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K&L Staff Recommendations
For three long years, David Othenin-Girard and I have been trying to create an inexpensive, delicious, value-driven, yet simultaneously interesting expression of blended Scotch whisky that we could feature under our Faultline label. There were many times when we thought we were close, but either the quality of the whisky or the cost of the barrels proved prohibitive. We didn't want to make a $25 bottle of whisky just for the sake of it. If we were going to do it, then we were going to it right. Finally, after working on and off with the Laings for a year... Read More »
Kentucky's most popular wheated bourbon that isn't called "Pappy," Maker's Mark has long been famous for using winter wheat as the flavor grain (along with the majority of corn) instead of the ubiquitous rye. The only thing that ever kept Maker's Mark from capturing the hearts of serious bourbon aficionados everywhere was the low proof. In 2014, however, they released a tiny amount of cask strength whiskey to Kentucky residents and people went bananas. Seeing that landing a bottle of Pappy today is like winning the lottery, the Maker's Mark Cask Strength... Read More »
The romantic story of Monkey 47 gin is as follows: in 1951, a British man named Montgomery Collins moved to Germany's Black Forest and opened a guesthouse named "Zum wilden Affen" -- the wild monkey. A renowned gin drinker, Collins' taste for the spirit was not particularly renowned until renovation work at the country guesthouse led to the discovery of a weighty old wooden box containing a bottle and a letter. The dusty bottle had been labeled and decorated by hand, showing a sketch of a monkey and the words "Max the Monkey - Schwarzwald Dry Gin" in bla... Read More »
90-95 points Wine Enthusiast: "**Best Buy** Soy sauce, olive brine, peat, honey, oloroso Sherry, brewer’s yeast, bread dough, barley malt and cigar smoke in the bouquet. The flavor that magically includes the innate intense peatiness of Islay malts and the masterly employment of oak barrels phase defines “classy Islay.” Concludes sweetly, without sacrificing the tangy, astringent peatiness that is inherent. Gorgeous." (4/2004)94 points Whisky Advocate: "An old classic, but how do the newest bottlings fare? Rich, chewy, slightly oily texture. Deep peat, thick smoke, iodine, brine, charcoal, seaweed, tea (Earl Gr ...Read More »
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "**Best Buy** Lush and rich, this honeyed whisky is loaded with dense notes of creamy custard and tropical fruit, finishing with a flourish of baking spice." (12/2013) K&L Notes: Gold Medal winner in the 2007 International Wine & Spirit Competition. The Glenfiddich 12 Year is distinctively fresh and fruity with a hint of pear on the nose. The palate for this single malt is characteristically sweet, with undertones of butterscotch, cream, malt and a hint of oak. It finishes long, smooth and mellow. See for yourself why this is one of the world's most popular single ma... Read More »
90-95 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Superb/Highly Recommended* Sophisticated and delightful aromas of tangerine and rhubarb. The palate entry is delightfully citrusy and sweet; the midpalate phase offers just enough herbal bitterness to balance. Ends up refreshing, orangey sweet and delectably herbal. This deserves to become a popular pre-dinner quaff." (8/2007) K&L Notes: Aperol's unique flavor and color is achieved through a subtle blend of bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and an array of herbs and roots--using a secret recipe that has been unchanged since its first creation in 1919. Try the classic ... Read More »
95 points Whisky Advocate: "With the Ardbeg 17 year old off the market, it's nice to see a new Ardbeg in the line-up. Uigeadail costs about the same as the Ardbeg 17 did but, with Uigeadail, you're getting a much more interesting whisky. Uigeadail consists of a marriage of younger whisky (from 1990 and 1993) with much older whisky matured in sherry casks. The marriage works exceptionally well, with the younger whiskies providing the classic Ardbeg intensity many of us have come to expect, while the older whiskies contribute depth, maturity, and complexity. And bottling the whisky a ...Read More »
From the distillery of Enrique Fonseca, the man behind the legendary K&L Fuenteseca, comes this value-priced label of liter-sized tequila that seems almost too good to be true. I'm willing to bet we'll have a problem selling the Cimarron selections, rather than the ridiculous success we should experience, simply because people will wonder why it's so cheap? Don't let the price tag sway you, however -- this is clean, fresh, easy-drinking tequila made from 100% agave that is definitely up to Enrique's high standards. This blanco is cleaner and lighter than... Read More »
