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Sunday
Nov262017

An Old Fashioned Night Out

One of the biggest issues I have with the Bay Area right now is the price of real estate; not necessarily because I can't afford to buy anything, but more so because all of my favorite longstanding bars and restaurants are being priced out of doing business. Anything historical, kitschy, or old school is being shuttered up in favor of modern beer gardens, progressive cocktail dens, and farm-to-table eateries specializing in small plates, long lines, and high prices. I like many of these new Bay Area establishments, but the San Francisco I was raised on is all but a memory at this point. However, that sense of the past lives on in Las Vegas where real estate is still cheap and historical kitsch is preserved in bright neon. 

I won't go into a history lesson on Frankie's Tiki Room as you can get the full rundown from the webpage I've linked in. I'll let the photo do the talking: my drink is blue and absolutely loaded with alcohol, there's electronic Keno and poker at the bar, and the entire place smells like cigarettes. Those characteristics act like a built-in filter for pretense! Everyone at Frankie's last night was a professional drinker and they'd been drinking for hours by the time we got there. Ain't nobody talking about measured pours or cocktail culture in here.

The Golden Steer may look like a strip mall steakhouse from the street (because it is), but I'd warn you about judging a book by its cover. This place has been here since 1958 and it has hosted Elvis, Joe DiMaggio, Nat King Cole, and Natalie Wood over the years, to name a few. It was my first time at the old Steer last night and now I'm smitten. It's everything I want out of life in one beautiful dining experience.  

You should definitely form your own opinion about the wonderful experience at the Golden Steer, but one thing you MUST get is the table-side Caesar salad that is 100%, without a doubt, hands-down the best Caesar salad I've ever had. They make it from scratch right in front of you and it has Tabasco, Worcester, fresh garlic, and a handful of other magical ingredients that light up your taste buds. It's truly worth basing your entire stay in Vegas around.

I can't say that I wanted the "Oscar" when the waiter explained to me what the night's special was. I think I felt obligated at that point, mainly because I'd never even thought about topping filet mignon with fresh crab meat and smothering the whole thing with Hollandaise. 

In any case, if you're feeling homesick for the food and drink culture that's being systematically erased from Bay Area living, these are two great options for a glorious reminiscence.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Nov222017

Happy Thanksgiving

This is the time of year when we give thanks, so I'm ready to start thanking people!

I'm giving thanks right now to the tens of thousands of great folks who make my job possible, who support our program here at K&L, and who are on track right now to make November of 2017 the most successful November we've ever had in the spirits department, despite the fact that we've lost customers all across the country due to shipping restrictions and despite the fact that the competition in retail is tougher than ever in California.

Looking at our numbers and knowing that, despite all of the hurdles we've had to jump through recently, our customers are coming out in record droves to support our program makes me incredibly thankful. I've never had more blog readers (huge increase this year)! I've never had to sift through more emails! And I've never been more proud of the work we're doing here, especially the work of my colleagues who are dialed in right now and firing on all cylinders. I was really worried earlier this year that our momentum might be faltering with the boutique booze market, but I apparently I was wrong. DEAD WRONG. We're booming like never before at K&L and I have all of you to thank for that. So thank you!

I hope dearly that everyone has a great Thanksgiving and that you're sipping on something satisfying this evening. I'll be with my family tomorrow, then I'm heading out to Vegas for some R&R. 

Be well and please don't hesitate to reach out if you need help this holiday season.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Nov222017

Two Beauties For Thanksgiving

Let me present to you the final two casks of Old Particular for 2017, just in time for Thanksgiving! If you want to show up to this year's party and make everyone's night, I suggest you pick up one of these beauties as both are showstopping stunners and, along with the Bowmore, represent the best of what I found in Scotland this past year in terms of both quality and price-to-value. 

Whenever we have the chance to buy fan favorite single malts like Caol Ila for a reasonable price, we're almost always going to jump on that opportunity. With its combination of round, textural and fruity malt flavors and potent peat smoke, the Islay producer has long been a hit with our clientele. We're big fans as well. Caol Ila's wide-necked pot stills allow more of the heavier oils to escape during distillation, creating a richer-tasting spirit on the palate. You get every bit of that classic Caol Ila character in this twenty year old single cask, one that reduced itself naturally to an absolutely perfect 46% ABV!

We got out of the "lost distillery" game years ago, no longer willing to pay the crazy prices for Port Ellen and Brora, but luckily for us there's still not much of a market for grain whisky despite the huge success of brands like the Nikka Coffey Still. We're not complaining, however! We went back and dug out a second cask of 43 year old Garnheath, the long lost facility from Scotland's Lowland region that operated between 1965 and 1986 before closing forever. Considering both the age and the rarity of the whisky, the price is down right ridiculous for something this delicious and exotic, but so long as we keep finding deals like this, we'll keep passing on the savings to you!

