers" -- check that out here before reading further.

I understand that not everyone who comments on the internet is a self-righteous, sanctimonious, attention-needing know-it-all. However, this little joke really shows you quite clearly where some of National Public Radio's "readers" are focused: INWARD. It takes a certain type of solipsism to read a headline, completely ignore the article and the perspective of the person writing it, and get right to typing about one's own opinion. But that's exactly what hundreds of "readers" did on NPR last week. And, man, it took some serious guts on NPR's part to punk their own audience in such an embarrassing and revealing way.

And it's probably a bad idea that SKU sent me this link because it only reinforces what I already thought was the case: a large percentage of internet users see comment fields not as a tool to discuss the topic at hand, but rather as a way to talk about themselves; the comment field is simply the vehicle for the id. But SKU also wrote something very funny himself the other day, when he posted:

If you post something with a technical error on a whiskey forum, it takes an average of .48 seconds for someone to post a correction, and the average number of posts that will then repeat that same correction is 37.

Much like comments have little to do with discussion, people who correct the mistakes of others online usually have little interest in correctness; the correction is simply the vehicle for showing you what they know. They can't just go around talking about how smart they are (because that would be anti-social behavior), but spotting a mistake gives them the justification to do so. Of course, there's no difference in the way those corrections are received (we all still find it annoying), but it allows the corrector to claim he's doing it for the public good, rather than his own sense of self-aggrandisement.

As I watched Wrestlemania last night, I had to take a deep-breath and not let some of this behavior get to me. There are more people holding signs than ever at WWE events and those signs have nothing to do with wrestling. They promote the people in the audience or their websites (and they block the views of the fans behind them who actually came to watch the show). It's no different than hijacking a comment field to direct readers to your own domain, except that in this case it's ruining the experience of everyone forced to sit near these people. But, who cares if you can't see? Who cares what you think? This is about ME!

If there's a way to interject yourself into something, you can bet that someone out there is going to figure out how to do it. There will always be people who wait to talk, rather than listen. There will always be people who skip to the bottom, rather than read the details. There will always be people who need approval, recognition, and acknowledgement, yet do not understand the proper way of going about getting it (FYI, there is no proper way of getting approval, recognition, or acknowledgement -- if you have to tell someone you're funny, or smart, or good at something, well....).

I just wonder if these people know what we're really thinking. Of course, that would require them to think about something besides themselves.

-David Driscoll


Industry Shockers

I'm in Modesto watching Wrestlemania XXX with one of my best friends and the Undertaker has just lost. For twenty-one straight years the Dead Man has risen victorious at sports entertainment's Superbowl, but tonight he finally fell to the freakish Brock Lesnar. Gasps were heard when the ref counted three. The crowd was not ready for what it witnessed. Shock. Disbelief. Horror! The countenances were absolutely priceless. Just look at the guy in the above photo! These are grown men behaving as if a scripted sport were unscripted. Needless to say, the internet boards lit up within seconds of the finish. The outrage was contageous. If the Undertaker was going to sacrifice his streak, why now? Why to Lesnar? Why would the WWE tarnish a legendary legacy with little build up? This was not the correct decision according to the pundits.

I love it when the WWE pulls one on the "insiders": the people who "know" what's going on in wrestling. The guys who don't work in the business, have never worked in the business, and will never work in the business, telling a business what's best for business. The insiders love to bitch about everything and this gave them plenty of fodder. However, one guy really summed it up when he posted:

All the negative reactions are from sad bitter hardcore fans who burnt out years ago and only watch now to get angry. If for some reason they don't get angry they will bitch about how "predictable" it is. It's pretty pathetic really, some people should just stop watching.

There are simply two kinds of wrestling fans: those who love to analyze every single detail, rank the matches in terms of where they fall historically, pointing out exactly what was good and bad, and those who just like to watch and be entertained by the theatrics.

I'm definitely in the latter group. I reveled in the reaction and found myself completely taken in by the magnitude of the moment. I removed any egotistical desire and allowed all cynicism to wash away. It was like being a kid again. Isn't that what entertainment is about?

-David Driscoll



With all the excitement we're feeling towards Armagnac, Cognac, and Calvados, I thought I would temper that enthusiasm with a few clear cut statements. One -- I cannot promise you that you are going to love French spirits as much as you love single malt whisky or Bourbon. Two -- I cannot promise you that they will scratch the same itch or satisfy the same cultural craze, fulfilling a life-long desire to taste something you'd previously only read about online. But I can promise you one thing: K&L will have the best selection of French distilled spirits in the United States (and maybe the world!) before 2014 is over. So if you want to geek out about French spirits, we’ll have you covered. If you remember our French harvests of 2012 and 2013, then picture in your mind how many new products we imported in those years. Now quadruple that number. And now quadruple the new number. Once again, quadruple your most recent total. That should give you an idea of how many new products we plan on bringing in this year. We're serious about this. There's a lot of value and a lot of variety within the Cognac and Armagnac game, and the best part is: we buy our spirits directly from the producer. There are no middlemen, no corporations involved, and no fancy marketing fees attached to each bottle price; it's just them, us, and you.

While most of what we featured on the blog won't be available until later this summer, don't think we didn't get this ball rolling last year. Some of the products we were previously interested in didn't make themselves available until recently and they've finally arrived, just in time to quench your recent thirst.

Marquis De Montesquiou is like the Sauza Tequila of Armagnac -- a brand that was sold to a corporate portfolio, allowing the family members to strike out on their own and create more serious, small-production spirits. Much like Guillermo Sauza created Fortaleza Tequila and continued on with the family business, Claire de Montesquiou and her husband decided to purchase a small estate named Domaine d’Esperance and follow tradition. In 1990, the couple began planting grapes in the sand-based soil of their Bas-Armagnac estate (a lovely terrain mixed with clay and iron -- perfect for Baco and Folle Blanche) and get the ball rolling. By 1995, they were distilling again Armagnac again.

Much like an American craft distiller might sell vodka or gin while waiting for their whisky to age, the Montesquious sold wine while their brandy sat in waiting. They planted Ugni Blanc and Colombard along with their distilling varietals to allow for white production on the side. Even with the wine, however, we're not talking about a large production at Domaine d'Esperance. On two small stills -- one over a hundred years old, the other from a traveling-distiller -- the Armagnacs are distilled at an extremely slow speed. They only make enough to fill about four barrels each day. Couple that with the fact that they only distill for one week per year after the wines are ready. You can do the math from there: 4 x 7 = 28 barrels filled per year.

Immediately after distillation, the spirit goes into medium-charred new oak made by a local cooper named Gilles Bartholomo. He's a third generation casker who uses local Gascon oak from the Allier and Limousin forests. Domaine d'Esperance is only filling the choicest of spirit into the best possible wood they can buy. The result is an incredbile brandy that at times can mimic the finest American Bourbons, and at others the richest and darkest of Cognacs. While there are a number of incredible values coming from larger producers in the region, the Armagnacs from Esperance are focused 100% on quality over price. They are more expensive because of what it takes to produce them.

Domaine d'Esperance 5 Year Old Bas Armagnac $54.99 - Distilled from Baco, the five year old is a soft and more gentle distillate, despite its young age. The wood is integrated and the flavors are smoother and more rounded. It's a lovely foray into the world of French spirits, beginning with flavors that are easy to understand, yet absolutely high in quality.

Domaine d'Esperance XO Bas Armagnac $79.99 - The XO is a marriage of four different Baco distillates, the youngest being ten years of age. The flavors are rich and full of spice with a lengthy finish of round fruits and salted caramel. Having seen no additional coloring or sweetening agents, this is what XO Cognac drinkers often think they're drinking, but aren't. This is real XO brandy for people who appreciate nuance.

1998 Domaine d'Esperance 14 Year Old Bas Armagnac $99.99 - Bottled at full proof, the 1998 14 year old Armagnac is distilled from Baco and bottled at cask strength. It resembles a solid cask of 14 year old Four Roses Bourbon, more than it does French brandy. With big toasted wood flavors, bold spice, and a solid backbone of charred oak, this is high-level Armagnac of the highest quality. As much for American whiskey fans as it is for Frenchophiles.

1995 Domaine d'Esperance 17 Year Old Bas Armagnac $109.99The 1995 is the richest and most brandy-like of the line-up -- it's dark, dense, loaded with concentrated vanilla and barrel spices, and decadent on the finish. Bottled at full proof and with no additional sweetners or coloring, this is high-quality French brandy at its finest.


New K&L Exclusives!

In the pantheon of closed distilleries, Littlemill definitely falls short of top-tier status. Collectors see names like Port Ellen or Brora and they get excited, even reverent about the possiblity of tasting Scotch whisky royalty. Littlemill, however, has never seen its reputation balloon in the new age of romanticism. It's maintained a more working class status, while other lost distillery bottles continue to double and triple in price.

