Welcome To Podcasting - Interview #1 Neyah White

Well, it isn't perfect and there are still some more kinks to work out, but I managed to get the first episode of our new weekly podcast online and able to download via this link. (Mac users make sure to press "option" while clicking on the link, PC users "right click").  The first episode is an hour long and features a conversation with former Nopa mixologist and current Suntory brand ambassador Neyah White.  Neyah was nice enough to enlighten me about the current state of Japanese whiskey, the plans for future importation, and his views on the Japanese whiskey culture overall.  We also talked cocktails, the SF bar scene, and discussed our thoughts about the average American whiskey consumer. Overall a great time, which hopefully translates over into this audio recording! 

Download it to your iPhone, iPod, or iTunes player and listen in!

Or listen to it here via our embedded Flash player:



-David Driscoll


Jerez, Otherwise Known As Sherry

So I'm in charge of vermouth, aperitif wines, Pineau des Charentes, and other fortified wines here at K&L, but the sherry department falls to Spanish wine buyer Joe Manekin.  I love sherry.  It tastes delicious on it's own, it mixes well into cocktails, and, when dry, it pairs well with difficult foods like olives or nutty cheeses.  When sweet, it can enhance a sweet dessert or a blue cheese plate like nothing else.  It's amazing the variety of flavors that this brandy-infused, solera-aged wine can impart on the palate.  For this reason, even though it doesn't fall under my buying domain, that I would like to start introducing more customers to Jerez.

I put together a cheese and olive plate last night and paired it with our new Valdespino "Inocente" Single Vineyard Fino.  Fino sherry is a very dry and sometimes austere aperitif that can have a salty or briny character, hence a perfect match for those garlic-macerated gourmet olives from Whole Foods and that block of aged Gouda I got from the Ferry Building last weekend.  While I love pouring spirits for our customers, I am a bit disappointed by the fact that most of my expertise helps people after their meal rather than during it.  Sherry is the closest that the spirits department can come to enhancing our gastronomy and that excites me.  There is so much to learn about Jerez and I'm in a real mood to hit the books and do my drinkin' homework.

As I type this I'm sipping on this dry amontillado from Herederos de Argüeso and loving every sip.  I've got a bowl of toasty almonds and some sheep cheese to nibble on while I soak up all the toffee flavors.  Toffee normally equates to sweet, but this amontillado is completely dry.  Orange peel and nutty, oxidized notes round out the sherry and help ease it down into my gullet. 

The best part about sherry - it's inexpensive and it lasts a good while after you open it.  Spirits lovers take note - all the food pairing benefits of wine coupled with the long-lasting fortified nature of a spirit!  We should all be drinking more sherry. 

-David Driscoll


Stepping it up for 2011 

As you all know we had an insane December.  I've not found anytime to write, but some how Mr. Driscoll pulls it off - honestly I've been exhausted I really don't know how he does it.  Anyway, I'm feeling renewed and refreshed after a completely mind blowing holiday season.  We've got some great news regarding some very special bottles coming in from private collections.  This includes the ridiculously rare Ladyburn 12 year (for a "reasonable" price), Glen Garioch 37 year Bicentennial, very old Dallas Dhu and even older Longmorn.  We'll post all the details as the whisky arrives.  Otherwise, as Driscoll stated in Whisky News 1/4/11, we've selected a new Four Roses Cask.  I'm really excited because we've found another great barrel and it's again a totally different recipe than previous batches.  Each of our three barrels from Four Roses have been completely different and absolutely rockin'!

The Ten Versions of Four Roses Obviously, this was a tough day at the office!  David & I lead a blessed life and would like to thank all of you who make this possible, both on the production and consumption side.  We truly are lucky to be part of this exciting industry, employed by this great company, surrounding by all these amazing people.  Thank you all for making this possible. 

While I was slammed here in LA for most of December, I did find time to frequent a bar that I've been meaning to go to for years.

The Griffin in Atwater Village has a great selection and an unpretentious vibe.  There is a dress code, which is strictly enforced.  I actually saw them turn away a guy in an Ed Hardy t-shirt.  This scores big points in my book (I guess the dress code is "NO ED HARDY" because the guy got right in after flipping his shirt).  Their only problem is the relative indifference to mixing a cocktail properly.  While the staff is attractive and genuine, they are seemingly too cool to put any actual effort into making a proper drink. 

