Selecting Single Casks

It's become common knowledge in the spirits world that we're curating our own single cask whisky selection at K&L these days, but what you may not have realized is that our prices have suddenly become very competitive. One of the most common inquiries I received after the Brexit vote and the devaluation of the British Pound involved the price of Scotch whisky; namely, should customers expect better prices due to the more advantageous exchange rate? Unfortunately, the answer was almost always "No." Most retailers in the United States cannot purchase whisky from Scotland because they're forced by state law to work with local distribution. Those distributors are purchasing branded single malt whisky from an import company that—in most cases—is owned by the whisky company itself. That means when a Scotch whisky distillery ships its bottles to the U.S., it's shipping the liquid to its own parent import company, so there's no savings on currency to the customer as the costs are absorbed within the corporation itself. 

As someone who works directly with independent bottlers, however, we're able to take advantage of the new dollar-to-pound exchange rate and pass those savings on to you. So if you're asking us about K&L exclusive Scotch whiskies, then the answer to that earlier question is: "Yes! You should expect better prices!" We've just received another shipment of single barrel cask strength selections from our friends at Hepburn's Choice. We think you'll be as thrilled as we are about the new, revamped costs:

2009 Caol Ila 7 Year Old "Hepburn's Choice - K&L Exclusive" Single Wine Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - Caol Ila rose? Why not? This seven year old 58.2% cask strength edition of smoky Islay single malt whisky was finished in a red wine cask, lending the whisky a salmon color that looks more like Vin de Provence than Scotch. The result is a light dusting of red fruits around a sold core of classic Caol Ila seaside fare: salt, smoke, brine, earth, oil, and a bit of funk for good measure. Those who like their Islay whisky bold and brash will go ga-ga for this selection, and the addition of earthier elements from the wine cask maturation only broaden that complex fury of the elements. Pull a fast one on your friends by offering them a glass of delicious Bandol rose! Then watch their face distort itself as huge dose of 116.4 proof Islay intensity hits them at full force!

1997 Auchentoshan 19 Year Old "Hepburn's Choice - K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $79.99 - Auchentoshan often gets overlooked in the new age of big sherry and big peat. The Lowland stalwart's triple-distilled, light, and fruity flavors often have more in common with Irish whiskey than they do Scotch single malt, but that's exactly why we love it! The longer Auchentoshan sits in wood, the more exotic those fruit flavors become, which is exactly what happened inside this hogshead from Hepburn's Choice. There's a kiss of sweetness right off the bat that's lifted and bolstered up by the 53.3% ABV. The vanilla kicks in shortly after and there are cheerful notes of shortbread and oak spice on the finish. At 19 years old, this whisky is still full of malty character and by no means shows its age. Think of this whisky as a cask strength version of the Midleton Rare, but at almost half the price. With water, the fruit really opens up and flavors of caramel and king sugar begin to unfold. It's a whisky that does justice and honor to the classic Lowland style.

1992 Strathmill 24 Year Old "Hepburn's Choice - K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $89.99 - For those who enjoyed our 24 year Longmorn bottled by Signatory, you'll be pleased to know you can now get a similar whisky in a similar style for a whole lot less! This 24 year old Strathmill single malt is loaded with oily fruit, wood resin, creamy vanilla, and a rich finish of caramel and creme brulee and we're offering it at a price that's almost too good to believe. For $89.99, this offering is right there with the Glenturret that sold out in a heartbeat earlier this Fall. Strathmill is a Highland distillery owned by Diageo that provides much of the malt in the J&B blend. It's known for its light and fruity character, which is most definitely on full display in this selection. At 47.9%, the whisky has proofed itself down naturally to an absolutely perfect spot; one that allows for enjoyment without the addition of water. Hints of candied pineapple, sweet barley grains, and floral notes dance lightly across the finish. For fans of the classic Highland style, there are few deals around as good as this.

1998 Royal Brackla 18 Year Old "Hepburn's Choice - K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $69.99 - We're back with round two from Royal Brackla, in what is another bold, assertive, and flavorful single cask selection. Rich, robust, and caramel-laden in its essence, this particular whisky is loaded with fruity esters that light up the finish like a pack of fireworks. Under all that spice are rounded notes of chocolate and toffee that have soaked in from the ex-Bourbon barrel. The nose begins with classic oak aromas, but is quickly enveloped by the cocoa and creamy malted notes on the mid-palate. At 55%, a bit of water does help to tame some of the heat, opening up more of the toffee notes and some of the fruit. When you go back in for a second nosing, the glass simply brims with aromas of cereal milk, chocolate malt, and sweet barley. A fascinating and fun whisky for a really, really good price.

1989 Bunnahabhain 27 Year Old "Hepburn's Choice - K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $159.99 - Yet another ultra-mature Bunnahabhain selection for a price that seems too good to be true! How long can we keep going back to the well, you ask? As long as that well is full of 27 year old cask strength Islay single malt for less than two hundred bucks, as many times as we can! This new single cask selection from Hepburn's Choice is everything you hope it will be, full of that oily, salty, tropical fruit note that makes Bunnahabhain such a fan favorite. After almost three decades in wood, the peat is almost an after-thought, but it's there on the finish, slowly permeating its way into your palate. At 53.3% ABV, the proof lifts up the stone fruit on the mid-palate and provides balance to inherent richness of the whisky. A few drops of water are helpful in opening up some of the smoke, but this malt drinks beautifully right out of the bottle. If you're looking for a last minute gift for that Islay whisky lover, this is a home run.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll