Questions, Questions, Questions....

While John Hansell is using this week to sound off on all his grievances with the whisk(e)y world, I'm thinking that I'm going to use today to ask some questions (many of which are rhetorical).  These are issues that I find interesting, amusing, baffling, or confusing and I'm interested to see if anyone else feels the same.  When I am sitting at my desk these are the questions running through my head as I conduct my business with the industry:

-Is it really that much more costly for Bruichladdich to use local barley and, if it is, is it worth paying $80 for their young whiskies made from it?  Are customers going to support an independent distillery's attempt to source materials locally if it costs them that much more?

-Do people understand that Ron Zacapa tastes absolutely nothing like rum? 

-Is always having the lowest price necessary for customer satisfaction?  If so, where does one draw the line?

-Is liking heavily oaked whiskey the same as liking heavily oaked chardonnay?  If so, does that mean that Pappy Van Winkle is the same as Rombauer Chardonnay? 

-Who is still interested in Cognac and Armagnac and how do I get a hold of them?

-Why does everyone throw a hissy fit when a whisky comes in at 43% instead of 46%?  I really don't see that much of a difference and I taste every single day.  Maybe I'm the idiot.

-How is it possible to like Scotch whisky and not like bourbon?  Or vise versa?  Really, come on guys.

-Do people want innovation and new ideas with their whisk(e)y, or would they rather drink Maker's Mark over and over and over and over and over and over again for the rest of their lives?

-After tasting how freakin' awesome our St. George apple brandy barrel-aged single malt was last Saturday, could Calvados or eau-de-vie barrel influence be the next big thing?

-Are people going to buy Kilchoman this winter based solely on the fact that it's a new Islay distillery, and if so, how much do I need to buy to satisfy demand?

-When did trendy people everywhere decide that Oban and Aperol were the new "it" products? 

-How long could I keep doing this before ending this blog post?

-David Driscoll


Octomore Affordable?

So, this is officially my first time posting in the K&L Spirits Journal.  As part of the David2 Spirits buying team here at K&L,  I've had a wonderful time watching Mr. Driscoll develop the spirits conversation across the bay area and beyond.  It was about time I add a little southern flavor.  The SoCal perspective is not so different from the SF outlook.   I will admit that my city is still significantly behind the north in terms of the cocktail. You still can't get a decent cocktail on the Sunset Strip, but we are catching up fast.  Los Angelenos love for the finer things is as strong as anyone's; we always want the best!

The Octomore 2.2The thirst for high quality spirits is growing exponentially all across our nation.  To say we are having a spirits renaissance is cliché, but that does not make it any less true.  The people who care about what they're drinking, really care.  They want to know the what, why, where, who and how.  At no other time in history has the spirits consumer has been so knowledgeable, opinionated, or involved (e.g. Driscoll's last post). 

The general intensity of interest and demand by spirits consumers for high-quality, unique products has allowed some of the finer producers to experiment in ways that would have been unthinkable twenty years ago.  Bruichladdich is one of these producers.  Historically considered Islay's innovator, heated debate revolves around this little distillery, just few clicks north of Port Charlotte.  It would be an understatement to label this distillery as controversial. Bruichladdich is not afraid to try something new.  In an industry where commitment to tradition is held above all other attributes, Bruichladdich takes a daring position.  Bruichladdich's independence is a gift to the whisky loving world. They've developed a line of incredibly diverse NAS malts by marrying young peaty whisky and older unpeaty stocks.  They've bottled some incredible whisky from the stocks distilled prior to the 1994 closure. They've released organic single malt whisky.  They utilize more than 50% locally grown barely.  Love it or hate it,  the independently owned Bruichladdich stands in stark contrast to the large conglomerates that control much of Scotland's whisky production.  For distilling and aging whisky, smaller is not always better and it certainly doesn't make anything easier.  It takes some serious balloons [sic.] to commit so much of their production to these experimental bottlings.  I have a feeling that their vision will become more clear as malt matures. 

Bruichladdich's most outrageous experiment to date has been the Octomore.  Many are aware of these whiskies, with their distinctive bottle shape and awe inspiring price tag.  A true experiment, driven by a Dr. Frankenstein like zeal.  Octomore is what happens when you extend the smoking process from the standard very peaty 1.5 days to upwards of 5 full days of smoke.  These experiments were designed specifically to push the maximum phenolic contents to new heights.  The process has purportedly created blindingly peaty malt with phenolic levels measuring upwards of 300 ppm.  This ultra smoky whisky is married with the 80ppm stuff to create the 1.1 and 2.1 bottlings that are available state side.  The whiskies are peated at 131 and 140ppm, respectively and bottled at full strength.  Despite the whiskies' youth, proof, and incredible peat levels, they have a surprising drinkablility (just like Bud Light).  The overall feeling of peat is all-encompassing, but not sharp or harsh.  The science behind is phenomenon is the whisky's high oil content, which is infused into the barley along during the smoking process.  The longer the burn the higher the oil content creating a textural base that elongate the intensity of peat.  This adds up to a surprisingly well rounded whisky.  Unfortunately, the Octomore is VERY expensive.  It has been out of reach for many whisky lovers as it boasts a $200 price tag.  Now for a limited time, thanks to a distribution change, it will be available at a significant discount.  For everyone who has purchased to collect, now would be the time to pick up a bottle to drink.  For all who were curious about tasting the peatiest whisky ever created this is your chance.  We've only got 1 case of the 1.1 release and the 2.1 is very limited as well.

Octomore "Ochdamh-Mor" 5 year old Release 1.1 Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml NOW $134.99  

Octomore "Ochdamh-Mor" 5 year old Release 2.1 Islay Single Malt Whisky 750ml NOW $134.99


-David Girard


K&L Whisk(e)y Club Goes To St. George

Dave Smith pours for the K&L club members

Today was the first expedition for our rather unknown K&L Whisk(e)y Club to an exclusive outside location, with both myself and K&L Redwood City Manager Alex Brisoux.  The best way to get along with your boss is to bribe him with free tastings at exclusive locations, so I think I won some brownie points today.  Along for the ride was whiskey afficionado-in-training Cedric Brisoux, who at a mere 18 months was really able to explore the space and appreciate the finer qualities of the distillery.

Our host for the afternoon was St. George distiller Dave Smith who was more than gracious in his pours and more than informative in his explanations.  He took us through the tasting bar, to the stills, to barrel alley for some barrel tasting, and back to the tasting bar for some sweet Firelit Coffee Liqueur before heading home. Rather than explain all the cool things we did, like learn about distillation, taste the new K&L exclusive apple brandy barrel-aged single malt, and taste some white dog bourbon mash to be used in future projects, I'm going to let the photos (taken by professional photographer D. Driscoll) speak for themselves.  The next Whisk(e)y Club field trip is in the works, but in order to know the time and location you have to be in the club!

D. Smith serving up some knowledge

Getting ready for barrel alley

Whiskey guru Anthony Rosario breaks down the barrels

D. Smith sucking the poison out

A. and C. Brisoux having their run of the place



New Ardbeg Sale Begins.....NOW!


To celebrate Ardbeg the whisky, the new Ardbeg custom-built Choppers, the visit of Master Distiller Rachel Barrie, and the fact that we are pretty much THE place to go for all things Ardbeg nation-wide, we are dropping prices and putting on a sale that should blow every other retailer out of the water.  People are going to try and match our prices, but they'll be hard pressed.  We already sell more Ardbeg than practically anyone because we freakin' love it and we pass it on to everyone we know.  If you have never had the pleasure of tasting Islay's most flavorful dram, then you can attend one of our upcoming Ardbeg tastings on Oct. 5th & 6th, or you can invest in a whole bottle at these new sale prices.  We're going to extend this pricing as long as possible so hopefully there'll be enough for everyone.  If you need to stock up, however, now is the time.  Click on the links below to order:

Ardbeg 10 year old Islay Single Malt Whisky NOW $43.99

Ardbeg Uigeadail Traditional Strength Islay Single Malt Whisky NOW $58.99

1990 Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist Islay Single Malt Whisky NOW $68.99



 - David Driscoll


Slieve Foy 8 Year Irish - Best Whiskey In A While

As someone who gets paid to select whiskey for a retail store, I am really earning my salary by having a taste for what will sell, rather than for some expertise knowledge about what is good.  I am not a whiskey expert, but rather learn by getting the opportunity to taste frequently.  Believe me, any of you would know as much if not more than I do about spirits if you were in my shoes.  I like to think that the real trick behind my job is to know what people are looking for and then give it to them with a level of service that most people either aren't willing to provide or don't care enough to deliver.  It is why I stay up answering emails until midnight, or write this blog in my free time.  Why am I rambling on about this?  Because what I am normally raving about whiskey-wise is rarely what I actually drink at home myself.  In fact, I rarely drink whiskey outside of the store or tasting events.  That's the real tragedy of this position - it can be overkill.  After a long day I'm ready for a beer.  However, there is one new whiskey that has really blown me away and I went to some effort to track down every available bottle for our store.  The new release from Cooley has absolutely charmed my pants off (in this case literally because I just had some and now I am typing this in my underwear). 

The point of that long intro you just read was to really stress the irony that is how rarely I actually drink whiskey on my own and to therefore drive home the point about how good this Cooley actually is.  If you can get me to drink whiskey after a long day of drinking whiskey, then you have done something right in my book.  Cooley, recent winner of the Malt Advocate's distillery of the year award, is one of only three active Irish distilleries, with Bushmill's and Midleton being the others.  We all know there are more than three brands of Irish whiskey, however, so therefore these distilleries are making product for multiple brands.  Redbreast and Paddy's, for example, are made by Midleton.  Cooley is the only independent distillery however as the other two are both members of the Irish Distiller's Group.  They make Connemara, Tyrconnell, Greenore, and now this new eight year old release brought in via Preiss Imports rather than Young's.  When I tasted a sample that Preiss sent me two months ago, I was on the phone with them in a matter of seconds.  However, this time it was for myself rather than to get an edge on a particular product.  I knew K&L's fortunes weren't riding on an obscure Irish whiskey.

Two months later the whiskey is actually available and in our store, and currently in my house.  This is why I love this Slieve Foy bottling: it has character, drinkability, and complexity, and just about anyone can love it.  I've never taken a whiff of a whiskey that smelt more like wine - it has the stone fruit of Sauvignon Blanc and even that mineral component.  You can detect that bit of sweet malt, but it's really white wine dominated.  The first sip is all fruit - even more of what you can smell on the nose.  The hints of sweetness start to pass over the tongue, but then it all passes in an instant and the richer side turns over - sweet grains and caramel.  These are the flavors that linger with you on the finish as the whiskey slides down into your belly.  It's surprising that a whiskey that begins with such fruity wine components can end so sweetly.  Everytime I taste it I am more and more perplexed by this duality.  Every time I drink it I want more and more. 

Every day people come into the store and ask me what I like and I tell them.  No one, however, ever asks me what I drink at home.  If you were to come over to my house and drink with me this month, this is the whiskey I would be offering you.  Slieve Foy 8 Year Old.  I love it.

-David Driscoll