Peatin’ Meetin’ V

Begun in 2009 as LA Scotch Clubs backyard BBQ and celebration of all things peated, Peatin’ Meetin’ has grown into what is likely the world’s largest tasting of purely peated whiskies. Known especially through Islay’s scotch, peated whisky is smoky and earthy.  With its bold flavors, it isn’t for the timid, but peated whiskies are now among the most sought after in the world.   Peat is boggy soil made from vegetation that has only partially decomposed over thousands of years, and the Scottish and Irish burn it in a same manner as coal.  Peat’s unique smoke flavors the barley used to make the whiskies featured at Peatin’ Meetin’.

Like the club itself, the event has grown phenomenally and on June 29, 2013 three hundred whisky lovers are expected to meet in Los Angeles to taste over one hundred whiskies from Islay and around the world.  In addition to peated masterpieces shared by whisky sponsors, the LA scotch club sources rare bottles from shops and auctions worldwide to share with lucky attendees.  True to its roots, Peatin’ Meetin’ is a large festive outdoor celebration with live entertainment and BBQ smoked onsite with peat imported from overseas.  Unlike other whisky events, Peatin’ Meetin’ is not driven by companies to make money or generate sales, it is organized by a club of scotch lovers whose only profit is to taste great whisky, eat great food, and to share their favorite night of the year with friends new and old.

ATTRACTIONS

All of Islay’s famous peated scotch will be poured by sponsors (Laphroaig, Ardbeg, etc.) at the event.  In addition, independent bottling companies (Chieftain’s, Douglas Laing) will select the peatiest malts from their collection to share with everyone. Unlike other events, Peatin’ Meetin’ isn’t solely about advertizing whisky. LA scotch club also uses its own funds to source rare peated whisky around the world.  Bottles that can’t be found in America and bottles sold long ago find their way onto the tables for no other purpose than to share a great dram with friends.  Peatin’ Meetin’ is also a BBQ and has perfected the art of imparting peat smoke onto a great piece of meat.   This year 175 pounds of grass fed NY strip will be professionally peat smoked onsite by Hickory Creek BBQ and served with a generous portion of sides.  The Brick Top Blaggers and Green Ashes will play their brand of Celtic rock and Seven Grand’s master mixologists will be making peated cocktails that have been perfected at one of Los Angeles most famous whisky bars.

A first ever whisky event app will be available to smartphone users who wish to read about the bottles, then rate and take notes.  There will be old whisky and new technology, not the other way around.

Additionally, LA scotch club’s infamous Peat Monster will be on hand with his own cask of mystery whisky for anyone who wants a photo op and a dram straight from the cask. Peated beer will also be available and various sponsors will offer discounts such as a free VIP upgrade to LA’s WhiskyLive in the Fall.

Register at www.peatinmeetin.com

Ardbog – Known

Price: $90 • Nose: Damp and dirty leaves. Plastic packaging from a new toy.

• Palate:  Rubbery and vaporous. Definitely asserts itself. Faint butterscotch lingering on the edges saves it from being one dimensional. Finish sticks around. This one is going to have enemies. It’s different.

B/B+ but it’s a bit thin, so

Santis Malt, Cask Strength Peated – Known

Price: $80 (Europe) • Nose:  Wet firewood and cured meats. • Palate:   Very, very different than scotch.  Caramelized bacon wrapped around mesquite wood.  Sweet white pepper.

I really have no idea how this is made.  It reminds me of Balcones Brimstone or an experiment a craft distiller made for me by wood smoking a mason jar used for whisky storage.  It also reminds me of liquid smoke used for quickie meat flavoring.  I have no idea why this is darker than its non-peated expressions as traditional peating doesn’t add color.  Hmmm.  Anyhow, worth a try for the fun of it.  Apologies for the missing umlaut.

Laphroaig QA Cask – Known

Price: $75 (Duty-free) • Nose:   Wet socks in a tar bucket • Palate:  Thin and coal watery.  It’s a gentler version of the 10 with a twist of orange.  Good for people afraid of Laphroaig 10, but weak for everyone. It’s more boring than bad. B-/C+

LA Scotch Club Celebrates With Laphroaig 40, bottle 1929

On December 2nd, 2012 the LA Scotch Club gathered in Pasadena to share in a solemn ritual: the complete and utter annihilation of Laphroaig 40, bottle 1929. May it rest in peace (in my belly.)
Alas, one more prized bottle has been robbed of the opportunity to rot on the top shelf of a collector’s hutch, a prize to be smugly exhibited toward intimidated or salivating guests, but never, never, never, NEVER opened and tasted.

Some of us take a different approach to rare whisky: find friends, drink the shit out of it, and savor the memories. And we did. Now bottle 1929 is just a handsome carcass whose juice was divvied into thirty 25 oz. portions a consumed in orgy of peat that was the LASC Laphroaig Vertical.

Vertical?

Generally put, it means to try every level of a company’s products in one sitting. In this case it meant trying all OB (official bottlings) of Laphroaig from the 10yr to the 40yr. Trying Johnnie Red up through Johnnie Blue could be considered a vertical. For the maltly challenged, imagine a going to McDonald’s and trying everything with a bun from the lowly hamburger to an Angus Deluxe. Because you’re comparing apples to apples, this is the finest opportunity there is to find out what expressions you prefer and what the profile of the line is while taking notes and ratings, either on paper or in your head.

Profile?

By profile, I mean that certain flavor or smell that is omnipresent throughout the company’s whisky range. In this case, what makes Laphroaig Laphroaigy. Yes, I said ‘Laphroaigy’.  I’ve had Ardbeg that tasted Laphroaigy and I’ve had Laphroaig that tasted Ardbeggy, but that’s rare. Master Distiller John Campbell wouldn’t be worth his weight in gold if he didn’t know what ‘Laphroaigy’ meant, and you can bet he spends a lot of time keeping the profile consistent… because it’s a damned good one.


How to Do a Vertical

Wanna do one? The biggest decision is whether the vertical should be ‘blind’, meaning that you don’t know what you are drinking. This is easy if you have a non-participating buddy (like Mrs. Smith) who can pour secretly in another room. Otherwise it gets tricky. I’ve done a few different verticals. Here’s how two Laphroaig events went down:

 

Laphroaig Vertical #1

17 bottles, IB (independent bottling) and OB: this was a ‘blind’ tasting, although technically semi-blind because we all knew which bottle were participating, but didn’t know what we were drinking at any given time. This is daunting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s natural to want to match your ratings with the better bottles. It’s mighty embarrassing to give a D rating to a $300 bottle that you claimed was your favorite the night before. You just have to let yourself go jedi ; trust and accept your senses. This is a chance for an unbiased review. Perhaps you’ve been wrong about what you liked. Perhaps you’ll save some money!

Equally daunting was to try 17 whiskies in one sitting.  I believe that my own palate starts to wane after 6 whiskies, but what fun is a dinky little 6 bottle vertical.  Keep the pours small and don’t try for perfect notes.  Perhaps you want to skip straight to ratings based on one sip.  Who wants to burn out before the last lap?  I know my notes didn’t when the Pulitzer.  Perhaps next time.

Laphroaig: Andy Fuji Dirty Uncle Michael Average
Cadenheads 1984 12yr B+/A- B+/A- A- B+/A-
10 yr C+/B- C C- C
AD Rattray 1990 18yr for Alberta B+ C-/C C C+
Dram Collection cask 184 C+/B- B- B- B-
15 year B-/B B- B B-/B
30 Year B+ B+/A- B+ B+
Signatory 2001 15yr Cask Strength #6984 B B- A- B/B+
Signatory 2000 – Unchillfiltered B- B- B- B-
Triple Wood B/B+ B A- B+
Cask Strength Batch 3 C B- A- B-/B+
Signatory 1990 B/B+ B- B+ B
Cairdeas 2011 B B B- B-/B
Quarter Cask B- B C C+/B-
18 yr C B- B- C+/B-
Murray McDavid 1998 C B C- C-/C
Murray McDavid 1987 C B- B C+/B-
Duncan Taylor 1997 12yr cask 56441 B B B+ B/B+

 

The winner:  a 12 year old Cadenhead’s Laphroaig from a sherry cask.  It beat the Laphroaig 30 hands down with a solid A-.

Laphroaig Vertical #2

Ooh-la-la. Twelve bottles, all OB, from the 10yr to the 40yr.  This was a formal event with 25 people and blinding was just too difficult handle, so we divided the tasting into 4 groups of 3, trying to keep bottles of a similar quality grouped together (ex. 10, 15, Quarter Cask.)  When given the chance to taste the whole series most people preferred… the 21 yr.  For the curious, I’ll some review at the end of the article.

Iheartscotch.com also posted a nice article about the event.

Note: The first 36 seconds is silent so don’t crank up your volume .

 

December 2nd, 2012 worked out for everyone.  Collectors are happy because their prized Laphroaig 40 just got a wee bit rarer.  The rest of us have tasting notes for the 40 on the top shelf of our hutch.  Look on our notes, ye Mighty, and despair!

Slainte!

 

Laphroaig 40 – Semi-blind/known

Price: $3000 US at auction

• Nose:  Antique furniture with leather and a cracked open chocolate covered cherry inside the drawers.

• Palate: Citrus on leather or cedar. The Laphroaig and even Islay profile have been stripped out or covered up the wood flavors. The mouthfeel is good but not quite velvety.  The finish is a winner as the citrus fades and the cedar lingers forever. B for its solid palate.  A- for a finish that makes this malt incredibly drinkable. 

 

 

Laphroaig 30 – Semi-blind/known

Price: $600 US at auction

I have a long history with this one and my opinion is constantly evolving.  Guess that makes this a complex whisky.

• Nose: Fantastic.  Pine wood soaked in Christmas spices and simple syrup.

• Palate: Rubber and motor oil.  More bitter at first than the nose suggests.  The finish gets a bit firewoody.  Not a knockout but highly drinkable.  Over 10 different attempts, it’s a safe

 

Laphroaig 25 2011 – Known

Price: $450 US

• Nose: Iodine and metal

• Palate:  Perhaps the most medicinal scotch I’ve had.  This is the doctor’s doctor.  There is a hint of smoke, but of all the “peaty” descriptors, the iodine overshadows them all.  There is a playful bite to it though. 

 

Laphroaig 21 (US) – Known

Price: $500 US

• Nose: Rubber bands and recently laid asphalt

• Palate: Monstrously rich, with white pepper and new plastic.  The finish is incredibly sticky and a little bit tarry. This is a powerful dram.

 

 

Laphroaig 18 – Semi-Blind

Price: $120 US

• Nose: maple, raisin, brine

• Palate: spicy and salty.  Old shoes and vanilla.  A bit dull for a Laphroaig. 

 

Laphroaig 15 – Semi-Blind/Known

Price: $100 US – at auction

• Nose: Dank and earthy peat.  If I had a peat house my son would get timeout in the corner that smelled like this.

• Palate: Lemon, mold, and a gob of soil.  Not nearly as smoky as the 10 might seem.  The finish stays a while but is a little bit soil-ly.

 

Laphroaig Triple Wood – – Semi-Blind/Known

Price: $70 US

• Nose: Classic Laphroaig tar and iodine with a bit of steroids.  Fireplace ash.

• Palate: Much more charcoal than a standard Laphroaig. More woody too.  A nice malt that’s a step up from the 10. 

 

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2012 – Known

Price: $90 US

• Nose: Hint of lemon and cinnamon.

• Palate: Lively.  Grapefruit and earth.  Actually a lot of earth.  Dagobah in a glass.  Drink it, I must.

 

WhiskyFest Jumps the Shark – San Francisco

“Whiskyfest, San Francisco… we were lovers once.”  She made my heart palpitate.  The skies opened and the sun yada yada yada.  I remember years ago, dashing toward the best tables while trying to preserve a shred of dignity.  It was a Halloween for whisky geeks and there were so many more king-sized butterfingers than crappy little hard candies.  Tickets were $110, but $150 would get you in an hour early with the chance to try rare stuff.  Ridiculous stuff.  All of the best brands were there and they weren’t messing around.  There was no point bothering with a bottle that wasn’t worth at least $100 because every Glen Schmuck 10 meant one less delicious and dark Glen Grant 30-something you’d get to try.  Pencil, paper, picture, nose, taste, and pour another.  It was a furious pace to try everything worth trying.  This was how my Christmas wish list was made.  Taste it.  Grade it.  Consider the price.  For the curious tipplers a few extra bucks could get you a generous pour of $5000 bottles.  Four hours was never enough time.  WhiskyFest SanFran had the newest releases.  It had the oldest bottles.  It had what I wanted.   Angels dropped through the ceiling dripping golden whisky from jeweled bottles, matured for 400 years in wood from Noah’s Ark.  It was magnificent.

In 2012 something different happened.

It sucked. Granted, WhiskyFest  was well managed, but it was packed and the selection was lame.  Pouring tables were swarmed by desperate bodies, struggling like piglets for a teet.   And what was our reward Okay, not crap, but for the most part the same stuff that that’s been around since whisky festivals was spawned.  Apparently a misprinted rule read “no dram over 21 admitted”, and it was taken seriously.  I did the “non-VIP” ticket this year and found that every table had an “old” 20-ish year bottle corpse as if to say “hey dumbass the average stuff is gone, so have a try at that scotch you almost ordered from the Olive Garden bar.”

The glorious rows of independent scotches lined up in days past like glorious soldiers were now gone, replaced by vodka, rum and craft distilleries not old enough for preschool.  We bought a $155 seat to a ballgame then found the all-stars had been replaced with tee-ballers and ballerinas?  Duncan Taylor, Springbank, AD Rattray, Glenfarclas… stayed home.  And what of those brave brands that did show to square off for the battle of the bottles?  They left the heavy artillery home and brought butter knives.

Why did this happen?

Fortunately, I know many people in the whisky industry or at least in it recently enough to give me some ideas.  Oddly the only overriding theme I could get was that everyone is afraid of saying anything negative about WhiskyFest or even the whisky industry in general.  The feds had an easier time finding squealers for Gotti than I had in getting anonymous comments about WhiskyFest and the industry in general.  John Hansell and Whisky Advocate are a real force in the whisky market now and some companies indicated that they want to stay in good graces, even if it means showing up with squat and wasting a weekend.

WHISKYFEST ENTERS THE CORRYVRECKAN
WhiskyFest, and to be fair, big whisky events in general, just don’t sell whisky.  Most of the industry considers it a drunk-fest, and maybe they’re right.  But if folks are being offered the same whisky they drink when they go out to get drunk, then what can you expect?  Here’s what I think happened, and I’m going out on a limb, so if you smell bs, that’s fair.  Just put on your boots and watch your step.

• In the beginning WhiskyFest was the playground of the whisky snobs and snobby whiskies.  Great drams were poured.  Everyone was happy.  And it was good.
•     Local whisky geeks told their friends, who, being sophistimacated Friscans, delighted at finding an even haughtier way to get schnockered.  Word spread.  The show got popular.  The space stayed the same.  More people wanted in.  More people were let in.  The organizers noticed.
•     Whisky fans got worried.  The best bottles emptied earlier and earlier, often into the glasses of fools looking for a whisky “legs”, spitting as if it were wine, or just pounding shots like a frat hazing.  Tables got packed.  The best you could do was point at what you wanted, extend your arm, and hope you got lucky.  The pours weren’t being appreciated.  The brands took notice.
•     Word spread.  Guys in SF loved drinking fancy schmancy whisky; even it was mostly training wheels single malt.  They’d pay more if they had to.  They had to.  The brands began to cater to a different audience.  Independent whisky sellers with one-off casks bottlings didn’t see a sale so didn’t bother.  Big distilleries figured a drunky would learn just as much brand recognition from an 18 year as a 30 year.  The good whiskies disappeared.  Whisky connoisseurs took notice.  They stopped attending.  And it was bad.
Thus happened the death spiral, and where it ends no one knows.  But this is certain: the event is now a disappointment… from our perspective.  And by “our”, I mean those of us who spend our hard earned money finding new favorite whiskies.  Let’s consider:

WINNERS AND LOSERS
•     Whisky Advocate:  Every year they raise the rates on booths and attendees:   WINNER
•     Big Brands:  Brand recognition for mixer scotch is through the roof.  Master classes are full because WhiskyFest was oversold and there are no good bottles on the main floor:  WINNER
•     Sophistimacated Friscans:  $185 is still cheaper than a night of shots at a city bar:  WINNER

•     Small Brands:  You were attractive when the guys were drinking, but any memory of you will be politely offered a free taxi ride in the morning.  At least you may get that 1.5 page article in Whisky Advocate:  DRAW
•     Whisky Aficionados:  You dropped three figures to try the bottles you normally re-gift for Christmas.  Your whisky cabinet has better stuff and didn’t cost $36 to park near:  LOSER

The night wasn’t a complete loss for me.  I attended with a friend I don’t get to see much of these days.   He sent me a message before I found us two scalped WhiskyFest tickets. “We could also buy a $400 bottle of Scotch and drink it at home.”  I should have listened to you, Matt.  Let’s do that next year.

Peatin’ Meetin’ IV

Peatin’ Meetin’ 2012 is creeping around the corner. With the addition of a few sponsors, we’ve got about 80 bottles. The latest news is that Pedro Shanahan (as seen on Last Call with Carson Daly) of 7Grand has agreed to do bartend our whisky cocktails. We’ll have LA’s best making us Ardbeg Juleps and Blood and Smoke (Blood and Sand with Lagavulin). This is just the icing on the cake for what is going to be a spectacular evening. Last year we charged the same price. No cocktails, no T-shirt, no band. Actually, in retrospect I don’t know what I was thinking not raising the price. OH, WELL. 1000 flyers have been printed and the price ain’t dropping… so lucky YOU! Just a reminder of what $75 gets you:

