SF Chronicle Chooses Our WhiskyFest Selections as Top Choice

You remember those Laphroaig and Caol Ila bottlings that we poured at WhiskyFest this year?  Well you already know that they're amazing, but now the Chronicle has reviewed them so I had to dash over to the importer and get the last of it.  It's moving fast.  They also wrote about the Spice Tree which I think is going to be a huge whisky in 2010.  Check the link below

-David Driscoll


Diageo Manager's Choice Series

I doubt we'll ever see any of these whiskies at K&L, but on top of the Distiller's Edition releases that have been so popular these last few years (i.e. 1991 Lagavulin, Royal Lochnagar, 1993 Oban, etc) Diageo is going to release 27 single barrel, cask strength expressions from all 27 of its distillery holdings - a crazy, but intriguing project that has been drawing both the awe and scorn of whisky fans around the world.  Awe from those collectors that seek out the most interesting and rare of luxury malts.  Scorn from those who have neither the funds (the malts will be priced between $350 and $1000 a bottle) nor the means (most have already been reserved) to taste, let alone acquire a bottle for themselves. 

Whisky Magazine has an article in their current issue that discusses the specs behind each bottle and the process of selecting which barrels to eventually bottle.  The most interesting part for me (as someone who has recently selected a single barrel to bottle for K&L) was when they asked Craig Wallace and Nick Morgan about the difference between their bottlings and say another independent bottler like Gordon & Macphail.  The main difference is that Diageo has access to about 7 million barrels - in essence, every single barrel sitting in every warehouse from all 27 distilleries from which they chose 27.  Those being:

-1997 Cardu, 1998 Glen Elgin, 1996 Linkwood, 1997 Mortlach, 2000 Oban, 1996 Teaninich, 1999 Auchroisk, 1996 Benrinnes, Blair Atholl, 1997 Caol Ila, 1997 Clynelish, 1997 Cragganmore, 1997 Dailuaine, 1992 Dalwhinnie, 1997 Dufftown, 1997 Glen Ord, 1996 Glen Spey, 1995 Glendullan, 1992 Glenkinchie, 1999 Glenlossie, 1993 Inchgower, 1996 Knockando, Lagavulin, 1994 Mannochmore, 1994 Royal Lochnagar, 1996 Strathmill, 1994 Talisker

They also said that age did not play a factor in decision or pricing, which I agree should be the case completely.  I have been an outspoken voice in the lack of consistency between age and quality, with the 2001 Bruichladdich Resurrection and McCarthy Oregon Single Malt being two of my prime examples of outstanding whisky at a young age.  However, while I'm sure that Diageo has access to better single barrels than Murray McDavid, G&M, and Signatory, they obviously didn't taste everything.  The exact quote is "I doubt that many independents could come out with 27 single casks in this way and 27 which were good."

While I will probably never taste these malts, Whisky Magazine did and they did not feel that all 27 were top notch.  Only 4 received the highest possible score and 3 of them are already the top whiskies from the Distiller's Edition series that already have top notch expressions available: Lagavulin, Talisker, and Royal Lochnagar.  The other 23 ranged from terrible to great.  To me, that sounds much like the independent bottlers' catalogs - some absolutely outstanding barrels, and a load of other casks of varying quality.  The difference, however, being that nothing from Murray McDavid or G&M comes in at $500-$1000 a bottle.

I don't really have a strong opinion about the other contraversial topic that was raised in both this article as well as John Hansell's editorial in the latest Malt Advocate concerning the outlandish prices being charged for these collectors editions.  Diageo likens them to electric guitars with some players happily settling for the simple Fender, while others have no problem shelling out for the Les Paul - it's still about making money, they say.  I agree. It's not like they're changing the price of the Lagavulin 16 to $300.  They're not forcing you to pay more for what you already love.  However, I do think they're shooting themselves in the foot because they're basically daring people to look elsewhere for their own product - and that's where we come in along with the independents.  If I can find a barrel of a Diageo whisky that compares in quality, but sell it for under $100 a bottle, then I'm going to pick up the Diageo cast offs and build from their disgruntled base.  Eventually the people will revolt when they feel like they're being priced out or taken advantage of. 

Oh, by the way, the fourth whisky that received a perfect score was the 1997 Clynelish, which should sell for close to $800 a bottle.  If you didn't know, we bought a single cask of 1998 Clynelish that freakin' rocks and you can have it for $49.99.



