Building Your Bar: 2013 Summer Edition

I haven't done this for a while, but due to the amount of emails I've been getting about recommendations and advise, I thought it might be time for another edition of "Building Your Home Bar" - the column where I let you know what I would drink and you can decide if that's what you want to drink too. Remember, that BYHB is only based on my own personal opinion and not meant to be the gospel truth or final word on what's good in the world of booze. The K&L Spirits Journal always fluctuates between travel blog, news release, customer info, salesmanship, philosophy, and personal opinion. This would fall into the latter category.

So what's good right now?

Single Malt Whisky

HIGH END: K&L's Mortlach 22 Year Old or the MacKinlay's "The Journey" Blended Single Malt. If you want the big sherry flavor, the mature wood, the big spice, and the richness of two decades in first-fill splendor, then it's definitely worth splurging on the Mortlach. The only people who haven't loved it are the people who don't like big sherry, and even they still like it. For something lighter, it's really tough to beat the nuanced flavor of the MacKinlay. There's nothing this soft and fruity with peat right now and I can't help but find every sip simply charming. Some people don't like the gimmickry, which is fine, but there's good whisky in that package either way.

MIDDLE ROAD: This is a tough category right now because everything seems to be really expensive or a super bargain. Either it's super rare, or it's so competitive of a product that everyone is struggling to be the low-price leader. Many of my favorite mid-range whiskies are currently sold out from distribution. Things like Aberlour 16 and Glendronach 15. There's always great booze to be found at Bruichladdich. The 10 year old standard edition and the Port Charlotte 10 are fantastic choices for any aspiring Islay fan, offering both the richness and the peat if you want it. We still have a little bit of Glen Garioch 14 Single Barrel as well for those looking for the malty goodness of the Highlands. I still think the Aberlour 12 NCF Edition is as good as it gets for $50 right now - it's so chewy and rich. I'm also really enjoying my bottle of the standard Longrow right now.

VALUE: Now that we have the Glenrothes Select Reserve back in stock that's a solid choice at $35. Glenmorangie 10 as well, but that's not quite as exciting. For blended whisky there's still no beating the Bank Note at $19.99 a liter.

American Whiskey

HIGH END: Nothing. There is no high-end American whiskey right now because it's gone - it's been drunk or it's sitting in a collector's basement. You also might find some at an out-of-the-way corner store that no one knows about. Whatever the reason, it's not here at K&L, so I've got nothing for you.

MIDDLE ROAD: High West's Rendezvous Rye is still delicious and less than $50. I've actually become quite enamored with Blanton's lately, although that may be just a phase. Maker's 46 is quite surprising in its qualtiy seeing that I'm not typically a fan of the standard edition. Same goes for the Knob Creek Reserve.

VALUE: Most of what I'm drinking falls into this category. If you managed to snag one of the Henry McKenna 10 Year Old bottles we had a few weeks back, that's about as good as it gets in my mind. I drank that again last night while watching the Mad Men season finale on my DVR and marveled over how good that whiskey was. In the meantime, if you can find something better than Old Weller Antique, Buffalo Trace, Evan Williams Single Barrel or Four Roses Small Batch for the money, let me know.


HIGH END: Nothing worth talking about right now.

MIDDLE ROAD: You don't need to pay more than $50 to drink great tequila. Anything from ArteNom, Ocho, or Gran Dovejo should make you very happy, as long as you're not looking for caramel coloring or vanilla. The lower mid-range prices of Campeon also offer a lot of bang for the buck.

VALUE: Calle 23 definitely brings the flavor for about $22-$25 a bottle. Espolon is fine if you're in a pinch for margaritas.


HIGH END: I still think that the Ron Abuelo Centuria is one of the better and most impressive sippers around. The El Dorado 21 is also quite nice.

MIDDLE ROAD: This depends on what you're looking for and what your intent is, either an agricole mixer or something nice to sip on its own, but I really like the Barbancourt 15, the new Banks 7 Year Reserve, and the Mount Gay Extra Old for versatility. They mix well, but also drink nicely with ice.

VALUE: Our new cask of Mount Gay Black Barrel #1107 is unstoppable for the money. Lots of flavor and spice for $26. You'll drink the whole bottle in two days.  Blanco mixers will still find the El Dorado 3 as the benchmark for Daiquiris.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll