...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, March 4, 2013

K&L Single Cask Whisky tasting with the LA Scotch Club (Part 1)

Last Wednesday (2/27), 45 of us met at Blu Jam Cafe for dinner and drams with David Othenin-Girard of K&L Wines.  David brought along a slew, a flock, a murder of K&L's single cask releases for us taste (and possibly contemplate purchasing).

Here's a slightly mostly out-of-focus pic of the main lineup:

David walked us through each of these eight single malts, talking to us about the distilleries and the bottlers.  He shared some cask selection tales, as well as some industry insider info.  And, yes, there were Diageo tales, none of which am I going to repeat since they only reinforce my disgust with that company.  Despite that, it was a very positive and extremely enjoyable tour through these delectable goodies:

Glen Garioch 14 year old 1998 - 55.2% ABV - $100
Aged in a bourbon hogshead, this whisky has a lot of whole wheat bread and gingerbread on the nose with plenty of sweet fruit and honey on the palate and finish.  I'm a fan of all things Glen Garioch, both old and new, and this one was made a few years after they had stopped peating their malt.  The price may look steep, but it is GG's lowest priced cask strength bottling to date.

Faultline 10 year old North Highland Single Malt - 50% ABV - $55
Faultline is K&L's own label.  Over the past couple of years they've been able to pluck some whiskies and gins to bottle on their own and then sell at a relatively reasonable rate.

They do not disclose which distillery this malt came from and neither will I, specifically.  But I will say this, as a sherry casker it beats the daylights out of the Las***a.  That's possibly due to the fact that it spent its entire life in a sherry cask rather than just being finished in one.  Or maybe it's because that cask was a second fill.  Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that this Faultline whisky wasn't engineered to try to suit everyone's tastebuds.  No matter the reason, the whisky works.

As for the booze, it has a great silky, almost oily mouthfeel.  There's buttery caramel and toffee on the nose.  The sherry element is mild.  There's a touch of spice and cocktail bitters in the palate.

Caperdonich 18 year old 1994 (Sovereign) - 58.4% ABV - $126
I grabbed a little sample of this to take home so...
Full tasting notes on this tomorrow!

GlenDronach 19 year old 1993 - 54.7% ABV - $140
The GlenDronach single cask releases have been getting rave reviews for the last few years, so why K&L still has ton of these in stock, I don't know.  As the Davids note, it's considerably better than Macallan 18, at a higher strength, older age, smaller availability, and a lower price.

As I've written on a few occasions, my palate is really not taking to lots of sherry in my whisky, recently.  But this one was fun to try.  Dark chocolate, leather, and spent matchsticks on the nose.  Yes, something sulfur-ish.  But it was quite good.  There's some earl grey tea and cayenne pepper amongst the sherry in the palate.  The finish is sourish, not at all sweet.

Kilchoman 100% Islay Single Sherry Barrel Cask Finish - ??? ABV - $120
I missed getting the ABV on this, but it is at full strength.  Like its Kil'oman brethren, the whisky is young but of stunning quality.  Kilchoman usually gets its barley from Port Ellen at the Ardbeg peating specs.  But this one is made from local Islay barley and is peated much lower, in the 10-15ppm range.

The whisky has a bright crazy zippy nose full of pepper, ginger, and molasses.  The palate is "carrot cake, delicious, more baked sweets".  The finish reminds me, oddly, of Corsair's Wry Moon with its cinnamon and white pepper.

The Kilchoman may have been the most popular one at the event.  It's a bit out of my current price range, but if it wasn't, I would buy it yesterday.

Bruichladdich 2003 Peated Single Barrel - 54.2% ABV - $73
This one is sold out, so this is just a damned tease.

It's not that sherried, in fact it reminded me of Kilchoman.  In fact, my notes say "More Kilchoman than Kilchoman."  Otherwise, the palate is full of pepper, brown sugar, and peat.  It is solid cask strength peatness at a good price.  I won't tease you further.

