A Visit From Clear Creek's Steve McCarthy

Steve McCarthy talking booze with Doug, Alex, & Cindy

Today was the kind of day when you really cherish your job at K&L.  When people find out what I do for a living, they think everyday is like today was - a day spent hanging out with the best distiller in the United States, and one of the absolute masters in the world, Steve McCarthy. I can only wish every day could be so fun! Taking the time to fly down from Clear Creek Distillery in Portland, Steve brought his entire line-up of bottles with him for a staff seminar on eau de vie.  Both the Redwood City and San Francisco stores got the pleasure of meeting with him as they nosed and sampled a slew of fruit liqueurs, eau de vies, brandies, grappas, and, of course, the highly sought after and often discussed Douglas Fir Eau de Vie, flavored with real pine tree!


Having already tasted through the entire selection on my visit to the Pac Northwest last summer (click here to read all the details about my trip to the distillery), I reveled in seeing the eyes of my co-workers light up and hearing their glowing responses after they finished.  Jeff Garneau, not the most avid of spirits drinkers, was absolutely amazed.  Our new guy Jason Marwedel, also not a huge advocate of all things distilled, was simply blown away and made sure he went home with a bottle of Steve's knockout pear brandy.  Melissa Smith was in complete heaven as she began fantasizing about all the magical meals she could make with the crazy good liqueurs, and I just sat there smiling as I watched everyone learn what I already knew: Clear Creek spirits are so good they are life changing.  Getting the chance to taste them with Steve himself only makes the experience even more fantastic.  He has a calming and captivating effect on his audience and he really believes in making the absolute best products - not cutting corners and not cutting costs to do so.

Some of today's many participants

Luckily for you all out there, I talked Steve into making another trip back to the Bay Area this summer to conduct the same seminar with some of our lovely customers.  We are planning a dinner event where Mr. McCarthy and myself will team up to walk you through the world of fruit based brandies and liqueurs.  I'm sure some of you whisky fans out there are thinking, "Eh."  That's what some of my staff members also said to me when I told them Steve was in the bar, but I twisted their arm and they made sure to taste through.  They immediately found me after and told me how happy they were that I had forced them to do so.  While we all love whisky, Clear Creek is in a class all its own.  They taste of purity, elegance, and quality - something any spirit lover should enjoy.

Steve talks to Kirk & Susan at the SF store.-David Driscoll



If You Had To Choose One...

San Francisco's beat writer on all things alcohol Camper English, recently wrote an article for 7x7 Magazine where he interviewed some of the city's top bartenders and forced them to limit their bar selection to one bottle of each spirit.  It's a great little intro for some of you who are looking to start your own home bar, or want to learn more about the best spirits for cocktail mixing.  I've added my picks below for fun.

Vodka: Karlsson's Gold Vodka $27.99

Gin: Beefeater's (we have this in 1.75, but we have to keep it off the web because our price is too low)

Rum: Appleton Estate V/X $19.99

Tequila: Los Osuna Blanco $39.99

American Whiskey: Four Roses Yellow Label $21.99

-David Driscoll


New Bruichladdich Line-Up!

Some exciting news on the Bruichladdich front.  I was the first in California to taste their new line up this morning which should be available here in a month or so.  These are the whiskies and my impressions.  Speaking for myself, and a few of you who I have spoken with about this, I've been a bit put off by Bruichladdich's pricing and their vast inventory as of late (how many can you really afford to buy and how different are they really?), but this lot was truly spectacular and got me very excited for their arrival.  If you are interested, send me a line and can do a pre-order for you.
2003 Bruichladdich Organic Single Malt Whisky 750ml $79.99 - Made from 100% organically farmed barley this whisky, also labeled "Anns An T-Seann Doigh" (made in the traditional manner) is another exciting young whisky from the modern post-2001 era of Bruichladdich.  Aged 6 years in bourbon cask and peated at a very light 3 ppm, this dram is energetic with spice, hints of grain and malty cereal, along with richer tones from the barrel influence.  Very tasty and very fun.  46% ABV
Bruichladdich Links Series Valhalla 15 Year Old Single Malt Whisky 750ml $79.99 - Aged in bourbon with acing in Barsac casks from Chateau Climens, this is classic Bruichladdich flavor.  It's rich with flavor, but not overly sweet.  Completely balanced and should satisfy any fan of the traditional distillery style.
Bruichladdich Cuvee C Margaux Cask 15 Year Old Single Malt Whisky 750ml $105.99 - An orange-amber color from the wine cask influence, this is 16 year old is perhaps the most impressive of the Cuvee First Growth series, with gorgeous flavors of dense, chewy dried fruits.  The flavors of the claret really mesh well with the bourbon aged dram and swirl over the palate. This is one of the better cask enhancements that we've seen from the distillery.  Very very good.
Bruichladdich Cuvee D Haut Brion Cask 15 Year Old Single Malt Whisky 750ml $105.99 - An orange-amber color from the wine cask influence, this is 16 year old has a bit more sweetness than than Cuvee A, B or C, but still has gobs of chewy dried fruit and loads of complexity.  The flavors of the claret really mesh well with the bourbon aged dram and swirl over the palate. This is very very good whisky from one of our favorite producers.
1989 Bruichladdich Black Art Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml $154.99 - Wow, this is as bizarre as it is wonderful!  An unbelievable rose-red color with a fresh red fruited nose showing hints of baking spice and vanilla, this whisky was aged orginally in bourbon and then enhanced with assorted and undisclosed wine barrels, making its recipe a total secret.  The intial sip shows a bit of caramel and sweetness, but then the red fruit kicks in again and flushes it out all the way to the finish.  Bottled at 51.1%, adding a drop of water only enhances the aromas and flavors.  This is one of the most fascinating whiskies I've had all year.
Bruichladdich Legacy Collection Series VI 34 Year Old Single Malt Whisky 750ml $450.99 - Only 1704 bottles of this classic 34 year old elixer were produced.  A true standout among the classy and elegant whiskies we have ever carried, this all bourbon cask-aged malt has the complexity on the nose that only older and distinguished drams can offer: soft honey, spices, oil and wax, grains, cereal, and more - all swirling in and out of your senses.  The palate shows all of these profiles and more with touches of citrus and white fruits.  Delicate, dainty, and refined, this bottle belongs on the shelf of the most serious of serious collectors.  A true masterpiece.

Back From New York - Ready To Work (drink)!

Lombardi's classic Margherita

I'm back from the honeymoon in NYC and, no, I did not go to the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, nor did I visit the Met.  When we go to New York it's for two reasons: eating and drinking.  I've done the touristy stuff in the past, so I leave with zero guilt about culturing myself while away from home.  Two things you have to do when you go to the East Coast are eat some serious Italian pie and order a real deli sandwich.  I think that Lombardi's pizza and Katz's Deli set the standard for Gotham and are completely unavailable in any edible form on the West Coast.  A funny aside - just before posting this I read this article in the NY Times about people who cannot eat without taking a photo of their food first.  I'm now trying to reassure myself that in spite of this post, I am not a obsessive-compulsive, self-indulgent food blogger who is waiting for some reader to comment, "Wow, that looks delicious!" or "Ooooh, I'm jealous."  This is my job, people!  This is work related, right?  In any case, I'm meeting with Bruichladdich this morning to taste all the new stuff so I'll post that later.  - David Driscoll

Katz's pastrami on rye with a knish and pickles


Whiskies of the World Recap

This place was so packed that I didn't have much of a chance to taste, but I did enjoy seeing some old friends and talking one on one with some of the great distillers who came to pour their whiskies.  I was most impressed with the MacKillop's Collection, primarily the 1989 Scapa which I thought was the best dram I had all night.  Not much more to add other than it was a good time out and I'm glad we were the retail sponser.  Here are a few of the pictures I took.

-David Driscoll

My whisky of the night: Scapa 1989

Mr. MacKillop presenting his fantastic line upMy good buddy David Perkins from High WestKent Fleischmann from Dry Fly in Spokane, WA