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K&L Spirits Tasting Schedule:

Weds from 5 - 6:30 PM

9/24 - San Francisco: Monkey 47 w/Christoph Keller!

9/24 - Redwood City: Germain Robin K&L Exclusive Brandy!

2014 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky

Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Bourbon Barrel #344 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Bourbon Barrel #345 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1990 Glenfarclas K&L Exclusive Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER


Glenfarclas "The Faultline Casks" K&L Exclusive First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks Single Malt Whisky PRE-ORDER


1997 Bunnahabhain Heavily Peated 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Chieftain's Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1998 Laphroaig 15 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Refill Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1983 Caol Ila 30 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2002 Bowmore 11 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Refill Sherry Hogshead Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW


1992 Bruichladdich 21 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1988 Balmenach 25 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Benrinnes 17 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Dailuaine 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Glen Elgin 18 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glenlivet 16 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Sherry Butt Single Malt Whisky SOLD OUT!!


1981 Glenlivet 32 Year Old Signatory K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1996 Bowmore 16 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Bladnoch "Young" K&L Exclusive Heavily Peated Single Barrel #57 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1997 Glengoyne 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Kilchoman K&L Exclusive Single Bourbon Barrel #172 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Kilchoman K&L Exclusive Single Bourbon Barrel #74 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


2013 K&L Exclusive Scotland Whisky Still Available

2005 Island Distillery 7 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


2001 Royal Lochnagar 10 Year Old Faultline Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


1995 Glendronach 18 Year Old Single PX Barrel Cask Strength Blended Scotch Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


1994 Benriach 19 Year Old Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Blended Scotch Whisky 750ml IN STOCK NOW!


1992 Longmorn 21 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


1987 Mortlach 25 Year Old Faultline Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky IN STOCK NOW!


Thursday
Sep182014

Collectivism

With all the talk about Scottish independence today and the possible effect it could have on single malt whisky (I don't know anything about what the consequences will be for whisky drinkers if they secede, by the way), I thought it was a good moment to talk about the power of group mentality—especially when it comes to booze. Many of us like to think that we are independent thinkers, deciding for ourselves what we want and do not, but often that isn't the case. It definitely isn't the case for me when it comes to certain passions I exude for drinking. Like many of the Scottish voters participating in today's ballot, I'm easily swayed by the excitement exhibited by others. Let me explain:

I'm more than willing to pay extra cash for French Burgundy, even if there's a better pinot noir from California, Oregon, or New Zealand for less. Why? Because wine from California, Oregon, or New Zealand isn't Burgundy. I can't wholly explain why I'm so intrigued by the Cote d'Or, but it goes beyond simple flavor. If I was only concerned with flavor I would simply choose the best tasting wine for the price. But there's a mystique surrounding Burgundy and most of my curiosity with it stems from what I've read in books, magazines, and online forums. My desire to understand Burgundy, its complexity, and why its so coveted by collectors all over the world plays a large role in my enthusiasm. Simply put: sometimes I want to be part of the group. If there weren't so many other people out there apparently getting some huge satisfaction from drinking these incredibly-limited wines, I don't think I would be nearly as interested. I definitely wouldn't be spending that kind of cash were it not the case.

I spend half of my work day helping whisky drinkers find different/cheaper/interesting alternatives to the whiskies they already know and love. "If you like this, then you should try this." Customers interested solely in flavor are happy to receive this advice and are crucial to our independent barrel business. However, there are plenty of other drinkers who want the name as well as the flavor. It's not necessarily "cool" to be a brand name shopper when it comes to whisky, so no one likes to admit that. In my mind, though, desiring a particular brand over a "superior" flavor doesn't make someone a label whore entirely. I get why people want Pappy. Everyone's talking about it all the time! Doesn't that make you the least bit curious if you haven't had it? For many drinkers, the enjoyment of tasting and experiencing certain big name spirits is simply the satisfaction of entering into a larger group dynamic. 

