Staff Favorites - Melissa Smith

Melissa Smith
Growing from a Redwood City sales position in 2009, to the company sake buyer in 2011, and then to the Head Sommelier in 2013 my love of wine spreads the gamut from mineral laden Sancerres to California Zinfandels aged over 20 years, Urban wines to classic Bordeaux, and 99% of the spirits that we carry. As a CIA trained chef I spent 15 years in some of the top kitchens in the country until my love of wine won out and I transitioned to the wine industry in 2004 where I began utilizing my skills as an instructor, a writer, and a restaurant consultant after passing the introductory level exam of The Court of Master Sommeliers. In 2010, I developed the first iPhone app for wine pronunciation, the Enotria Guide. In 2011, I became one of the few certified Sake Sommeliers in the country through the Sake Education Council. Outside of K&L I run private and corporate wine and spirits events around the Bay Area, consult on private cellars, and attempt to write professionally.

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1997 Laphroaig 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Old Particular (Douglas Laing) Single Barrel Single Malt Whisky 750ml  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
We all know Laphroaig is a love or hate proposition and this, my friends, is proper Laphroaig. Aged in a hogshead for 16 years, the nose starts exactly where you'd hope -PEAT! The massive smoke is not one dimensional however, moving from sooty embers to oceany briny and back again. One the palate, the sweet malt balances the intense peat nicely with the slightly lower ABV making it shockingly easy to consume. This reminds me of somewhere between the old 15 year and the current 10 year cask strength. A stupendous offering that we're absolutely lucky to have.
Price: $139.99 Add To Cart BC 0

1996 Tobermory 18 Year Old K&L Exclusive Old Particular (Douglas Laing) Single Barrel Single Malt Whisky 750ml  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
BOOOOOOOOOM! This is definitely my favorite Tobermory to date. This fun and funky little distillery from the gorgeous Isle of Mull, is considered very high quality. That said, the distillery offering, their 15-year-old, sells at close to $140. This is several years older and from one single cask, but also has even more character than the standard offering. Perhaps it's the fact the half the time the little distillery on Mull is devoted to creating peated whisky, but this definitely has a phenolic background note which makes it very intriguing at first glance. While the distillery is officially in the highlands, this bottling is the epitome of an "Island" whisky. It has a certain sense of place that is just unexplainable. Fruit, salt, malt, and the tiniest hint of smoke - pure joy! The finish has this fabulous earthy gravel note that slowly merges into a dark fudge quality. Probably the most unexpected of this years offerings and the obvious contender for sleeper hit of the year.
Price: $109.99 Add To Cart BC 0

1990 Girvan 24 Year Old Sovereign K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Whisky 750ml  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
This is single grain and from the same distillery that recently released a 25-year-old version at nearly five times the price. This is ULTRA easygoing whisky. Not for your big peat heads, this is the stuff you give to the guy that loves high-end blends or just easy drinking. Maybe not the most complex whisky on offer this year, but certainly one of the easiest we have right now. The nose is low aroma, with subtle yellow fruit aromas. Hints of vanilla and fresh cut wood continue on to the palate where the sweet grain takes over. Won't scratch the itch for some of the malt guys, but will make all the normal drinkers in the world VERY happy.
Price: $99.99 Add To Cart BC 0

1964 North British 50 Year Old Sovereign K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Whisky 750ml  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
Just think about what 50 years in a barrel does to a whisky. This was luckily coming from a large hogshead considering we got nearly 120 bottles out of the cask. With the amount of expected evaporation that means that possibly as much as 80% of this whisky evaporated over the course of its five decades of maturation. The resulting whisky is surprisingly light on its feet without a bitterness or a sense of being "too old." The nose is one of the closest to bourbon I've seen in Scotch. It reminds me of an old school wheater of the highest order. The exotic wood, deep vanilla, and melted brown sugar don't translate over to the palate, which is oily and surprisingly lifted. The creamy texture is what really takes over on the palate, framed by subtle sweet grain and a dark caramel note on the finish. More stupendously drinkable whisky that despite the high price remains an incredible value by any measure.
Price: $249.99 Add To Cart BC 0

Glenmorangie Túsail Limited Edition Single Malt Whisky 750ml  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
We all know the Dr. Bill can do no wrong and this fabulous new offering from Glenmo's Private Edition line is no exception. I love it when instead of getting super experimental (think Ardbeg Space Whisky) the guys at Glenmo kind of go back the other way. Producing whisky by hand from heirloom varieties of barley is not a first for the modern whisky industry, but Dr. Bill has done it in such a thoughtful and delicious way, you're almost glad he didn't do it first. We absolutely loved the Bere Barley from Bruichladdich a couple of years ago and this takes the idea of barley varietals one step further by including an in house malting scheme. The result is something utterly unique and perhaps wildly authentic. This feels like old school whisky (although retaining Glenmo's classic elegance) and has a depth and soul hard to come by in modern releases. The high protein variety of barley producers far less alcohol (less starch), but much more character than the spring varietals typically used. Robust and round, with tons a fruit and small but persistent spicy quality. We've got a decent supply right now, but like all the Private Editions we'll have people asking about this one for years to come (not to mention it's likely to take home some serious awards later in the year).
Price: $99.99 Add To Cart BC 0