Email List

Don't worry email list people!  I had a bunch of people email me today and tell me they would still like to get email updates about the newest deals.  You will!  I will just be posting a ton of supplimentary info here.  If you are not on the whisky email list, please email me at and tell me you would like to be added! 


Tasting Notes/Reviews 11/29/09

With the holiday season on fully upon us, the buyers at K&L must be on the sales floor much more often to help customers with their shopping needs.  This leaves us little time to keep up with the lastest products by meeting with vendors to taste their goods.  However, I did have a quick minute to talk with JVS imports who handle the Gordon & MacPhail and Signatory whisky bottlings because I need some more interesting, intriguing, hard-to-find single malts for our shelves.  Here are the details on some of the best malts I tasted which have now either been added as special order bottles or will soon be brought into the store for purchase. 

1991 Rosebank 18 Year Old, Gordon & Macphail, Single Malt Whisky $110.99 - I really liked the idea of bringing in some more whiskies from now mothballed distilleries.  There are still plenty of barrels out there from some former single malt legends, and this Lowland malt is a very fine example of the great drams that can still be found.  The nose was delicate with citrus notes, but the palate was immediately showing saline, seawater flavors.  It then moved towards more smoke and fruit and finished with bright floral notes and a touch of sweetness.  Full bodied and luscious.  Very good.

1992 Tullibardine Unchilledfiltered Single Malt Whisky $79.99 - This a 16 year unchillfiltered distillery bottled dram from a fine Highland producer.  The nose was all honey and fruit and the body was light with lots of spicy floral notes.  The back turns a bit waxy which isn't a bad thing, but it's very unique.  The finish is lemon custard all the way.  Very interesting and fun malt that distinguishes itself from the pack.

Benromach 10 Year Single Malt Whisky $55.99 - The first significantly aged whisky from the recently reopened Benromach distillery. Made when the stills were fired up again in 1998, this Speyside malt has everything going for it. The nose is full of intense toasty barrel aromas with loads of spice. The flavors are woody with cedar oak and rich, nutty accents that mingle together with soft hints of smoke. The smoke really kicks in at the back and the finish is long and satisfying. A great accomplishment for Benromach that shows their potential promise for further aged whiskies.

1995 Linkwood 14 Year Old Speyside Signatory Single Malt Whisky $69.99 - Linkwood has long been one of the malts in the Johnnie Walker blends due to its amazing fruity aromatics.  This is an unchillfiltered bottle that is currently only available in California.  The whisky itself is one of the most unique I have ever tasted.  It literally smells like single malt version of Riesling or Muscat because the nose just sings of stonefruit and flowers.  The palate is more of the same and the malt finishes like a Hungarian Tokaji without all the sugar.  Very, very cool.

1991 Glen Scotia 18 Year Old Cambeltown, Signatory, Single Malt Whisky $99.99 - This is delicacy in a bottle.  Light colored, light-bodied, soft and subtle, this rare expression of Glen Scotia shows the elegance of Cambeltown at the perfect age of 18 years.  This is only for the most discriminating of palates.  Every flavor is so fine and subtle that only the most careful tasters will appreciate it.  Amazing stuff.

1991 Bruichladdich 15 yr Gordon & MacPhail Single Malt Whisky $105.99 - Unchillfiltered Bruichladdich in a bourbon barrel at 15 years is a treat.  This has all the classic flavors of the Islay legend with more power.  Bottled at 100.4 proof, this is unadulterated whisky without the sherried sweetness or Sauternes cask honey influence.  This is old school Bruichladdich and it is delicious.

- David Driscoll


Van Winkle Products Are In!

What many consider to be the finest American-made whiskies are once again making their annual appearance on our shelves.  Distilled by the Van Winkle family at Buffalo Trace distillery, both the bourbons and the rye have become some of the most sought after bottles in the country.  Many customers, however, are not aware that the bottles are only released every winter with very limited allocations to each retailer.  When they're gone, they're usually gone until the following November, so if you know someone who likes them your clock is ticking.  As of right now we have very limited quantities of:

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year Bourbon 90 Proof $27.99

Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 year "Lot B" Bourbon $49.50

Pappy Van Winkle 15 year Family Reserve Bourbon $64.99

Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 yr Bourbon $99.99

Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 yr Bourbon $229.99

Van Winkle Family Reserve 13 year Rye Whiskey $69.99

-David Driscoll


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