St. George Whiskey Up For Pre-Order at 10 AM

Beginning Tuesday morning at 10 A.M. I am going to make the St George "K&L Exclusive" 12 Year Old Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whiskey available for special order.  What does this mean?  It means that you can reserve ONE bottle of our upcoming barrel in advance.  I will only be allowing 125 bottles to be pre-ordered so that we do not sell everything out before the holidays.  This is going to sell very quickly so make sure you don't hesitate if this is a bottle you are interested in.  There will be another 60 or so after Thanksgiving, but at that point I am going to lift the one bottle limit and let people buy as much as they need.  If sales are sluggish on the pre-order I will also allow multiple purchases, but I don't anticipate that happening.  This is a joyous occasion and a very special whiskey so I want as many people as possible to be able to get one of these.  It's received rave reviews from our staff and the few lucky bloggers who tried it at WhiskyFest SF.  We are expecting a delivery of the first batch right before Thanksgiving.  EMAIL ME TO ORDER:

-David Driscoll


Be Nice To Your Retailers (especially during Holidays!)

It may not seem like a big deal to order something off of Amazon that they don't normally carry.  They have a book you want that isn't in stock, but it says they can source it from an outside wholesaler.  Delivery estimate is five to seven days, so you say, "What the heck," push click, and don't think any further about it.  Then seven days go by and you start to wonder what happened to the package.  "It said seven days!" you think to yourself, "and yet it isn't here!"  Maddening thoughts of outrage race through your head as you start to think about other places you could have ordered that book from which may have delievered it faster, albeit for two dollars more.  "I'm so cheap," you think to yourself.  "I should have just gone down to Borders and bought it outright."  I mean, really, how hard can it be to order one little book and have it shipped?  Well, my friends, let me tell you how hard it can be.

If you want me to order you one bottle of booze that we don't normally carry, it is infinitely harder than ordering case upon case.  First of all, distributors won't drop off one measly bottle.  You need a $400 minimum order to have them bring anything and maybe I only need that one bottle.  I then have to start thinking about other products I might be able to use and craft the smallest shipment possible just to get that one bottle of Crop Tomato Vodka someone wanted.  I normally wouldn't have ordered anything from this distributor, but I somehow find a way to make it work.  Take this example, mulitply it by forty, and you'll see what I have to deal with every week.  That's just getting the order started.

Then, because they're only bringing one bottle, the odds are huge that the delivery guy will either 1) break the bottle on the way over, 2) lose the bottle on the way over, 3) grab the Celery Vodka instead of the Tomato Vodka, or 4) charge us the wrong price - all of which cause me to have to send everything back (not just the one bottle) because they won't even bring one bottle on a delivery when it's THEIR mistake.  $400 is the minimum even when they mess up.  So we have to start all over.  If they're shipping the bottle to me, then it's even worse because I then have to ship it back and start all over again with about five extra days added on to the lag time.  Multiply this scenario by ten and you'll have a good example of an average week here at the spirits department.

The point is?  I had a customer today lose it because a special order product didn't come in time and he asked me how hard was it to pick up the phone and order something?  I wanted to say, "Sir, let me break it down for you," but all I could do was apologize.  I am sure that other retailers deal with this same nonsense all the time, so I ask that you all take a minute to reflect on what the reality of your holiday shopping requires.  It requires me to jump through hoops of utter incompetency.  I hope however that in the end we are able to get you what you need in a realistic time frame.  It isn't as easy as it sounds.

-David Driscoll


Bourbon - Who Makes What?

This is always good to refresh because I get a little confused every now and again.  Just for the record, there are only 8 distilleries making real Bourbon in the U.S. despite the large amount of brands being sold.  Worse than that, hardly any bourbons are clear about their origins, as they would rather you just drink them and go about your business.  However, they all come from one of the following places, so as a quick reference guide, I'm going to take the bourbons that we carry and break them down by distillery for you.

Heaven Hill - Bardstown

-Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Parker's, Rittenhouse

Buffalo Trace - Frankfort

-Buffalo Trace, Sazerac, Elmer T. Lee, Eagle Rare, George T. Stagg, Weller LaRue, Thomas Handy, Pappy Van Winkle (still sourcing Stitzel-Weller for now)

Four Roses - Lawrenceburg

-Four Roses, Bulleit Bourbon (owned by Diageo)

Maker's Mark - Loretto

Maker's Mark, Maker's Mark 46

Wild Turkey - Lawrenceburg

Wild Turkey

Woodford Reserve - Versailles

Woodford Reserve, Old Forester

So now you're wondering where do Black Maple Hill, Willett's, Rowan's Creek, Noah's Mill, Old Buck, Pure Kentucky, Vintage, Prichard's, Johnny Drum, Hirsch, and High West come from?  The answer is one of the above.

-David Driscoll



Why We Like Single Malts (I Think)

So I'm back on a wine kick again (it happens every few months when I just booze too much and the brown goods begin to singe my gastrointestinal system).  Wine is what got me started in the liquor world and I always find that understanding more about it helps me to better understand the single malt world.  If you've ever wondered why people obsess about single malts and shun the blended malt, it is usually for the same reason that wine drinkers seek out different varietals - curiousity about a specific style and taste.  I've recently been intrigued by the idea of a 100% ploussard wine from the Jura so I bought the one we had in our store made by Jaques Puffeney.  The idea of unique regional wine interests me just as much as a single cask bottling from Ardbeg would.  Both are unique, singular expressions of purity that are rarely experienced.  The untainted taste of a definitive style is the secret to better understanding the world of booze and that excites us (or atleast me).  How many of you have been tempted to buy something you've never tasted just to know what it tasted like?

