2015: The First Holiday Whisk(e)y Wave

Are you ready for it? Can you feel it in your bones? The excitement tingling down your spine? The energy of whisky season permeating in your pores (and in your pours once you get the bottles home)?

It’s here. It’s in the room right now. The electricity is moving through my fingers as I type this up. Our first wave of casks from Scotland is here, in all three stores, on the shelf, ready for you. But don’t get too comfortable because the second wave will be here next week. And don’t forget the new Armagnacs, Cognacs, Bourbons, American brandies, mezcales, tequilas, and the whole Faultline project we’re unleashing this week.

So I’ll ask you again, Michael Buffer style: Ladies and gentlemen, are you reeeeeeeeaaaaaaady?

Let’s do it:

I popped a few bottles this morning for the staff to dig into (always the bottles with the smudges and the tears on the labels) and the crowd went wild. There’s not a stinker in the bunch here. Our first wave of Signatory this year showcases seven new casks, all of which you’re probably going to want.

1996 Glenlivet 19 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Sherry Butt Single Malt Whisky $89.99 - The next round is finally here for one of the most-beloved Fall whisky editions in K&L history. We've been picking off these first-fill sherry butts of Glenlivet from Signatory ever since we first started visiting the Scottish bottler more than five years ago. While the vintage always stays the same (1996) the whisky gets older each time around! The most recent iteration has spent 19 years in cask, giving the whisky a dark amber hue and plenty of richness. The fudge and cocoa flavors from the sherry have sunken deep into the liquid, permeating it with spice cake, dried figs, and bits of ginger dipped in dark chocolate. Soft on the palate and smooth as silk, this whisky continues to get better as time goes by. Don't wait around, however, because the annual Glenlivet Signatory release is also one of the fastest selling whiskies in K&L history, as well as one of the most popular. For your holiday parties or gift-giving needs, you won't find a better whisky at a better price.

1995 Benrinnes 20 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 99.99 - In our opinion, Benrinnes might be the most underrated distillery in all of Scotland. We've purchased a number of casks from the Diageo-owned Speyside producer over the years and we've even taken a detailed tour of the space. In just about every interaction with both the whisky and the people who make it, we've been completely impressed in just about every way. That being said, the 20 year old cask that we pulled in this year from Benrinnes might be the best whisky yet. It's a jaw-droppingly delicious single malt that brings big vanilla, big spice, loads of ripe fruit, and a creamy, soft mouthfeel for a screaming deal of a price. Two decades in wood at full proof for $99.99? If the label said Glenmorangie or Glenlivet instead of Benrinnes, you'd no doubt be looking at $180 per bottle or more, but the fact that this is Benrinnes cuts that price point right in half. The irony, however, is that we'd rather have the Benrinnes! The finish even flirts with a phenolic note and hints of smoke, despite the fact that Benrinnes doesn't make peated whisky. Do not miss this whisky. It might be the best of this year's Signatory crop. (NOTE: This is my personal favorite cask).

1995 Imperial 19 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 99.99 - This being our third cask of 1995 Imperial from Signatory, you can tell we're really quite in love with this whisky. Imagine Glenmorangie 18, but at cask strength and with extra-oiliness and that's pretty much what you're getting here; albeit this time around with an extra year in wood. Imperial is also a "lost" distillery, meaning that's no longer in existence. Closed in the late 1990s and demolished completely off the face of the earth in 2013, each drop of Imperial consumed means there's that much less left in the world. The first sip is a like butterscotch and biscuits with an earthy resin note and a light coating of vanilla. The weight is supple and chewy on the palate and there's a lovely viscous feel to the whisky, but it's kept in complete check by the full proof. At 50.9%, however, you can drink this right out of the bottle without water. And, believe us, once you open your bottle you're going to want to keep drinking it.

1990 Glen Elgin 24 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Bourbon Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $109.99 - Every year at K&L we have a few sleeper casks of whisky: barrels full of incredible whisky at incredible prices, but without well-known names or widely-established reputations. This 24 year Bourbon barrel of Glen Elgin is exactly that: a total sleeper hit that offers tremendous quality and lots of bang for the buck. Full of golden fruits, white flowers, malty richness, and a touch of resin on the finish, this is Highland whisky in the style of Clynelish. It's a delicate drink, but one that never skimps on concentration or complexity. At 50.1%, it's utterly-drinkable at full proof and there are layers that can be peeled back and unfurled with just a few drops of water. This is an insider's single malt whisky. It's for those who value substance and style over marketing magic.

1988 Blair Athol 26 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $179.99 - Last year's cask of 1988 sherry-aged Blair Athol from Signatory drove our customers into such a frenzy that we still get phone calls asking about it over a year later. The big, rich, caked-in-sherry flavor blended beautifully with the soft-fruited core of the Highland whisky's profile, creating an absolute beast when bottled at full proof. We're happy to announce to all those who've been begging us for more that we were able to return to Signatory this past Spring and purchase the lone sister cask to that beloved Blair Athol, bringing one last batch of that sherry-matured magic to K&L customers one last time. Whereas last year's cask showcased all the sweetness and sugary spice that Oloroso sherry can offer, this whisky is much drier and earthier on the palate. It's full of coffee bean, dried prunes, and burnt almonds, lingering far longer on the finish with a more dynamic finale of dried earth and savory splendor. It's a fitting finale to one of the most talked-about and requested whiskies in K&L history. We're happy we were able to send finish out the legacy with a bang!

1985 Linkwood 29 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Single Malt Whisky $199.99 - Linkwood is one of the most iconic Speyside distilleries not typically sold as a stand-alone single malt, and for good reason: Diageo needs every drop for Johnnie Walker and the various other blends sold by the spirits giant. Linkwood is considered by most blenders to be the ideal canvas, loaded with fresh fruit flavors, a flutter of grassiness, and plenty of weight on the palate. While younger single malt expressions typically bottled by independent labels can be quite enjoyable and perfectly drinkable, they often lack depth and complexity in our opinion. What's missing is age. Wouldn't it be great to see how Linkwood tastes after three decades in wood? Now we finally can thanks to this incredible little cask we found tucked into the corner at the Signatory warehouse this year. This 29 year old Linkwood is pure Speyside heaven, loaded with rich vanilla and caramel aromas that tease you into a second and third nosing. The palate is soft and oily, much lighter than the nose would suggest, with a touch of that grassy element coming into play on the finish. This is textbook Highland whisky, a whisky for Glenlivet and Glenfiddich drinkers who enjoy the classic flavors of single malt Scotch whisky, but are looking for more nuance and depth--something more out of the ordinary. For serious aficionados, this is a screaming hot deal. The cask had proofed itself down under 50% naturally, so we knocked another $60 off the bottle price by choosing NOT to take it at "cask strength"

1981 Glenlivet 33 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $399.99 - When you're talking luxury whisky in today's single malt whisky market, you're talking four to five-figure price points based more on age statements and brand names than on quality or flavor. In 2015, a bottle of 25 year old Macallan will run you $1200. So how is it that K&L can track down a single cask of 33 year old Glenlivet, aged in sherry, and bottled at cask strength for $399? Sometimes it's best not to ask questions. We've done it, however. We've brought it one of the most impressive, crowd-pleasing, all-encompassing single malts of the year with this 1981 Glenlivet, and it's everything you hope it will be. Dark caramel, Christmas cake with baking spices, fudge, candied ginger, and loads of richness that coat the palate all the way through to the finish. The question you should be asking, however, is: will one bottle be enough?

How do you strategize? Easy. Glenlivet 19 will sell out first. Followed by Blair Athol. Followed by Glenlivet 33. If you’re interested in those, start with those. The others will not sell nearly as quickly.

We’ve got new Sovereign, Hepburn’s Choice, and Old & Rare Editions coming next week. But now let’s head over to Kentucky!

As the Bourbon market continues to capture the interest of spirits consumers, one distillery has completely changed its game, shed its more conservative skin, and upgraded its image to meet the desires of this new demand. Wild Turkey continues to impress us as a company and we've found that some of the best single casks we've tasted over the past few years (as well as some of the most delicious whiskies in general) have been coming from Jimmy Russell and the gang over in Lawrenceburg. Check out what just landed:

Russell's Reserve K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #2054 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99- Barrel 2054, bottled at 55% ABV, is the total package for American Bourbon fans: it's rich, spicy, big, bold, round, loaded with toasted oak, and balanced. It's everything you want in your American whiskey. There are hints of pepper, herbaceous notes, and pencil lead on the finish after you're wowed by the first wave of classic Kentucky Bourbon flavor. It's just great Bourbon, no frills. It's just like the sign we saw at Wild Turkey distillery this past September: "Not the latest thing. The genuine thing." Ain't that the truth.

Russell's Reserve K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #531 Kentucky Bourbon $59.99 - Barrel 531 is the brighter of the two recent arrivals, bursting with cinnamon red hots, cloves, and sweet vanilla before succumbing to the proof and moving into a spicy flurry of charred oak and more herbaceous notes. The cinnamon comes back strong on the finish and brings a lovely little flutter of sweetness on the backend that should please fans of wheated expressions like Weller.

Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Rye Whiskey $64.99- Finally, after almost eight years of a serious Kentucky rye shortage, Wild Turkey has finally given us whiskey fans something to get excited about that we can actually get! Introducing the new Russell's Reserve single barrel rye whiskey: a 104 proof blast of old-school Kentucky rye flavor, meandering from dill and fresh-baked German rye bread, into a sweeter kiss of toasted oak and soft vanilla. It's never boring, however. The palate is rooted in spice and a never-ending tingly sensation on your tongue that completely differentiates it from the Wild Turkey Bourbons. Real, compelling Kentucky rye whiskey is back on the shelf at K&L, available full time. No bottle limits, no raffles, no scouring the internet to track down your allocation.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll