Bruichladdich Sneak Peaks

Luckily I have some very nice customers who shop at K&L and sometimes they feel moved to share some of their most amazing bottles with me.  I am always humbled that some of you out there think of bringing your own favorite spirits into the store so that I can taste them.  One such customer just returned from a trip to Scotland and, since he has been shopping here since the Susan Purnell days, he wanted to visit Bruichladdich and take Mr. Jim McEwan out to dinner.  While there, he was able to convince Jim to let him leave the island with a super-secret bottle that hopefully will be hitting the U.S. market at some point in the near future.  Your eyes do not deceive you, it is a bottle of Bruichladdich gin and it is very tasty.  Made with 21 botanicals local to Islay, it is big and herbal andbrimming with character.  It's definitely in the London Dry style so get ready for some martini and gin & tonic action sometime down the road, courtesy of Bruichladdich. 

As if it were not fantastic enough to get a sneak peak of the gin, this wonderful customer also brought me a taste of the Bruichladdich DNA, which is one of the most amazing whiskies out there on the market.  The DNA is 36 years old and it is bottled at cask strength, which in this case ended up being a meager 41.1% - no water needed here.  This whisky is so soft and supple on the entry before the dried fruits and toffee kicks in, but unlike most older whiskies, this one was finished in wine casks, Chateau le Pin for that matter.  The result is really wonderful as the red fruits from the wine really add a certain depth to a whisky that may have been one-dimensional without it.  Much like the Black Art benefits from the enchancement, the DNA really seems transformed by it.  A fantastic whisky that will definitely leave a hole in my heart as I know that I will likely never taste it again.

-David Driscoll





American Whiskey Craft Distillery Tasting in Burlingame $25

Come join us on Tuesday October 26th at 6:30 PM at La Boheme in Burlingame as we sit down with some small plate appetizers and taste through a selection of American whiskies.  The small craft distillation boom has been a controversial subject as of late, with bloggers all over the internet sounding off on whether they believe anything good is actually coming from it.  Are these small and unknown distilleries a local industry that we as Americans should be nurturing, or should they leave it to the established producers?  Are they too weird, too different, and too esoteric, or are they a sign of a new way forward?  Available to taste will be:

- Stranahan's Whiskey from Colorado
- Prichard's Fine Rum
- Prichard's Double Barreled Bourbon from Tennessee
- Prichard's  Tennessee Whisky
- Prichard's Single Malt
- Roughstock Montana Whisky
- Copper Fox Rye Whisky from Virginia
- Copper Fox - Wasmund's Single Malt Whisky
- Corsair Aged Barrel Gin from Kentucky

Come sound off as we discuss the movement and I talks about each producer and their specific operations.  Tickets are available here.  Price includes all tastings and food.

-David Driscoll


More Questions - Late Night Version

Now I'm a few sheets to the wind with a bottle of our killer, off-dry sparkler under my belt (literally), but I'm still awake as I sip on the leftovers of Saturday's tasting - a stellar and well-out-of-my-price-range bottle of 2006 Guigal Cote Rotie "La Mouline."  Seriously, the fact that I'm sipping on $300 wine while watching Mad Men on Comcast On Demand is pretty nice, especially with this recent NorCal heat.  It's still around 80 degrees outside and we're approaching my bedtime.  As I linger in ruby red fruit, hints of roasted meats, and seamless tannic structure, I wonder a bit beyond the day's earlier insights.  Now I've got No Country For Old Men on TV muted and watching Javier Bardem with his mushroom haircut is starting to freak me out.  I need to focus on typing here. 

-Why do the 49ers think that firing Jimmy Raye is going to be enough to right this ship?  Singletary is garbage!

-Is KFC really so S-O, G, double O, G Good?  I think their biscuits are passable, but their chicken is terrible.

-Why do American's need to remake great foreign films?  The new American release of Sweden's legendary Let The Right One In, now renamed Let Me In, is an abomination. If you're going to remake classic horror cinema, then you need to take a terrible film, like The Hills Have Eyes and completely re-do it with a modern edge.  The modern remake of The Hills Have Eyes is a revelation.  The modern remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street is a travesty.

-Do androids dream of electric sheep?  Does Arnold know that he starred in the movie version of that short story? 

-How much water should one drink for every alcoholic beverage consumed over the course of the night?

-For all the Lillet we're selling, are most customers drinking it straight or mixing it in a cocktail?

-Why don't I call it a night?

-David Driscoll


Questions, Questions, Questions....

While John Hansell is using this week to sound off on all his grievances with the whisk(e)y world, I'm thinking that I'm going to use today to ask some questions (many of which are rhetorical).  These are issues that I find interesting, amusing, baffling, or confusing and I'm interested to see if anyone else feels the same.  When I am sitting at my desk these are the questions running through my head as I conduct my business with the industry:

-Is it really that much more costly for Bruichladdich to use local barley and, if it is, is it worth paying $80 for their young whiskies made from it?  Are customers going to support an independent distillery's attempt to source materials locally if it costs them that much more?

-Do people understand that Ron Zacapa tastes absolutely nothing like rum? 

