A Terroir Unlike Any Other in the World

At K&L, we can get pretty nerdy about terroir, especially when discussing the nuances of fine wine and the subtle expressions that emerge from the vineyard. But rarely does this conversation extend to spirits. That is until recently, when we received a gin from South Africa that is all about its distinctive terroir. Not only does this gin capture a sense of place, but the place that it reflects is so unique and small that it can be argued that no other spirit in the world has a similar profile.

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Megan Greene
A Season of Sipping and Togetherness

As the Whisky Season starts to heat up we’re going to start tasting and drinking together. This stuff really isn’t as much fun if you do it all alone. Come out and join myself to inaugurate our new Russell’s Casks (sorry Jimmy won’t be there) tomorrow night at the Everly Hotel. On thursday, the Southern California Whisky Club is hosting an awesome tasting with the newly opened Raasay Distillery at The Phoenix. Both represent unique opportunities to experience whisky like you never have before. Whether we’re choosing among our favorite barrels of bourbon or tasting a completely new distillery, we’re going to have fun expanding our minds and palates.

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David Othenin-Girard
The Big Boy is Back

The exceptional older expression from the special distillery at the end of the road on Islay’s southern coast is back. Distilled entirely in the Spring of 1996 and bottled in July of this year, this limited release is certain to become a modern classic. Bottled without chillfiltration at 46.4%, it represents some of the oldest stocks left from this venerated distillery

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David Othenin-Girard
Whisky Season Cometh

We have nearly 50 casks coming over this Whisky Season. Hepburn’s Choice is back. Sovereign Grain and Single Malt is back. Old Malt Cask is back in a big way. Signatory is FINALLY BACK. And of course our dear friends at Old Particular have put together one of the most exciting offerings we’ve seen in years. Thanks to the exchange rate, even though prices are up in Scotland, we’re able to continue offering absolutely unprecedented value. And for the real connoisseurs we’ll see some truly collectable offerings that few others will match anywhere in the world. And that’s JUST the Scotch.  Tidal waves of bourbon, rum, tequila and much more are headed our way. Beware…

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David Othenin-Girard
Old Potrero: The First Craft Whiskey

With hundreds of craft distilleries making whiskey across the country, it can be hard to remember that the modern craft spirits movement is only a few decades old. It started with a smattering of brandy distilleries – Germain-Robin started up in 1982 in northern California making French style grape brandy and Clear Creek in Oregon followed with fruit brandies in 1985.

 A few years later, the first craft whiskey distillery set up shop. San Francisco’s Anchor Steam beer was a micro-brewery before the word existed, so it’s appropriate that it would also be a pioneer of the craft distilling movement. Anchor’s Fritz Maytag founded Anchor Distilling way back in 1993 and started making rye whiskey. 

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WhiskeySku
Labor Disputes of Love

We’ve loaded up on some incredible products over the last couple of weeks, but these three barrels of Four Roses are easily the best bourbons in the store right now! I held off on marketing those products because of a politically sensitive situation at the distillery. Thankfully the distillery and their workers have come to a tentative deal to resolve the current impasse. I’m finally prepared to remind everyone how freakin' AWESOME these whiskies really are. Tons of people have already jumped on board, but these casks represent some really unique selections unlike any we've done before.

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New K&L L’Encantada Armagnacs

The world of brandy geeks is small; in fact, it’s microscopically small compared to the whiskey geek world, but few things cause that small world more excitement than new brandies from L’Encantada, the relatively new independent bottler which has been bringing out excellent Armagnacs.  

To understand what makes this stuff special, you have to understand a little bit about Armagnac. French brandy production, especially in Armagnac, is much different than the American distilled spirits industry. There are a few large producers, but by in large, Armagnac is made by farmers and wine makers who distill some of their extra grapes in a travelling still that comes around to the farms.  Many of them just stick the casks in their barns and basements, a little bit here, a little bit there. Eventually they will bottle them, maybe for family and friends, maybe for small markets, or sell them to a larger company that bottles brandy or even makes liqueur; it's sort of a Gascon retirement fund.  

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Sku
Book Review: Hacking Whiskey by Aaron Goldfarb

Over the past few years, whiskey has transformed from an anyone/anytime drink to a thing to be treasured, consumed only neat in a glencairn glass in optimal conditions to best enjoy and note every passing scent and flavor.  Add water – a travesty!  Add ice – you’re out of my will!  Add soda – may a curse descend upon you and your heirs! Now Aaron Goldfarb has come along to turn all of that on its head. In his new book Hacking Whiskey, he instructs you on how to mess with your whiskey, and I mean really mess with it.

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WhiskeySku
Just Dropped: K&L Barrel Aged Exclusives from Modern Times

Back in March of 2018, we ran a small piece detailing the full cycle of the K&L Spirits single barrel program. Our spirits buyers, after tasting through dozens of samples/barrels at the source, hand select the best single casks from Bourbon country to be bottled up and sold a few times a year. Occasionally, we end up with the empty barrels which we hand deliver to local breweries. This program really gained steam in late 2014 when David OG from K&L hooked up his childhood friend Jacob McKean of Modern Times. Don’t miss this thrilling new release!

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Bruichladdich Dinner with Simon Coughlin

The new Port Charlotte 10 year old release from Bruichladdich has finally arrived! If you're in the Redwood City area next week you have a unique opportunity to join Simon Coughlin for an exclusive in depth look at the new age stated malt and a chance to taste a few other goodies including some Laddie Legends like Octomore and Black Art.

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Andrew Whiteley
Icon or Iconoclast

Today, we have two whiskies representing both the future and the past. One is hand malted, peated to 45 ppm, aged for 16 years in a single ultra old PX Sherry butt, the other is the return of our bespoke collaboration designed in Couvreur’s humid cellars when we first visited so many years ago.  Both represent traditional styles of production that aren’t at all the norm today in Scotland and of course are not Scotch in legal terms. But they are about as close as you can get to what might have been hidden deep in the cellars of the great of estates in Scotland, who would have systematically filled old sherry butts recently depleted perhaps at some stupendous gala, with young malt whisky.

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David Othenin-Girard
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