Friday Prep

Friday is here; another busy weekend awaits. I get to the store, grab a pen and an old piece of cardboard, then walk over to the spirits aisle to take inventory of what needs restocking. We need two bottles of Ardbeg Uigeadail, four bottles of the 1990 Glenfarclas K&L edition, a bottle of Springbank 10, etc. There's a gaping hole where the 20 year old Faultline rum from Uitvlugt used to be, so I'll need a six pack of that. I make my list, grab a shopping cart, then head next-door to the warehouse to retrieve the necessary products. While I'm in the backstock area, I sing a tune that was just playing over the store's digital radio system; "Broken Wings" by Mister Mister. "Are you talking to yourself again?" Julio asks me, able to hear my banter from the domestic wine area adjacent to where I'm working. "Learn to fly again, Julio. Learn to live so free," I tell him with a smile. "What? You're crazy, dude."

Then it's back into the store. It's time to put the bottles in their proper places. It's time to open the front door and say "welcome" to the booze-loving customers.

-David Driscoll


Hard Nebraskan Water

I have to make sure that the country's best American whiskey bar has all of the country's best American whiskies. That's why starting tonight you can go over to Hard Water along San Francisco's Embarcadero and get yourself a glass of Cut Spike's latest batch of single malt whiskey for $7. Erik Adkins and I had lunch today while distribution made the delivery.

If you're not sure you want to commit to your own bottle of Cut Spike, then head over to Pier 3, pull up a chair, order some fried chicken, and do your own test drive. We make sure to share with all of our close friends; especially Erik and company.

-David Driscoll


Dinner With Ansley

Since Germain Robin dug into their vast library of brandies last year and dropped a cast of very old selections into the marketplace, I've been dying to do a dinner event featuring some of these rare expressions. Not just any old event, mind you, but rather a personal, private event with Ansley Coale himself. Luckily, the co-founder of Germain-Robin was in the Bay Area last night and thought it might be fun to gather a few customers together to eat, drink, and be merry. All while drinking rare California brandy, of course.

As I played server, about twenty lucky K&L guests sat and chatted, while Ansley intermittently stood up to talk about the history behind each selection, and how they ultimately came to be. He spoke of forgotten vineyards, working with the local farmers, and eating nothing but cabbage salad every night while he and Hubert struggled for money in the early 80s. It was a fascinating slice of California booze history, curated by the man who lived it.

Later on that evening, Ansley even added his own personal treasure to the tasting menu. A single barrel of thirty year old Chenin Blanc brandy that he had pulled from cask that morning. Most of us just sat there stupefied.

I was very pleased with how the guests were able to interact with Ansley over the course of the evening; able to ask questions and get answers about the most minute of details right there on the spot. I also love that we're able to pull little shin-digs like this together on the fly. It's my favorite part about doing this job.

-David Driscoll


Cut Spike 3.0

Batch three is here. Outside of Nebraska, you'll only find it at K&L.

My notes: When I first tasted the Cut Spike whiskey, I thought it was simply the best American single malt out there; a true revelation for the domestic category. However, as I'm now tasting the newest batch from the Nebraskan producer, I'm realizing that the whiskey is starting to morph into something very particular and unique to the brand. That classic creaminess is still very pervasive, but for the second time in a row there's a pronounced note of pine that soon mutates into ginger and Asian spices before quickly turning back into rich vanilla and oak on the finish; smoothly seeping its way into my taste buds as that last little sip goes down. What we're starting to witness here is the development of a house style--a flavor that defines this distillery. It's very exciting, and it's becoming infectious.

Kyle’s notes: With this being only their third release, the anticipation of what is in the bottle was very high: a chance to try and flesh out exactly what is the house style that the good distillers at Cut Spike bring to the table. This bottling does a great job of solidifying them in my mind as one of the highest quality single malt producers in the States. This whisky is incredibly vibrant and fresh without tasting young or harsh. The nose is lifted with bright notes of candied ginger and Douglas fir, a sense of promised vanilla sweetness wafts in at the end. In the mouth there is sweetness, orange marmalade, a hint of clove for spice, and then the same vanilla cream from last batch that really adds roundness to the palate.

David OG just got his bottle today, so he’ll chime in later. You’re going to want one, so you might as well just get it out of the way now.

Cut Spike Nebraska Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - At first we couldn't believe our mouths. We knew that Cut Spike single malt had just taken Double Gold honors at the 2014 San Francisco Spirits competition (the highest possible honor), so obviously other people thought it was good, too. But after tasting so many mediocre American attempts at single malt whisky, we had become accustomed to the idea that the Scottish style of distillation would never be recreated here at home. There would be spin-offs, and experimental grasps at greatness, but that supple, malty profile would simply be something we needed to import from abroad. Then the folks at Cut Spike sent us a sample of their two year old Nebraskan single malt whisky made from 100% malted barley on a pot still crafted in Rothes, Scotland. Fermented at the brewery next door to Cut Spike in La Vista, the malt was matured for two years in new American oak with varying levels of char. The result is an incredible hybrid: soft, barley and vanilla-laden whisky that tastes somewhat like your standard Scottish single malt, but has its own unique character simultaneously. It's the kind of whisky that you taste once and enjoy, but then the next day suddenly crave intensely. It impresses you instantly, yet doesn't really reveal its full character until weeks later. The new oak blurs seamlessly into the malty mouthfeel, adding a richness on the finish normally not tasted in standard Scottish selections. Cut Spike is a major accomplishment for American distillation, pure and simple.

-David Driscoll


Fun Local Stuff

Today I had a morning meeting with Erin Hines, the founder and creator of Bitter Girl: a family-owned and operated business out of Sonoma County. Erin used to bartend at Fog City in San Francisco (and still tends the bar near her home), but now she's focused entirely on her bitters business. Normally I would wonder how someone who hand-writes and hand-delivers her own hand-made bitters could subside completely on that amount of commerce alone, but then I tasted them. These are absolutely spectacular, and they're all made using fruits, herbs, and spices mostly grown in her own backyard (or her mother's). The flavors explode right off the bat and the intensity of the fruit makes your mouth water in seconds. She's going to sell insane amounts of these bitters. I can't wait to get home later so I can start tinkering with them.

Bitter Girl Batch One Bitters 2 oz $16.99 - Batch One is made from pomegranate, orange, tangerine, and vanilla bean. Use it spice up your citrus cocktails!

Bitter Girl Bitter Rose Bitters 2 oz. $16.99 -  The Bitter Rose uses rose petals, hibiscus, and lavender to create a delicate flavor profile just begging for a gin martini.

Bitter Girl Mom's Prickly Poms Bitters 2 oz. $16.99 -Mom's Prickly Poms uses pomegranate, prickly pear, pineapple, and guava all grown by Erin's mother in her yard.

Bitter Girl Pear Jordan Bitters 2 oz. $16.99 - The Pear Jordan uses Bartlett pear, cascade hops, and nugget hops to create a fall flavor delight.

-David Driscoll