K&L Best of 2010 Awards: Gin

I had to wait for the Rusty Blade to come in before I could do this one, but even though it's only seeing the end of 2010, it's soooooooooo good there's no other choice for me.

David D picks: Rusty Blade "K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel Cask Strength Barrel-Aged Gin - This is such a homerun of a product that it might be best overall spirit of the year, if there were such a category.  The Rusty Blade is an intense spirit, very high proof, full of cloves, junipers, baking spice, and vanilla wood tannins.  This is the only one of our exclusive products that we'll be awarding a year-end prize to, so don't think we're entirely biased.  I've simply never had a gin this good, so there's no doubt about it for me.  Gin of the year - Rusty Blade.

David OG picks: Ransom Old Tom Oregon Gin - The Negroni and the Martinez have never tasted so good.  Oregon's Tad Seestedt crafted one fantastic gin on his alembic pot still to really give the classic cocktail mixologists something serious to work with.  That bit of richness from the wood really lends itself well to the sweet vermouth drinks, so if you're stirring something up with Carpano Antica, this is tailor made for you.

-David Driscoll


Rusty Blade Gin - First Batch Coming Today!

For all of you who have patiently waited for our fantastic new barrel-aged gin to arrive, you will be rewarded later today.  Davorin and Joseph are coming by later this afternoon to drop off the first batch of freshly bottled Rusty Blade to help fill the currently-placed special orders.  Any one who placed an order for pick up in RWC should be able to get it later today, and it will be in SF by tomorrow, LA by Friday.  Super exciting!

We had our K&L holiday party last night so we might be dragging a bit today, but we'll do our best to get all the pre-orders fulfilled and ready to go. 

-David Driscoll


On The Nature of Online Reviews

I was just browsing through K&L's Yelp reviews, and while we have a high four and a half star rating, I can't help but think about the nature of the few bad reviews we have and their origins.  To see if the grievances were of a similar nature between liquor stores, I decided to search out the standard Bay Area competition to see what the complaints were.  Sure enough, there are a handful that are similar between us.  This is what I have to say about certain negative experiences: everyone has bad days.  I have been discussing first impressions lately amongst close friends and a few of those closest to me believe that one bad encounter is all it takes to dismiss someone for the rest of eternity.  She looked at me wrong, he didn't acknowledge me - that's it!  You're written off permanently.  I, however, am a bit more forgiving and I try to be understanding.  Here's why:

I know for a fact that I am responsible for at least one previous K&L shopper deciding to never again grace us with his presence.  The reason?  I was tired, trying to get the shelves stocked, and I didn't have the patience to put on a happy face.  The customer was wondering why we didn't carry his favorite gin and I basically said that I didn't feel it was as good as some of the other gins we currently had.  It was the wrong thing to say because it made this customer feel like I was condescending to him, and wine shops are thought of as snooty enough places as is.  However, I realized my folly and tried to mitigate the situation, but the damage had been done.  The point?  I think most of you out there know that I'm not a complete prick and will try to help you as much as possible should you come to K&L.  I get a bit frustrated with this instantaneous-news-coverage age where one off day can lead to poor reviews from a major website.  I try to take these with a grain of salt, but then I start to think about all the poor restaurant servers and other hospitality jobs that get shredded by someone online who happened to catch them at a less than opportune moment in time. 

The overall statement I would like to make is that you need to base a strongly worded review over the culmination of several experiences to really make a valid judgement.  If I go to a restaurant and the hostess is rude, but the waiter and food are excellent, then I'm not going to hold one hostess against the entire place.  However, this is the nature of today's modern society - rash reviews based on rash emotional responses written meer moments after the said incident has occured thanks to our handy smart phones. 

I wish that one customer would come back into the store so that I could really give them quality service, but their mind is made up.  Sometimes one chance is all you get. 

-David Driscoll


Mountains of Whisky Coming In!

We're selling more booze than we've ever sold in our thirty year history and I am running out of places to put it!  I am selling Ardbeg and Lagavulin by the case, so I have to squeeze these stacks of whisky into corners all over the warehouse.  Tomorrow there should be a huge drop of Walker Black and Ketel One coming in and I really don't think there is anywhere to put it.  The holiday season is upon us and people are buying almost as much of our brown goods as our red!  I remember just starting out last year and dealing with the holidays, but it seemed easier at the time despite it being the start of my rookie year.  I think we have been branching out to more and more customers, which is fantastic because I think we have a good supply of booze to offer people at pretty reasonable prices. 

