This past weekend, the LA Scotch Club hosted a spectacular tasting with Laphroaig in Pasadena, California.
For 28 LASC members and guests, there was, for consumption, every bottle in Laphroaig’s current range, including the standard 10 year old, Batch 003 of the 10 year old Cask Strength, the Quarter Cask, the 18 year old, the 25 year old, the Triple Wood, and even the highly covetable PX Cask. If you’re counting, that’s already seven expressions – a complete tasting by any standard…
…just not LASC standards. Proving once again his awesomeness, El Jefe Andy, arranged for us to taste an additional five bottlings that are either discontinued, sold out, or nearly impossible to get. Specifically, we were treated to the celebratory 2012 Càirdeas Origin, the 15 year old, the 21 year old Cask Strength, the 30 year old, and the *drum roll*** legendary 40 year old. Truly, to have all of these bottles in one place and be able to drink them was, for me at least, a once in a lifetime opportunity.
To guide us through the night, the Protector of the Peat himself, Brandon Bartlett, was on hand with his photo album slideshow to make us feel that much closer to Islay.
Logistically, the tastings were presented in four groups of three, interspersed with dinner.
Before the first course (House Chopped Stilton Salad), we started with the everyday Laphroaig drams, the 10 year old, the 15 year old, and the Quarter Cask. Of the three, I looked forward most to the 15 year old, not so much for the royal connection (it is reportedly the Prince of Wale’s favorite), but simply because I’ve never had it. So, that’s what I started with.
On the nose and palate, the Laphroaig 15 year old reminded me of vanilla cupcakes and bandaids. Bottled at 43% ABV, the finish was pretty standard – not great, just okay. To be honest, the 15 seemed pretty muted and not as inspiring as the 10 year old, let alone my hip flask favorite, the Quarter Cask. Oh well. Still, I appreciated having the opportunity to taste it.
She liked the Quarter Cask, and he liked her. Fun couple.
Next, we moved on to the 30 year old and the 40 year old.
Instead of pouring from the original bottle, attendees were provided pre-measured pours of the 30 and 40 in mini bottles. The intent was for everyone to drink their allocations there, which I did, mixed with Diet Coke and two maraschino cherries. In the past, I found old whiskies to be on the stale side, so I figured I’d help these special drams with a little zing in the form of fizzy carbonation, and you know what? It worked, the resultant drink was actually pretty refreshing!
I am kidding. I chose to save the minis for later, when I have a clear head and a clean palate. I’m hoping to do a proper blog review on the 30 and 40 in the near future, so stay tuned!
To complete the first half of the tasting, we had a dram of the Travel Retail exclusive PX Cask. It was my second go round with it, and it was just as pleasurable as the first time. The PX Cask started life off as a standard 10 year old, then transferred into a Quarter Cask for a bit, and finally matured in a Pedro Ximénez sherry cask. Bottled at 48% ABV, the PX Cask had a beautiful dark amber color, and the experience was sweet peat and black berries galore!
This is me. Photo courtesy of the LA Scotch Club.
In the third round, after consuming dessert (Raspberry English Trifle) we encountered the always pleasant 18 year old, the enjoyably complex Càirdeas Origin, and the top shelf 25 year old. Of the three, I found the 25 year old to be the most unique for the simple reason that I got some serious grass jelly and cedar notes off of it. Interesting.
Finally, to put an exclamation point to the tasting, we finished with the Triple Wood, the 10 year old Cask Strength, and the 21 year old Cask Strength.
The Triple Wood was very similar to the PX Cask. In fact, it’s created the same way as the PX Cask with the main difference being the finishing cask. Instead of a Pedro Ximénez cask, the Triple Wood’s last leg of its journey is spent in an Oloroso sherry barrel. Consequently, it was comparable in taste to the PX Cask, just drier and not as sweet.
The 10 year old Cask Strength was great, as always. For my detailed thoughts, check out my first blog post review.
Of the ten expressions I had that night, the 21 year old Cask Strength was my favorite. In fact, the first word out of my mouth after tasting it was Awesome!. Bottled at cask strength, 53.4% ABV, and comprised of 9 casks selected by the Distillery Manager John Campbell, the Laphroaig 21 year old Cask Strength exhibited a sweet nose of Kool Aid, or Hawaiian fruit punch. It reminded me of elementary school. The palate and finish was where the signature peat came to life. Curiously, I didn’t get much peat on the nose. The 21 year old was delightful. An outstanding expression.