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K&L Staff Recommendations
90-95 points Wine Enthusiast: "Intensely woody aromas and succulent marshmallow, bakery and lanolin scents spring forth. The fat palate entry oozes butter cream, dark caramel, and brown sugar tastes; the midpalate focuses more on the grain aspect as the flavor becomes toasty, fruity and honeyed. Ends honey sweet, decadent and maple-like. An unbelievable bargain." (4/2007) K&L Notes: Named North American Whiskey of the Year at the 2006 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and Best Buy of the Year at the 2006 WhiskeyFest. Rye was the first Colonial American whiskey, and was the most popular spiri... Read More »
90 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Best Buy* This amber whiskey is made with 95% rye, which puts it on the very high-rye side of the spectrum, and gives it a spicy zip. In some ways, this evokes an ultradry version of an orange liqueur, with juicy orange notes dusted with black pepper, clove, nutmeg and a faint hoppy note." (7/2012) Whisky Advocate: "No age statement, but it includes 4 to 7 year old whiskeys. The mashbill is 95% rye - much higher than most standard rye whiskeys out there. It’s brisk, vibrant, and loaded with spice (crisp mint, warming cinnamon, cocoa, hint of anise). Fruit - ripe nectarine ...Read More »
It's been a long time in the making, but the first batch of 100% Willett-distilled rye is finally here and it's glorious. For years, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, run by the Kulsveen family, has been bottling fantastic whiskey under their numerous labels; Willett being just one of the expressions (along with Noah's Mill, Rowan's Creek, Johnny Drum, etc.). Willett Distillery was actually founded in the 1930s by former Bernheim superintendent Thompson Willett, but subsequent generations of the family would become disinterested in Bourbon until the distiller... Read More »
96 points Wine Enthusiast: "First, a warning: this is only for those who like their rye big and brawny. It starts off innocuously with a maple-syrup color, and a pretty, complex and subtle scent: honey, vanilla, a slight medicinal tinge and faint clover notes. It feels silky on the tongue and at first, the flavors reflect caramel, burnt orange and a whisper of smoke, but then a mouth-warming wave of tannic bite sweeps over all and lingers for a good long time. Straight up or on the rocks." (11/2010) Whisky Advocate: "Imported from Canada (which suggests that maybe this whiskey was originally intended ...Read More »
Wine Enthusiast: "Medium-amber color, citrusy aromas opening up to caramel scent. Big flavors of tobacco, oak, and leather lead to a lingering, tannic, alcoholic and slightly bitter finish. Cocktail purists will love the label showing old-time gentlemen in hats tippling at the bar." (11/2010) K&L Notes: The most talked about little rye is finally available to the general public. This is a spice monster! It almost feels like they've steeped it in spices after distillation. Big, rich, clove, cinnamon, very intense, very delicious. Now available online after months of in-store only! Dis... Read More »
96 points Wine Enthusiast: "Strong but intriguing. Medium color and body, with rich aromas of burnt orange and caramel. The flavors also reflected burnt orange and caramel, plus a spicy tinge reminiscent of cassia bark or Red-Hot candies. The finish lingers, pleasant, inviting and warm. Might be good for Manhattans--a touch of fruit or sweetness would go well with this rye." (11/2010)95 points Whisky Advocate: "A blend of two whiskeys; a 6 year old made from 95% rye and a 16 year old made from 80% rye. These are very high percentages; a straight rye whiskey only needs to contain 51% rye to meet the definition ...Read More »
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "Crazy-sweet aroma, full of caramel, vanilla and a slight floral touch. The bite comes first (and lingers awhile), followed by vanilla, caramel, coconut flavors. It mellows considerably with ice, and becomes quite likeable, drinkable and mild." (11/2010) K&L Notes: The Michter's name has been synonymous with great whisky since the 1950s. That famous whisky, once distilled at the famous Schaefferstown Distillery in PA, is no longer, but the legacy lives on. Current owners Chatham Imports bottles under this historic name and have been doing so since the 1990s! One of th... Read More »
95 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Top Spirits 2013* Versatile, crisp, and an ideal match for cocktails that also include orange liqueur, as well as its namesake classic cocktail. Light aromas include vanilla and a touch of juicy citrus. Flavors run to bitter orange, dark chocolate and black tea, finishing with a pepper tingle. Velvety feel, despite the brisk alcohol." (7/2013) K&L Notes: The K & L Sazerac Cocktail: 1/2 oz Kubler absinthe, 2 oz of Sazerac Straight Rye, 1/2 oz simple syrup, 2 dashes of Peychaud bitters, Lemon - twist as garnish. Fill an old fashioned glass with ice. Add the absint... Read More »
90 points Whisky Advocate: "A blend of two straight whiskeys: a very young 2 year old high rye content whiskey and a 16 year old rye whiskey with a lower rye content. Perhaps the spiciest American whiskey I have ever tasted, yet at the same time, quite tame and mellow. Complex notes of mint, clove, cinnamon, licorice root, pine nuts, and dark chocolate, with a surprising dose of gin botanicals throughout. A soft underbelly of caramel, sweet corn, and soothing vanilla provides an interesting counterpoint. Very easy-drinking, too (hard to believe it’s 46%). Intriguing, and a must-try ...Read More »
Voted Canadian Whisky of the Year by the Whisky Advocate, Lot 40 is considered by many to be the quintessential Canadian rye whisky, garnering heaps of praise and a cult-like following. Distilled by Hiram Walker, now run by Pernod Ricard, it was briefly discontinued in the early 2000s, which set off a Pappy-esque manhunt by consumers who knew of its excellence (not in CA, however, where we were deprived of its presence). Now that it's been relaunched by Pernod, we're lucky enough to start getting a healthy supply in the U.S. It's clear after tasting it w... Read More »
One of America's finest and most authentic rye whiskey. Great price for an excellent 6 year Rye.
Old Overholt is amongst the oldest more-or-less-continuously available distilled products in America. (They've operated for at least 150 years.) When one speaks of rye, others are most likely to think of this product, if they think of anything. Their Straight Rye product - which may well be their only product - is readily available at a moderate price. Like the Jim Beam, the Overholt had a subtle nose with hints of raisin, fruit (orange perhaps), and possibly almond. Overholt's taste is light and similar to the Beam, but with slightly medicinal and bitt... Read More »
Corbin is a farm located in Atwater, California (just south of Modesto) that grows sweet potatoes. A few years back, David Souza, whose family has farmed in the region for a hundred years, decided to add a still to preserve the unused harvest (just like farmers have been doing for hundreds of years) and Corbin Sweet Potato Vodka was born. It turns out that Corbin hasn't only been distilling sweet potato vodka over the past few years; they've also been growing, harvesting, fermenting and distilling their own rye--purchasing custom-charred, 53 gallon white... Read More »
Whisky Advocate: "The back label of this whiskey describes it as 'feisty,' and feisty it is! Brandishing 95% rye (another Canadian flavoring whisky that was diverted?), bottled at 46%, and at a relatively young age (around two years old), this whiskey lets you know you are alive. It’s very spicy, with crisp evergreen, warming cinnamon, clove, rooty licorice, dark chocolate, and suggestions of gin botanicals. Spicy, vibrant finish. I’m having fun drinking this au naturel (the whiskey, that is), but this would also zing in a cocktail, the same way smoky Islay whiskies make ...Read More »
When you think about Utah you probably think about great skiing, stunning National Parks, maybe great mountain biking. But did you know that Utah also cast the deciding vote that ended Prohibition? This barrel aged Manhattan, made from two parts High West Double Rye whiskey, one part sweet red vermouth and two dashes of Angostura bitters (per every 2.5 ounce serving), was all left to rest for 120 days in a two-year-old rye whiskey barrel. The results are stunning, harmonious and a great homage to that key vote, the 36th Vote, that allows us to freely enj... Read More »
Since the explosion of American whiskey, it's been pretty much impossible to find a straight rye at a price that doesn't break the bank. Luckily, the workhorse rye from the Jim Beam Portfolio is pretty tasty in a pinch and the price looks mighty fine compared to some of the young Indiana distilled whiskey that's trading for upwards of $30. It's got that great (some might say ghastly) yellow label and there ain't nothing wrong with it. Don't waste the fancy stuff on the wrong crowd, you'll thank yourself regularly for always having a bottle around. Plus, ... Read More »
Another independent bottling of LDI rye (a la Bulleit, Templeton, Redemption, etc) except that this one offers an outstanding price. Very much in the style of Bulleit, light and peppery with soft vanilla notes. Quite drinkable on its own but nice for mixing as well. A good overall value.
From High West: The Boulevardier cocktail was created in 1927 by Erskine Gwynne, nephew of railroad tycoon Alfred Vanderbilt. Erskine moved to Paris and began The Boulevardier, a monthly literary magazine patterned after The New Yorker. He also frequented the well-known Harry’s New York Bar and was known for his drinking prowess. "Gwynne made his cocktail with one-part Campari, one-part Italian vermouth, and one-part bourbon. Ours is a little more whiskey-forward," High West proprietor David Perkins said. "We mix two parts bourbon, one part Vya sweet v... Read More »
The fascinating spirit represents Anchor Brewing Company's attempt to re-create the original whiskey of America. This release was distilled in a small copper pot still at Anchor's distillery on San Francisco's Potrero Hill, from a mash of 100% rye malt. Rye was the grain of choice for America's first distillers, and using a mash of 100% rye malt produces a uniquely American whiskey. Aging in handmade oak barrels--lightly toasted in the traditional manner--imparts a wonderfully subtle flavor to this 18th-century-style American whiskey. (In the 18th centur... Read More »
Whisky Advocate: "The third recently released 100% rye whiskey sourced from Canada, with the others being WhistlePig (50%, $70) and Jefferson’s (47%, $40). (The one you purchase might depend on which one you can find, as they are all quite limited.) This one sells at a premium to the other two, but shows polish and is nicely rounded. Layers of sweetness (honeyed fruit, caramel, nutty toffee, maple syrup), toasted oak, cinnamon, evergreen, nutmeg, and a dusting of cocoa. Very distinctive! (Vol. 20, #4)" K&L Notes: Another independently-bottled Canadian 10 year old rye, a la the Jeffers... Read More »
Inventory: Redwood City
This limited release from Tuthilltown Spirits is unique as they get. In a joint venture with Vermont maple syrup company, Wood's, has created something totally wonderful. The classic Hudson Manhattan Rye aged in ex-maple syrup barrels you say? It's not a liqueur, but it certainly developes a ton of character from this additional aging. They're not the first to mix whiskey and maple, but it's certainly the most interesting flavored whisky I've ever tasted. Totally wacky and totally wonderful.
More cowbell. 2014 release.
91 points Whisky Advocate: "Beautifully boxed for gift giving, a quality that carries over into the whiskey itself. Fresh-cut red cedar unfolds into hard candy, green apples, nail polish, rye bread, and ripe black cherries on the nose. Vague cedar on the palate becomes fruity and floral, then hot and spicy. Distant licorice root is restrained by German rye bread. Earthy but not dusty, with a sweet, hot, effervescent spiciness. Fades in a long, tingling finish. Complex and expressive: rich yet ethereal. (DK)" (6/2014) K&L Notes: This is the first older straight rye coming out of PA in many years... Read More »
Mosswood is a new line of re-casked MGP whiskies; a project started by Jake Chevedden and Therese Agnew who used to work booze retail in downtown SF. Unlike most non-distiller producers, however, Jake is actually going out and doing something unique with cask maturation. He's reconditioning used barrels with apple brandy, cold brew coffee, and sour ale to make three different selections for Mosswood. The espresso is shockingly delicious. I don't normally associate whiskey with coffee, but if it works in an Irish Coffee then why wouldn't it work as a cask... Read More »
It wouldn't really be fair to say that this Hudson River distillery is hopping on the current rye-loving band wagon when, in actuality, the state of New York was well-known for its ryes before Prohibition. But, surprisingly, rye hasn't been made in the state (legally) since that time. Tuthilltown Spirits' Hudson Manhattan Rye revives the tradition with class. This small batch whiskey is made with whole grain rye and it has a lovely floral and fruit-filled nose and a smooth palate with the fantastic rye edge that makes this many bartenders' spirit of choi... Read More »
While I feel the Lot 40 continues to be a great crossover or gateway whisky for American whiskey fans looking to explore something new, the Wiser's 18 year is Canadian through and through—and that's a good thing. People who change their personality to fit what others want them to be are uninteresting and boring. That being said, I would be disappointed if 200 years of whisky tradition were changed and altered to capitalize on the current cask strength American whiskey fad. The Wiser's 18 is full of pencil shavings and rye spice on the nose. It begins wit... Read More »
Inventory: Redwood City
Mosswood is a new line of re-casked MGP whiskies; a project started by Jake Chevedden and Therese Agnew who used to work booze retail in downtown SF. Unlike most non-distiller producers, however, Jake is actually going out and doing something unique with cask maturation. He's reconditioning used barrels with apple brandy, cold brew coffee, and sour ale to make three different selections for Mosswood. The apple brandy influence is very light in that the flavors are present just at the outer rims of the finish. It's very easy drinking and surprisingly sati... Read More »
Inventory: Redwood City
Some wacky weird stuff coming out of San Diego. I think they're using oak spirals to impart flavor and it sits right in this young innovative craft whisky style. It's then ace'd in wine barrels to bring it all together. The good part is it's not $100 a bottle. Grab one and see where this fun little SoCal distillery is doing.
Pennsylvania used to be known for its rye whiskey and Bourbon. Today, it's known more for the old Michter's distillery that once produced legendary American booze. Mountain Laurel Spirits are hoping to change that with their new Dad's Hat rye whiskey, made from Pennsylvania-grown rye and distilled in Bristol. Aged in white oak, quarter cask barrels for at least six months, the Dad's Hat drinks very much in the style of Old World Spirits Gold Run, or the aged whiskies from 1512 Spirits here in SF. However, you get an entire 750ml bottle for $50, which mak... Read More »
Inventory: San Francisco