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Wednesday
Feb072018

Private Edition No. 9

While bold, brash, unadulterated, in-your-face flavor has dominated the market for the last five years or so with big peat, big sherry, and huge IPA-style intensity captivating our attention spans from craft beer, to Cabernet, to cask strength whisky, I have to think there's only so much further any drinks company can successfully take that direction. How much more peaty can we get than mouth-blistering Octomore? How much more sherry can you pack into a single malt than what's in the tropically-enhanced Kavalan Solist series? There's a point when hot sauce is simply too hot and begins to lose its intial purpose, which is to make my tacos taste better. Flavor is what we're supposed to be after, rather than intensity. 

Nuance, however, is still rather untapped. There's plenty of ground yet to be broken in the realm of subtle complexity. That's why I was very proud of Bill Lumsden and the team at Glenmorangie when I tasted the new Spios Private Edition last week, the ninth in the distillery's ongoing series of limited releases. Rather than change direction, cater to the populist agenda, and lose their identity, Glenmorangie went even softer on the palate with a new whisky aged entirely in ex-American rye whiskey barrels, full term. What you get is simply classic American oak aged Glenmo with just a touch of that herbaceous character we love in rye whiskey. There's a greater presence of baking spice, cinnamon and cloves, as well as loads of buttery vanilla and fruit, but the finish is peppery with that unmistakable note of rye lingering in the background ever so slightly. 

Nothing about the new Spios is bold or brash. Even the rye notes, the core selling point of the product, are more like accents rather than anything foundational. I smiled with glee after tasting this again this morning. It's nice to see a great whisky company stick to doing what it does best, in spite of what today's popular statistics might say. In the end, no one drinks Glenmorangie because it's intense. Quite the contrary. We drink Glenmorangie because it's beautiful.

Glenmorangie "Spios" Private Edition Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky $99.99 - The 9th release of the award winning "Private Edition" from Glenmorangie is a true labor of love for their Chief Whisky Creation officer, Dr Bill Lumsden. The good doctor explains that his obsession with rye whiskey (in particular the casks that had previously aged that rare American whiskey) began when famed Whisky & Beer writer Michael Jackson visited the distillery with a sample of the historical American whiskey. It was Bill's first time diving into one of the America's great spirits and at the time, sometime in the 90s, Rye whiskey was next to impossible to acquire. It took Dr. Bill a full decade to secure casks that had previously only held whiskey from Kentucky distilled with Rye as the big grain. Into he put the majestic and elegant Glenmo spirit an approximately another decade later released this special whisky. Spios, a Gaelic word meaning spiced, is as pointed with the rye casks as you might expect. Cinnamon, clove, hints of nutmeg and sweet creamy vanilla from the American oak work wonders around the fruity open Glenmo malt. For anyone who appreciates the excellent malts being released in this wonderful line of limited edition whiskies as well as single malt drinkers seeking new and exciting flavor profiles, this is a must buy.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Feb072018

Simplicity

The world is complex. But all meaning comes from wise simplification. –Derek Thompson

Someone asked me the other day what I would say I do for a living. Beyond selling booze, more to the essence of what I think my job is. I told that person: "I simplify things. I take a vast world of endless possibility and I break it down into a more easily comprehendible explanation." In a nutshell, that's been my life since I was a grad student, then an elementary school teacher, and now an industry professional.

That being said, I've been feeling lately like I'm not very good at anything other than staying busy. I've been wondering if I could do anything else with my life if given the chance, which is why my mother recommended that I read a new book by Atlantic writer Derek Thompson called Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. She thought I might find a bit of meaning from a business-oriented book that tackles the science of viral success in our modern age. I have to admit thus far that when I'm not utterly horrified by what I'm reading, I'm finding a lot of inspiration in what Thompson has to say. 

He writes: "...audiences are hungry for meaning, and their preferences are guided by an interplay between the complex and the simple, the situation of new things and a deep comfort with the familiar."

It's nice to know there's still translation work available in this world, even if it's no longer for masters of foreign languages. It's basically just simple curation. Find the essence of something and help others understand why it's important. 

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Feb062018

A Bere Market

The market went from bull to bear over the last week, but don't let that get you down. The new 2008 vintage of Bere Barley from Bruichladdich should help erase all your fears and ease any of your long-term doubts. Bottled in 2017, this nine year old edition is bottled at 100 proof and is made from the old "viking" grain, now grown for Bruichladdich on Islay at the nearby Dunlossit farm. I dug out my original email from Jim McEwan, back when they originally unveiled the Bere Barley project some time ago, made from an ancient strain supposedly brought by Norse invaders when they occupied the Hebrides during the 9th century. Here's what Jim told me back then:

The Bere is so young and pure, no make-up just as nature intended. Its history, honesty, and the harmony of guys working on a dream which the consumer can experience and wonder just how the seed survived since the 9th century, brought by the Vikings to Scotland. What a living timeline!!!!! It's incredible and once again it's Bruichladdich that recognised this is a national treasure and cannot be compared. A miracle in a bottle from a seed that was planted over 1000 years ago.

As you might imagine, Bruichladdich doesn't want a lot of oak or sherry getting in the way of their superstar barley, so the 2008 edition is light on its feet. The nose is wonderful, full of sweet grains, lush vanilla, and lots of oak spice. The palate is more of the same with notes of ginger and sweet bready notes on the finish. I think growing and milling the Bere strain has been the hardest part of the process for Bruichladdich. They've been doing this since 2006 and they've only managed five successful harvests over the last decade, meaning there's not a lot of this whisky in barrel. The first time they tried to mill it, the toughness of the dense grist about broke all their equipment! 

This is probably more for serious Bruichladdich fanboys like myself that those of you looking for the next rare superstar. This isn't a big, thick, heavy, or mouthcoating whisky. It's all about the nuances of the grain and how it presents a different profile compared to the standard barley strain used in Scotland. This is one of the few concept projects that I think lives up to the story and I always look forward to another new release.

2008 Bruichladdich Bere Barley Limited Edition Single Malt Whisky $89.99

-David Driscoll

Monday
Feb052018

117.1 Proof

These Whistle Pig cask strength barrels do it for me every single time, no matter how often I taste them or how many bottles I've already consumed. When you taste this recent 117.1 proof barrel that we just brought in, what will grab you the same way it grabbed me is the initial sweetness right off the bat, bolstered by the higher than normal ABV%. It lights up your tongue and primes it for the peppery rye spice that follows, giving you the vanilla and sweet oak before hammering home the herbaceous essence of the grain. I don't think I'll ever tire of buying these casks for K&L because I just about never tire of drinking them. There's no limit for how much cask strength 10 year old WP my mind can handle, only my liver can decide when enough is enough.

Whistle Pig 10 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" 117.1 Proof Single Barrel Cask Strength Straight Rye Whiskey $89.99 - Only 130 total bottles from this cask. 

-David Driscoll

Friday
Feb022018

Astrid Hubert's Calvados Returns

If you were getting thirsty looking at all those live photos from Normandy last month, I've got you covered. Our new batch of Hubert Calvados just showed up, only ten days after I tasted a bottle with Astrid herself at the domaine. The latest blend is based primarily on the 2008 vintage with bits of 2006 and 2010 blended in. It's textbook Astrid—friendly, feminine, but with a bit of a spicy kick. At thirty bucks, to think we can offer an apple brandy of this quality that's mostly 9 years old with 11 year and 7 year added for good measure is astounding. There's a reason this is the top selling Calvados in our store's history. 2000 bottles and counting!!

Domaine Hubert "K&L Exclusive" Pays d'Auge Vieux Calvados $29.99

-David Driscoll