2013 Cantina Valle Isarco Kerner  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
A cross between Riesling and the local red grape Schiava. Though something of a mongrel in terms of ancestry, in the right hands, such as those of the very capable people at Cantina Valle Isarco, it produces a medium-bodied, un-oaked wine full of vibrant fruits and ethereal floral highlights, loves something spicy Thai of Mexican.
Price: $18.99 Add To Cart BC 0

2013 Cantina Valle Isarco Lagrein  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
Fairly dark red-purple in color with aromas and flavors of blackberries, black plums and tea leaf. It is medium-weight and savory on the palate. I drink this wine with grilled meats, stews, sausages....very versatile. Great value.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart BC 0

Four Roses K&L Exclusive OBSF (11 year & 6 months) Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon 750ml  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
We all know that these Four Roses Single Barrels can be off the chain, but this one is just a whole different thing. We're talking about ULTRA rich nose of maple and spice. Subtle dusty earth tones build around that base moving toward the darker chocolate and flambéed fruit. On the palate, the surprising dryness is refreshing with that lovely gravelly earthiness and a strong peppery spice. Watch out!!!
Price: $66.99 Add To Cart BC 0

2012 Cantina Valle Isarco Pinot Nero/Blauburgunder  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
Südtiroler Blauburgunder or Alto Adige Pinot Nero, the wine is fantastic. Like a cool mountain lake, with fine acidity and focus and layers of cool red fruits. Chill it slightly and serve with wild mushroom pasta dishes or trout.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart BC 0

Four Roses K&L Exclusive OBSK (9 year & 8 Months) Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon 750ml  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
I tend to lean toward the older offerings from Four Roses when we get the single barrels as they tend to have additional concentration and power that's not seen in the under 10-year-old stuff. My rule of thumb has officially been thrown out the window (it was a terrible one anyway, considering I'm always talking about how older doesn't always equal better), because this little OBSK is just singing on every level. I'm glad we didn't wait one more day before dumping this baby, it's got everything I want in a high rye bourbon. Sweet candy and savory spice on the nose. Behind those powerful aromas, a deep dark woodsy thing that reminds me of old glories from the 60s and 70s. The palate is a constant struggle between the dusty spice and the sweet vanilla-laden oak. Whoa, it's a big boy! Absolutely delicious!
Price: $66.99 Add To Cart BC 0

West County Cider "Reine de Pomme" Cider, Massachusetts 750ml   | Public Pending Approval
Review Date: 3-25-2015
This dry cider is deep gold, has a fruity, appealing "apple juice" aroma, and virtually no funky/earthy aromas, desirable though they may be to hard cider fans. But make no mistake, it is dry, dry, chalky dry on the finish. Bottled Champagne-style, it's got a high degree of effervescence. If you like fresh apple aromas but want to move to something more austere and serious than big-brand ciders, check this out.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart BC 0

Lagavulin Distiller's Edition Single Malt Whisky 750ml  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
This stuff is so overtly awesome it's hard not recommend it even to people who adamantly hate peat smoke. Something about putting that sweet syrupy sherry note on top of the oily robust spirit that we get from Lagavulin is so satisfying, I see why every other distiller in the world is trying to emulate it. Of course, nothing is like Lagavulin so where others fail miserably, the Lagavulin Distillers Edition is a triumph. Massive, oily, all encompassing - this is whisky you'll need to savor slowly. It borders on dessert level sweetness, but all that oil and smoke keeps it in range. As always, there is a limited supply of this whisky and once it's gone we'll have to wait for the new release.
Price: $109.99 Add To Cart BC 0

Louis XIII de Remy Martin Grande Champagne Cognac 750ml  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
Louis XIII is all about history and authenticity. It's absolutely silly the time and expertise that goes into creating this special blend. It's the ultimate luxury experience and a window into the History of Cognac. This special cognac represents a continuity between the first bottling many decades ago. Want to actually taste the cognac that Charles De Gaul opened at the end of WWII - this is the stuff. With a minimum age of 40 years, none of the 4 master blenders has actually tasted their final blend, but they have compared them to older bottlings to make sure that the quality remains identical through out each bottling. The gorgeous hand blown crystal just adds to the majesty. Truly decadent and totally worth every penny.
Price: $3,299.99 Add To Cart BC 0

1978 Port Dundas 36 Year Old Sovereign K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Whisky 750ml  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
This is an enigmatic whisky from an equally mysterious distillery. The whisky needs some time, it needs you to take a step back and take some time with it. Big powerful vanilla nose (almost like a roasted vanilla). The palate has tons of phenol (it's not peat) but definitely some dark earthy flavors. There's also tons of fresh exotic botanicals in there (ginseng, orris, ginger, meadowsweet?) and then those dark dense phenolic flavors coming back. Diesel oil, roasted chestnuts, burning coal. Massively weird and totally special.
Price: $149.99 Add To Cart BC 0

2007 Mortlach 7 Year Old Hepburn's Choice K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml  
Review Date: 3-25-2015
This fun and educational little monster whisky is the sort that makes geeks giddy and noobs cringe. I seriously heard two different groups at the Scotch Club tasting of this product proclaim that it was fabulous, while the other announced that they didn't get it at all. It's naked young Mortlach in all its malty splendor. If you're looking for something sweet and soft this is not it. It does have mounds of vanilla fudge (cake frosting), yellow flowers, snappy malty spark. Linear and structured. Takes water pretty well, but quickly looses intensity after a few drops.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart BC 0

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