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Wednesday
Jan132010

What's In David's Bar - 1/12/10

I was nursing this bottle of one my favorite local secrets because I was under the impression that it was going to be a permanent piece of history.  Little did I know that Osocalis (named after the local native American name for Soquel - the town outside of Santa Cruz where the brandy is distilled) was already at work on an XO release and an exquisite apple brandy, as well as a re-up on the already legendary Rare Alembic Brandy.  The straight Alembic lies on the verge of subtlety - that netherrealm where, after tasting, some people shrug their shoulders and say "eh," and others stop, focus, and sit in complete and utter awe.  If you haven't been exposed to much Cognac or brandy, then the Osocalis won't blow your mind.  If you've tasted the Germain Robin, Ferrand, or Pellehaut offerings, then you'll probably get why Osocalis is so cool:  because this miniscule operation in the Santa Cruz mountains holds its own next to its finely-crafted, world-renowned contemporaries.  I've always been told that the sign of great brandy is in the fruit - if you can still gently taste the grapes through the distillation and the barrel aging, then something is being done correctly.  The Rare Alembic is neither rich, nor delicate.  It's neither sweet, nor without sweetness.  It balances perfectly in the middle of everything, and it does so subtly.  Subtlety is the key with Osocalis and I couldn't be happier that I no longer has to wait a month between visits to my bottle.  There's more to be had.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jan122010

Smokehead Islay Single Malt - Who Done Made It?

So I got to taste some new whiskies today and this was by far the most intriguing bottle in the bunch -both in flavor and in history.  Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd. has a whole portfolio of interesting products, like the Isle of Skye 8 Year Old that we sell here at K&L, but this new Smokehead has really set off a buzz on the internet - mainly because they are being tight-lipped about who actually made it.  It's definitely Islay and from what I heard the average age of the whisky is around seven years, but it could easily be mistaken for Ardbeg, Caol Ila, or Lagavulin.  I think it could be Ardbeg because it tastes like Ardbeg and I know that they have a strict policy about involving their name with other products beside their own.  The nose is full of fresh seaweed, peat smoke, and salt water, while the palate replicates the aromas almost precisely.  It's a delcious Islay malt and a good deal at around the $50 mark.  The question again is: who made it?  It doesn't really matter to me because I like it, but if I could tell people it was Ardbeg we'd have a real mover.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Jan122010

What's In David's Bar - 1/11/10

I have a ton of booze in my home liquor collection.  Too much, if that's a possible scenario.  I'm in the process of going through it to see how much I actually drink of any given bottle - to access whether I would buy them again whenever it is that I finally run out.  Tonight I'm starting with grappa.  The Marolo Moscato is my favorite grappa that we carry because it is the most flavorful, and, in my mind, very traditional.  The Muscat grape is more aromatic and floral than say nebbiolo or sangiovese - two other traditional Italian grapes that are often used for grappa making.  This pommace distillate is so clean and vibrant, and it doesn't have any of the burn or petrol that makes most people cringe when forced to sip this underappreciated elixer.  This is the perfect spirit to sip after a large meal because it aids digestion.  Seeing that my sweet fiancée brought me tacos de carnitas from Pancho Villa, the world's best taqueria, I am in desparate need of stomach space. 

-David Driscoll

Monday
Jan112010

Preiss Imports Introducing Quarter/Octave Cask Program

Two hundred years ago, malt whisky was carried through Scotland in small casks that were easily transported on the backs of packhorses. As transportation methods improved, Scottish distillers turned to more economical larger casks, which became today's uniform standard for maturation. Until now. Realizing that using the original small cask maturation process would be an innovative way to add new character, some distilleries are now using the octave and quarter casks again.  I talked to Ken Young over at Preiss Imports today on my lunch break and was very excited to learn about their new cask program that will offer Quarter and Octave casks as well.  Even better: YOU, THE CUSTOMER, CAN BUY THEM YOURSELVES!  That's crazy!  They will bottle it for you, as well.  I love the fact that I as a retailer can buy only 70 bottles of something and have it be totally unique and one of a kind.  A cask of whisky is a giant commitment (350 bottles to be exact), and, for a retailer of our size, we could never afford to invest in more than one at a time.  I can't wait to get the list of what's currently aging in the 1/8th barrel size.  Quarter cask whiskies are usually much more potent because of the greater whisky to wood ratio, as seen in the crazy popular Laphroaig 10 Year Quarter Cask, which seems to sell out every single week.  Duncan Taylor, the indie bottler that Preiss works with, also has an extensive full cask list as well, so look for some exciting upcoming opportunities, both for K&L and for you the consumer.  I've heard rumors of a 2002 Ardbeg in Octave (it ages faster!).  Wow.

Sunday
Jan102010

1991 Glenrothes Going Bye-Bye

   

 

One of our all-time favorites is coming to an end.  The 1991 vintage edition of Glenrothes is being replaced with the new 1994 bottling.  John from the Malt Advocate has tasted the new edition and really likes it - more than the other 90's versions that have been released previously.  I am hard-pressed to believe that it's better, but I can't wait to find out.  Meanwhile, if you've never tasted the 1991, it's a good time to try it.  Our next tasting at Martin's West will cover Highland/Island whiskies, but I'm hoping the Glenrothes will still be around when we get to Speyside.  It really is such lovely, sherry-aged, beautiful whisky.  The caramel marries with dark fudge and orange peel spice comes out on the finish.  Our two Dougs in Redwood City are both huge fans (you can read Doug Burress's review at the bottom of the page here http://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sku=1029703).  When it gets down to the very end we might have a farewell party.  We'll see how it goes.  Sigh......memories.

-David Driscoll