I find it very interesting (and not coincidental) that the same customers who are interested in smooth textures and tastes with red wine are the same people who ask for Walker Blue.  Some folks just want something that tastes good and are less interested in artisinal production that leads to a special flavor.  They don't care that Islay malts tend to be salty or that Highland malts tend to be oily.  As long as it tastes good they'll take it and that is the point of blended whisky.  The idea of the blend is to take whiskies and mix them until they make one solution that is absolutely delicious.  I like blended whiskey just like I enjoy blended wine.  Isn't the goal of eating and drinking to enjoy the flavor?  That being said, while blends make my mouth happy, but they do not satisfy my intellectual curiousity and that quest for more knowledge is what fires my passion for booze.

One of my favorite things to do to this day is read through my wine books in search a grape I have never tasted and then try to source a bottle through K&L.  Getting to taste a new grape is exciting, even if the the wine isn't any good.  Just knowing is enough for me.  While single malts aren't made from different grains, each distillery has a specific process that makes their whisky unique - be it the shape of the still, the source of the water, the drying process, or the aging in barrel.  Getting to know these names, these whiskies, these flavors is a wonderful journey and one that simply isn't possible with Chivas Regal because the origins are no longer decipherable.  It isn't just that each single malt tastes different than the next, it's that their difference has something to do with the production and the tradition of the distillery.  It's like cheese - it all comes from milk, but there are so many different ways of making it (hence why I also love cheese).

This all may seem obvious, but I'm surprised by the amount of people out there who keep drinking Glenlivet 12 over and over and over again.  Every week they come in, buy their one bottle, and move on.  That's like only eating sharp cheddar.  That's like only eating Hershey's chocolate.  That's like only drinking Budweiser.  The fun in drinking single malts comes from experiencing the myriad of possiblities and then learning what makes them just so.  Why does Ardbeg taste like iodine?  Why does Glenrothes taste so unctuous?  Why does Clynelish taste waxy?  These are the questions that drive us into bankruptcy as we spend every last dollar trying to figure it out.

-David Driscoll



Amazing New Cognac Products From Paul-Marie Fils

Before you read the headline and think to yourself, "I'm not into Cognac, time to browse over to the Malt Advocate blog," give me a few more lines to intrigue your attention.  Today I had the chance to taste two new products being imported soon to the U.S. that truly took my breath away.  A 58 year, single barrel cask strength Cognac (like a bourbon!) and a Pineau des Charentes that blows any other liqueur out of the water.  Both are amazing; one is very expensive; the other is within a reasonable price for someone who is serious about spirits.  Either would be something very special to own.

In 1951, a 20 year old Frenchman named Jean began his military service outside of Lyon.  He made a very good friend during this time named Pierre, who was a 9th generation Cognac producer and their friendship lasted over the years.  When Jean's grandson Nicolas (who came to visit me today) became interested in distilling, Pierre decided to mentor him and teach him the art of Cognac.  While learning how to produce, Nicolas of course had to learn how to taste and he was able to sample the entire library of Pierre's family, dating back a very long time.  Most of these barrels were never released to the public and many of them have never been blended to create a marketable product - they simply age slowly in the family cellar. 

In 2008, Nicolas, who had always been a big fan of bourbon, decided to consult with Pierre about releasing one of these barrels in a single barrel, cask strength format much like the American whiskey makers have been doing.  He knew that there were collectors out there who would love to get their hands on something like that and he felt a duty to release these brandies to the world.  The first of these releases is a 58 year old barrel distilled entirely in 1951 that is one of the most awesome spirits I have tasted.  Exploding with flavor, this is big, powerful, chewy, dark caramel, chocolate, dried figs, and a monster mouth of 51%.  It is jaw-dropping, heartstopping, simply fantastic brandy and it will appeal to more than just the Cognac lovers.  This is more like Armagnac but with even bigger balls.  Nicolas has named the line after his father, Paul-Marie.  The Barrique "Devant la porte" will be available shortly and will come in around the $650 mark.  If you were ever going to shell out for a Cognac, this is EASILY the one worthy of doing so.  Only 258 bottles made.

On top of that amazing experience, Nicolas also brought his 25 year old Pineau des Charentes that simply explodes on the palate.  I've never even heard of anyone aging their PdC before, so the idea in itself is novel because most people feel like they're wasting their Cognac by adding fermented wine must to it.  I've only ever had the Peyrot that we carry to compare it to and that is not much of a comparision.  This is a megablast of orange peel, sweet caramel, nutty almonds, hints of cheese, and more swirling on the palate.  It was made from Cognac distilled in 1984 and then white wine from 1985 and put into a barrel for 25 years!  Who has the patience to do that for Pineau des Charentes?!  With only 679 bottles released - all unfined, and unfiltered at cask strength - I can't imagine a better gift for any spirits or wine lover.  It is simply DELISH!  At $85 I think it is more than fair for something so special, unique, and wonderful.

I cannot wait to get these bottles.  Simply CANNOT WAIT!

-David Driscoll