So what just came in today....

Diageo limited special editions are here, and they are very limited.  As much as I don't want to believe that they are worth their expensive price tags, I am hearing rave reviews so far for these whiskies.  The Brora 25, which was part of last year's release, was an absolute dream of a whisky and the Talisker 18 year old is still one of my favorite bottles that I own.  The Auchroisk 20 is supposed to be a dessert whisky, full of fat texture, pudding-like sweetness, and baked fruits.  I've read that it's the first distillery bottling since they stopped using it in Singleton.  I'm really curious about the Cragganmore as well because it's usually such a light, fruity style of whisky.  To experience 21 years would be very satisfying, I believe.  In any case, these all retail for close to $200 so they're all out of my price range.  Thank God for the independent bottlings that allow me the opportunity to taste these great distilleries for a less demanding cost.  Speaking of Auchroisk, the Black Adder 18 bottling should be in next week and it's under $80.

 Compass Box just released their Double Single, which is even rarer and, I've heard, more delicious than the Flaming Heart.  I've got a bottle on my bar at home that I'm waiting to open, but I have to taste a few other whiskies before I get to this guy.  I'm really pumped about the idea of the blend (roughly 75% Glen Elgin single malt and 25% Port Dundee single grain).  The clear plastic boxes that both bottles come in make it difficult for me to open them!  They look so awesome on top of my fireplace that I just want to leave them as is, but I am an advocate for whisky drinkin' and I'm a fixin' to drink 'em soon.  So much stuff to get, so little time (money).

Oh, and to end on a positive note, the Rusty Blade label just got approved by the government and should be in K&L stores by next week!  I'll be going over to the distillery tomorrow to help bottle it! 

-David Driscoll


K&L Best of 2010 Awards: Liqueurs

This award was a close call, but interestingly enough I had these both for 1 and 2, and so did David.  That makes it an easy dual award.  The K&L Liqueur(s) of the Year award goes to:

David D picks: Firelit Blue Bottle Coffee Liqueur - I must first off say that I am just as floored with the Marie & Fils 25 year Pineau des Charentes, but the Firelit Coffee Liqueur dominated this year's liqueur sales.  That's not to say that I'm picking it solely because of sales - the Firelit is freakin' amazingly good.  The coffee comes through in pure, concentrated tones and the sweetness is just present enough to balance it out.  Dave Smith came through in the clutch with this liqueur and proved that he is a force to be reckoned with over at St. George.  This is what I will be buying my family members for Christmas this year.  It's the kind of thing that people taste and say, "Wow, that's great!"

David OG picks: Marie & Fils 25 Year Old Pineau des Charentes - Nicholas Palazzi, where did you come from?  All of sudden you walk into our lives and bring us these amazing Cognacs and Cognac-based products!  All of a sudden you blow our minds with what we thought brandy could be!  The 25 year old PdC is from one barrel distilled in 1985 that sat in France until Nicolas decided to bottle it.  There is nothing in the port, sherry, or liqueur world that can touch this product.  It is simply spellbinding.  Everyone who has tasted it has freaked out.  We look forward to many more dealings with Mr. Palazzi and his exquisite bottlings. 

In other news, I decided to experiment with some of the Chartreuse & Chocolate cocktails I read about in the Cocktail Chronicles today.  The idea sounded great and we have a nice little Creme de Cacao on close out. 

I decided to make both the Green Glacier and the Prospector.  The Green Glacier was my wife's favorite with it's bold flavors and spice complemented by the Angostura bitters.  I, however, prefered the Prospector with the addition of orange liqueur to round out the texture.  I like the combo of chocolate, orange, and herbs - very tasty.  I also got the secret recipe for Bar Agricole's newest Egg Nog cocktail and I LOVED it - brandy, rum, eggs, milk, sugar, nutmeg - delish!  So creamy and Christmas-y.  I will be making this drink for my family this Christmas Eve, and maybe in the morning as well!

-David Driscoll