1996 Caol Ila 20 Year Old "Old Particular" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $129.99 - Caol Ila's whisky can be as transitive and unpredictable as the Islay weather itself; sometimes it's light and breezy, while other times powerful and thunderous in its character. At cask strength, the salt, smoke, and peat aromas often leap out of the glass, but when tempered the creaminess and fruitiness of the spirit itself is allowed to shine, fat and unctuous in its texture. With this cask of 20 year old Caol Ila, we have the best of both worlds: a full proof, no-water-added single barrel whisky that has naturally proofed itself down to 46% after two decades in wood. The nose is an absolute dream: sweetly-tinged smoke, burning embers, with faint aromas of peach and apricot in the background. The palate is simply perfect: sweet vanilla intermixed with peat, salt, and ash, but always with a roundness of texture that's a product of the distillery's wide-necked pot stills. It's a perfect Caol Ila specimen, highlighting the strengths of the Islay distillery's personality, each with equal concentration and intensity, all in harmony and balance.

1974 Garnheath 43 Year Old "Old Particular" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Grain Whisky $249.99 - Part two of Garnheath is finally here! Part of our lost whisky collection (meaning distilleries that have since closed and/or been demolished), we bring you the follow-up to our absolutely stunning cask of old Garnheath, a grain whisky from the once-active distillery site inside of Inver House's Moffat site located just east of Glasgow on the road to Edinburgh. The distillery was located next to another closed malt producing site: Glenflagler. Closed in the mid-eighties, now just a memory and a story to share among friends, the spirit of Garnheath lives on (literally) in this single barrel, cask strength edition bottled just for K&L. Not only is the Garnheath a lost legend, this 43 year old edition is one of the smoothest, roundest, most luxurious whiskies we've ever had the pleasure of selling. It rolls across the tongue effortlessly, coating the palate with rich waves of caramel, honey and maple syrup. In classic grain whisky style, there's no maltiness or smoke here. It's just four glorious decades of barrel maturation at work: orange zest, candied sugar and apricot. A true whisky classic in the making and a piece of history, to boot. The whisky is a year older, but the price remains the same. This is the last cask of Garnheath in the warehouse and it will be the last we bring in under the Old Particular label. Bottled at 47.8 cask strength.

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Nov222017

Diggin' Through Vinyl

Many, many thanks to Julie at Frontier Records for the big box of vinyl that showed up on my desk yesterday afternoon. I listened to just about every 45 in the Dangerhouse Box Set last night with a big glass of Bourbon by my side and had an absolute blast. Although, I'm not sure who had more fun: me or my cat. Kiki was like: "Oh shit, you got multiple copies of Christian Death in this box?" She loves digging through vinyl.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Nov212017

Advancements at Ardnahoe

As we're anticipating the arrival of our new Sovereign and Golden Devil casks from Hunter Laing, I spoke with Andrew Laing on the phone this morning to catch up on all the news from Ardnahoe. If you've been living under a rock for the last year, the Laings decided to open their own distillery on Islay near Bunnahabhain just across the water from the Isle of Jura. It's one of my favorite locations on the island because for years I've been utterly captivated by the majesty of those mountains. It does something to my soul when I stare at that view, and now there's going to be an operational distillery at that very spot for me to visit and drink whisky at! 

Andrew also mentioned something that may be of interest to some of you super Islay whisky fans: they're starting their private cask program as we speak and, if you're interested, you'll be able to buy your own ex-Bourbon barrel of Ardnahoe from the first distillery run for £7000. That price includes ten years of storage on the island at the distillery, as compared to off site storage for terroir purists. The complication, as many of you early Bruichladdich investors may know, is that getting the booze into the U.S. down the road will likely be a major headache. I told Andrew that I'd be happy to help any customer who goes through K&L to clear their booze into the states later on and avoid most of the tariffs, and he asked if I might pass that information along. So I'm saying this now: if you're interested in owning one of the first casks of Ardnahoe and you live in California (or you're willing to pick it up here), you should contact me.

As many of you also know, legendary master distiller Jim McEwan, of Bowmore and Bruichladdich fame, has come out of retirement for the second time to help make the whisky at Ardnahoe. There's no telling how long, however, he's going to stick around after he gets the production off the ground, so that's another reason to buy a cask of the original juice: it will definitely be distilled by Jim himself, rather than whomever takes over for him down the line. As you can see from the two photos, the distillery is coming together and Andrew told me they're looking at May for an official opening. I definitely plan on being out there in May for that remarkable achievement!

-David Driscoll