90 points Wine Enthusiast: "Vibrant gold with orange highlights, fruity scent of apples and pears plus a whiff of vanilla. Soft, velvety feel. This is a pleasant and drinkable Scotch, but the flavors are relatively muted. It mixes well with other flavors, making it a good contender for cocktails. Good value." (12/2011) Whisky Advocate: "As with the ‘Fiddich (reviewed in this issue), here’s a malt where an improved wood policy has brought a dram to life and added complexity. The Glenlivet has always been about lightness, but the trick is to have sufficient solid base to allow its flower to blossom, so ...Read More »
92 points Wine Enthusiast: "**Best Buy** A good workhorse for all manner of cocktails, this bright amber Bourbon has a butterscotch aroma and oaky, relatively dry flavors that elongate into a rich caramel finish." (7/2013)90 points Whisky Advocate: "Light bronze color. Thick, mature aromas, with notes of subtle spice (vanilla, mint), toffee, light molasses and leather. Adding a little water revealing notes of teaberry, anise, and dark candied fruit. Pleasantly sweet at first in flavor, with notes of brown sugar and spice (vanilla, mint), becoming dry with enveloping flavors of oak and leather. With a little ...Read More »
We've been doing gin and single malt for years, and now rum, so why not throw our hat in the bourbon pool? One of the obstacles that kept us from making a Faultline bourbon earlier was availability: the current demand has made the extra barrel a thing of the past. One of the only distilleries that would sell us a cask for a private label was the old LDI distillery in Indiana, but with the already overcrowded LDI market (Bulleit Rye, Templeton Rye, High West, etc) we didn't think our product would be different enough, or of the quality we desired, for the... Read More »
The famed French vodka for your favorite cocktail. Made in a copper pot still from a fine blend of French wheat and water from the Gensac Springs in Cognac.
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 »
91 points Wine Enthusiast: "Don’t dilute this light, gentle Scotch too much. Enjoy the honeyed, fresh tropical fruit aromas and mouthwatering vanilla and almond flavors with a hint of smoke and spice on the finish. Light body. Good value." (12/2011) Whisky Advocate: "I enjoy Glenlivet whisky for its subtle elegance, floral notes, along with a delicious "peaches & cream" flavor. For this particular whisky, finishing some of the whisky in new French oak barrels adds depth, dried spice (vanilla, clove) and pleasing dryness to the Glenlivet profile. This whisky is more polished and refined than the 12 yea ...Read More »
95 points Wine Enthusiast: "This dark, mysterious vermouth is rich, complex and layered, boasting aromas of mint and other herbs, plums and figs, reminscent of Madeira. The rich flavors are hard to pin down: cocoa, red wine, almonds, bitter marmelade, hints of spice and toffee all play across the palate, finishing with a bracing bitter edge. This delectable sweet vermouth would shine in a Manhattan." (2/2011) K&L Notes: Carpano's Antica Formula, from the original recipe developed by Antonio Benedetto Carpano in 1786, is a sweet vermouth of the highest quality. This distinctive and powerful arom... Read More »
Grain whisky is one of the least understood components of the whisky world. When you sip a blended Scotch like Johnnie Walker or Suntory's Hibiki, you're drinking a blend of two types of whisky -- both single malt and grain -- hence the term "blend" (many people assume the "blend" refers to the blend of various distilleries). While we've gone out of our way here at K&L to help our customers understand 100% malted barley single malt whisky, we've never really talked very much about grain whisky -- mostly because there's very little of it available! Grain ... Read More »
Buffalo Trace was named Distiller of the Year by Whisky Magazine in 2005 and 2007 and by the Wine Enthusiast in 2006. Paul Pacult of the The Spirit Journal gave it four stars and said: "Easily one of the most tactile yet assertive and expressive bourbons I've tasted in the last two years; fasten your seatbelts." Honey-colored, with aromas of toasted wheat bread and hints of tobacco, opening up to almond butter, melon and lanolin. On the palate it is oily and toasty with flavors of cereal grains and oak. The finish is long and corn sweet with a little spi... Read More »
95 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Top 50 Spirits of 2011* This dark, mysterious vermouth is rich, complex and layered, boasting aromas of mint and other herbs, plums and figs, reminiscent of Madeira. The rich flavors are hard to pin down: cocoa, red wine, almonds, bitter marmalade, hints of spice and toffee all play across the palate, finishing with a bracing bitter edge. This delectable sweet vermouth would shine in a Manhattan." (2/2011) K&L Notes: The world's most beloved sweet vermouth, now in a size that won't oxidize before you can finish the bottle! Hooray!
If you're a Campari fan, but have never been able to find something outside of the Italian legend that scratches that same itch, then this might be the one thing that finally captivates you. The Leopold brothers have gone back to the drawing board and created an all natural version of the bitter aperitivo that uses real cochineal (like Campari used to) to color the liquid and brings a much bolder, more bitter flavor. It mixes like a DREAM into a Negroni and works wonders in an Americano. If you think you've got the Negroni cocktail mastered, think again.... Read More »
Inventory: Redwood City
Fernet Branca is an Italian amaro developed in 1845. The family's secret recipe still has never been disclosed, but what they can tell you is that it is a combination of 27 different herbs picked in four continents and aged for more than a year in oak casks. Perfect as a digestive, try it with your meal.
From St. George distillery: Terroir Gin is our ode to the wild beauty of the Golden State. Distiller Lance Winters has a passion for exploring place and memory through distillation, and the aromas of the coastal forests on California's Mount Tam were what inspired him to start making gin in the first place. Terroir Gin has an intense earthy, woodsy nose and flavor derived from Douglas fir, California bay laurel, and California coastal sage complemented by bright, citrusy top notes. This is a unique and proudly Californian gin with a sense of place and po... Read More »
The elusive Green Spot Whiskey is finally here. This legendary whiskey is partly responsible for the resurgence in popularity of pure pot still whiskey, the traditional Irish method of whiskey production. Green Spot began as the house brand for a Dublin wine merchant Mitchell & Sons. After consolidation of the Irish Whiskey market, Mitchell & Sons negotiated an agreement to be provided a small quantity of whiskey to support the brand. The current blend consists of 8-9 year old whiskey of which 25% is aged in sherry casks. Fewer than 1,000 cases are produ... Read More »
Wine Enthusiast: "The nose offers wave after wave of botanical and floral perfumes, with the end bouquet focused on cucumber and spring garden floral scents. The palate entry is moderately oily, semisweet and gently herbal; the midpalate stays spirity, vegetal and earthy. The aftertaste features juniper with a dry and minerally undertaste." (11/2006) K&L Notes: We love this new gin coming from Scotland. This handcrafted gin has been infused with cucumber and rose petals. Very aromatic with a smooth sweet flavor and very long length. Try it over ice with thin slices of cucumber!
So you've heard that Japanese whisky is quite popular these days. You're right; it is. But while the mainstream choice is always going to be Suntory, it's Nikka that is quietly bringing the goods to your local boutique retailer. Founded by Masataka Taketsuru in 1936, the Nikka whisky company is one of Japan's best kept secrets (at least with other Americans). Taketsuru studied whisky production in Scotland during the 1910s and brought that knowledge back to Nippon to make Scottish style whisky at home. Nikka's Pure Malt Taketsuru is a marriage of single... Read More »
90-95 points Wine Enthusiast: "The initial aroma is sweetish, winey and oaky; aeration allows the aroma to expand to include marzipan, treacle, molasses, honey, vanilla bean, cinnamon and cocoa butter. The palate entry is sweet, creamy and assertive; at midpalate the flavor becomes intensely nutty, buttery and bacon fat-like, with the beginnings of rancio. Remains one of Speyside's standard-bearer 12 year olds." (4/2008) K&L Notes: In his book, Kindred Spirits, international Whisky authority Paul Pacult describes The Macallan 12 as "simply the best 12 Year Old single malt around," and we wholehear... Read More »
92 points Wine Enthusiast: "A classic, can’t-go-wrong workhorse spirit that provides a versatile option for a wide range of cocktails. This clear liqueur has a bright, true orange scent with a hint of bitter orange on the aroma. The flavor mix is of candied orange slices and lightly bitter orange peel. The finish is warm and clean. Good balance." (2/2012) K&L Notes: A must-have classic.
