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Staff Favorites - James Knight

James Knight


2018 Turley "Juvenile" California Zinfandel
Review Date: 02-29-2020
The old timers of California wine used to call this type of wine a "claret," for good reason. I'm not talking about the "old timers," for you younger folks, of the 1990s, or even of the 1970s wine boom, and rediscovery of quality, varietally labeled California Zinfandel. Back in the late 1800s, Zinfandel was big in California, and those who knew their claret (and they did know their Bordeaux blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and related grapes) often referred to the better Zinfandel wines as like "claret." That is, a medium-plus red wine having an aroma not unlike a classic Bordeaux blend: some graphite, some stones, a pleasing tease of raspberry perfume and a juicy body that's checked, good and firm, with a just-so tannic grip on the finish. And so is this wine today. These days, people say a lot of strange things about California Zinfandel that sound more like the kind of political bias and griping that grips these times—a sip of this wine should settle the mind and enliven an interest in this classic, heritage grape of the Golden State.
Price: $24.95 Add To Cart

The Glencairn Whisky Glass 6.75 oz
Review Date: 01-05-2020
This little glass changed whisky appreciation for me. Before, it was a tumbler and a little ice—fine for some flavor, but the aromatics that swirl in the stout, but svelte little Glencairn glass belong to a whole new world of terms like rancio, "cottage plaster," and the like. Heck, just swirling and sniffing is more than half the fun with this, thus judiciously rationing the beverage itself. A few years back, the Spirits guys at K&L got won over by the somewhat pricier Denver & Liely Whisky Glass, but until you've got a set of those in the budget, get this. Shot glasses are for cheap tequila, friends. Don't miss out on good whisky, get this glass!
Price: $6.99 Add To Cart

2016 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Riesling
Review Date: 01-04-2020
This dry Riesling hits the "sweet spot" for me — but it's well within the "dry" category at just 0.68% residual sugar with a pH of 3.04. I love the Pewsey Vale Museum Reserve Riesling from Eden Valley, South Australia, but it's unfortunately the rare season that the store stocks this classic, lime and toasted honeycomb scented wine. The 2016 Smith-Madrone, which I'm told winemaker Stu Smith is particularly proud of, and which is their current release, mind you, is a ringer for that delicious Aussie Riesling combination of heady aroma and crisp, refreshing finish. What are these bottles still doing here?
Price: $29.95 Add To Cart

2018 Bannister Cole Ranch Mendocino County Riesling
Review Date: 01-04-2020
This unusual Riesling is a dry, mineral-inflected wine with less obtrusive tannin than you might think, given the "orange wine" treatment. It's got body, and, with a deep golden hue, it's not too orange, after all! Much better food pairing candidate than some of the sweeter domestic Rieslings.
Price: Hidden View Price

Laphroaig "Quarter Cask" Islay Single Malt Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 10-22-2015
My journey back to Laphroaig has been long, but it's got a well-earned place in my short list of single malt favorites. The Quarter Cask is kind of like an elaboration on that rich, vanilla oak note that I retrieved from my first smoky, leathery bottle of Laphroaig 10. It's less rich and opulent than the Triple Wood, to be sure, but I enjoyed every pour of this--it even held up to a little ice, over the summer, purists be darned. I'm a Talisker fan, and love the Ardbeg Corryvreckan, but this well-priced Laphroaig shows, with just a bit of extra barrel treatment, the quality of the spirit that's coming out of the distillery.
Price: $46.99 Add To Cart

Laphroaig "Triple Wood" Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 10-20-2015
Holy lovely peaty sherry goodness. My earlier review of Laphroaig 10 Year, as in, "Caution! And good news!" might be easily ignored at this point: it was an early Scotch for me, and on the outer boundaries of what I appreciated at the time. However: this single malt fulfills everything that I eventually love about a Laphroaig without having to wait a minute extra. It's got that vanilla and peat and that delicious malty, grainy note, and it's just delicious.
Price: $52.99 Add To Cart

