Community Effort! Everyone Pitches In

So I've been on a philosophical bender lately, really breaking down my ideas of careers, capitalism, and child rearing and cornering everyone I know to discuss these topics with me (my eccentric nature can come unleashed from time to time).  I've spared the blog however until now, but I'll make my additions to this medium short and sweet.  My time spent researching German literature in graduate school helped to shape what I thought was my job and duty upon joining K&L: learn everything about wine and spirits, and make that my #1 priority.  All my free time, all my reading, all my webpage bookmarks, specialize, find a niche and make myself an expert.  That's the PhD mindset, at least.  Lately, I've come to peace with my neurotic brain by changing my self-perception regarding this job, rather than changing the job itself.  Thanks to all the great relationships I have formed with many of you and the fantastic local businesses in the area, I see this position more as a community outreach where we all chip in and get what we want out of our situation.  Continuing on with that mindset, I'd like to thank Chris Matthews, who comes to the tastings and takes high quality shots to document the occasion.  If you need a professional to capture your next event, you may want to look him up.  Here's a link to his photos from our last Islay tasting at Martin's West.

-David Driscoll


Tidbits and Notes 5/21/10

Just a few quick notes for the weekend.

-I've been drying out a bit recently hence the lack of everyday posts.  Don't forget to let your body recover from time to time.  I came into this business thinking that if everyone around me drank everyday it must be OK.  For me, it isn't OK and it's good to listen to your own body when it's telling you to back off.  Some of the best palates to ever have tasted whisky are no longer with us and that fact isn't unrelated to their lifestyle.

-Amrut Indian single malts should be in next week!  This is a very big deal.  The Fusion was rated the 3rd best whisky in the world this year by the Whisky Bible and I can see why.  I just tasted it again yesterday and it was amazing.  I really like it.  Look for that and the rest of the line up to be in stock by next weekend.

-Don't forget the Old World Spirits tasting tonight.

-We've got 3 new Murray McDavid whiskies at great prices:

1997 Mortlach 12 Year Old Chateau d' Yquem Cask Murray McDavid Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml $59.99- Yet another masterful manipulation of Speyside underdog Mortlach by Bruichladdich's Jim McEwan.  The last batch of Mortlach we had saw syrah casks on the finish and went down as one of the all time K&L greats (we still get calls every now and then from a desperate customer hoping to get one last bottle).  This time around the red fruits are replaced with honey and stonefruit, with white wine aromatics blending into the luscious richness from the Sauternes influence.  The malted barley comes out on the midpalate and the mouthfeel is nowhere near as viscous as you would expect.  The sweetness is almost imperceptable until the finish comes roaring in with loads of caramel, honey, and Yquem's amazing buttery texture.  A fantastic value that ranks among Murray McDavid's finest achievements.
1999 Bowmore 10 year old E. Guigal Cote Rotie Cask Murray McDavid Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml (elsewhere $70) $49.99 - Before whisky legend Jim McEwan set off to lead the way at Bruichladdich, he was the master distiller at Bowmore for over twenty years - bringing the reputation of the distillery to the top of the single malt world.  Now that he's bottling casks independently with the Murray McDavid project, he finally got the chance to get his hands on some of his old creation and manipulate it to his liking.  Taking high quality syrah barrels from the magical appelation of Cote Rotie, Mr. McEwan seasons this solid 10 year Bowmore into something exception and unique.  The moderate peat and refreshing brininess of the Bowmore plays wonders against the spice, peppar, and dark berry fruit of the Cote Rotie barrels.  An intoxicating crimson hue is the first striking quality of this wonderful malt.  The plummy richness of the Cote Rotie is not lost in the salt air and spice of the Bowmore.  An exceptional example and a fabulous value.
1995 Macallan 14 Year Old, Petrus Cask Murray McDavid Single Malt Whisky 750ml $89.99 - What happens when you combine the most successful and beloved of all Speyside malts with the legendary wine of Bordeaux's Petrus and the mastery of Bruichladdich's Jim McEwan?  You get elegance, intruigue, and succulence in an amazing bottle of whisky.  The mellow and mild mannered sherry wood aged Macallan sees an amazing enhancement of red fruit highlights with a juicier mouthfeel without ever negating its finest attribute which has always been balance.  The most tradtional and conservative of Scotland's whiskies, this transformation was obviously done with kid gloves so as not to adulterate the flavor, but rather to make it better.  The sweetness is just a bit brighter and the supple textures are just a bit smoother.  Jim McEwan continues to show us that no one understands the relationship of barrels to whisky better than he does.


Take care,


-David Driscoll

Party @ Old World Spirits in Belmont Friday 5/21 - $10

Please come to Davorin Kuchan's distillery in Belmont at #3 and #4 121 Industrial Way in Belmont.  It's off of Industrial Rd. and is back in the parking lot with a bunch of other office spaces.  He's created a fantastic little tasting room and has all the booze ready for you.  For a mere $10 you can taste his entire line up: the Blade gin, the La Sorciere absinthes, the eau de vie and liqueurs, as well as his new brandy he is working on.  Maybe, if you are lucky, he will be in the middle of producing some of his wonderful gin and will let you taste it fresh off the still like I was lucky enough to do.  The event starts at 6 PM and there's a brewery right across from him that will be tasting beer as well.  It could turn into quite a time out.  See you there.

-David Driscoll


Barrel Aged Peach Brandy - The Missing Prohibition Link

OK- Big news today!  Some of you are going to yawn at this, but some of you are going to be jumping up with excitement. 