1. A “Perfect Dram” whisky glass engraved “Peatin’ Meetin’. Additionals for $7.
2. A Peatin’ Meetin’ T-shirt (sizes not guaranteed)
3. Peat-smoked Tri-tip dinner
4. Whisky Cocktails valued at $35 for the pair (at 7Grand)
5. The smokiest whiskies made in the world, including multiple versions of Octomore (the world record holder) and Ardbeg Supernova. No limit. No early cut-off times, no snootiness, just awesome and rare whisky, much of which isn’t even available in the United States.
6. Entertainment by the Irish Rock Band “The Brick Top Blaggers”

If that’s not enough to convince you, then you don’t like whisky. But you do, so……………….. Register today!

Time: 5pm, July 28th, 2012
Place: UCLA Sunset Canyon Upper Picnic Area

Gnac Night

Cognac? Armagnac? But aren’t we all about Whisky?  Yes, but we also focus on learning, and an important part of knowing about whisky is knowing what distinguishes it from other fine spirits.  On May 25th the LA Scotch Club will travel down the Chunnel from Scotland to France to explore HIGH END Cognac and Armagnac… the kind that don’t make rap videos. These featured “Gnacs” are rare and highly acclaimed. To sweeten the deal we’ve invited Franck Vigneron of Maison Comandon to present an introduction to Cognac. Comandon is a great house that’s starting to turn heads. They’re old (1821), yet young in that they’re innovative and are gaining notoriety with awards piling up.

The event will be at Jack and Jill’s Too, near Beverly Hills. We’ll have a crepe dinner and dessert and the following Cognacs and Armagnacs:

Pierre Ferrand 1965
Ragnaud-Sabourin 35 Cognac
Tariquet 1982 Armagnac
Tesseron Lot 29 Cognac
Labaude Armagnac 1974
Tesseron Lot 29 Cognac
Comandon VS
Comandon VSOP
Comandon XO
Comandon Single Barrel

The Nth Universal Experience – Interviews from Both Sides of the Luxury Event

There’s a little something happening in Las Vegas on March 2nd and 3rd that you should know about.  There won’t be chips, tokens, cards, humorless dealers, obnoxious lines, or bikini optional pools.  There will however be some world class whisky, and I don’t say that lightly, because I know world class whisky (I know it more often than I get to taste it, unfortunately).  Mahesh Patel is on his second year of the Nth Universal Whisky Experience, the only luxury whisky tasting I know of.  Mahesh is a successful real estate developer also known as “the guy who bought that $150,000 bottle of Dalmore” and he’s put together quite a show.  I don’t really want to try to sell it here, that’s Mahesh’s job, but I will say that I didn’t go last year and I think I missed out.  One reason I’ve decided to attend this year is the stellar review a friend gave it in 2011.  Tim Puett is creator of The Ardbeg Project and a very well respected whisky resource.  When he told me what he tasted, I was convinced I needed to give it a try.

One thing I want to be careful about is transparency.  If you look at the front page you may notice an advertisement for Nth.  I assure you that nothing of that trickles down to me and I don’t have any financial benefit one way or another (and this interview was my idea.)  As for how I know Mahesh, he’s a swell guy and has reached out to many of the whisky clubs around the country, including myself.  Mahesh has made considerable efforts to get true whisky lovers on board.  It’s not about wealthy whisky lovers, it’s about serious whisky lovers, and I respect him for that.  Speaking of wealth, you’ll lose quite a bit.  It’s not cheap, and that’s a fact, but you get a great deal.  Buying a $30,000 car might make you pause, but what if it’s a Rolls Royce?  Worth it, right?

Mahesh and I have only spoken on the phone.  He’s is a good guy and I like him.  Does that affect my judgment on the Nth?  Yeah, probably.   The fact is that there just isn’t really anything equivalent.  Where else can you try gobs of four figure scotch?  I know for a fact that you can walk out the doors of Nth, sit on a barstool at Encore, and spend more on one dram of Macallan then you’ll spend on an Nth ticket that lets you experience dozens of the equivalent.

Honestly, I can’t predict the future so I don’t know for sure that the Nth is going to be all that we hoped for.  I don’t like to gamble if the odds aren’t in my favor.  When I go to Vegas on March 2nd I will be making exactly one bet… a ticket to Nth.

 

Interview with Tim Puett of The Ardbeg Project and 2011 Nth attendee.

Andy: Was Nth as fancy as you expected?

Tim Puett: Yes, it was fancier than other whisky events, and a lot less crowded.  Most people were in suits and very well dressed.  Jackets are required.

