Whisk(e)y News – Single Barrel Bourbon Bonanza at K&L California – American Whiskey News


The K&L Spirits Department has always been about getting our customers the very best available products. We have no trouble selling this stuff, not only because it’s hard to get, but also because we actually love the products that we offer. Whether you look at our role in your spirited exploration as a guide or teacher, a trusted voice, a source of information, or just a place to go because the prices are good, our motivation is greater than just making the sale. We care about the products that we offer. We can’t help but share that excitement with you because that’s what you do when you’re in love. YOU TELL EVERYBODY!

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the incredible privilege to work beside David Driscoll telling the world just that. David saw early on that there was a better way to sell spirits. We didn’t have to rely on anything, but our own palate and enthusiasm. When I started in this industry, knowledge was a weapon to be held by the few and used against the masses. Now, thanks in large part to David, knowledge is a tool to build bridges and bring people together. No single voice in our industry has done a better job of illuminating what was once a very closed and insular world to new people, new voices and new products. His communication style is complex, entertaining, intelligent and thoughtful, but most of all it is genuine. True passion cannot be feigned and David’s is infectious. I owe so much of the success of our department to him, but what I’m most grateful for is his friendship. Whether it was feuding brothers in Galloway, the dusty streets of Georgetown, or Foie Gras overload in Gascogne, David always found a way to make our customers feel like they were part of the journey. I pray that I can be even half as good at trumpeting the amazing things we do here as he was, but I won’t sugarcoat this – there will be less wrestling.

The one thing I can guarantee we won’t offer less of is Whisk(e)y. We’re going to be out there scouring every cellar and shed, rickhouse, or bit of dunnage for the very best the world has to offer. Indeed, what 10 years ago was a whiskey glut is now a barren desert, but if you know where to look you’ll find the odd oasis of beautiful brown spirits. Here are four special single casks from Kentucky that remind us that they’ve still got plenty of delicious whiskey ready for us in the Bluegrass State – getting it out of there is a different story:


Four Roses K&L Exclusive OESK (9 Years Old, 7 Months) Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon Whiskey (750ml) ($64.99)

This great little OESK is the most familiar of this round of casks. The recipe is almost always one of my favorites and shows up in the standard Small Batch in a big way. The nose on this one reminds me alot of this year’s Limited Edition Small Batch with tons of orange liqueur, stone fruits, sweet corn, menthol, and oak spice. After the high proof of the other two this one starts supple and hints that it will be sweet and easy, thanks to the opulent nose and the easy entry. But the finish goes in a different direction completely, building a big warming spice on the back palate and finishing with a deep fudgy note at the end. It might not be the most exciting on paper, but it’s a real star in the glass.


Wathen’s Private Barrel #59 “K&L Exclusive” Single Barrel Straight Kentucky Bourbon (750ml) ($39.99)

Here’s another stupendous cask from our friends at Wathen’s. If you don’t already know, Wathen’s (bottled by father and son team Charles & Sam Medley) is one of the country’s most well respected non-distillery producers. We refer to them as non-distillery producer rather than non-distiller producer because of course Charles Medley is one of Kentucky’s most well respected distillers. He had decades of experience running the old Owensboro plant, before moving toward contract production. That means he’s got a special relationship with his contracted producers. He gets to call the shots, use proprietary yeast, dial in his specifications for fermentation, distillation and barreling. Other NDPs, even those buying contracts rather than bulk, likely rely on the expertise of their distilling partner to determine these important specifications. The Medleys do it themselves. The result is something that is uniquely Medley and always delicious. Ultra round and approachable, this single barrel was dumped all the way back in 2016 and has been sitting in glass since then. Always a mystery regarding the actual distillery here, but my money is on Barton in Bardstown. They’ve got a great old school facility and some extra capacity since their brands are mostly sold regionally. No matter who actually distilled it, the key to this cask is BALANCE. Few single barrels are so overtly “smooth” as this little gem. A supple corn driven bourbon with just the right amount of spice to keep it in check.


Knob Creek K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #5851 Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (750ml) ($47.99)

The fabulous new single barrel offering from Knob Creek is truly in a class of its own. Very different in character than the standard single barrel rye, we were extremely happy to see that they’d be bottling it near cask strength at 115 proof. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the various differences between Jim Beam’s Rye offerings, but presumably this is the same recipe as both the new Prohibition and the old school Overholt, although some reports have it listed at 55% Rye, 35% Corn, and 10% Malt. Beam is very coy about exactly what goes into these barrels. Perhaps they’re using different distillation methods or warehouses, but it seems to all be the same mashbill. That said, this cask shows a very different character than those other stalwart brands. The whiskey also doesn’t remind us of the regular Knob Creek either, which typically shows a nutty quality that doesn’t exist at all in this whiskey. Instead, this new offering is a zesty spice bomb with tons of bright ginger and sweet candied notes and bright citrus aromatics. The palate is rich and filled with wonderful herbs. The obvious caraway, dried grass, and pepper are pointed by striking lemon peel, fresh tanned hide, cinnamon, and roasted cloves. Spicy and hot on the finish yet eminently drinkable way. We’ve got alot of great rye, but this is one of the most exciting single cask we’ve had to date.


Old Forester K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #3650 (7th Floor, Warehouse B) Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whisky (750ml) ($39.99)

The final cask from our selection last October at the old factory on the outskirts of Louisville. I’ve always wondered why Brown-Forman kept this special place all hidden away from the public since it’s so close to one of the most important Bourbon capitals and there are no big public distilleries around. I suppose they want push us toward the polished Woodford facility outside Lexington because the Old Forester distillery is anything but polished. The sense of history and authenticity is second to none in the great Bluegrass state. They’re also making serious amounts of REALLY good bourbon here and the patent warehouses mean that they’re getting great maturity in a relatively short amount of time. The Old Forester brand is on fire right now with a renewed interest in Kentucky, owners Brown-Forman have done a lot of things right. Letting us see the beautiful facility to pick casks in their historic rickhouses is definitely one of them. This lovely cask was aged atop warehouse B and is certainly on the spicy side of things. It doesn’t show a big varnishy note that the Shively plant is sometimes associated with, but there is a great deal of cigar box and savory influence on the nose. The richest of the three casks we selected that day, with big dark roasted coffee bean note is softened by an almost caramelized demerara quality. Chewy salt water taffy, nutty toffee and a long woodsy exotic spice quality taking hold through the dry and delicious finish.

That’s it for this week, but stay tuned for the next edition of the Whisk(e)y News!

David Othenin-Girard
SoCal Spirits Buyer


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