Posts tagged ‘Laphroaig’

WhiskyLive Boston 2014 Review

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!

Laphroaig 10 yr. Cask Strength (Batch 004) Scotch Review

Well, I got done my work earlier than expected this evening, so I am rewarding myself with a whisky review of one of my favorites.  I’ve had tried several bottles of this batch at my local watering hole, and I think I have done enough reviewing to preach the goodness of batch 004 of Laphroaig 10 yr. Cask Strength.  This batch was distilled in 2002, bottled in January 2012, and it is non-chill filtered at 116.6 proof (58.3% abv).

Laphroaig 10 yr Cask StrengthThis Scotch whisky carries an interesting story with it.  During Prohibition in the United States, Laphroaig was still allowed to import their whisky at its cask strength as cough medicine because the United States government deemed the whisky too strong and medicinal to be consumed recreationally.  However, in the new whisky market, the consumer’s palate has shifted to stronger, powerfully flavored whiskies, and Laphroaig fits that bill perfectly.  (Note: This stuff is plenty strong enough to be used as cough medicine, even today.)

On the nose, this whisky is classic Laphroaig – salty, peaty, and smoky.  With a few drops of water, the nose turns to a delightful, sweet smoke, like sweet Italian sausage cooked over an open bonfire.  However, the palate is where this whisky is brilliant.  Drank neat, the whisky is peat and smoke, with some malty undertones all in perfect balance.  There is a wonderful peaches n’ cream note that works through the palate of this whisky that makes me unbelievably happy.  The finish is very long, with hints of oak shavings around a warming layer of sweet, wet peat.  Water brings the palate into a more drinkable balance, but I tend to lose that lovely sweetness on the palate at lower proof points, so I usually drink this one straight up.

Overall, this is brilliant whisky if you love peated Islay single malts.  Compared to other Islay bottlings at cask strength, this one is a great deal, and phenomenal value.  That said, if you are a Speyside drinker (light, fruity, floral), this one probably isn’t up your alley.  My grade: APrice: $60-70/750ml.  This one could also be an A/A-, but I am in a generous mood this evening.  Make no mistake, though.  This is one hell of a Scotch whisky.

For a review of the 2007 bottling, here is a link to William’s review at A Dram Good Time.

Holiday Whiskey Comparison Review: Part 2 – 18 yr. Scotch Whisky

For part 2 of my comparison of 18 year-old whiskies, I am reviewing an 18 year-old Islay and an 18 year-old Speyside.  In my opinion, Islay whisky is bottled best at younger ages because the peat smoke stays lively and fresh.  On the contrary, Speyside whisky is bottled best at older ages because the light, floral, fruity new make benefits from the extra years in the oak to bring the complexity out in the whisky.  Of course, like my first comparison review, whenever you are buying an old and rare Scotch, do your research.  Not all whiskies are created the same, and not all whiskies age well.

Before getting to the reviews, I have to set forth a disclaimer.  I have not bought a bottle of either of these Scotches.  I have drank the Laphroaig 18 yr. on several occasions, but I have only tried The Glenlivet 18 yr. on one occasion.  Therefore, take my tasting notes with a bit more salt than usual.

Laphroaig 18 yr. is bottled at 96 proof, giving it a little more body.  On the nose, Laphroaig 18 yr. is classic Laphroaig.  There are notes of salted pork, peat, smoke, fresh barley, seaweed, and soft honey.  The palate has a solid backbone of toasted nuts, but the salt and peat of Laphroaig never leaves.  There are also notes of dark vanilla, honey, salted caramel, and some oak.  The palate lacks structure, but it is still big, full, and complex.  The finish is a wonderful, long Laphroaig finish, with some lingering sweet oak surrounded by the peat and smoke of a Laphroaig whisky.

Overall, this is fantastic whisky that intensifies a lot of the subtle flavors in other Laphroaig expressions.  However, it lacks structure, and it seems to wander as a whisky.  That is not a bad thing; it is just a difference between the 18 year and other expressions of Laphroaig.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $90-100/750ml.  This is a very good whisky, but there are better expressions from Laphroaig that are available at better prices.

 

 The Glenlivet 18 year-old is a much different whisky.  It is bottled at 86 proof, slightly higher than the 12 and the 15 year-old expressions.  On the nose, there is some oloroso sherry, but is not overpowering.  There are notes of hazelnuts, walnuts, cereal grains, and agave nectar.  The palate is sheer brilliance.  It opens with sherried nuts, but it moves to a complex sweetness of cinnamon apples and spiced dark honey.  The finish is long, with a lot of oloroso sherry.  It is warming, with some drying oak and sweet vanilla.

Overall, this is an awesome whisky.  The palate is one of the best I have tried.  It takes the fruitiness of The Glenlivet spirit, and transforms it into a complex, warming dram perfect for all seasons.  My grade: A.  Price: $80-90/750ml.  This is an incredible dram, worth the money for the most special of occasions.

Between the two whiskies, I clearly prefer The Glenlivet 18.  However, they are both whiskies to be savored, and they should both be on your holiday gift list if such things are your flavor.  I believe The Glenlivet 18 is the best of the range, whereas I believe there are at least two Laphroaig whiskies (Quarter Cask and 10 year-old Cask Strength) that are much better value than the 18.  Of course, what you like is all up to you.  Happy Thanksgiving everybody, and let it ride!

 

Laphroaig Quarter Cask Scotch Review

Well, Sandy is blowing pretty hard outside, which means it is the perfect time to drink some big whisky.  In my idea of a perfect autumn liquor cabinet (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/10/03/the-ideal-value-liquor-cabinet-autumn-edition/), I said that when the money hit me, I would usually try to keep a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask around.  I am reviewing today because it is a great whisky for a rainy day and a great whisky period.  However, it is also a very good deal compared with other single malt Scotches.  It isn’t a great price point compared with most American whiskeys, but it is still a great buy around $60 a bottle.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask takes its name from the maturing process shown on the front of the bottle.  The whisky is aged in a traditional (500 liter) American oak barrel for most of its maturing process, but it is finished in small (125 liter) casks.  The smaller cask creates more interaction with the wood, helping the whisky to “mature” quicker.  So, the Quarter Cask is only about 8-10 years old, but it drinks like a 12-14 year-old whisky.

Originally, quarter casks were created for two reasons.  First, they were smaller, which made them a lot easier to transport, especially on horseback.  Second, a quarter casked whisky allows a distillery to age whiskies faster, helping a distillery produce better products more quickly.

In the case of Laphroaig, the quarter cask is used as a finishing technique, and it comes off brilliantly.  I have reviewed Laphroaig base offering, the 10 year (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/25/laphroaig-10-year-review/) .  It is a good whisky, but it is really a one-tricked pony.  It is smoke and peat, peat and smoke throughout.  Laphroaig Quarter Cask takes that formula, and rounds it out beautifully.  It is bottled at 96 proof and non-chill filtered.

On the nose, it is clear you are drinking Laphroaig whisky.  Peat and smoke explode out of the glass, but upon further nasal exploration, there are notes of nutmeg, black pepper, vanilla, almond butter, and the heartwarming smell of the sea.  The palate is full-bodied and brilliant.  It opens with a heavy sweetness of honey, vanilla, sherry, and fresh berries.  The back of the palate reveals the peat and smoke you would expect, but it is complimented with dense, sweet oak and roasted nuts.  The finish is long and delicious, with a wonderful balance of peat, smoke, sea spray, sherry, and oak.

Overall, Laphroaig Quarter Cask is a fantastic whisky.  It is full-bodied, everything you would want from an Islay, but it is also complex and rich.  In my opinion, it is the best whisky in Laphroaig’s range, even better than the 18 yr. expression and the Cairdeas bottling.  The only Laphroaig whisky that comes close to the beauty of the Quarter Cask is the 10 yr. Cask Strength.  At the price point, Laphroaig Quarter Cask is my favorite Islay whisky, perfect for waiting out a hurricane.  My grade: A-.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  This is a great special occasion whisky, but it is not cheap.  

The Ideal Value Liquor Cabinet (Autumn Edition)

Well, autumn is upon us, and it is time to start planning your fall liquor cabinet.  Quite frankly, fall is one of my favorite seasons to drink great value whiskey.  As with my summer edition of the ideal liquor cabinet, I think a quality liquor cabinet should have variety, and it should have a few key components.  Building a quality liquor cabinet is like building a house; once you have a foundation down, you can go anywhere.  Of course, like anything pertaining to whiskey, it all depends on your palate.  Since my palate varies depending on the season (and sometimes the day), the possibilities for an ideal liquor cabinet are endless.  For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on an awesome fall liquor cabinet on a budget.

You should have a solid staple.  My summer suggestion for a great staple was Buffalo Trace, and I will stand by that whiskey as the leaves begin to change.  https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/03/31/buffalo-trace-review/

You should have a solid seasonal whiskey.  Since fall is such a great time to enjoy whiskey, there are many options for my favorite fall seasonal whiskey.  For the money, I think the best option is Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond.  It is spicy and sweet, like good pumpkin pie.  Plus, it is a great value buy.  https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/28/rittenhouse-rye-review/

You should have a mixer.  Not everybody that comes over to your house for dinner will want their whiskey straight up, so it is important to have something in the cabinet that you don’t mind seeing go into an Old-Fashioned, Mint Julep, Manhattan, etc.  For fall, I recommend Old Grand-Dad Bonded.  It is a fine whiskey that I enjoy sipping straight, and it has a nice rye zip for a cocktail.  However, it costs under $20, and it is not the best whiskey in the cabinet, so I don’t mind if somebody throws a splash or two in a cocktail.  https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/17/old-grand-dad-bonded-review/

If I had a little money left over, I would probably go for a couple of my favorite bottles of whiskey that fit the season well.  These are the ones that come out on special occasions and will last me into December.  If I were me (with a little extra dough), I would get a bottle of Aberlour A’Bunadh and a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask.  I have yet to review either one of these whiskys, but they are both fantastic Scotches around $60 a bottle.  The Aberlour is sweet, full, lightly floral, and oaky.  The Laphroaig Quarter Cask is a lot like the 10 yr. (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/25/laphroaig-10-year-review/), but the former has more complexity, more balance, and a bigger influence from the cask.  Don’t worry, though, it still has monstrous helpings of peat and smoke.  As my rooomate, Chris Broadwell, says “If you can’t go camping this fall, drink Laphroaig.”