Can we keep the Mortlach momentum rolling? It seems that ever since we released that amazing sherry butt of Mortlach from Chieftain's all those years ago, we've been riding a wave of Mortlach enthusiasm for the sherry-aged Speyside beast. Diageo even released their own single malt version (maybe we had something to do with that, eh?) We're always on the lookout for more Mortlach, especially sherry-aged barrels, and it turns out that Signatory had a sherry-finished butt sitting in their Pitlochry location just there for the taking. The first sip is all yo... Read More »
We've always loved Glenfarclas. As you may or may not know, this distillery is one of the last independently owned in all of Scotland. It's owned by the Grant family. It also happens to be on most knowledgeable people's list of top distilleries and has consistently provided us with excellent sherried Speyside offerings at incredible prices. We've had success finding single casks in their vast warehouse system, but found that current market conditions have made purchasing a single cask from the Grants rather cost-prohibitive. Negotiating the price down on... Read More »
96-100 points Wine Enthusiast: "Intriguing and challenging bouquet of aromas of roasted nuts, old leather, black pepper, old oak and dried fruit. Palate entry is aggressive in spirit, but sweet and pruny; midpalate is drier and features tastes of leather and grain. Aftertaste teems with oak resin, hard cheese (meaning, rancio), candied nuts, candied fruit and dark honey. Add mineral water." (12/2009)90 points Whisky Advocate: "Amber, with shades of ruby. Notes of complex honey-drenched fruit (sultana, marmalade, peaches, apples), toffee, treacle, and hint of mint. Full, rich texture and lush body. Long, warming, m ...Read More »
Just when you think you've tasted every type of booze known to man, you discover that there are yet more regionally-specific spirits being distilled in places you've never considered. Like Bolivia, for example. South America is generally rum country, but in Bolivia they make a pisco-like spirit called Singani, distilled from Muscat of Alexandria grapes grown high in the Andes mountains. Seeing that Muscat is an aromatic varietal, known for its fruity and floral character, the Singani spirit distilled from it takes on many of the perfume-like elements fou... Read More »
Basil Hayden's Bourbon dates back to 1796 when Master Distiller Basil Hayden Sr. created a new bourbon recipe using a traditional corn base, but adding small grains into his mash. The results showcased the spicy flavors of rye, which complemented the sweetness of corn. Today Basil Hayden's is aged for eight years at a relatively mild 80 proof, and glints like liquid gold in the glass. Its spicy-sweet perfume shows hints of peppermint and black tea and its flavors are spicy, peppery and honeyed, with a light body and a gentle bite. According to Patterson'... Read More »
95 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Top 50 Spirits of 2011* A honey-colored whisky with a spicy, smoky fragrance. The first sip is surprisingly sweet and honeyed, then the smoke gently creeps in like fog at dawn, softly surrounding the edges of the tongue." (9/2011) K&L Notes: Johnnie Walker Blue Label is crafted from the finest and rarest casks in the producer's extensive stocks to exemplify the art of blended whiskies. A whisky of power, smoothness, and signature smokiness is the result. Influences from across Scotland are layered in the profile, with the smokiness of the west and the rich, sweet w... Read More »
96-100 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Classic/Highest Recommendation* The seductive bouquet offers wonderfully floral, fruity, guava- and melon-like fragrances of elderflower, becoming richly pear- and quince-like following aeration time. The palate entry is soft and firm; the midpalate is integrated, harmonious and exquisitely balanced between alcohol level, sweetness, acidity and floral impact. A perfect liqueur." (4/2008) K&L Notes: Double Gold Medal at the 2007 and 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, plus *Five Stars/Highest Recommendation* from Paul Pacult of the Spirit Journal and Wine E... Read More »
