...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.