Today is the big day for me and for David Girard at our Hollywood store. We are officially, as of September 1st, in charge of K&L’s spirits selection (even though we’ve been lurking in the background for a while now). Susan Purnell has single-handedly built up our entire liquor selection for the last 10 years and we will be sorry to see her leave us. She knows more about single malts than our entire staff put together, and I am relieved that she has offered me her personal contact info should I get myself into a bind. That being said, David G and I are looking to build upon Susan’s legacy and expand our spirits selection to include more hard-to-find, quality, hand-crafted products than ever before. If you’ve kept up with this blog recently than you are aware of our new tequilas, but, let me tell you, we have so much more that has just recently arrived. I have tasted so many good spirits lately that I am very excited to share and am currently at bursting capacity—I need to let this out.
Starting today, I am going to be managing a separate email group for spirits enthusiasts who will be the first to know about all new arrivals in the liquor department. If you are interested in being a part of this list, please send me an email with the title “Email List” at email@example.com. Every time I bring in a new product, I will immediately send out an email with all the details to everyone on the list. For the next few weeks I will post the new releases on the blog, but after September it will be mainly in email form. So, without further ado, our latest superstars:
Germain Robin Absinthe Superieure (375ml $35.99) Some super craft distillers have come up with interesting and delicious takes on what absinthe should be. None has been more impressive to me than the Germain Robin Absinthe Superieure. While the base spirit for absinthe is traditionally brandy distilled from wine, Crispin Cain used the Ukiah-based alambic still where he learned to make the renowned Germain Robin brandy line-up (arguably the best brandy produced in the US, if not the world), and used it to distill an apple-honey mead instead. He then threw in the traditional wormwood, but also included rose geranium and a few other aromatic devices, and then he distilled it to an untraditionally low 90 proof—far less than the 120 proof most absinthe sees. The result is a softer, more mild-drinking spirit that still packs a ton of flavor. While most absinthe is greenish, the Germain Robin is almost clear. Not being a traditionalist, I’m not bothered by that, but the spirit does cloud up like a true absinthe should when water is added. Best of all, it comes in a half bottle, so if you’re looking for the most economical choice for your home bar, this is it. So far I haven’t found very many places carrying it, so I’m happy to be leading the charge.
Germain Robin Grappa Of Zinfandel (375ml $55.99) One of the most amazing spirits of any kind I have yet tasted. This is not Italian-styled grappa with the heat and the power, in fact, I'm hard pressed to believe that this grappa even has alcohol in it! The flavors of the Zinfandel grape are so fragrant and apparant on the nose that it seems as if the glass is full of red Zinfandel wine and not its distillate. The grappa is so soft, smooth, delicate and flavorful that I find it difficult to even call it grappa. This is not just for spirits enthusiasts. This is a beautiful work of art that everyone must try at least once. Very much worth every penny of its price tag.
Germain Robin Liqueur de Poète (375ml $39.99) Yet another in the Germain Robin line-up of small batch, craft distillations that absolutely blows my mind. A wonderfully interesting, intriguing and delicious spirit distilled from pears and aged over seven years in barrel. A true labor of love for Hubert Germain-Robin who worked on this eau-de-vie for 16 years! The result is an exotic and stunningly complex spirit that shows barrel spice, port-like caramel and toffee notes, pear sweetness, and a sherry-like finish. One of the more amazing spirits I have tasted and one I am so proud to be carrying and recommending for our customers.
Germain Robin Single Barrel Pinot Noir Brandy (750ml $139.99) If you thought that the Germain Robin XO was the best domestically produced brandy in existence, you would be wrong, but I wouldn't blame you for thinking so. In fact, I thought the same thing until I recently tried their Single Barrel Brandy distilled from 100% Pinot Noir. It is, in my opinion, without a doubt the best brandy in their arsenal. This has an absolutely stellar nose that shows the rich barrel aromas of age, but also the soft red fruit of the Pinot Noir. The palate gracefully shows red fruit and spice with as soft and delicate a profile as is imaginable. It might be THE great brandy of my short tasting experience. This will give any fine Cognac a serious run for its money.
