Friday, February 11, 2011

A night out with Laphroaig, Ardmore and more

Apologies for the enormo-post-of-doom.  For a two-hour event, there were an awful lot of goings-on.

As a loyal Friend of Laphroaig, I receive email updates about events.  A few weeks ago an email came in about an event at the Turtle Club in Hoboken, NJ.  $40 for dinner and a tasting?  Yes, please!

Myself and two friends took the train into Hoboken and walked over to the Turtle Club, enjoying the brisk night air...who am I kidding, it was $@#%ing cold.  The walk was fun, though, as I had dormed at Stevens Tech in Hoboken in 1994, so it was a wee trip down memory lane for me.

We finally arrived at the Turtle Club, and after choosing the wrong door twice entered into a warm and bustling bar.  A few minutes later we were escorted into the back room where tables were waiting for us.  That, dear friends, is my idea of a warm welcome.  Each setting had three glasses of whisky, a pen, cigar and Laphroaig matches.

There were tubes of whisky scattered about, as well as a pair of Wellies, a wee cask and hunk of peat.  If you don't know why the Wellies are significant, check out the Friends of Lahproaig page.

Simon Brooking, the Laphroaig Master Ambassador, made it a point to introduce himself to all of us and get our names.  He also patiently mugged for photos with us.

After an introduction by Josh Ratner of Allied Beverage, and thanks to Corey and Dave from the Turtle Club, we got down to business.

Josh explained that we would start in Speyside, whose whiskies are generally "for the American palate."  Easy drinking and fairly mild, you probably know a lot of them - Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, The Macallan.  We started with the whisky on the left, Glenrothes.

We were instructed to nose the whisky with our mouths open - this helps get past the alcohol and gives you more of the aromas of the whisky itself.  Also tasting the whisky farther back in the mouth bypasses the front of your tongue giving you less heat and more flavor.  Try it, you may be surprised.  Josh then suggested we add a few drops of water to the whisky using our straws.

This brought up the inevitable question about whether it's a sin to add water to Scotch.  You may remember me discussing this in a previous blog post.  Josh deferred to Simon, who echoed my sentiments - water being bad for Scotch is one of the biggest misconceptions out there.

While we were sipping, a cheese plate came out.  The fragrance of well-aged cheeses was unmistakable.  Gouda, Gruyere, Vermont cheddar, Asiago and Roquefort were all delicious.  I'd love to show you a picture, but...

With that, we moved on to the second whisky - The Glenlivet 15.  Strikingly different to the Glenrothes, yet still distinctly Speyside.  Smooth, just a little sweet.

Then came the grand finale of our first flight - The Glenlivet Nadurra cask strength.  This one really blew us away.  Even at cask strength it was smooth and easy to drink.

As the plates were cleared and the next round of whisky served, Simon sang to us, then talked a bit more about whisky.  I was amused that he is trying to achieve "peace through whisky, one dram at a time!"

I found his talk on blended whiskies especially interesting.  He noted that 70% of a blended whisky is neutral grain alcohol - even the very expensive Johnny Walker Blue.

Then it was time to taste our next selection - Ardmore 5 year, which contains whiskies aged from 5-13 years.  A lovely and surprisingly refined whisky for such a young'un.

Simon started talking about peat and smoke.  While explaining to us that every inch of peat represents 100 years of decomposition, he lit a chunk of it with a butane torch and walked around the room.  The delicious smell of peat smoke filled the air.

It was about here that the entree appeared.  Pulled-pork sliders with cole slaw, ribs and brisket, all smoked that morning by chef Carlos, using peat from Laphroaig that Simon had brought with him.  To call the food delicious would be a vast understatement.  You can see we tucked in with vigor...

We moved on to taste the Laphroaig 10-year, the whisky most of us think of when we hear Laphroaig.  It distinctive peat smoke nose is always a treat, but Simon showed us a new way to enjoy it.  We wet our palms with the whisky, then rubbed them briskly together.  The smells that burst from our hands were nothing short of amazing.  Definitely give this a try at home.

We moved on to Laphroaig Quarter Cask, one of my personal favorites.  It has the peaty backbone of Laphroaig, with the added character of wood from extra maturing in smaller barrels.  Look for a review on it later.

Then, sadly, it was time for our final Scotch of the night, but what a Scotch it was - Laphroaig 18.  Flavors like the Laphroaig 10, but somehow more, while being more refined.  A perfect way to end the night.

Much to our delight, all of the whiskies were available for purchase right there!  I took home a nice assortment - Ardmore, Laphroaig Quarter Cask and 18, and the Glenlivet Nadurra.  It's missing from the picture because they didn't have one in stock.

Simon was kind enough to personalize my Quarter Cask bottle and stand still for one more picture.  Have I mentioned yet that whisky goes better with friends?

Big thanks go out to Laphroaig, Simon, the Turtle Club, Allied Beverage and everyone else who made this event possible.  Looking forward to the next one!

Monday, February 7, 2011

And suddenly, a wild barrel appears!

Received a phone call from my local liquor store over the weekend - my Single Malt barrel kit is in!  I asked my wife to pick it up on her way home from work and it greeted me from my dining room table when I got home (the kit, not my wife).

As with the first kit, I soaked it with water overnight to swell up the wood.  This one leaked mostly from the spigot.

Once it was holding water, I opened the bottles with some excitement and added them to the cask.  I'm not sure why pouring whisky into a little barrel is so much fun, but it is.  Maybe it's the anticipation of what will come out later!

I drew off a bit for a sample.  The difference between the barley and rye whiskies is night and day.  There is a definite hint of smoke.  There's that raw alcohol taste, but also a lovely woody flavor and a bit of sweetness.  A bit of tannin, like a strong red wine, too.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how this will age.  In the meantime, he sits next to his brother, waiting to deliver me delicious, delicious whisky.