Let's look at this phenomenon through a different analogy. Let's say you show up to the office and everyone's talking about the latest episode of True Detective. You don't watch the show, so you're unable to offer your opinion about the previous night's events. You notice that everyone else, however, is enjoying the communal conversation. They're bonding over a shared experience. All of a sudden, you feel a desire to check out this show that everyone is talking about—both to see what all the fuss is, and to bond with the office group later that week (this is the case for me both with True Detective and red Burgundy). Jumping on board with the latest trend doesn't necessarily make you a band-wagoner or a poser (acting like you were there from the beginning does, however). True enjoyment isn't always about appreciating each element on the purest, most-unadulterated level possible; though some wine and whisky drinkers will tell you the opposite, that you should be drinking something less-coveted. It's like someone telling you, "Actually I watch Top of the Lake instead of True Detective because the writing's better, the acting's more believable, and it's pretty much the same show except it doesn't have all that ridiculous hype." In the end, it's all a superiority contest anyway.

So when I ask one of my colleagues if they've had any good Burgundy lately, and they say, "No, I haven't, but there's this great new vintage of Eyrie pinot noir from Oregon you should try," I don't get all that excited because I'm not always looking for a Burgundy substitute, or a cooler, less-cliched alternative. It's no different than when I try to steer a Bordeaux customer to Rioja, or a Bourbon drinker towards Armagnac. Some people are looking for a specific experience, rather than the best possible flavor—me included. That's not to say that I don't ever drink purely based on flavor and inherent quality. I drink a number of wines, spirits, and cocktails based solely on flavor. But sometimes, I admit, I do buy bottles of extremely expensive red Burgundy solely for the name, and the experience of drinking that name. That way I can speak somewhat confidently about Burgundy when I have a conversation with someone about it. You can't have an educated dialogue about something you've never experienced, can you?

I've read many opinions about the Scottish vote today. A few of them claim the "yes" advocates are making a naive choice based on the group fervor for independence, rather than carefully considering the possible consequences of economic sovereignty. I don't know enough about the situation to say either way. What I can say is that people don't always know what they want in life until others who exude a certain passion help to enlighten them. Going with the group isn't always the naive decision. I wasn't born with a thirst for Burgundy; it was nurtured slowly through my years working around other passionate thinkers. The same might be the case for Scottish independence. 

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Sep172014

News and Notes

Here's what's going on in the Spirits Department this week.

- New peated Benriach cask is here. It's awesome. Like single barrel, cask strength Talisker 18. You can check out the post from Tuesday for more notes. 

- New K&L Exclusive vatting from Michel Couvreur will be here by the end of the month. It's a very sherried whisky with Islay whisky added in for extra peat. This is the bottler in Burgundy with the gigantic cellar built into the side of a mountain. Click here if you didn't catch that post from this past Spring. We're really pumped about this.

- Glenfarclas K&L Exclusive whiskies should also be here by October. Considering the 1983 Family Cask is selling for $350, that 1990 at $150 on pre-arrival looks like an even better deal. I'm guessing that's why a bunch of orders were put into the queue yesterday.

- Signatory Part II hits at the end of October and there are nine new whiskies on that container. Get ready to get your mind blown. Now that Highland Park 25 is $500 and Macallan 30 Fine Oak $2500, I think you'll all be pretty excited to see what we'll be offering and for how much. There's some sherry-finished Mortlach, a crazy 25 year old Blair Athol, and some other gems in that batch.

- Kilchoman's new 2014 edition of Machir Bay is here and, if you pick up in the store, it comes with two free Glencairn glasses like it did last year. Hot deal, good whisky. More saline and briney than it was last time around.

- David OG snagged a few casks of Old Scout Rye (MGP stuff) from Smooth Ambler that should be here shortly. The samples he sent me were fantastic.

- The rest of our Wild Turkey barrels will be here before the month is over. Considering how well that last batch of Russell's Reserve went over (especially barrel #19) I'm expecting these to be a big hit.