Bowmore 12 Year Old Islay Single Scotch Malt Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 03-05-2015
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I'm pretty pleased with the standard Bowmore 12, in fact, just a little beyond expectations, for the price. I have to agree with Enthusiast's mention of the cookie dough in the background, but there's also a bit of wet plaster, rancio and roasted walnut lurking--a hint of some of the older, single barrel expressions. It's drier and less "maritime" than Talisker 10, and the peat is more ashy like an Ardmore Traditional Cask or Lagavulin 16. A nice cabinet standby, or at least a reference point.
Price: $45.99 Add To Cart

Highland Park 12 Year Old Isle of Orkney Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 02-24-2015
The malty, soft, cereal grain and butterscotch aroma of the Highland Park 12 is imbued with a whisper of peat that draws one in to a deeper place. For me, it's the long-ago memory of an oceanside cottage--opening the door, the cupboards, the aroma was always familiar and comforting yet distant, salty, and of the sea. That's Highland Park, to me: a straightforward butter cookie of a whisky, but the window's open just a crack, and you can smell the sea and heather coming in.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart

Glendronach 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 01-04-2015
This whisky just keeps getting better, in my estimation. Rich and sherried, reminiscent of summer and winter treats: caramel apples and roasted, candied nuts. The Glendronach 12 has spicy, rum-raisin aromas, roasted nuts--filberts, Brazil nuts--and baked apple and pear notes, which repeat on the palate, so cotton-candy smooth, and the fruit flavors deepen toward the dry, smoky finish. Similar to: Aberlour 16. More flavor than: Glenlivet 12. Fiercer, less smooth than: Macallan 12 or Glenmorangie 10. More easygoing but in a somewhat similar profile to: Glendronach Allardice, Aberlour A'Bunadh. A standby, a classic. UPDATE: I have tried the Glendronach 15 Year Port-finished edition, a really svelte, nice dram, for sure, but I STILL prefer the 12 Year. If you like rich, nutty, sherried single malt, you really ought to try the Glendronach 12.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart

Ardbeg "Corryvreckan" Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 12-05-2014
For sure, the next time I have enough spare change to be able to decide between purchasing a Talisker 18 or the Corry, I am likely to experience some cognitive dissonance--and I mean before I have had any whisky! UPDATE: After first sampling the Corryvreckan, I was able to purchase a bottle and am very happy with it. This whisky presents luxe aromas of vanilla, caramel, and a hint of chocolate liqueur, haunted by a roasted seaweed, smoked fish and bacon sort of peatiness. If you've tried the Ardbeg 10 but felt it was just somewhat too aggressively peaty for you, at least for now, check out this one. It's got all the soft, lovely smoky beauty of a Talisker Distiller's, say, but with a spicier, cinnamon mint finish--like a younger Islay, like our Kilchoman single barrels, for instance. If you don't mind a hot finish, and love a single malt that tantalizes your nose with seductive, smoky and sweet aromas, this is it.
Price: $69.99 Add To Cart

Balcones Single Malt Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 07-11-2014
I would seriously never have considered a Texas single malt whisky unless it was sitting in front of me, nearly daring me, saying, hey, I dare ya. What a surprise. A surprisingly developed aroma of roasted walnut, with a deep, darkly sherried palate that reminds me a little of, say, the Cragganmore 23, but with cinnamon spice, too--not in a bourbony way. This rich, dark single malt may be not quite as complex of some of our older, nutty Scotch single malts, but it is a really great effort from the single star, I mean the Lone Star state.
Price: $69.99 Add To Cart

Isle Of Skye 12 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 06-25-2014
Yes, this really does have a bit of the Talisker character. With a hint of orange rind over slightly smoky, bacon scone-y sweet characteristics, it's a fine Scotch on the rocks that retains some of its grain alcohol character while offering something more interesting than a lot of blended Scotches. But it's not a substitute for single malt Talisker: while I may enjoy it as a Scotch on ice from time to time, I follow it up, when I can, with a nice Talisker 10 or Distiller's Edition--neat!
Price: $36.99 Add To Cart

Ardbeg "Uigeadail" Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 06-05-2014
Recommended for those with a love for--or a tolerance that may blossom at some time in the indeterminate future--peaty, sherry-influenced single malt. After I had tasted a sample of the Ardbeg Uigeadail and sort of gave it thumbs down in my personal notes, later I purchased a whole bottle and followed it over a while. Why? There's just something about it. There's dried seaweed, some plaster from a seaside cottage renovation, perhaps, some dried fish on a grill fired by beach brush. And mid to high-toned sherry underneath. But there's more, and whatever that more is, it keeps me coming back from time to time.
Price: $56.99 Add To Cart

Glendronach "Revival" 15 Year Old Distillery Bottling Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 06-05-2014
I like Scotch ale, the "wee heavy" beer, and I like this Glendronach 15-year "Revival." It's more than a wee bit richer than the 12. It's spicy, and smoky; candy apples smoking cigarettellos at a pumpkin pie party. Comparisons? Here's my take: Spicier than Glendronach 12; not quite as intense as Aberlour A'bunadh....but getting there. Way more fiery than Macallan 12, but super sherried and rich. A sort of Lagavulin 16 ashiness on the palate, perhaps. A powerfully inviting detour.
Price: $79.99 Add To Cart

Aberlour 16 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 05-05-2014
Apple pie is right--or more like hot apple cider, for me. Warm, spicy holiday punch, with ginger and cinnamon and delicious, caramel and apple flavor. Not as hot and spicy as the A'Bunadh, the dignified Aberlour 16 is a rich, smooth, and delightful companion to, say, a good book; to be sipped and savored.
Price: $74.99 Add To Cart

Springbank 15 Year Old Distillery Bottling Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 04-28-2014
Richer and more mellow than: Port Charlotte Peat. Much less peaty than: Talisker 10. Kinda maybe like: Cragganmore 12. I got butterscotch candy and salty, nutty notes a little like a Jura whisky from a sample of this dram; it's got nice lemony, butterscotchy notes that are appealing.

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated Single Malt Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 04-28-2014
It's like sipping an artisanal lemon drop cocktail while a hay field burns around me; it's heather and honey dressed in blonde suede; it's too hot to handle--or is it? (from a sample) This is a light, bright, and high-toned smoky spirit, not on the dark side of peaty drams, that is for sure. But it is alive and interesting.
Price: $59.99 Add To Cart

Bowmore 15 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 04-28-2014
"Amber. Whoa. Campfire...peaty fire...suede jacket (nice, not Laphroaig shoe); smoked ham. Some old deli memory, 70s, 80s?" That was my first impression of the Bowmore 15 "Darkest" from a 30cl sample. Later I purchased a full bottle. Initial impressions were consistent: It's a meaty, dry, savory single malt. There's a strong, sherried, rum-raisin component, for sure. There's intensity, but don't expect peatiness like an Ardbeg or Laphroaig. To put it in perspective, I'd say: Dryer and meatier than Talisker 10; may appeal to fans of Glendronach 15 Revival, though smoky; maybe, maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of Lagavulin 16. The last of my notes read, "Have to revisit!"
Price: $74.99 Add To Cart

Talisker 18 Year Old Isle of Skye Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 04-28-2014
Medium-light amber, and the smoked fish, the salty caramel, the chili pepper, it's all there...but does it seem a bit more subdued that the Distillers Edition? It does seem a bit more ashy on the palate; there's definitely a nice bit of heat on the back-end. As a fairly recent but hopelessly enthralled recruit to the Talisker regimen, I recommend the 18, for a one-time try-out at the least.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 04-25-2014
Caution! And good news! True, we're trying to sell some single malt here, but to those customers who have not delved into peaty single malts much, I would counsel caution and/or patience, and here's why: I purchased the classic Laphroaig 10 early in my single malt rediscovery series...probably after the mellow Balvenie 12. Holy burning shoe leather! The level, and character of the peat is so serious, it almost made my eyes sting. So I left it alone for a long time, revisiting it from time to time. And eventually, I noticed the richness underneath. The sweet caramel. The seaweed. The beauty...of that burning shoe. By the last few drams, I was almost telling the Laphroaig 10 how sorry I was that I had misunderstood it...but I didn't have that many drams.