The Inimitable Icon of Islay: Kilchoman

Terroir in the spirits world is alive and well. There are many who'd argue that the unique characters that are derived from the land and climate of where a spirit is made are stripped out during distillation. I'd argue that they never leave, the base material and how it's produced are just as important as the final product and are even further enhanced during aging if it's done in the same area. There are a few producers across spirits categories that have endeavored to maximize this the special characteristics that make their climate unique and produce truly authentic and compelling spirits. Kilchoman is just such a place.

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Andrew Whiteley
Smooth Ambler Wheated Bourbon

We are at a very special point in the growth of the whiskey boom. We've waited years for the tipping point, the singularity, that moment in time when everything changes. That day when a new distillery releases their own juice on a commercial scale. You know, where you can actually get your hands on a bottle or two without having to sell your soul. The full ramification of this moment remains to be seen, but I have no doubt it will be only good for the whiskey drinker. More options of quality booze, made in new and interesting ways, will flood the market with top-notch hooch…Drinking well will never be easier or cheaper then it will be in the coming years.

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Andrew Whiteley
Bourbon's Beggars

The last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the spirits world. I’m hooked on the magnificent and diverse realm of rum and the weird wide world of brandy. These spirits have a true sense of place and their merits have gone underappreciated for decades. Few things offer a higher dollar to deliciousness ratio or a better combination of history, authenticity, terroir and artisanal quality. Inspite of the incredible inroads these exciting categories have made in the modern zeitgeist; another can still offer an unmatched experience for the serious drinker.

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David Othenin-Girard
400 Bottles of Booze on the Wall: A Cautionary Tale

I saw this problem coming. Seven or eight years ago I had an idea to fix it. I would invite people over to drink all of these bottles.  I threw a big party in the hopes that people would drink from these bottles. It would be like the song 100 Bottles of Beer – take one down pass it around – and the number of bottles slowly decreases, and before you know it you’ve completed your drive to Big Bear or at least to the In ‘n Out on the way to Big Bear and there are zero bottles of beer on the wall. It was a great party, and I’ve thrown one every year since, but it didn’t work.

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Sku
The Pappy of Nothing

Finding that special thing that you can afford, attain, and enjoy is a wonderful feeling. The purity of experience is unlike any other, something that bourbon nerds probably remember if they started 20ish years ago. It’s a state of bliss that today’s experiential checklist culture doesn’t fully appreciate. Maximum experience is not an integer; it’s a state of mind. That nirvanic equilibrium is fragile though. Rum lover bliss got a switch kick to the crotch last year when our friend Fred Minnick declared Foursquare’s special releases to be “the Pappy of Rums” for their scarcity and ubiquitous admiration.

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David Othenin-Girard
Relativity

Picking the best spirit at any price point is an interesting way to start a discussion about value. Objective quality is something that can be measured empirically. You can ask a distillery how the ingredients were chosen, what the recipe requires, the technical details of fermentation, distillation and aging. Compare those details to the decisions made at similar distilleries and you'll draw conclusions about the products made there. But technical detail is meaningless without context both sensory and situational. Taste a product and you can tell if it’s good, bad, or great. If done blind you can make an unbiased assessment of the flavors and feelings it gives you and perhaps assign a score or other qualification explaining its inherent values. 

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David Othenin-Girard
The Best Spirit at Every Price Point

Since I frequently get asked for recommendations, I thought it might be fun to look through K&L’s spirits inventory and find what I would recommend at every price range for each of the major brown spirits.  I especially like the idea of doing this during the summer before all the high-profile special release come out. What’s on the shelf now tends to be standard releases that can be acquired year-round.

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Sku
Oy, Delilah

We have finally received the much anticipated Delilah's XXV Anniversary Release from Compass Box. This new whiskey takes a portion of the original Delillah's release from 5 years ago (which has been quietly aging in cask) and builds onto that base with Spanish Sherry casked whiskey made from American Oak. The results are spectacular. The rich nutty complexity of the Sherry shines through and the sweet vanilla and caramelly malts carry the weight effortlessly. This is whiskey for drinking, not trophy making. You'll be hard pressed to find a better bottle for a hundred bucks so have at it and enjoy. Only 8,520 bottles were produced and I hope that every single one is opened by summer's end!

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Andrew Whiteley
Single Malt: A Guide to the Whiskies of Scotland by Clay Risen

If you’re looking for a book for someone just getting into Scotch, it would be hard to find a better choice than Clay Risen’s Single Malt: A Guide to the Whiskies of Scotland, which includes reviews of more than 330 single malt Scotch whiskies. Risen, Deputy Op-Ed Editor at the New York Times often writes about whiskey for the Times and is the author of American Whiskey Bourbon & Rye.