This is fitting, however, when you visit the site where the distillery once stood. The hamlet of Bowling, where Littlemill once operated, has built affordable housing on the ghostly grounds. A bit of ruins still remain, but there's nothing left to let you know of their importance other than a street sign that reads "Littlemill Place." You would drive right by it without noticing if you weren't looking for it, which is exactly the case with this 25 year old cask of Littlemill whisky. If you weren't looking for delicacy and subtle nuance, you could drink this single malt down quickly and think it was cask strength Jameson.

But the drinker who appreciates the pure malt flavors on the palate, the little hint of vanilla on the back, and the burst of richness that tickles the finish, will understand its merit. Littlemill will never be recognized like Port Ellen because its flavors and attributes aren't obvious.This cask is a last gasp at greatness from a name soon to be forgotten; a good-bye gift to whisky lovers who long for the past.

We've got less than 300 total bottles from this cask that, to us, is a diamond in the rough. It's not for those looking for big richness or powerful flavor, however; this whisky is of a dying style from a distillery already long dead.

1998 Littlemill 25 Year Old K&L "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $139.99

Astrid Hubert has taken over her family's apple distillation business with a desire to bring Calvados into the modern generation. She wants to make her estate's brandy more fruit-forward and more feminine in style -- "After all, I am a woman!" she told us during our visit in 2013. It took us a year to come up with a marriage of casks we thought worked, but the wait was worth it: for $29.99 there has never been an apple brandy this good on the American market.

The juicy apple flavor simply bursts on the first sip, the fruit taking front and center stage as the cider-like acidity helps balance out the richness of the wood. Try making a Jack Rose cocktail with this! Considering the cost of most Calvados (even those without the quality of the Hubert) this is the type of spirit you buy two or three bottles of, rather than just one. Our problem won't be convincing people to buy it, it will be getting enough of it across the Atlantic to satisfy demand.

Look at Astrid! Look at how jovial and down-to-earth she is. This is the type of person we love buying spirits from.

2006 Domaine Hubert K&L Exclusive Vieux Calvados $29.99

-David Driscoll


New Faces/Old Faces

You want to take maritime whisky to the next level? Try using ocean water for your fermentation and aging the spirit in "navy" strength rum. That's what Bryan Davis did for Batch II of his Salinas Seascape single malt. It's intense, as always!

Lost Spirits Distillery Seascape II Single Malt Whiskey $44.99 - The latest batch of peated single malt from local Salinas distillery Bryan Davis is here -- the follow-up to the beloved Seascape, this time fermented with Pacific Ocean seawater and aged in rum casks. The result is a cleaner spirit, but an even peatier, earthier concentration. While the whisky is lighter in richness, it's twice as intense as before. Burnt leaves, resinous smoke, scorched earth, and hints of baking spice overwhelm the palate like a tidal wave. At 65%, it's one intense ride. But we wouldn't expect anything less from Bryan, would we? WARNING: this whiskey is absolutely not for the unadventurous.

And one of our most-successful and beloved Cognac selections has returned! The Ragnaud family makes some good freakin' Cognac.

Raymond Ragnaud K&L Exclusive Reserve Rare Cognac $115.99 - This Grand Champagne Cognac from Ragnaud represents our dedicated efforts to find excellent Cognac without the use of additional sweetners or traditional boise. Distiller Jean-Marie has spent the last thirty years perfecting his pot-still brandies into delicate expressions of the fantastic terroir in the area. He is a firm believer in the idea that the limestone-rich soils of Grande Champagne produce wines that, when distilled, create brandies capable of aging in barrel for eternity. While we originally came in search of single barrel Cognac, we tasted a few out of the cask and soon realized that Grand Champagne Cognac doesn't taste all that great in its youth--and by "youth" I mean anytime in the first 20 years of its life--nor does it taste too great out of the barrel. Usually the blends have more complexity because the expressive "young" brandy is balanced with the richness from older vintages. The Reserve Rare was our favorite of the expressions, exhibiting beautiful concentration and the elegance we've come to expect from world-class Cognac producers. Gentle richness on the entry leads into flavors of toasted nuts, stone fruit and vanilla, before finishing with a soft dash of baking spices. A masterful Cognac that managed to seduce us with subtlety and style, rather than with sweetness and weight.

-David Driscoll