Earlier this autumn, I attended Whisky Live Boston with several of my very good, whisky-loving friends. The great food, great company, and excellent whiskies always make this a highlight night of the year, and this year was no different. Here are some of my thoughts on some of the drams I really enjoyed from this wonderful evening…

The view from the 2nd floor of the State Room during Whisky Live Boston 2014.

The view from the 2nd floor of the State Room during Whisky Live Boston 2014.

Coming into the evening, the American whiskey that I was most looking forward to trying was the new 8th release of Parker’s Heritage Collection, a 13 year-old straight wheat whiskey. I was, of course, very excited when I saw a bottle of this sitting on the Heaven Hill display table, but I was a little disappointed on the whiskey overall. Perhaps my standards were too high because I was really stoked to try this one, but I found it a little too grain-driven for my tastes. This is still a very good whiskey and a great idea, but I did not like it as much as I have enjoyed previous PHC releases.

Lest you think I stormed out of the venue and swore off whiskey for the rest of my days, I did have the chance to enjoy some fantastic drams. I really enjoyed the balance between fruit, spice, and oak in the Redbreast 21 year-old, certainly one of the finest Irish whiskeys I have tried to date. I got to try some of the whiskeys that Koval is bottling, and I am anxious to find more. I was also very impressed with some of the Benromach whiskies I sampled at the Gordon & MacPhail display table (more on that in the weeks to come). I thoroughly enjoyed getting to taste the two most recent Laphroaig Cairdeas releases side-by-side. I preferred the 2013 release to the 2014 release, but they are both fantastic. The 3rd edition of the “Islands” impression from Bruichladdich was a wonderful pour, and the Speyburn 25 year-old is not to be missed. However, none of these wonderful whiskies were left holding a medal in my book at the end of the night (these medals are not real, so I apologize if I got your hopes up). Without further ado, here were my three favorites from WhiskyLive Boston 2014.

Bronze Medal Winner: The First Editions – Bowmore 17 yr. This is an independently bottled Bowmore that was distilled in 1996, and bottled in 2013 from a single ex-bourbon barrel at cask strength (52.8% abv). I think the Bowmore spirit is definitely best with a little age under it, and this one was really a zinger. The age smoothed out some of the plastic, acidic notes of Bowmore’s younger whiskies, and left a wonderful whisky. The palate was a full-bodied cavalcade of Memphis barbecue, peat, ginger, and wet clay. This one balanced the spirit and the cask wonderfully, giving a very welcome dose of peat and spices with some dark sweetness mixed in. The price tag on this bottle ($150-175/750ml) would probably be a little beyond what I would pay for the contents, but this was definitely a wonderful take on Bowmore’s spirit.

Silver Medal Winner: Laphroaig 10 yr. Cask Strength (Batch 006). I will avoid ranting about this whisky here, as I have already given it plenty of praise on the blog with previous releases. That said, this was one of the best releases of the 10 year-old cask strength that I have had. It balances the sweet flavors of the ex-bourbon casks with the rich Laphroaig peat almost perfectly. This is always reasonably priced ($70-80/750ml) for the quality and strength, and is a very worthy addition to any winter liquor cabinet. I will certainly endeavor to buy a bottle of this wonderful whisky.

Gold Medal Winner: Bruichladdich Octomore 06.1 Scottish Barley. This was my first go at the legendary Octomore, a 5 year-old, cask strength peat monster (peated to 167 ppm, nearly four times as peated as standard Laphroaig), and I was lured into its mysteries. When the barley is peated to that level, something crazy happens, and this whisky shows a depth of character that I have rarely experienced. It smells and tastes like the earth after a bonfire, with a touch of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. There are also some lovely citrus notes that mingle with the soot and coaldust, giving the palate a sublime workout. This whisky is not cheap ($150-175/750ml), nor is it easy to find, so I do not think a full bottle is in my future, but this was surely my highlight of Whisky Live Boston 2014.

I know that my highlights were all peated Scotches, but those were the whiskies that stood out most to me, so that’s what I picked. All across the board, it was a night of wonderful whiskies, great company, and a wonderful venue with a fantastic aerial view of Boston. If you’re in Boston, hope to see you at Whisky Live Boston 2015 next fall!

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