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Sku
That You Do So Well

Rum is so broad and complex, we have so much left to explore. When was the last time you found out about a new category of whisky that you’d never heard about? Uncharted territory is exciting. You never know quite what you might find. Occasionally you stumble upon hidden treasure, left off the map perhaps intentionally. To find the gems you must be open and ready to receive them. Like last year’s discovery of the incredible Paranubes Aguardiente de Cana from Sierra Mazateca.

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David Othenin-Girard
The Next BIG Thing

In the 12+ years that I’ve been a retail spirits buyer, one sliver of marketing speak sticks out. Not because it rang true, but because it's so wildly flawed. I remember when I first started, a Hawaiian shirt clad sales person bringing this no age statement dark as night sugary slop into my office to talk about all the Gold Medals it had won. “This is made just like they used to do in Cuba,” he babbled. It had a big number that corresponded to absolutely nothing relevant and some combination of the letters’ “V O P X R or S” slapped on the front to imply that it was REALLY old. Add a big meaningless numeral and gold stopper, who could say no?

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David Othenin-Girard
The Beginning of a Very Rummy Summer

Marc Darroze has spent the last 20 years perfecting the art of aging and blending Armagnac in the house of Darroze, which father Jean had nearly 5 decades earlier. Jean was a restaurateur and enamored with the complexities and diversity of the tiny domaines of Gascogne. Likewise, Marc has taken that endless curiosity and epicurean ideal out to the rest of the world. His line of specially selected spirits from all over France and the rest of the world is called Bapt & Clem.

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David Othenin-Girard
A Day For Tradition

We're open today (until 6pm at all 3 locations) if you need anything last minute for your own celebrations! Here in Redwood City we're having a "Major BBQ Event" for the staff. Jimmy has some chicken thighs in the smoker and Gary and Cindy are prepping for burgers. The weather is perfect and it's going to be a great day. Traditionally in Redwood City, we throw a BBQ lunch party and enjoy a glass of rose on the 4th of July. We are proud to uphold this tradition yet again this year! Our celebration features some classics from BBQ's past: the

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Andrew Whiteley
Crack the Code

There's nothing worse than pointless marketing hooey designed just to confuse or obfuscate a product's quality or provenance. With that in mind, I was ultra skeptical when I first heard about this project from Glenlivet. But having gone through the process, tasting the excellent whisky that they've put in this surprisingly cool looking bottle, I'm totally sold. So grab your bottle and login to use your senses to break the code. We only got a few bottles and the speculators are already driving the price up, so crack the cipher before it's too late.

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David Othenin-Girard
End of Quarter Housekeeping

You may have noticed a lot of changes here including a few new voices. We’ve asked our dear friend Sku to help out with some interesting and informative pieces. Our new NorCal Spirits Buyer Andrew Whiteley has already been making waves, launching the new wonderful Woodinville whiskies (NorCal Exclusive), as well as securing loads of the elusive Hakushu 12 year for our customers. He’s been Driscoll’s right hand man in Redwood City for years, so he knows what’s up. And while a lot has and will continue to change around here, some things will stay the same.

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David Othenin-Girard
Whiskey Disasters

Distillery disasters are nothing new, fires being the biggest threat given all of that flammable alcohol and fumes. In recent years, the expansion in craft distilling has increased the number of explosions at small distilling outfits. Here are just a few of the major disasters that have befallen American distilleries through the years.  

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Sku
Single Cask Super Store!

Over the years we’ve worked closely with nearly every Scottish Independent bottler. Often times we are the first retailor in the US to feature a particular brand, but it’s not often that we’re able to secure truly exclusive sale. We’re not an importer and have no particular rights or claims to any brand. Instead, we build relationships through positive interaction and responsible stewardship. We’ve brought many brands to the US that our importers would otherwise not have the opportunity to sell and likewise we’ve secured exclusive rights with certain international brands in California.

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David Othenin-Girard
Three Japanese Greats

Last night I found myself in the enviable position of "needing" to taste three great whiskies all at once. You know, for a proper apples-to-apples comparison. The Kaiyo Peated Mizunara oak bottling just arrived a couple of days before some Yamazaki 12 and Hakushu 12 became available. I was volunteered as tribute to be the poor guinea pig to conduct the research and find out how the three compared.

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Andrew Whiteley