- Our one single barrel of 14 year old Dickel will be here by October, if not sooner. I'm surprised we still have any of the 9 year old casks left because there's nothing that good at that price on the American market right now. I think Dickel hasn't convinced enough people yet about their new single cask program, but all it should take is one sip. These destroy anything we've bottled from Buffalo Trace or Heaven Hill over the last few years (they do cost twice as much though).

- No Supernova until Friday at the very earliest, so you can cool your jets for now.

- It's always interesting to see how many moles are on our insider whiskey email list. And how they whine like the little whiney bitches they are when they see something they don't like, thus giving themselves away as spies. I would be embarrassed to be on another retailer's list, but that's just me. Focus on yourself, boys. There's a reason we're smoking you right now (hint: it's because we don't care about what you're doing).

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Sep172014

I Love the 80s (Nights Off From Drinking)

If you were a kid in the late 80s, then you most definitely stayed up late Saturday night watching one of the most (if not the most) incredible line-ups of horror television ever produced on one network. It started at 8 PM with Friday the 13th: The Series—an awesome show about a cursed antique store that had nothing to do with Jason Voorhees, but was indeed produced by some of the same people who made the iconic slasher flicks. Mulder and Scully from The X-Files never could have existed were it not for Ryan and Mickey, tasked with recouping all of the supernatural items sold by their late devil-worshiping uncle. At 9 PM came Freddy's Nightmares, a spin-off from the Nightmare on Elm Street series hosted by Freddy Kruger himself. Way ahead of its time in terms of creepiness.

From 10 PM to 11 PM you had the back-to-back duo of Tales from the Darkside and the superb creature-feature Monsters—which holds up so well it's scary. I watched the first episode of Disc 1 last night and my wife had to turn away from the screen. "You watched this when you were seven??!" she screamed.

At 11 PM you had WWE Superstars (which many of you know my affinity for), and if you could manage to stay up until 11:30 there was G.L.O.W.—The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. There's an outstanding documentary about G.L.O.W. available on Netflix Instant right now if you're interested. Nothing epitomized the late 80s more than this show, so it's really a very important piece of pop culture history. My wife had no recollection of its existence, but really enjoyed the film despite lacking the inherent nostalgia.

On Saturday evenings in 1987, I would go to the Food 4 Less in Modesto with my mom, get boxes of Cheez-Its along with Mike & Ikes out of the bulk bin, and plop down in front of the TV for as long as I could hold out. I really, really miss those days. As I've decided to dry out at least once a week going into the holiday season (I drink all the time, in case you didn't now), I needed something to fill the void of alcohol. Thank God for boxed DVD sets of old retro television. I'm now two episodes into Friday the 13th and I feel like a giant beam of sunshine is casting down upon my heart strings.

There was only one thing left I needed to do:

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Sep162014

Just In

It's been more than a year since we originally ordered this 1994 Bourbon barrel and received the wrong whisky, but the right one has finally arrived. 

When we originally picked out this cask back in the Spring of 2013, we were incredibly excited about the wonderful balance of sweet, round, fruity Highland flavor, balanced by a moderate level of peat (think Talisker level smoke, not Islay). The result was something in between Talisker 18 and peated Glen Garioch: lovely layers of grains, a soft, supple mouthfeel, and a finish of campfire smoke with butterscotch on the backend. We couldn't wait to get this baby delivered. Then it showed up and there wasn't a smidge of peat to be found. It turns out Benriach had sent us the wrong cask (a delicious, light-bodied 19 year old that we kept nonetheless). We were fine with the one they sent as it was indeed tasty, but we still wanted that magical peated barrel, so we put in the order again; this time for Cask #7187. Over one year later, that whisky has finally shown up and it's still as fantastic as we remember. At 53%, the extra proof is enough to brighten all of the edges, but low enough as not to interrupt the amber waves of grain. It's a seamless whisky; one that floats over the palate in layers of stonefruit, sweet barley, and smoke, as each element undulates in and out of focus. There's a reason we keep going back to Benriach for their direct barrel program. Imagine if you could get cask strength Talisker 19, or Caol Ila 19, or unsherried Highland Park 19 year old whisky for $150. That's what this cask of Benriach 19 year old is offering you. 