Andy: fancy ballroom?

Tim Puett: Yes, the rooms where the event was held were all decorated nice.

Andy: So you walk in, what do you have?  A Super Pour ticket and glass?

Tim Puett: I walk in, and the Ardbeg table was facing the front doors.  My first Super Pour was a 1974 Single Cask.

Andy: Nice.  Tickets?  Or does security stand over your shoulder counting your Super Pours?

Tim Puett: Mahesh (Patel) definitely doesn’t stand over your shoulder.  He and his wife were really gracious hosts, and they were very welcoming and all of the hosts at each distillery/whisky table were very friendly.

Andy: So there were tickets?

Tim Puett: Yes, when you signed in, you get your package and I had a Super Pour ticket plus a ticket to taste the 1966 Glenfarclas that he imported through Binny’s.   Also, the tables usually had a better selection of whisky than your normal whisky festival.

Andy: Did they skip the low end garbage?

Tim Puett: There was a wide selection of whisky, and definitely a step up from your standard whisky show in the US.

Andy: How long was the main event?

Tim Puett: It was about three hours.  Dinner was held just after the main show.  Definitely don’t have to rush through it, and there weren’t really any lines at each table… plenty of time to talk and sample.

Andy: Aside from the local brand ambassadors, how many VIPish guys (Master Distillers, upper level administrators) showed?

Tim Puett: Ian Millar, Glenfiddich master distiller, was pouring and talking with attendees.   Paul Skipworth, CFO (now CEO) of Glenmorangie PLC.  Richard Paterson from Whyte & Mackay, and many other Global Ambassadors.

Andy: Nice!  Go to any of the master classes?

Tim Puett: I went to four master classes the next day. They were all worth attendance as the whisky was top notch.  Glendronach poured the Grandeur and a 1972 Single Cask as well as 3-4 others.  Ardbeg poured another 1974 Single Cask, and Glenlivet poured the current Cellar Collection.

Andy: Were they pouring better stuff there, or was it just that the “lesson” was worth it?

Tim Puett: The lessons were great, but there was whisky offered that was high level.

Andy: Did you get one of those fancy cut Glencairns?

Tim Puett: Yes, you get a crystal cut Glencairn as part of your package… and a cigar.

Andy: Best thing you had at Nth?

Tim Puett: Although the Ardbeg Single Cask, Bowmore Gold, Glenfarclas 1966 and a few others were great, I remember the Glenfiddich 50 the most.  It was an awesome Glenfiddich.  One thing to remember…take it easy at the show on Friday night.  It was way too easy to finish everything poured, which led to a rough night, and an even tougher next morning.

Andy: Geez, Bowmore Gold is $5000.  Was that at a master class?

Tim Puett: The Bowmore Gold was at the show…a Super Pour.

Andy: Most expensive pour?

Tim Puett: Either that or the Glenfiddich.

Andy: Did you say once that the Gordon & MacPhail Mortlach 70 made an appearance?

Tim Puett: It did make an appearance, but you had to be fast as it was offered at a small room just before the main show.  I didn’t get to try it, but if you got to the room, you could taste it.  I didn’t hear about the 70 year old until the room was already full.

Andy: Doh!   That’s where it helps to be smaller, like me, slipping through the cracks

Tim Puett: haha…exactly.

Andy: How big were the pours?

Tim Puett: The Bowmore Gold pour was huge, and the others were all respectable pours.  Nothing that made me say…hey…a little more please.

Andy: I’m looking at this year’s schedule.  They have events starting at 4: 15 in special rooms.  Is this the preshow stuff?

Tim Puett: Yes, I didn’t see that schedule last year, but there were a few things happening in smaller rooms that I was surprised to see.  I arrived Friday afternoon, and I didn’t get down to registration until about 5pm.  It was my fault for not checking for any pre-show events.  Sorry I don’t have more details of the exact whisky, but I do remember all those offered were very respectable at the tables.

Andy: How much $ do you think you consumed?

Tim Puett: As for $ value in whisky pours, easily over $1000 at the show, and probably over $2000 after counting the masterclasses.  Also, I can’t say enough about how easy it was to move around the show floor.  It wasn’t crowded at all, less than VIP at other events.  Everyone I talked to at tables knew whisky, which made the event all the better.

Andy: I’m trying to convince friends to go.  What would you say to them?

Tim Puett: Tell them Nth is worth the price…easily.

Interview with Mahesh Patel, the founder and host of the Nth

Andy: This is a LOT of hard work.  Why would you do this to yourself?

