The Dutch DO Gin!

We all know that the dutch love their gin.  Genevier (Jenever, Genevieve, Dutch or Hollands Gin) is one of the oldest ways to get your drink on.  The true difference in terms of production between London Dry and the Hollands Gin is the use of malt wine.  This is essentially a malted barley mash (think whisky) distilled with juniper berries, which makes the drink much earthier and well, maltier.  The Dutch are renowned for this style of gin and its production is regulated by EU law.  One of the top producers of Hollands Gin is the Nolet Distillery in Scheidam.  The Nolet Family began distilling in 1691 and helped make Scheidam a worldwide capital of distillation.  They are renowned for the creation and subsequent sale of the uber popular Ketel One brand of vodka.  While the family gave up some control of the Ketel One brand, they still control their historic distillery in Scheidam.

The patriarch of the Nolet Family, C.J. Nolet Sr., has been working on his Dry Gin recipe for over four decades.  A departure from the standard Dutch style gin, Nolet's Reserve Gin 750ml is in a class of its own.   I maybe one of the few people to have actually tried this stuff and I will say its good.  By good, I mean GREAT!  This is truly a really special concoction and this one had to deliver.  The main flavor profile is derived from two ingredients, saffron and verbena.  The savory spice of the saffron works wonders next to the sweet herbal aromas of of the verbena.  Each of its many components (lots of other stuff goes into the Reserve) are the individually macerated and distilled in small copper pot stills, then blended and rested to achieve incredible depth and balance. It is bottled at a hefty 52.6%

This is definitely a whisky drinkers gin - it is meant to be sipped at room temparture or on the rocks.  If you own a Bentley you may want to consider mixing some drinks with this stuff.  At $625 a bottle the Reserve gin is definitely the world's most expensive gin.  It begs the question, who will actually buy this stuff?  Of course the laws of supply and demand should inevitably lead to the sale of this outrageous product, I've only been allocated one bottle and no more than a case made it into California.  From what I can tell only one other store in the US is currently selling any. 

For those who can't afford the outrageous price of the Reserve, the kind gentlemen of Scheidam have created the Nolet's Silver Dry Gin 750ml.  This is a collaboration between C.J. Nolet and his two son's, Bob and Carl Jr.  More typically what we expect from a Dry Gin, Nolet will certainly become a favorite of pros behind the bar.  This takes the Modern London Dry and gives it an extra little something something.  Intensely fruit forward, the Nolets add white peach and fresh raspberry to a classic list of botanicals.  Turkish Rose rounds out the list of unusual ingredients and it's bottled at a satisfying 47.6%.  While this is still an expensive gin at $50, I truly believe it to be one of the best available.  Any serious cocktail junky/gin drinker will be very pleased with the purchase of this unusual potion. 

What's the most you'd ever pay for a bottle of gin?   If something isn't aged for 40 years can a price tag like Nolet's Reserve ever be justified?  Have you seen the price of saffron recently?  Is even $50 to much to spend on a GREAT gin?  Let us know...

Nolet's Reserve Gin 750ml - $625

Nolet's Silver Dry Gin 750ml - $50

-David Girard


Independently Bottled For Costco

I'm not implying anything negative by this (yet), but word on the street is that Bruichladdich master Jim McEwan has some serious business on the West Coast next week.  I was invited to meet with him in SF on Monday afternoon, but when I asked if he was available Tuesday I was told, "he has to go to Livermore to meet with the heads from Costco."  What in the heck does Costco want with Islay's most indie of whiskies?  More importantly, will Costco be willing to bring in products specifically for single stores?  Are they going to make him mass produce super-sized, Costco quantity casks?  I'm very curious to find out more about this development.

-David Driscoll


Best Whisk(e)y For $50ish - What Do You Choose?

When you work in a retail store you spend most of your time stocking and helping customers.  Doing both often gives you a better understanding of whisky than tasting it because you have to be able to select the right product for the right occasion.  Knowing your options is important and with the amount of stocking I do, I'm familiar with every single one of them.  A majority of customers are looking for something accessible, maybe for a gift, and they usually want to keep it around $50ish.  Is there a one-size-fits-all whisky at that price?  For $100 I almost always recommend the 1985 Glenrothes because it's such an awesome malt, but what is really astounding for half the price?

When we opened a bottle of Springbank 10 yesterday I was reminded of how much a love this whisky.  You really get everything - subtle hints of peat, rich malty goodness, dried fruits, oily textures, and a long salty finish.  It's only after you've spent a few weeks tasting average, run-of-the-mill single malts that you truly appreciate what Springbank is offering with their ten year.  I used to think that the Ardbeg 10 was the best deal for around that price, but now I'm not so sure.  While the Islay giant is probably more pleasing to hardcore fans of the style, I think that Springbank is a safer choice, plus the level of complexity in the 10 year is really unparalleled by many older expressions from other distilleries. 

I think maybe Springbank gets overlooked by those shopping by age (which is honestly not a smart thing to do if you're browsing, by the way) rather than by distillery.  I'd rather taste 10 glorious years from Springbank than I would 18 from Macallan, and I like Macallan. 

-David Driscoll


K&L Whisk(e)y Club Goes To Old World Spirits

Davorin's aged peach brandy and his newest framboise

Just when I thought that we had peaked on our first ever K&L whiskey club field trip to St. George, along came Davorin Kuchan and his Belmont microdistillery's many miracles, which wowed us even more.  I like to make Old World Spirits a regular hangout, trying to get over and catch up with Davorin about once a month if possible.  However, no matter how many times I think I've tasted everything he's got going, the Croatian master distiller pulls out something new that I never saw coming.  He loves having that rabbit to pull out of his hat, you can tell by the twinkle in his eye and his little smirk after I start raving about how awesome his newest creation tastes.  I knew that if I brought some of my most passionate customers over to meet him that they too would fall under his spirited spell.  Davorin did not disappoint as he unveiled his freshly distilled unaged rye as soon as we walked in. 

Getting the full 170 proof right into my glass was a real treat.  The rye is legit and has everything you'd expect aroma-wise, but there's a twist.  Davorin is distilling it two times and using eau de vie yeasts in the fermenting process, resulting in a lighter and fruitier whiskey without losing any of the concentrated rye flavor.  I can't wait to see how this ends up tasting after some time in charred new oak.  Davorin said his wood is on the way, so it won't be long until he beings the maturation process.

As we gathered around the table and began to discuss the distillation process, we needed to only look a few feet to our left for a functional example of every explanation Davorin provided us.  We were lucky enough to have caught him on a work day, so the steady stream of peach eau de vie splashing gently into a bucket was music to our ears the entire time we were there. "Go on over and put your glass in so you can taste it," he told us and no one had to be told more than once.

Free run peach spirit

Getting to taste the peach spirit at such a high proof on its first run through the still was amazing.  The aromas at the point of the process are so much different than those eminating from the final product.  The Kuchan peach eau de vie is brimming with floral and crisp peach aromas, while the first run spirit is ripe with peach pie and cobbler.  We all took a step back and were completely taken with the experience.  Truly a geek-out moment for all us spirit nerds in attendance.  Not only did we get to taste the peach spirit off the still, but we also got to watch Davorin unbarrel a fresh batch of fermenting peaches and load them into the boiler to begin making a new batch - all the while sipping on whatever happened to find its way into our tasting glasses.

Davorin makes some fantastic eau de vie and we have long carried his peach, pear, and walnut brandies, but soon to hit the line up will be a fantastic new framboise made of 100% raspberry distilled eau de vie with a bit of fresh raspberry juice added in at the end.  Not only does the brandy taste like the pure essence of raspberry fruit, it also brings along the earthiness of the seeds and the tannin of the skins.  The flavors are remarkable and I think it will end up being the most successful of all his fruit based products. 


Davorin takes a sample of the barrel-aged Blade ginNot everything at the distillery is fruit based however, as Davorin is becoming best known for his delicious Blade gin.  Made with more of a citrus focus, Blade is becoming the absolute go-to gin for all citrus-based cocktails, so I made sure to whip us up a round of Corpse Revivers while we were there topped off with Davorin's Le Sorciere Absinthe Bleu.  He makes the traditional green absinthe as well and we made sure to taste both complete with water dripper and a flashlight to catch all the cloudiness of the luge.  Davorin has a small barrel room that houses his zinfandel brandy as well as a few other experiments.  One of those trials that seems to have gone unbelievably well is his barrel-aged Blade gin that was undoubtedly the highlight of the afternoon.  When he drops this later this year, the current barrel-aged options like Ransom and Citadelle Reserve won't know what hit them.  This is the real deal - rich, wood-enhanced herbal goodness bursting with spice and citrus.  You could use it in a cocktail, but it tastes so good straight sipping that you probably would never make it into the kitchen to grab the ice and the shaker.  It might rule our holiday season at K&L if Davorin can release it in time.

We ended the tour with a round of brandy barrel samples and a taste of Davorin's now sold-out walnut liqueur.  He hopes to get a new batch of walnuts later this month to begin distillation on a new batch of brandy.  The small group that made their way over to join me was completely won over by the end of the afternoon.  Davorin held our attention for over two hours of lecturing, tasting, sampling, and distilling.  With his convenient location and endless barrage of tasty products, Davorin has been winning over other Peninsula enthusiasts for the last year with his Friday night flights held on the last Friday of every month.  If you get the opporunity, head on over and pay him a visit because it's as much fun as it is educational.  You won't get the Whisk(e)y Club VIP tour, but you'll still get fantastic time out and a whole new appreciation for fruit-based spirits.

Don, Dennis, and Ryan inspect the must-David Driscoll





Power Rankings - 10/15/10

I haven't done these in a while, so I thought it would be fun to show the current top selling whiskies at K&L.  These rankings are based on both in store and internet sales.  I know that people are usually curious about what other people are buying, so here's your chance to find out.  As of yesterday, these are the faster movers at all of our locations combined:

1. Lagavulin 16 Year Single Malt Whisky

2. Ardbeg 1990 Airigh Nam Beist Single Malt Whisky

3. McCarthy's K&L Exclusive Single Cask Barrel Strength Oregon Single Malt Whiskey

4. Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt Whisky

5. Glenlivet 12 Year Single Malt Whiskey

6. Black Maple Hill Small Batch Bourbon

7. Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

8. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Bourbon

9. Glenfiddich 12 Year Single Malt Whisky

10. Macallan 12 Year Single Malt Whisky

Pretty standard list.  No real surprises, right?

-David Driscoll