1994 Benriach 19 Year Old K&L Exclusive PEATED Single Bourbon Barrel #7187 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $149.99 - 

These babies just showed up, too. I haven't tasted them yet, and I don't know if I will before they sell, but I'm thinking they have to be wonderful. Actually, I think I tasted them at WhiskyFest last year, but who actually remembers anything they tasted at WhiskyFest? Sober people, that's who.

There's a 1983 expression as well, but one guy bought all six bottles in a matter of minutes. I've got more on order for tomorrow, so don't worry if you're looking for great whisky from the Reagan era.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Sep162014

Group Lessons

Sometimes customers tell me, "That's easy for you to say, David. You get to taste all this stuff for free," in response to my recommendation for an expensive bottle of whisky. I will admit: when you don't have to pay for the experience of drinking fancy booze, it does change the way you feel about it. Getting to taste all kinds of high-end single malt has definitely made my palate more difficult to please. That being said, I drink three times as much wine as I do whisky, and I'm in the same boat as all of you when it comes to one of my biggest passions: Burgundy. Pinot Noir from the Cote d'Or is fucking expensive. It's already where single malt is currently heading, and it's been there for quite a while. Prices continue to soar, supplies for the best wines are tighter than allocations for Pappy Van Winkle, and in Burgundy you don't have the option to simply make more. The best vineyards cannot be expanded or replanted, and yields can vary depending on the weather.

On top of all that, bottles can be wildly inconsistent and, on top of that, you can't nurse a $200 bottle of red wine over the course of a year; bringing it out for a special occasion sip every now and again. You have to drink it all in one night, andunlike whisky—wine changes in the bottle, so there's no guarantee that it will taste the way you want it to on the day you choose to open it. Buying an expensive bottle of red Burgundy can be a nerve-wracking experience for those reasons. But how in the hell are we supposed to learn about these incredible vineyard sites, these legendary producers, and these iconic vintages if we never bite the bullet and open some of these canons? Eventually you have to take a shot and see what happens. I decided to double-down this week, buy some super fancy bottles of Burgundy, and invite some of my colleagues to dinner so that we could all learn from the experience. My friends the Westbys offered to host the event, and some of my other co-workers offered to contribute some bottles of their own. So last night I swung by Pronto on El Camino Real (one of the Peninsula's best-kept secrets), picked up five chicken combination dinners, and helped get this Burgundy party started. The decanters were ready to rock when I arrived.

Much like with single malt whisky, you're never going to understand the depth or the potential of Bourgogne rouge unless you sample the entire spectrum. At some point you need to throw down and taste the high-end stuff, so that you can comprehend why certain things cost what they do (and if it's ultimately worth it to you). After a few years of drinking mid-range Burgundy, I really got the message last night (as did my colleagues): there's a reason the top wines from the best producers are expensive—they're on an entirely different level than the bottles I'm used to drinking. The colors, the aromas, the flavors, the complexity—all just incredible. The bottle of 2008 Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertain "Les Cazetiers" was out of this world, with crisp cranberry fruit and a finish of wild brush—sage, eucalpytis, and herbs of this nature. The 2004 Voillot Pommard "Les Rugiens" made our customer service manager Joel and I teary-eyed, reminding us of the excitement we felt when we first started getting into wine. It was aromatic, bright, and fresh in a way that only great Burgundy can taste. Pinot Noir from anywhere else just isn't the same sometimes.

I cannot stress enough the importance of group tastings, even if it's just to split the enormous cost of an expensive bottle or two. When you taste with friends who are also interested in wine or spirits the experience is always more rewarding. If you've always wanted to try Port Ellen, or Brora, or Pappy 23 (if you can find it), then you should get some friends together, split the cost, and have the tasting you've always wanted to have. While my head was a little fuzzy this morning, I woke up completely inspired and ready to face the day. I feel like a serious itch has been scratched and a longing curiosity has been satisfied.

Thanks to everyone from K&L who participated last night. I hope we can do this again soon.

-David Driscoll