Bladnoch Arrives + More

We all know what it took to get these bottles here (some of us more than others), but it's been worth every bit of effort. Working with Colin Armstrong and his Bladnoch distillery has been an absolute pleasure and we're looking forward to going back again very soon. In the meantime, enjoy these three eclectic selections while they're here because they're already going fast -- even without us posting anything or sending out an email. It seems the demand was pent up and the hype was built long ago. It's been a year in the making, but we've finally done it: distillery-direct Bladnoch now available in the United States. We picked the casks. We designed the labels. We got the distillery FDA registered. We got the casks across the water and into our store. Now we're offering these whiskies to you. This offering beats the hell out of anything from Auchentoshan or Glenkinchie, trust me. Bladnoch is the true lowland king, and now it's part of our K&L exclusive program.

Check it out!

Bladnoch "Young" K&L Exclusive Heavily Peated Single Barrel #57 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $54.99- Ladies and gentlemen, Bladnoch single malt whisky is finally here in the U.S.! That's not to say you couldn't get Bladnoch whisky in the past, but it had to come in from an independent bottler like Signatory or Chieftain's (we did our own cask a few years back). But this particular Bladnoch doesn't come via a third party. It's distillery-direct, straight-from-the-source Bladnoch and our three casks mark the first time any American retailer has done business with the Armstrong family directly (we worked with them to design our own new labels specifically for the U.S. market). Formerly owned by Diageo, Bladnoch distillery was shut down in the mid-90s until two Irish brothers - Raymond and Colin Armstrong - purchased the site and lobbied to have it resurrected. By 2000, they were distilling whisky at Bladnoch once again. Located in the Scotland's deep southern region, it's one of three designated "Lowland" distilleries and it's by far the most interesting of the group. This three year old cask marks the first time the Armstrong's heavily peated experiment has hit the states. Bright cinnamon Red Hot spice blisters the backend of this whisky, as the flavor builds slowly from the initial sip into a flurry of flavor in the finish. It's very Kilchoman-like, but with more fruit. While some may hesitate with the youth of this whisky, you'd be doing your mouth a disservice. We pounced immediately on this cask during our visit and we think you'll see why. It's a Lowland explosion.

Bladnoch 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive Lightly Peated Single Barrel #303 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $69.99 - Our 11 year old cask is actually a lightly-peated formula that the Armstrongs began distilling at the beginning of their tenancy. It captures the soft fruitiness that Bladnoch has always been known for, but adds just a touch of phenolic complexity to the mix (think somewhere in between Talisker and Springbank). With a rich, almost jelly bean-like sweetness on the finish and that hint of peat adding the accent, the whisky pops perfectly with the 51.5% alcohol providing a balance against the fruit.

Bladnoch 23 Year Old K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #1054 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $119.99 - The 23 year old cask we purchased actually comes from the Diageo era and was included in the stocks originally purchased with the distillery. After two decades in oak, the lively, fruity character of the whisky has become more supple and oily, with soft brandied cherries and crème brûlée on the backend. The whisky evaoprated itself down to a very drinkable 44.4% naturally, meaning you don't need to add water whatsoever despite the cask strength proof. Rejoice and celebrate the true Lowland whisky!

And haven't you always wondered what Talisker would taste like straight out of the barrel at full proof? I know David OG and I have. In all our time spent in Scotland rummaging through warehouses we've never come across a cask of Talisker. Not once. Until we sat down with some friends in Glasgow last March we thought the option simply wasn't a possibility. Why is that? Read David OG's notes below and he'll explain why. What's important, however, is that we've got single barrel Talisker in the store right now.

Talisker "The Speakeasy" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - I cannot express how utterly unusual it is for this cask to be here right now. The incredible rarity of independently bottled Talisker is not a surprise. This little distillery on the Isle of Skye is one of the world's best. It's an integral part in many of the Johnnie Walker expressions and is therefore never traded. If, however, you were one of the lucky few to own a blending operation back when Talisker contracts were actually available, you potentially could be sitting on some decent stocks of this fine whisky. Needless to say, owning Talisker is not the same as bottling single cask Talisker, as the distillery's owners are notorious for discouraging independent bottlings with the name divulged. I don't know if that's folklore, but I know when we first decided to take this cask, it was going to be under a different name. When the labels showed up, that policy had changed. Talisker it was indeed and everyone would know it. Luckily, this is the boring part of the story. The real story is in the barrel. Here, this whisky's youth is an asset. It's lost the leesy grappa notes that the distillate displays at an earlier stage, allowing the peat to push through to the foreground. The intensity the results is absolutely mind-bending. While we should/could be asking a lot more for this whisky for various reasons, we've made a commitment to providing great values for our customers and that means we've fought to get the price way down for you. Similar whisky sells for $120 in Europe.

And there were two non-prearrival single casks bottled alongside the three Islay barrels we brought in from Sovereign. Our answer to the Aberlour A'Bunadh (which just took another price increase last week) is this 2005 Glenrothes sherry butt at 59.4% that's loaded with richness and power. While the Aberlour will soon be up to around $70 a bottle, we managed to bring in something similar for $50. I think that's awesome, personally.

Then there's this lovely, fruity, easy-to-drink Glengoyne that I'm hoping fills the need for plain old-fashioned Scotch at a good price. Read David OG's notes below:

2005 Glenrothes 8 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $49.99 - We are so lucky to have such incredible suppliers. We built relationships with some of Scotland's best bottlers and none more exciting than the Laing Brothers. Stewart Laing's new company Hunter Laing is responsible for bottling our Sovereign line of single malts and when we told Stewart that we were looking for some affordable options to go with our three incredible old Islay casks, he was happy to oblige. You may know Glenrothes, the gorgeous little distillery outside of Aberlour, as one of Speyside's finest. There are no questions that Glenrothes is a blue chip malt and finding it on the secondary market is rare. Finding first fill single barrel cask strength sherry butts for less than $50 is just silly. It's like having our own A'bunadh. This unctuous little cask has everything you could want from a young sherry bomb. Despite the youth, we have powerfully aromas, shifting from Glenrothes' classic earthy pepper notes to the dense dried raisin and baking spices. The high proof isn't evident on the palate, but it swims really really well. A like this a lot with a few drops of water. We probably should have bought two of these. At this price it will be gone soon.

1997 Glengoyne 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $79.99 - Glengoyne is one of those distilleries that everybody loves, but never remembers. Located right on the border between Highland and Lowland - a line conveniently drawn right around the distillery - it's definitely one of the up and coming malts these days. Despite being quite well regarded by many, we rarely see Glengoyne around and even less so as an independent bottling. This lovely cask came as a surprise when we first tasted it as it was not on our radar either. What we found was a splendidly idiosyncratic example of this little distillery. It feels like we're a little more on the lowland side of the street here, with soft grassy aromas, subtle white pepper, and only moderate oak on the nose and palate. The oak spice builds on the finish, but it's not a power house. Instead, a fresh and forward aperitif that should do well for you as the weather starts to heat up again.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll