Willett Bourbon - They're All Finally In

Why are these bourbons so expensive and why are they such a big deal?  That's exactly what I thought when I first saw these whiskies on a store shelf.  At that time in my life a bottle of Buffalo Trace was barely affordable for me, so by comparison it made the Willett seem astronomical and exorbitant.  When I started working here and got a chance to taste them, I still didn't quite get it.  But, as with all wine & spirits (and basically everything else - food, art, literature, etc.) you have to put things into context.  It's not until you taste Van Winkle, Four Roses Single Barrel, and George T. Stagg that you realize how amazing the Willett bourbons are.  I really love the Van Winkle bourbons, but the wood on the 15 and 20 are simply too overpowering for me at times - too much vanilla and sweetness.  I enjoyed the bottle of Stagg that I had, but the heat is simply too much and I was never able dillute it to a point that I found preferable.  To me, the ideal whiskies are those found in the Willett collection - and they are never the same.  Always single barrel, always cask strength, and always breathtaking.  The Willett family has made an artform out of sourcing great whiskey - an underrated skill these days.  At this point in time, the Willett distillery is still out of production, although my sources say they are getting closer to finally reopening.  For the meantime, I've really taken a liking to what they find.  Ever heard of Black Maple Hill?  You know that whiskey that we sell the s--t out of?  That's Willett.  Noah's Mill and Rowan's Creek?  Same deal.  These are all different labels that contain awesome bourbons sourced by the Willett family.  They are always a balance of sweet wood and corn, earth and spice, power and elegance.  They are never cheap, but they are never disappointing either.  They come in a variety of ages and we get what we initially put in for.  Once they are gone, they're gone.  Single barrels don't yield enough for everyone nationwide.  They're all here right now, so for bourbon fans this is the time.

-David Driscoll 

Willett 6 Year Single Barrel Bourbon $49.99

Willett 8 Year Single Barrel Bourbon $59.99

Willett 13 Year Single Barrel Bourbon $85.99

Willett 16 Year Single Barrel Bourbon $115.99

Willett 20 Year Single Barrel Bourbon $174.99


Aperitif Profile #2: Cocchi Americano (or the return of Kina)

When the Cocchi Americano dropped two week ago, I didn't expect it to be a big deal, but it turned out that many a bartender had their eye on this and were anxiously awaiting its arrival - we sold out in a day.  What we know today as Lillet is a lighter, more mild and easy going version of what used to be known as Kina Lillet - a far more bitter and expressive vermouth that contained quinine.  It was (is) a main component of the Corpse Reviver #2 cocktail and stands well on its own with a splash of soda and a slice of orange.  The Cocchi is an Italian version of Kina.  This is a low-alcohol, wine-based aperitif that does what so few purported aperitif's seem to do: it enlivens your palate and your appetite. What a concept! This is the original Americano, produced without a break in the Piedmontese town of Asti since 1891 and made according to an entirely natural recipe, which includes white wine aromatized with many herbs and spices, and no artificial coloring, flavoring or additive of any kind. It is produced in limited quantities and matured for a year before being put on sale.  Think of it as white Campari!  I am currently enthralled with it.

-David Driscoll


1982 Clynelish 27 Year Old Now Available for Pre-Arrival Purchase

OK!  The time has finally come when we can start taking pre-arrival reservations for what should shape up as one of the best whiskies we've ever offered at a price that is quite unreal.  For $115.99 you are not only getting a 27 year old whisky from one of the most renowned Highland distilleries, you are also getting it at cask strength from a single barrel expression.  Many of the Islay distilleries today feel comfortable charging you the same price for a whisky that is far younger and far less complex.  This deal is to celebrate the inaugural barrel purchase from our new-found partner A.D. Rattray and the Morrison family.  This should be the beginning of something special.  If you really want to get an outrageous deal, sign up for the whiskey club and get it for $99.99. 

1982 Clynelish, 27 Year Old, A.D. Rattray, "K&L" Single Barrel, Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky-

To kick off the beginning of a new cask purchasing partnership between A.D. Rattray's Morrison family and K&L, we are bringing in what may not only be the best deal we've ever offered for a single malt whisky, but what may also be one of the best spirits we've ever offered - period.  This single cask of 27 year old Clynelish has been bottled for us unchillfiltered and at barrel strength 60.5% so as not to alter one iota of the whisky's purity.  Located in Scotland's Highland region, this legendary distillery is known for its waxy character and robust flavor, making it one of the most intriguing single malts available.  To get the chance at a 27 year old expression, which has not been adulterated in any way, for less than $200 a bottle is beyond belief.  The whisky is a golden yellow color and showcases a nose full of stonefruit, oil, and wax with a palate that contributes baking spices and grains to the profile.  Every drop of this whisky is nothing short of magical and easily rates as one of the finest spirits I have ever tasted.  This is the first time we've ever purchased a cask of this magnitude, age, and quality so do not miss out on this opportunity.  We hope this will be the first of many special A.D. Rattray casks to come.  Only 296 bottles available. 

-David Driscoll, K&L Spirits Buyer



Aperitif Profile #1: Chinato and other Italian Liqueurs

It's easy to lump all wine-based aperitivos into the vermouth category, which is what most people tend to do, but to do so would be to sell so many amazing products short.  Before I start off on an explanation about what these two interesting looking bottles on the left are, I just want to make sure everyone knows what we're talking about here.  David OG and I are on a mission to build the best aperitif, liqueur, and digestive collection in the United States, but we need help drinking it - we can't buy it all on our own.  When I use any of the above terms, I'm speaking of beverages that are usually wine-based, with some spirit added to fortify it, and that are usually macerated in a special blend of herbs and spices.  That's basically what vermouth is, but depending on when and how you're supposed to drink them, there are different names and classifications.  Aperitivos are for before the meal and for awakening the appetite, whereas digestivos come after and help settle your stomach.  Not all aperitivos are wine based, so technically those would not classify as vermouth (i.e. Campari, Aperol, Pernod), but they are all still considered aperitivos. 

The two bottles pictured are fantastic new products that we just brought in from a small local importer called Farm Wines.  They specialize in organic and biodynamic wines from all over the world, so I was excited when our old pal Jeff Vierra told me he was beginning to import fortified wines as well.  We met for lunch so that I could try both bottles and we started with the Vergano Americano Aperitif $39.99. This is a red wine based aperitif that could function as a super-high quality Campari substitute.  The combination of bitter herbs is matched by the perfect balance of sweetness and the tannin from the wine is also present on the mouthfeel.  The Vergano is a grignolino wine base made by organic wine estate Cascina Tavijn.  They start by steeping a neutral spirit with spices and herbs and then later adding it to the wine to form the blend.  I can't wait to take it home tonight and use it in a Negroni in place of Campari.  After that, I'm pouring it on the rocks with some club soda.  Then I'm going to drain the rest of it straight from the bottle.  I love this stuff.  It isn't cheap, but the quality of the base wine is outstanding.  Like most cuisine, the quality of the base ingredients makes all the difference. 

The bottle on the right side is the Vergano "Luli" Moscato Chinato 500ml $46.99.  Chinato is a traditional digestivo made in Barolo that sees the local nebbiolo wine put to steep with the bark from the cinchona tree (which contains quinine like tonic water and malaria drugs).  It is then, like the Americano, fortified with a neutral spirit that has been macerating with spices like cinnamon and vanilla, as well as herbs like mint and flowers.  Chinato is never inexpensive because Barolo is never inexpensive, but the Veragno is made instead with Moscato d' Asti.  The result is an explosion of clove and orange peel with the classic sweet fruit of the muscat grape.  The bitter notes from the quinine also come through, resulting in another liqueur that is a balance of bitter and sweet.  For an after dinner sipper, I'm not sure it gets much better. 

This marks the end of my first aperitif profile.  In my quest to spread the word about the world's most underrated spirits, I will be doing this all month long.

--David Driscoll


The Aperifif Renaissance Is Coming

I find it somewhat bittersweet that so many people have images like the one on the left hanging on their living room wall, yet have little idea as to what the art is actually advertising.  Granted, Campari has become a pretty widespread and well-known commodity (thanks to modern twists on their printed press which substitutes the clown for a scantily-dressed Selma Hayek), but I never, and I mean never, see anyone order Campari on the rocks or Campari and soda when sitting at the bar.  No one is ordering Lillet, Carpano Antica, Dubonnet, Ricard, Pernod, or Aperol either.  These products are relics from a golden age of drinking and we know this because Cost Plus World Market sells 4x6 prints that people think make their apartment look more retro. 

Despite the fact that 90% of the planet doesn't know what these spirits are or even how to drink them, they are making a huge comeback and I couldn't be more excited.  While the foundation of the resurgence is seemingly founded in the classic cocktail scene, I think that the casual consumer is more likely to gravitate toward simple constructions involving the bare necessities of ice and soda water.  People need to learn why European culinary cultures have been draining glasses of aperitif spirits for more than a century - there is a reason.  Less filling than a beer and less powerful than a cocktail, a glass of pastis and water on the rocks is a pre-meal must for the entire south of France because it lubricates the nerves and stimulates the palate, waking up your appetite for some serious eating.  A Dolin Blanc on the rocks with a twist is the perfect way to start a warm summer evening, and a bit of Aperol can do wonders for a glass of sparkling wine. 

Starting this week I am going to start documenting some of these products and shedding a bit more light into some newer ones we will be purchasing.  I hope that my excitement and the quality of these bottles will convince some of you to give them a shot.  Get ready.

-David Driscoll