-Is always having the lowest price necessary for customer satisfaction?  If so, where does one draw the line?

-Is liking heavily oaked whiskey the same as liking heavily oaked chardonnay?  If so, does that mean that Pappy Van Winkle is the same as Rombauer Chardonnay? 

-Who is still interested in Cognac and Armagnac and how do I get a hold of them?

-Why does everyone throw a hissy fit when a whisky comes in at 43% instead of 46%?  I really don't see that much of a difference and I taste every single day.  Maybe I'm the idiot.

-How is it possible to like Scotch whisky and not like bourbon?  Or vise versa?  Really, come on guys.

-Do people want innovation and new ideas with their whisk(e)y, or would they rather drink Maker's Mark over and over and over and over and over and over again for the rest of their lives?

-After tasting how freakin' awesome our St. George apple brandy barrel-aged single malt was last Saturday, could Calvados or eau-de-vie barrel influence be the next big thing?

-Are people going to buy Kilchoman this winter based solely on the fact that it's a new Islay distillery, and if so, how much do I need to buy to satisfy demand?

-When did trendy people everywhere decide that Oban and Aperol were the new "it" products? 

-How long could I keep doing this before ending this blog post?

-David Driscoll


Octomore Affordable?

So, this is officially my first time posting in the K&L Spirits Journal.  As part of the David2 Spirits buying team here at K&L,  I've had a wonderful time watching Mr. Driscoll develop the spirits conversation across the bay area and beyond.  It was about time I add a little southern flavor.  The SoCal perspective is not so different from the SF outlook.   I will admit that my city is still significantly behind the north in terms of the cocktail. You still can't get a decent cocktail on the Sunset Strip, but we are catching up fast.  Los Angelenos love for the finer things is as strong as anyone's; we always want the best!

The Octomore 2.2The thirst for high quality spirits is growing exponentially all across our nation.  To say we are having a spirits renaissance is cliché, but that does not make it any less true.  The people who care about what they're drinking, really care.  They want to know the what, why, where, who and how.  At no other time in history has the spirits consumer has been so knowledgeable, opinionated, or involved (e.g. Driscoll's last post). 

The general intensity of interest and demand by spirits consumers for high-quality, unique products has allowed some of the finer producers to experiment in ways that would have been unthinkable twenty years ago.  Bruichladdich is one of these producers.  Historically considered Islay's innovator, heated debate revolves around this little distillery, just few clicks north of Port Charlotte.  It would be an understatement to label this distillery as controversial. Bruichladdich is not afraid to try something new.  In an industry where commitment to tradition is held above all other attributes, Bruichladdich takes a daring position.  Bruichladdich's independence is a gift to the whisky loving world. They've developed a line of incredibly diverse NAS malts by marrying young peaty whisky and older unpeaty stocks.  They've bottled some incredible whisky from the stocks distilled prior to the 1994 closure. They've released organic single malt whisky.  They utilize more than 50% locally grown barely.  Love it or hate it,  the independently owned Bruichladdich stands in stark contrast to the large conglomerates that control much of Scotland's whisky production.  For distilling and aging whisky, smaller is not always better and it certainly doesn't make anything easier.  It takes some serious balloons [sic.] to commit so much of their production to these experimental bottlings.  I have a feeling that their vision will become more clear as malt matures. 

Bruichladdich's most outrageous experiment to date has been the Octomore.  Many are aware of these whiskies, with their distinctive bottle shape and awe inspiring price tag.  A true experiment, driven by a Dr. Frankenstein like zeal.  Octomore is what happens when you extend the smoking process from the standard very peaty 1.5 days to upwards of 5 full days of smoke.  These experiments were designed specifically to push the maximum phenolic contents to new heights.  The process has purportedly created blindingly peaty malt with phenolic levels measuring upwards of 300 ppm.  This ultra smoky whisky is married with the 80ppm stuff to create the 1.1 and 2.1 bottlings that are available state side.  The whiskies are peated at 131 and 140ppm, respectively and bottled at full strength.  Despite the whiskies' youth, proof, and incredible peat levels, they have a surprising drinkablility (just like Bud Light).  The overall feeling of peat is all-encompassing, but not sharp or harsh.  The science behind is phenomenon is the whisky's high oil content, which is infused into the barley along during the smoking process.  The longer the burn the higher the oil content creating a textural base that elongate the intensity of peat.  This adds up to a surprisingly well rounded whisky.  Unfortunately, the Octomore is VERY expensive.  It has been out of reach for many whisky lovers as it boasts a $200 price tag.  Now for a limited time, thanks to a distribution change, it will be available at a significant discount.  For everyone who has purchased to collect, now would be the time to pick up a bottle to drink.  For all who were curious about tasting the peatiest whisky ever created this is your chance.  We've only got 1 case of the 1.1 release and the 2.1 is very limited as well.

Octomore "Ochdamh-Mor" 5 year old Release 1.1 Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml NOW $134.99  

Octomore "Ochdamh-Mor" 5 year old Release 2.1 Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml NOW $134.99


-David Girard