1) About six months ago when Davorin Kuchan first brought us his eau de vie, absinthe and gin, I tasted his peach eau de vie with delight and said, "Have you ever thought about aging this?"  I told him that there was a giant void in the classic cocktail scene for all the recipes calling for peach and apricot brandy and that were he to make one, he would be a star very quickly - as long as it was good.  Well, Davorin went to work and now here we are some time later awaiting our first delivery of what should be the only real Peach Brandy to hit the U.S. market in a long long time.  I know that Davorin took a few samples around to the top SF bars and everyone he met grew a big smile when he presented this to them.  This is a pretty big deal for cocktail enthusiasts and historians.  I've already emailed the SF Chronicle, cocktail historian and author of Imbibe David Wondrich, as well as other key figures like my buddy Erik Ellestad, whose romp through the Savoy Cocktail Book got me started on this journey to begin with (check out his website for the best breakdown of cocktail recipes on the internet).  These guys are all stoked to get this and start tinkering with it in their drinks.  If you are interested in owning a small piece of what should be minor cocktail history, then email me please.  We are only getting 18 (375ml) half bottles in today, but it isn't inexpensive.  It is very difficult to make peach brandy and make it well, which is why no one is currently doing it.  In fact, it's a giant pain in the ass, according to Davorin.  I have tasted it however and it is remarkable.  The perfect combination of fresh peach and rich barrel oak aging.  I can't wait to see where this goes.  We are the only store who will have this for some time to come, so this is a big exclusive for us.  Davorin said that since we had him make it personally for us, we should get first dibs for awhile.  Remember only 18 available today, so first come first served.
Kuchan "K&L Exclusive" Barrel Aged Peach Brandy 375ml $42.99 - When I met Davorin Kuchan for the first time, I tasted his wonderful line of fruit eau de vie and I told him, "if you make a real peach brandy, not a peach flavored brandy, but an authentic barrel aged product, you're going to be a huge star in the cocktail world."  If you check through classic cocktail manuels like the Savoy or How To Mix Drinks, you'll find numerous recipes that call for apricot or peach whiskey, and they're not refering to the flavored liqueurs available these days.  Truth be told. there just wasn't anyone willing to make the stuff anymore - until now!  Along with a few select bars in San Francisco, we are the only place you can get this.  This is a brandy that sings of real stonefruit and marries beautifully with the oak barrel influence.  I'm delighted that it turned out as well as we had hoped.  If you want a small piece of history, this is a small renaissance in a half bottle.  For serious cocktail enthusiasts and the few who want to taste real peach whiskey, this is it.
2) K&L Party at Old World Spirits Distillery - Friday May 21st - Belmont - 6 - 9 PM
In celebration of our new peach brandy, we will be having an open house at Davorin's distillery in Belmont, where you will unfortunately not be able to try the peach brandy, but will be able to try everything else he makes.  Please join us at #3, #4 121 Industrial Way, Belmont, CA 94002 and email me if you have any questions.  I'm really excited for people to get to see how good Davorin is at his work and how fortunate we are to have him in our backyard. 


-David Driscoll 






Talk About The Passion

I am very appreciative and gracious when I receive positive feedback from vendors, Whisk(e)y List members, and in-store customers alike.  Usually everyone has the same compliment for me, which is that they enjoy or admire my passion and enthusiasm for booze and for the products I am selling.  Now I'm not writing this to toot my own horn or to talk about myself, but it does set the stage for how the spirits business works and how I want it to work from now on at K&L.  Passion!  You need to like what you sell in order to do your work effectively.  If I didn't drink all the time, there's no way I would give a crap about any of this stuff.  It's my hobby as much as it is all of yours and we can sniff out any posers among us.  As I've written about in the past: I do not get paid to do this blog, the emails, the late night responses to customers at home, or the tastings we do at Martin's West.  I do them because I like being involved.  I've been having a particularly tough time with some small producers lately who really want to get their products into our store.  I really want to help everyone sell their booze, but unfortunately there are just too many people who are doing this for the money and not out of love.  If you can convince me that you love vodka, and you've studied the history of it, and you drink it neat after dinner, and how all the different grains affect the texture and flavor, and how your family has been making it for generations, then I'll probably bring it in just out of admiration.  This is never the case, however.  Most of the producers I am talking with are looking for a marketing plan - selling to young people, selling to clubs, selling to rich people, selling to hip hop artists, etc.  I'm over it.  It doesn't work at K&L because the people bringing them to me don't care about vodka, they care about money and how they can build the next Grey Goose.  The same goes for tequila.  I've got amazing products like the Los Osuna tequilas that taste authentic, have a long history of passion for the stuff, and Jesus Padilla brings me the delivery and talks about the spirit with me every time.  He loves it and he's so excited that other people share his passion.  That type of love is contageous and it makes people want to share in it.  Then I've got other tequilas that cross my path where I can tell that all the new oak and sweet vanilla that have been loaded into the flavor are meant for one thing: how fast can we get our bottles into Costco and make a quick fortune.  That's great if you're an entrepreneur and everyone has a right to make some money, but don't ask me later why no one is buying your product.  It's not about marketing and target groups here.  It's about relationships, respect for the trade, quality booze, and passion for good drinks.  I'm realizing more and more that I need to stop every once and awhile and really promote the producers that are making quality liquor and who take the time to check in with me and our customers. St George (Hangar One), Los Osuna, Kuchan & Old World Spirits, North Shore Distillery, Clear Creek Distillery, A.D. Rattray Single Malt Whiskies, Willett Bourbon, Dos Manos Tequila, Four Roses and more.  These are all people who would be making booze even if it didn't pay the bills.  I hope that the enthusiasm they have for making booze, carries over to my selling of it, and to your drinking of it.

-David Driscoll