BenRiach 27 year old 1984 Peated Sherry Cask - 49.6% ABV - $200
This peated malt spent its first twenty-three years in ex-bourbon, then the final four years in Pedro Ximenez casks.  I'm glad I had a chance to taste this one.  Part of my brain (the part I'm trying to corral) was trying to find some excuse to buy this blindly.  The price is considerably below almost all 40-43% whiskys of its age, let alone the cask strength ones!  Plus I'm liking the peated BenRiachs.

Happily good sense won out in the end.  It's good stuff, but I like the oddball Authenticas 21 year old better.

But for those with the means to grab this one (and it is going fast), lots of chocolate and sherried cigarettes on the nose with dried fruits and menthol on the palate.

Glenfarclas 42 year old 1970 Family Cask - 56.9% ABV - $580
Yes, you read that right.  42 years old.  56.9% ABV.  Guess who took his sample home for quiet study?
Full tasting notes on this tomorrow!

I also had the opportunity to taste these two:
Since I'm a big Signatory fan, I had been eyeing both of these bottles online and in-store.  The Longmorn is a 10 year old bottled at 46%.  The Benrinnes is a 12 year old bottled at full strength, 58.2%.  Neither disappointed, though I really enjoyed the Longmorn much more than I'd expected.

I don't have proper notes on either as they were sampled at the tail end of this epic tasting, but I can summarize.  The Benrinnes was lightly citric, mildly honeyed, light on the oak, and very drinkable despite its high ABV.  The Longmorn was lovely and light, full of vanilla and baked treats.

I must pause this entry here.  In Part 2, tomorrow, I'll post reports on two of the whiskys and give final thoughts on the whole tasting.


  1. The Longmorn actually got better with a little oxygen (dried? fruits came out over time). Too bad you missed out on the 20 year old Longmorn which sold out fast.

    Funny, Kyle at K&L Redwood City had no qualms with telling me the source of the Faultline (Hint: the distillery starts with a Glen). And only a sample of the Caperdonich? I got a whole bottle... though I might have regretted it if the whisky ended up being crap. Luckily it was pretty good.

    Too bad David OG didn't bring out the Port Ellen and Glenlochy. Those two I drew the line on due to the cost.

    1. Incidentally 2011's K&L selections had a Bruichladdich Chenin Blanc finish that completely fell apart upon opening. I didn't have a chance to try it but Tim Read of Scotch and Ice Cream gave a detailed review. The Davids ended up recalling the bottles and sent them back to Jim McEwan and his team to examine. Sounds like this year's Bruichladdich ended up a safer choice.

    2. That Bruichladdich was a hot mess. I've heard the new one is much better as well; I'm anticipating cracking it open soon.

      ... It can't possibly be worse, can it?

      ... can it?

    3. @Eric - Yeah, I keep hearing how good that 20yr Longmorn was. Even when I told David that I like the Signatory one, he said, "Man, you should have tried the 20yr." I liked the Caperdonich quite a bit. That was a good gamble on your part. Will I have more than a sample of Caperdonich soon? Perhaps... I actually did get a sip of the Glenlochy from someone else's sample that night. It was really good, but it was also my 11th different whisky of the night, so I likely didn't get the full experience.

    4. @Tim - Thanks for your comment! Didn't last year's Bruichladdich debaculous (not a word) bottle get worse and worse with time? This new 2003 one was good but it was a newly cracked bottle and no one let the whisky breathe for more than a minute. No butryic/garbage/turd/vomit notes. Not yet, at least...

    5. I hope Tim responds with a more exact answer (since his review was conducted over the period of time from first opening) but most reviewers noted a change within a month of opening and going downhill from there. I hope Bruichladdich took some time to conduct a chemical analysis or something so we'd get some kind of final report since, quite frankly, this was interesting.

    6. David OG said that the Laddie folks promptly disposed of all the whisky, but that they never confirmed (admitted?) that anything was wrong with their product. So, there was no apology in words, but rather an apology via this year's now sold-out Exclusive Cask.

  2. I'll have to enjoy old *cough*Glenfarclas*cough* Glendarrochs via what's left here in OR. There are some 40+ YO Lonach bottlings for ~$150 a pop, which certainly seems worth a bit of risk.

