I'm a big fan of Hard Water, the Embarcadero waterfront whiskey bar in San Francisco with a wall of rare selections that would make most Bourbon fans weep. I'm also a big fan of Bauhaus and Love & Rockets, two of my all time favorite rock groups founded by Mr. David J. So I thought to myself last night: why not combine two great things that I love into one spectacular thing? It's like chocolate and peanut butter, right? Or like peas and carrots, as Forrest Gump would say. 

I think everyone was pretty pleased. Evan was indeed stoked to make a mint julep for David, and David was just as excited to drink it. We had rare editions of Willett, Four Roses, Westland, and God knows what else (I can't remember it all at this point). Many thanks to Erik and the gang for the fantastic hospitality. If you haven't been to Hard Water yet you need to get over there soon. Each time I visit my wife says to me: "Why don't we come here more often?"

"Because we get shit-faced every time we're here," I reply. 

-David Driscoll


The Surreal Life

Yesterday I went for cocktails with Charles and the two Camut brothers, Emmanuel and Jean-Gabriel, who were visiting the United States for the very first time. We took them to Trou Normand in downtown San Francisco, which was rather surreal because the bar/restaurant was built in their honor. Owners Thad and Eric visited the Camut farm in Normandy with Charles about five years ago and decided to create a menu around the experience. I think it was pretty surreal for the servers and bartenders there as well. They'd been serving these incredible Calvados cocktails for years, hearing about these two mythical dudes who make the world's best apple brandy, and there they are sitting at the main table—quiet, humble, and appreciative. 

The joke all week according to Charles was that everywhere they went people said, "I love your Calvados so much; I just wish I could get more!" Of course, that's par for the course now in the booze world. You make something as good as Camut Calvados and introduce it to the world, you have to be prepared for the consequences. I pretty much studied French for an entire year just so I could ask Emmanuel and Jean-Gab for another batch of K&L Exclusive 15 year. We'll see how far that gets me.

Speaking of new batches, Charles mentioned that a new shipment came in this week. We should have some new French brandies to share with you very soon.

-David Driscoll


Piggybacking on Relationships

As many of you know, we bring in a lot of wine from small producers all over the planet. In some cases, those producers make more than just wine—especially our Italian posse. One of the coolest and most-exciting new Barolo winemakers we've started working with is Barale Fratelli, a family-run Piedmontese operation that makes a classically-styled Barolo with real gusto. If you've never heard of Barolo, it's the powerful, heavily-tannic northern Italian red made from the nebbiolo grape that can age for decades if not centuries. What some Barolo producers do if they have left over Barolo wine is to make what's called Barolo Chinato—a vermouth-like aperitif wine that uses quinine to add a pronounced bitterness and balance out the sweetness. You can use Chinato as a wine-based Campari substitute in a Negroni, or even as a vermouth substitute in your favorite Manhattan recipe. The result is a chewier, more intensely-rich ingredient in your concoction. 

The thing about Barolo Chinato is that, because it's made with Barolo, it's not cheap. But that's where the relationship thing comes in. Of the few Barolo Chinati that make it into the country, most of them are between $30-$50 for a 500ml bottle and are decent, if not pretty good. The Barale we've got is the best we've ever carried and it's going to cost you $34 for a full 750ml. Try it in your next Bourbon drink, or pour it over ice with soda.

I'm going to start looking at all of our Italian producers now for little add-ons like this. Between the Barale Chinato and the Sesta di Sopra grappas, we could start our own little Italian spirits stable here.

-David Driscoll


Recreating Bordeaux Here at Home be home again in one's own bed. There's nothing quite like that feeling (except for maybe using one's own toilet). Apparently a number of you were crossing over to the On the Trail blog to read along with our recent adventure. I had a lot of emails saying things like, "If only..." or "I wish I could go too." It was indeed an incredible experience and I'm not going to act like opening a bottle at home is a substitute for being there at the château. That being said, K&L does a pretty great job of bringing Bordeaux to California, convincing top names and producers in the region to partner up for big events. Take the two we have coming up later this month (which you probably don't see if you only read the spirits blog):

On Monday April 25th you have two great chances to taste Bordeaux in San Francisco, depending on how far you want to go down the rabbit hole. 

Tour des Deux Rives Tasting @ Wine & Wall - $50: From 5 - 7 PM you can taste a serious amount of very serious wine for half the price of what a serious bottle would cost. Hosanna, Certan de May, Ducru-Beaucaillou (my favorite), first growth Mouton, and many, many more châteaux will be on hand to pour. This is a hot fucking deal for what they're pouring. If you've wanted to get an idea of what this whole Bordeaux thing is about since reading the blog, this is your chance.

But if you want to get the full experience, you can ball out and do this:

Tour des Doux Rives Dinner @ One Market - $380: Have dinner with all the above producers and taste library wines from their various château. 

I'm probably going to both events (not sure about dinner yet) on my day off. If you want to hang out with me while you taste and listen to my boring Bordeaux stories from the road, I'll be there!

-David Driscoll


Still Alive, Back Soon

As we sat down to dinner last night, our minds practically complete mush at this point, I said to Trey: “Remember that dinner at Haut-Bailly on Monday?” He paused for a few seconds, looked at me and said: “That feels like it was a year ago.” When you run hard for eight straight days, live on four hours of sleep a night, and ingest nothing but red wine from the moment you wake up until the moment your head hits the pillow, you tend to lose track of time. You also tend to lose track of your standard dietary intake, your personal hygiene, and any sense of of a real schedule. I’ve been on some serious trips before and I’ve watched less regimented folks lose their shit completely. I’ve seen industry professionals have full blown meltdowns, vomit all over the fuselage of a plane, and launch into expletive-laden tirades that leave them both isolated and embarrassed. Tasting expensive wine for a living is fun. It’s the best job in the whole world. But being forced to do it for fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, with no breaks, no rest stops, no down time, and no privacy can be a real challenge. I knew that going in, however, which is what has saved me thus far. This isn’t my first rodeo, but I have to admit I’m on my last legs at this point. Thank goodness the end of the marathon is in sight!

Pretty soon I’ll be back in the store tasting booze again and you guys will have your whisky-oriented spirits blog once more. In the meantime, let me share a few photos with you. We had a fancy dinner at Logis de la Cadène in St. Emilion two nights ago and it was prepared for us by one of Paul Bocuse’s protégés from his famed cooking school. One of Bocuse’s classic dishes was part of the menu: the soupe aux truffes noires VGE that was first prepared for the president of France back in 1975. It’s a savory broth simmered with fois gras and black truffles, served with a puff pastry style of bread baked over the top. You use your spoon the break the crust down into the soup so that it soaks up all that earthy goodness. Nothing decadent, really. Just a little light affair.

-David Driscoll