Those are my thoughts on the ideal autumn liquor cabinet.  What whiskeys did I leave out?  Which ones did I get right?  What does your autumn liquor cabinet look like?

Laphroaig 10 Year Review

A few days ago, I reviewed Bunnahabhain 12 year Scotch whisky.  The strong Sherry influence and delicate smoke of Bunnahabhain is not what most people associate with Islay Scotch.  I would be remiss in my exploration of Scotch regions if I did not provide a review of Laphroaig 10 year, a whisky that gives a lot of bang for your buck.

Laphroaig is one of the distilleries known for creating “peat monsters.”  The smoky, peaty flavors in these whiskies are achieved by drying the malt over a peat fire.  There are many distilleries that do this, but Laphroaig uses fresh peat (and a lot of it) to create a pretty intense flavor profile.  The 10 year expression is the standard Laphroaig, bottled at 80 proof.  Many of Laphroaig’s other whiskies are bottled at higher percentages (and they are brilliant whiskies), but they are also usually outside my price range.  The 10 year is usually around $45 a bottle, making it the most affordable of the “peat monsters” Islay Scotches.

On the nose, Laphroaig is full-bodied.  Seriously, it extends beyond the glass and fills the room.  It is primarily a nose of peat smoke, but some salty flavors sneak through, like seaweed and iodine.  On the palate, Laphroaig is mostly earthy.  The primary notes are (sweet) soil, seaweed, peat smoke, sea salt, and smoked fish.  The finish lasts quite a while (several hours or so), and it is a resurgence of the nose.  The smoke comes in and out with big bursts.  There are also some whispering notes of heather and soil.  However, the peat and smoke are the biggest flavors after a few minutes, and they will stay for a long time.

Overall, Laphroaig 10 year is a bit one-tricked.  It doesn’t have the incredible depth and complexity that some of its older siblings have.  However, there is a ton of power and strength in this flavor profile.  If you love a strong, peated whisky, look no further than Laphroaig.  If you don’t like the way a bonfire smells when you have it in a peat bog, then I would not recommend Laphroaig; it probably isn’t the best whisky for you.  If you would like to try an authentic, peated Islay single malt, then Laphroaig is probably up your street.  My grade: B-.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is a nice introduction to Islay Scotch, and it would make a nice daily dram for rainy days.  However, I usually pay a little more and something for my top shelf from Laphroaig.

Bunnahabhain 12 Year Review

Well, today is my birthday, so I am going for pure pleasure.  Today, I am doing a review of one of the finest whiskies on the planet, Bunnahabhain 12 year-old single malt Islay Scotch.  If you would like to know how to pronounce Bunnahabhain, let Brian Cox help you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=JanRqMtGtOI

I have talked a little about Scotch regions in the past, yet I have not yet talked about Islay.  Islay is my favorite Scotch region; it is known for massive, powerful whiskies that take your taste buds for one hell of a ride.  “Peat Monsters” like Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin all come from Islay.  However, there is a lighter side of Islay as well, with distilleries like Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and Bunnahabhain.

Bunnahabhain is a non-chill filtered whisky, aged in Sherry casks, bottled at 92.6 proof.  It has a rich, amber color, a much darker color than most Islay Scotches.  On the nose, it is sweet and salty.  The sweetness comes primarily from the Sherry influence, giving way to almonds, dark fruits, berries, and sweet oak.  The saltiness comes primarily from the peat, offering a soft whiff of smoke every soft often in the nose.  The palate has the traditional fullness of an Islay Scotch, yet the flavor profile is much different.  The front of the palate picks up a full array of sweetness, with notes of hazelnuts, almonds, some light cinnamon sugar spiciness, blackberries, boysenberries, and dried apricots.  As the whisky moves towards its finish, it begins to show its Islay roots.  The back of the palate begins to get smokier, until the smoke finally releases its power in the finish.  The finish is long (another Islay trademark).  It starts off with a big puff of peat smoke, yet it becomes deliciously sweet over time, echoing the sweet and salty balance of the nose.  The finish seems to take you right to the sea, where a cool autumn breeze is blowing salt into your nostrils as you eat freshly picked raspberries.

As you might have guessed, I love this whisky.  My only wish is that the Sherry would not be quite so strong on the front of the palate.  Occasionally, you can find this whisky for under $50, which makes it a pretty good deal.  Honestly, I have seen other Scotches with this depth and complexity cost twice that much.  My grade: A-.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is a whisky for special occasions, and it comes through beautifully.  It tastes well beyond its price point.