93 points Whisky Advocate: "Straw-gold color. On the nose, sweet toffee, citrus notes, seaweed, and spice complement a powerful peat smoke infusion. In body, it is thick and oily. On the palate, a somewhat sweet maltiness up front is run over by a powerful peat smoke locomotive. Again, the whisky is enriched with citrus and pear notes, spice, and seaweed. The finish is powerful, long, and warming. The smoke lingers for minutes, if not hours. Style: Islay single malt Scotch whisky... If you like your Ardbeg to go to a phenolic extreme, you will cherish this one. This big, powerful w ...Read More »
90-95 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Superb/Highly Recommended* First nosing exposes dry scents of walnuts, grass and dark toffee. Entry is malty and vanilla—extract bittersweet; midpalate is silky, creamy, Sherry sweet, pruny and black raisin-like. Ends on a dark chocolate note that's chewy, medium-sweet and satisfying." (11/2008) K&L Notes: The Balvenie Doublewood Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a 12 year old single malt which gains its distinctive character from being matured in two woods. During its period of maturation The Balvenie Doublewood is transferred from a traditional oak whisky cask to a fi... Read More »
93 points Whisky Advocate: "Fresh, vibrant, and beautifully complex. A clean, malty foundation accentuated by bright complex fruit, delicate spice, dried flowers, and gentle honeyed vanilla notes that linger on the palate. This is a wonderful whisky which is very versatile, but I can only imagine what it would taste like at 46% and unchill-filtered like the wood finish expressions. (Vol. 17, #2) Reviewed by: John Hansell"90 points Wine Enthusiast: "Smooth and mellow, like nuts drizzled with honey or Bit O’Honey candy, with a light vanilla finish. Matured in Bourbon casks for 10 years." (12/2011) Wine Spectator: "Even without a ...Read More »
Wine Enthusiast: "Although the “Botanist” name might suggest a floral gin, instead the flavor profile veers toward herbs and spices. There’s a subtle, herbal scent, with anise flavors up front, backed by coriander seed and cassia bark on the spicy finish. Made by Bruichladdich Distillery, which is renowned for its Scotch, on a pot-still named Ugly Betty. Sold in an attractive, square-shouldered, gift-worthy bottle." (4/2012) K&L Notes: What happens when you take one of the great single malt distillers of all time, put him in a room with an old Scottish pot still and have him make gin ... Read More »
91 points Whisky Advocate: "Drier, less toffee and fruit, more dried spice and oak when compared to the standard Oban 14 year old. A beautiful combination of rich, nutty toffee balanced by polished oak, salt, pepper, seaweed, distant smoke, and dried fruit. Somewhat oily in texture. Wonderful depth, too! An improvement on what is already the biggest-selling Diageo single malt scotch in the U.S. Very exciting and dynamic. (Vol. 17, #4, by John Hansell)" K&L Notes: Always tough to find - this is a limited edition bottling for the US only. As the canister states, "only so much can be made, i... Read More »
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "Bartenders will want to experiment with this lovely, lightly floral gin for spring cocktails. It has a light touch, from the citrus scent to the sweet flavor that finishes with a bouquet of rose petals, violets and honeysuckle. One of a trio of new gins from this small-batch distiller." (4/2012) K&L Notes: From St. George distillery: "Botanivore Gin (our "botanical eater") earned its name because it's loaded with botanical ingredients. We distilled 19 different botanicals to compose this spirit (no small feat!) and the resulting gin is beautifully balanced and vibran... Read More »