Mahesh: I’ve been a passionate whisky connoisseur for 25 years and have been to so many events worldwide and it’s gotten to the point where most events were the same old whiskies coming in and there wasn’t much on the premium to high-end side,  so I decided I wanted to create something that was really at the mid to top level.  That was my passion and motivation, I wanted to create the best whisky experience for people to enjoy.  A lot of these whiskies are not available to most people, and we can present these at our tasting for a reasonable price.  We’re doing two levels this year, a high roller level where we’re throwing in all the bells and whistles, but then the connoisseur package is a high level as well.

Andy: Tell me more about the high roller package.

Mahesh: We introduced the high roller package this year, it’s $2000.  There will be a special event called whisky speed dating especially for them where 5 brand ambassadors will be pouring something very special.  There are only 25 high roller tickets (now sold out.)  They start off with that experience, then they get to do all of the other activities that everyone else will do.  We have a lineup of  27 bottles of super pours.  Everyone coming to the show will get two super pour tokens, but the high rollers will get to try every single super pour.  Then on day 2 they have all of the master classes included for them, and then there is a special high roller dinner reception for them as well on Saturday.  This year they’ll be trying the Glenfiddich 50 year old which is a $20,000 bottle (in most places) as well as dinner at SW steakhouse.  They’ll also get a nice gift bag valued at over $300 with some nice whisky and glassware.

Andy: What special whiskies will there be this year?

Mahesh: If you go to the website, you can see the ones we’ve got up there.  The Gold Bowmore’s back, the Highland Park 40 is back.  We’ve got from my own premium whisky series a Dalmore 1967 cask strength whisky and a 1966 Fettercairn that only yielded 42 bottles.  We’ve got some interesting stuff coming from Samaroli.  Bruichladdich is bringing  in a very special bottle.  Glenlivet 1964 is coming.  Macallan has a 1960 vintage bottle and Glenfarclas has a 50 year old.  One last thing we’ve added is a Chieftain’s Springbank 40 year old.  We’ve got a couple of Port Ellens in there as well.

Andy: Tell us more about your new brand.

Mahesh: It’s called Sirius Intrepid Whisky Purveyors.  We’re coming out with for single cask whiskies this year, all 40-50 years old.  There will be two single malts and two single grains whiskies.  We have a 1967 Dalmore and a 1966 Fettercairn, as well as a North British 50 year old and a 1965 Carsebridge.

Andy: And we’ll be tasting them at the Nth?

Mahesh: Yes, and we’re going to be doing some more of our series of whisky dinners, this year even on the west coast (USA). We’ve partnered up with Dalmore.  There’ll be eight of their range as well as our four. Our bottles will only be available at select retailers, but will be available through UWE Concierge.

Andy: What does the companion ticket get you?

Mahesh: The companion ticket evolved from my own experience.  My wife is not really a whisky drinker, and a lot of the spouses at the events didn’t really get the full experience since they don’t drink whisky.  Here, they will get the full experience, including the special events and the dinner.  Even if they try a little whisky, there’s no problem there, but they will get to try some premium wines,  champagne, and  take home a champagne flute glass.

Andy: Tell us about those early tastings before the main event.

Mahesh: This year, we’ve done a preshow.  Last year when we did these events it pulled people away from the main show, so this year we’ve extended the hours of the show.  These special  hour long events  will start at 4:15 and everybody gets to choose one.  We have the Shackelton recreation.   Richard Patterson and Whyte and McKay recreated Mackinlay’s old brand, which was the whisky that was actually found in Ernest Shackleton’s Hut in the Antarctic.  Then we have Alec Bradley, a boutique brand of cigar that won the best cigar by Cigar Afficiaonado.  They’ll do a seminar on pairing a cigar with a good malt.  Number 3 is a subject close to my heart.  I’m into whisky collecting and investing.  Andy Simpson from Scotland will giving a presentation about how certain top-tier brands perform in whisky investing.

Andy: So do you just pick one and walk in?

Mahesh: No, on our ticketing page you’ll make your request since it is limited seating.  Everyone can go to them, even those with companion tickets.

Andy:  The master classes are purchased ahead of time?

Mahesh: Yes, on day two we have fifteen very good classes.  I feel  comfortable that they’ll sell out this year.  These are intimate, with about 20-25 people, so they’ll get to spend some quality time with the ambassadors.  Most of the whiskies being poured are a very good value for the ticket price.

Andy: There will be bottles that weren’t poured the day before?

Mahesh: That is correct.

Andy: What do you think the total value of the bottles at the show will be?

Mahesh: I did a little analysis of this.  I did it by “pour value”.  We estimate it at somewhere over 3 quarter of a million dollars.  And that’s assuming you could even find them somewhere else.

(Andy’s Note:  I believe “pour value”  is the bar price)

We also have a new service called UWE Concierge.  If there’s a bottle that you can’t find, send us an enquiry and we’ll find it for you on our retail or private collector networks.  We’ll have a concierge stand at the show, so everything you see will actually be able to be ordered.

Andy: Any interesting names going to be there?

Mahesh: Lot’s of interesting people.  Of course Mr. Patterson is going to be there, as is Dominic Roskrow.  We’ll have Jim Rutledge from Four Roses, Andy Simpson, Ian Logan from Glenlivet, the global brand ambassador.  He’ll be doing the master class which I highly recommend.  Ian Miller, will be there.  He’s the global brand ambassador for Glenfiddich.  Sam Simmons , the Whisky Doctor, will be there for Balvenie.  We have Dave Robinson from Whyte and MacKay, Michael Urquhart from Gordon & MacPhail, George Grant (Glenfarclas), Ian MacCallum from Morrison Bowmore.  There’s a few people.

Andy: One last question; ever come back from a tough day at work and think of cracking open that Trinitas?

Mahesh: (laughing) I got quite a few  good bottles, so I could crack them.  That’s the whole idea for this event, to present a lot of whisky at a high caliber.  Last year we had one of the Ardbeg double barrels and this year they’ll bring a similar vintage for a super pour.  We’ll have Gold Bowmore and all that sort of stuff.  Trinitas?  Well I have tried and enjoyed it.  Right now I don’t feel like cracking it open because I haven’t had a bad day yet.  I enjoy sharing and that’s why I created this event.  I just didn’t want to see the same old same old being presented all the time.

Burns Night Supper at Beckham Grille

Robert Burns, Scotland’s most lauded poet, penned famous words about whisky and women at about the time that America won its independence. He’s probably best known to us as the author of Auld Lang Syne, that New Year’s song that’s never been sung sober or in tune. “Robbie” died young but somehow became more famous in death because the Scots felt as if he was the embodiment of the Scottish spirit. They honor him on his birthday, Jan 25th, with a Burns supper.

The Burns supper is a relatively formal dinner that may include, but isn’t limited to supper, a reading of ‘To a Haggis’, the sharing of Haggis, pipes, poetry, scotch, and finally a singing of Auld Lang Syne to close the night.

Everyone makes the Burns Supper into what they want. The Burns Supper with the LA Scotch Club concentrates on that liquid with fueled Robbie’s passion, scotch. So, on January 25th, the LA Scotch Club will be having its 3rd infamous Burns Night Supper at Beckham Grille in Pasadena. Like last year, there will be a drunken poetry contest where wit meets whisky (or is defeated by it), haggis, a fine British supper, and of course lots and lots of scotch.

Slainte!

2011 IRONDRAM CHAMPIONS!

We have a winner! Six proud independent bottlers entered the IronDram Colosseum in downtown LA with their handpicked gladiators. Eighteen scotches available in the Western US market were poured into a new bottle so that everything could be tasted blindly. The bottlers entered a scotch each of the three tiers: Low price (Star Wars tier), Mid price (Breakfast Mascot tier), and High Price (Gilligan’s Island Tier). Our blind tasting participants didn’t even know which tier was being tasted. All bias was gone, the scotch tasted, and the votes counted.

A.D. Rattray won the low tier with Ben Kenobi, which was revealed to be a cask strength Cragganmore 14. Our reviewers noted that with water (it runs hot) some fruit notes come out as does a faint hint of peat (is there any peat? We don’t know for sure)

Chieftain’s annihilated the mid tier with Cap’n Crunch, a cask strength Caol Ila aged 14 years in a Jamaican Rum barrel.  Our reviewers found heavy and obvious peat, yet with a bit of sweetness hiding within. Mmmm.

Gordon & MacPhail won the high tier with The Skipper, a Glen Grant aged 21 years. Our reviewers thought it had a great sherried nose and just about everything you would expect in a sherry beastie like this one. 

So we had three winners in three categories but still had to pick out which company was going to be the overall IronDram champion. We tallied up all of the scores to get a grand total, and it was a close one. Chieftain’s just barely squeaked by A.D. Rattray and are our 2011 IRONDRAM CHAMPIONS! Congrats to both companies and to Chris Uhde of JVS Imports, who selected Chieftain’s winners.

Special thanks go to our contestants: Chieftain’s, Duncan Taylor, A.D.Rattray, Signatory, Gordon & MacPhail, and Hart Brothers.