A very boring Old FashionI was shocked to see Rittenhouse Rye behind the bar and equally astounded when I found they only use Martini & Rossi Vermouth.  Luckily for me the bartender used the vermouth like she was making a dry martini, barely a drop of the stuff hit the shaker.  Cold Rittenhouse with a dash of angostura is actually a fine drink. It's just so interesting how bars go half the distance.  Are they trying to save money?  Is it just a lack of knowledge or expertise?  All it takes is one trip to one of LA's (few) top cocktail bars to know what you're missing.  I commend them for having a relatively interesting selection of Single Malts, including some nice bottles from Signatory and many of the big names that are missing at most LA's other bars.

A nice placement from our friends at JVSThey also have some excellent American Whiskies available at reasonable prices.  That's why doing 'partial' bugs me so much.  It's hard enough to find a decent pour in LA, why not go the extra mile?  Buy some proper Vermouth, get some good cherries, teach your bartenders when and how to stir/shake and how to mix some classics properly.  They've already made the investment to carry unique top shelf spirits, if they spent a bit more money on the extras and some training this could be one of LA's best bars.

That's Van Winkle and Stagg!!!Anyway,  as you can see by the selection this a great place to order your drinks neat, skip the shaker.  That's actually a big deal for LA...sad, but true. 

My New Year's resolution was to drink better so just want to rub it in a little.  I spent my New Year's Eve polishing off several bottles Gigondas, Launois Special Club and a bottle of this...

OG New Year's Dinner and 25 Year Pineau

Paul & Marie's 25 Year Pineau Des Charentes is on of the finest desert wines/spirit I've had of any kind at any price range.  Needless to say, I SHOCKED some very experienced drinkers at my table when I pulled this one out.  The freshness is astounding.  The depth of savory and sweet are endless.  A bit of sherry funk.  A racing acidity ties it all together.  Truly one of the finest products ever to pass through my palate.  If you like desert wines at all or thought about buying this even for one second please do it NOW.  We keep saying it cause it's true.  You have to taste this to believe it.  Supplies are very low.  We've got 12 bottles coming into Hollywood this week.  Happy New Year!  Keep drinking better.

-David OG


The Tasting Bar Is Open

As of today liquor retailers all over California can begin applying for a new license that allows them to conduct small tastings of booze in the store.  While this is a welcome reprieve from a zero tolerance party, the law is still very strict and unique in the fact that it requires retailers to work with either a producer or a vendor in order to conduct a tasting.  I'm excited nonetheless because we applied for our license today and hope to be granted permission to begin our events by the end of the month.  Here is what the law stipulates:

- We can hold no more than one tasting per day (shouldn't be a problem)

- We can pour no more than three spirits at any single tasting

- The pours can be no larger than 1/4 oz.

- The tasting must be free to the public

- The producer or vendor must conduct the tasting

Believe me, we are going to be following the law to the strictest accordance.  While I am looking forward to seeing all of you in the store, please understand that we will NOT be pouring refills or winking at you before filling your glass with a 3 oz. pour.  It would be terrible to lose our license so soon after getting it, and believe me, the ABC will be out in force looking for violations.  So, we look forward to having you come by and sample some booze with us in the near future.  I already have vendors lining up, so we should be able to do at least one tasting a week.  I'm thinking Wednesday or Thursday nights for the Redwood City store from 5 - 6:30 PM.  Free whiskey is a great way to start off 2011, don't you think?

-David Driscoll



My co-worker Zach asked me today if I had ever made a gin martini with Laphroaig instead of vermouth.  "Huh?" was all I could muster in reply.  He told me to try coating the glass in peaty Islay scotch instead of dry vermouth for a gin martini that pops.  I couldn't wait to get home and try it.  2 oz. North Shore gin and a glass coated with Ardbeg Rollercoaster.  What would happen?  Would it taste smoky and overpower the gin?

While I was stirring, however, I remembered how Zach had explained that the peaty rinse just helps the gin to really sing, rather than add any real smoke to the flavor.  Could the North Shore taste any brighter and more expressive than it normally did?  Almost there!

Look at that gin hit the glass and mesh with that spicy Ardbeg! Ohhh.....I'm getting thirsty.

The result?  Nothing more than a really good gin martini!  Don't expect the smoke to change the flavor of the gin, but, just as Zach said, the flavors do seem to pop more than they usually do.  I'm going to have to make another one without the Ardbeg just to see if it really makes that big of a difference.  However, I'm probably going to do this every time from now on anyway.  I don't normally use vermouth, so adding any other substance is big adjustment for me, but I can see how the spice really kicks in a bit more.  Try it yourself and see if it makes a difference to you.  All credit to Zach Smith for this one.

-David Driscoll