95 points Wine Enthusiast: "Look for rich, rounded flavors with lots of honey, vanilla and baking spice notes. The palate is creamy, with a mouth-filling texture and smoky finish." (12/2013) Wine Spectator: "A deceptive delight that starts sweet with honey, leather and orange peel on the nose, then turns to spice on the palate. After a spot of honey on the tongue tip, the spices come on in earnest, with cinnamon and ginger. Leaves a long, spicy finish. Three types of cask: Sherry, Bourbon and new oak." (2/2011) K&L Notes: Awarded Double Gold Medal at the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Whisky Advocate: "43% abv. When compared to the 10 year old, this one's richer, with darker fruit and more caramelized sweet notes, paired with accentuated dried wood spice, while the 10 year old is more vibrant and floral. Like the 10 year old, there's good balance here. (Vol. 17, #2)" K&L Notes: If I had to pick my favorite whisky from the LVMH line up, including all the Ardbeg expressions, I'd easily choose the 18 year old from Glenmorangie. It's the best whisky they make for the price and everybody likes it: beginners, casual sippers, experts, whisky geeks. It's so gentle, suppl... Read More »
The chance to work with Michel Couvreur on a special K&L whisky project was something that David and I had been dreaming of for years. We had heard the stories. This crazy Belgian had moved to Burgundy in the 60s, carved out a wine cellar inside a mountain, only to fill it with Scottish single malt whisky instead of pinot noir. He set up camp in Beaune, ordered new-make spirit to be delivered by tanker, and drove down to Jerez himself; selecting his own sherry butts to insure only the finest quality casks for his contracted spirit. Unfortunately, Michel ... Read More »
96 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Top 50 Spirits of 2011* There’s no mistaking this classic apéritif, from the vibrant melted lipstick-red color to the distinctive signature bitter finish, clean, clear and strong. It’s high, bitter and faintly floral-fruity in scent. Americanos and Negronis wouldn’t be the same without this jewel-like spirit." K&L Notes: From the producer: "A unique and unmistakable recipe has characterized Campari, the aperitif par excellence, for over 150 years. The inimitable Campari recipe, used as the basis of many cocktails served worldwide, has been kept the same since its i... Read More »
90 points Whisky Advocate: "Another that should need no introduction. The thing to look for in Talisker, as with all smoky whiskies, is sweetness that gives the requisite balance to the drying effect of smoke. Underneath Talisker’s smoke, which ain't as all-pervading as Lagavulin, is a sweet pear-like quality. When young there are notes of the land: heather, moor, sweet seaweed, and a finish that has a distinctive cracked black pepper hit. (Vol. 21, #2)" Wine Enthusiast: "*Best Buy* The piquant nose offers immediate and stunning notes of sea salt, peat reek and black pepper; aeration time encourages ...Read More »
95 points Wine Enthusiast: "Deep color, medium-to-heavy feel. Strong, sweet fragrance with wood and spice tones. Butterscotch candy flavors, so strong I almost hear cellophane unwrapping, are echoed by some oak, caramel and vanilla. Smooth, not too much alcohol fire. Mellow, long finish with a touch of herbal and anise notes" (10/2010) K&L Notes: Coming from the great master distiller Parker Beam, the Elijah Craig 12 year old Bourbon has to be one of the best 12 year old Bourbons on the market! Great balance of sweetness and spice. Also at 94 proof it has just the right amount of kick.
From the distillery of Enrique Fonseca, the man behind the legendary K&L Fuenteseca, comes this value-priced label of liter-sized tequila that seems almost too good to be true. I'm willing to bet we'll have a problem selling the Cimarron selections, rather than the ridiculous success we should experience, simply because people will wonder why it's so cheap? Don't let the price tag sway you, however -- this is clean, fresh, easy-drinking tequila made from 100% agave that is definitely up to Enrique's high standards. The reposado is mellow and soft on the ... 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 »
Ketel One is made in Holland. It is a family-owned business which has been carrying on the tradition of vodka-making for eleven generations. They report that the focus at Ketel One is quality, tradition and personal commitment to their customer. This shows in their vodka by offering only the heart of each distilate, tasted by a member of the family before it is released. One of the best Martini vodkas available.