    Sounds like quite the line-up. K&L is really carving out a space as one of the few American companies effectively doing their own independent bottlings. I definitely want to check out the Faultline. Sounds superb and much less spendy than the others.

    1. Hey Jordan. Great Glen Scotia post today!

      Those "Glendarrochs" look tempting every time. Lonach also has an ancient Bunnahabhain and a 36yr blend out here too. It is a bit of a gamble, but I wouldn't be against splitting a bottle with someone out here. Though, I think The Daily Pint might have one of these bottles open on the shelf...

      I keep rooting for Faultline. This 10 year old surprised me. As Eric had noted in a comment last year it doesn't seem at all like a GlenMo. And as you noted, the price is right (comparatively). If I do go in for a bottle, I'll let you know to see if you want to try it out.

    2. I initially felt that the Faultline tasted like a combination of the good aspects of the Original and Lasanta but now I'm not so sure. The mouthfeel (to me) is close in style to the Original but there's very little sign of the Glenmo signature flavors (I do spot the vanilla but it's tough finding any citrus). In a way this highlights why Glenmorangie prefers ex-bourbon barrels since sherry dominates the Faultline and Lasanta. That said I'm still preferring the Faultline which is much better integrated with the sherry maturation.

    3. A lot of good points there, Eric. Thanks.

      The whisky I tasted was straight out of a new bottle and then relatively quickly sampled. With time, either the whisky will change in the open bottle and/or we'll find different characteristics the more opportunities we have to drink it. Though I tried it only briefly, I agree that it was very well integrated (which might be the key to why I enjoyed it more than sherry-finished whisky) and that I would never have guessed it was GlenMo had I not been told.

    4. You know, I'm still curious as to how this cask ended up with the Creative Whisky Company. Yes, K&L wouldn't disclose the source but the bottle design is the same as the Exclusive Casks bottles that I put two and two together. Normally, Glenmorangie teaspoons their casks if they get sold to the independents. Glenfiddich and Balvenie follow this same practice with Glenfiddich getting a spoonful of Balvenie and vise versa.

      Since David Driscoll mentioned that David Stirk (the founder of Creative Whisky) has cultivated quite a few relationships with various distilleries, I'm going to guess he was able to talk Glenmo into giving him an unadulterated cask.

    5. Oh and I said unadulterated because the Faultline bottle says Single Malt and not a blend which it would be if it were teaspooned.

    6. I don't know how the 3 Davids did it either. I was at David Stirk tasting last month and he talked a little bit about all the cask trading that goes on between the indies. Someone somewhere got his/her hands on the magical Glenmorangie cask, then maybe it was traded around? Then someone was going to have to release it without a distillery name on it. K&L wins.

      And I'm not sure why GlenMo would have let that one out of their warehouses. They've released a number of experimental bottlings, why not one with full sherry maturation?

  3. Hmm, I decided to give my bunker a quick perusal and was quite surprised to find a bottle of the Bruichladdich 2003 sitting in there. After thinking for a bit, I realized I did purchase a bottle back in 2013. Since my memory seems to be rather hazy, I think I'll need some whisky to jog it.

    This particular Bruichladdich appears to be one of their 3D3 barrels. That was an experimental blend of their Port Charlottle, peated Bruichladdich, and Octomore lines which was rather short lived so this K&L selection is a bit of a curio.

    1. Man, I wish they did more of those 3D3s. They'd interest me (and probably many single malt fans) more than their NAS regular range right now.

    2. After opening the bottle and drinking a few drams, I must say that the PC and peated Bruichladdich most likely diluted and balanced out the Octomore part because this whisky is not overly peaty to me (or my palate is used to this). In fact I'm going to agree with you that it's got a very Kilchoman-ness to it. I've also been comparing this to my bottle of Ardbeg Day 2012 and thinking both are nearly identical in flavors.

    3. I'm glad you got a bottle of that stuff before it vanished. Wonder if the similarities between those three malts are due to Islay youth + decent casks.