Germain Robin Single Barrel Viogner Brandy (750ml $139.99) Germain Robin's brandies are California's, if not the nation's, premiere craft-distilled brandies. This Single Barrel brandy made 100% from Viognier is in a class all its own. Very rare and very difficult to get, this spirit shows the floral and fruity character of the Viognier grape on both the nose and the palate. The zesty peach flavors are very soft as is the texture of the brandy itself. It is a major accomplishment for Germain Robin in their quest to produce the very best spirits possible from their Ukiah Alambic pot still.
St. George Aqua Perfecta Basil Eau-De-Vie (375ml $36.99) I can't tell you all how excited I was after getting a taste of Lance Winters's Basil Eau-De-Vie. It is very, very, very good...as long as you like basil. The Aqua Perfecta is an extraordinary feat of distillation artistry and showcases yet another stong offering in the St. George portfolio. Distilled from several types of basil, including Thai basil (which is very apparant in the nose), the palate shows a peppery spice and subtle hints of anise to acompany the graceful basil notes. I'm dying to get my hands on a whole bottle so I can try it in a Bloody Mary! This is a tough sell, I know (who is looking for basil-flavored brandy?), but rest assured people, this is worth every penny! A real adventure in alcohol artistry.
Stranahan's Snowflake Whiskey Cab Franc Cask ($59.99) Part of the new Snowflake series from Stranahan's that showcases their award-winning whiskies finished in various used wine casks. The Cabernet Franc-finished whiskey is softer-fruited, yet spicy, much like the finest expressions of the Cab Franc grape itself. It is amber colored with faint touches of sweetness that highlight the complexity of the whiskey and mesh seamlessly with the delicate influence of the red wine. Very limited in production with a hand written label.
Stranahan's Snowflake Whiskey Paladise Cask ($59.99) Part of the new Snowflake series from Stranahan's that showcases their award-winning whiskies finished in various used wine casks. This whiskey is finished in Hungarian white oak, which contributes to the soft fruit and sweet mash aromas present on the nose. The entry is impeccably smooth and the rich flavors are capped off with just a touch of vanilla sweetness. Very limited in production with a hand written label.
Stranahan's Snowflake Whiskey Port Cask ($59.99) Part of the new Snowflake series from Stranahan's that showcases their award-winning whiskies finished in various used wine casks. The port-finished whiskey is a dark brown, almost coffee colored spirit, with a rich and heavy flavor profile coupled with toffee notes. The influence of the sweetly rich port wine is evident on the finish which lingers on for minutes after the whiskey has been savored. Very limited in production with a hand written label.
Soldeica Pisco Puro ($19.99) We've been dying for a great Peruvian Pisco that we could keep in stock on a regular basis and we have finally found it. Robert Canari from Sangre Inca Imports recently walked into the Redwood City store and asked me if I would taste his Soldeica Piscos. Knowing the dire straits our Pisco collection was in, I was excited to taste them and they did not disappoint. Soldeica has been making Pisco in Peru for over 150 years and they take their distilling very seriously. The Puro is their entry level product, and it is by far the best bottle we currently offer on our shelf. Gone are the harsh tones of the mass-produced brands, and present are the soft textures and subtle fruit tones that make Pisco so accessible. Because I want K&L to offer the very best of everything, and knowing the storied history of Peruvian Pisco in the Bay Area (it was the most widely drunk spirit in 19th century San Francisco) I wanted to make sure that we had at least one quality small production pisco to offer. Finally we do.
Laird's Straight Bonded Apple Jack 100 proof ($22.99) Don't be fooled by the less expensive blended variety. This is the real deal and is 100% aged apple brandy, none of the neutral stuff. Apple Jack is America's Calvados. Distilled the old way (freeze distilation) and aged in bonded warehouses. This is a necessity for anyone creating an authentic bar. And if you don't have what it takes to make a delcious Jack Rose cocktail, or a Calvados Cocktail, then you don't have an authentic bar. Laird’s is the Rittenhouse Rye of apple distillates.