Wow. This is really interesting.
As you may know, I’ve been learning about scotch whisky. (When in reference to true scotch, whiskey is spelled whisky – whiskey made anywhere else is spelled the way you thought it was spelled before.) Since this is my introduction to them, your reading this will introduce you to them a bit, though I encourage you to try them for yourself. Call me or email me, and I’ll share; I’m now working on a small collection. (Okay, okay, this Laphroaig is my second bottle. But my plan is to put between $40 and $50 a month (when times are good – I sold a painting last night, for example, so bought my December bottle today) into buyins scotch. Depending on how money and timing goes, my next bottle may not be until the end of January or beginning of February; I want to try something a little older, like a 16 year old Lagavulin, or one of the 18 year old Highlands… anyway,)
So after about four weeks of reading about scotch and people’s impressions of different types (single malt, blended, et cetera) and of single malts, different origins and particular distilleries, I went to my local grocery store (I will look to liquor stores and specialty stores in the future, but watch:) to see what they carried, and for what prices. Two weeks ago they had 14 “top shelf” single malts from 11 distilleries. I wrote them all down, along with their prices (some are on sale), and spent the last two weeks looking up the distilleries and individual people’s descriptions of the various bottlings they’ve tried, and made personal judgements about what I wanted to try. Two of them I crossed of the list because I found they were not, in fact, single malts; I must have read the labels incorrectly, and so must have the stockers who put them there, instead of with the blended and/or cheaper whiskys.
Among the others, what I found was that the cheapest ones were considered to be less challenging, had less to offer a scotch connoisseur, and some of them were just generally bad. (Actually, when I went back today, I noticed several single malts literally on lower shelves that I’ve read about in other places, and some that I wouldn’t even bother considering from the look of them (and the fact that they have no ages on them – while scotch is scotch after aging for only 3 years, it is considered undrinkable for at least 10 years, and really comes into its own after around 18, or so they say) – one of which was the brand that I’ve heard from multiple sources is the scotch of choice for the “average man” in Scotland.) Which is all very reasonable.
And the higher the prices went, the better the scotch drinkers liked them (with much variation – some people really hate The Macallan, because it tastes to much like the sherry that was aged in the casks before it was, but others rate it higher than its price, for example – there is a lot of contention about finishes, as well, something I’ll go into in another post), so much so that the one I really wanted was that $90, 16 year aged bottle of Lagavulin. But I’d decided to go with one of the $40-$45 bottles, a Laphroig ($41), or either The Balvenie ($44) or Dalwhinnie ($51) – the Dalwhinnie being sold out by the time I got there today, along with about half of their other scotch. But between a Highland and an Islay, I chose the Islay.
Of the four classes of single malt scotch, the Islays are supposed to be the most “challenging” (read: hard to like, or, in fact, drink), and the Laphroig is among the top three most challenging Islay malts. So, yeah. Bad place to start, right? Meh. I’m up for a challenge.
So, I’ve read that one (if one is a scotch snob) should never put ice in one’s scotch, ever. It should be tasted neat (straight from the bottle) or with a drop or two of pure spring water (preferably from the same spring that was used for making the scotch) to really draw out the bouqet of the scotch. Preferably in a glass shaped to gather the scents, like a brandy snifter or other tulip-shaped glasses. I’ll buy some tonight at IKEA, if I can find some.
So I brought the scotch home, poured a small amount into a wide, short glass, and examined its color. Yep. Has a color. Then examined its smell – I think I may have detected a bit of its complexity, but was unable to identify any individual scents. Then I added a tiny amount of filtered water (I didn’t pick up any evian yet – probably later) and began smelling it again, and WOW it really DID unlock a lot of interesting complexities. The whole experience changed with a tiny amount of water! It was very complex, so complex my nose is not clever enough to decipher it (yet). It has some qualities in common with the Glenlivet I already have (another post later), but I was having a heck of a time deciphering it. Somewhat smoky already. After a time, I can notice a background of something sweet, like a chocolate or a honey. Perhaps something floral all the way through.
When it’s actually in my mouth, there’s not a lot to it, but I’m not sure I know how to use my tongue. I’ll study that and get back to you. Very smooth. VERY nice mouthfeel. Nothing shocking or intense about it at all.
An intense aftertaste. Bold? Smoky, salty… I’ve never tasted or smelled peat, but there’s a very strong note here that I’m going to assume is just that. Peaty. Very peaty. Oh, so smoky. I breath out after taking a swallow, and the taste is like … kissing a smoker? Not exactly; not like cigarattes, as much as a real fire. The taste of breathing out after a swallow is like the taste in your mouth after kissing an oak log on fire? Perhaps.
I’ve got to go to IKEA now, I’ll do more tastings later – I have a whole bottle!