Laphroaig

laphroaig_top1Apparently, Seattle’s weather is very similar to Scotland’s, so says Simon Brooking, Laproaig’s Master International Ambassador.  If that’s the case, then it’s starting to hint towards an illusion of spring  in Scotland, the citizenry becoming a little stir-crazy.

Yesterday, around 25 of us stir-crazy Seattleites rallied to get ourselves downtown to meet Mr. Brooking, who was in town to talk to us with much song and poetry mixed in about Laphroaig whisky.laphroaig-10yr_v

Have you ever been to a discussion about a spirit with one of the grand experts of the art and science at your grasp?  Well, it’s a pleasure, let me tell you.  Want to taste the actual barley that results in Laphroaig?  Well, ask Simon to come by and hell bring some for you on which to snack.  Want to smell exactly what the peat that so flavors many Scottish Single Malts smells like when it’s burnt?  Then invite Simon to bring his blocks and give him some matches.  Want to hear some ribald stories about kilts…?

In this close room of 25 people, there were experts on whisky ‘Mr. Brooking, are your barrels a #3 or #4 char?‘  There were fans of Laphroaig, ‘I hear that you have some 25yr stuck in your boot…?‘  And, there were a few of the uninitiated, ‘So,  is Laphroaig – Did I say that correctly? – is it very different from Irish whisky?

As we chose our tables, we noticed that each seat had four glasses in front of us.  In these glasses were small tastes of Ardmore Single Malt, Laphroaig 10yr, Laphroaig Quarter Cask and Laphroaig 15yr.  The Ardmore was a pleasant dram, but we were there to taste this most famous of the smoky and peaty Islay whiskies [pronounced ‘eye-luh’ (ī’lā, ī’lə)].

Some basic facts?

  • Laphroaig is the oldest of the nine Islay whiskies, which means that they are located on the Isle of Islay – which not surprisingly means ‘Island of Island‘.  Those clever Scots!
  • Laphroaig started in the early 1800’s, around 1815 when; again with little surprise, it was discovered by the Johnston family that it was a bit more profitable and enjoyable and less maloderous to distill whisky than raise the hardy Highland Cow.
  • Lagavulin– another Islay single malt – started when bad-blood caused the head-brewer of Laphroaig to be hired away to start a new distillery.
  • Laphroaig was the first to pioneer the now standard custom of aging Sottish whisky in used American Bourbon barrels, which commonly are apparently used up to three times or around 50 years, whichever comes first.
  • Prince Charles his’self happens to have a favorite Single Malt, and that Single Malt happens to be…you guessed it…

princecharleslaphroaig

Now that I think of it and before we forget – let’s real fast do a quick re-cap of what constitutes Scottish Whisky and Single-Malt in general.

  • Obviously, all Scottish whisky has to be distilled and aged in Scotland, just like all bourbon must be distilled in America, all Irish whisky in Ireland, Cognac brandy in the Cognac region and Bordeaux wine in the Bordeaux region of France,  etc…
  • All Scottish Whisky is spelled WITHOUT the ‘e’ as in American Whiskey.
  • Scottish ‘Single Malt’ means that ONE particular kind of Barley Malt is used to distill that whisky.
  • There are six distinctive and separate regions in Scotland where Scottish Single Malt is distilled, those regions are: Campbletown, Highland, Island, Islay, Lowland and Speyside (my personal favorite).
whiskyregions1

Scotland's Whisky Regions

Simon didn’t just happen to breeze on through Seattle – it was no lucky accident that we were able to hear him speak about Laphroaig.  Simon was in town because Seattle is lucky enough to twice a year host the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America’s ‘16th Annual Single Malt Extravaganza‘.  At this bonny event, held at the tony Seattle bottlesRainier Club (jeans, tennis shoes and t-shirts not allowed, there’s a serious dress code), one was able to taste up to 85 single malts and a grand number of blends, also.  For the most part, this event has most of the brands of which you’re already aware.  BUT, the grand fun is tasting them neck to neck and really being able to learn the differences between them.  That said, here’s a secret for you: If you’re still there towards the end of the event, many of the reps will quietly start pouring some serious whisky.  We’re talking a Chivas Regal 21 year.chivas211  Highland park 25highland251 and 30 years.  And, please let me tell you about the 25 year Laphroaig, which is described by Dave Broom of the must-have Whisky Magazine as, “Light, lactic and slightly grubby. Milking a cow in a mucky byre. In time, suet pudding, slightly rotting fish and butter. Very odd.”  Well, Mr. Broom, I hate to quibble, and I am sure that my palate is nowhere near as experienced as yours, but I would like to suggest that this was one of the best single malts that I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.  “Milking a cow in a mucky bryre”?  “…suet pudding, slightly rotting fish and butter“, Mr. Broom?  This must be the same poet who once described an unnamed single malt as tasting reminiscent of “longshoreman’s underarm“.  Ah, those Scots! 

To make a long story short (too late, I know…), Laphroaig is one of the rare treasures in the spirits world.  Laphroaig’s history, it’s defining characteristic, it’s control of the mindspace in the world of Single Malts makes Laphroaig a true titan in their clutch of the world’s interests – and, deservedly so. 

Thank you Mr. Brooking.  If I had not met you, I’d not have heard those Scottish songs and poems, those interesting stories involving kilts, and I’d SURELY not have tasted the Laphroaig 25yr.  Thank you again.

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One Response to “Laphroaig”

  1. […] Alcohology A Hands On Study Of Alcohol « Laphroaig […]

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