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.

 

Smart Shopper/Dumb Shopper

I saw a funny thing the other day. Or perhaps it was a scary thing: the Bonham’s auction results. I’m not going to beat up on Bonham’s this time, but the high bidders are going to take a hit. Scotch, and more recently, American whiskey prices are climbing for some reasons that are legitimate, and others that involve speculation and idiocy. I see a lot of bottles sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars and prices from store to store vary a lot. Now if you can save five bucks on Jack Daniel’s by driving 10 miles, you probably won’t bother; but if you’re searching for a 1955 Glen Ambrosia , then perhaps you should sniff the air before dropping your money like a teenager in Tijuana.
I’ve collected some pretty bad rookie mistakes from the recent Bonham’s, New York auction. Keep in mind that auction or private sale prices should always be less than retail. Note: European VAT removed.
Macallan Anniversary 25 year old

Retail: $1099 – Holiday Wine Cellar
Bonhams: $1428
Balvenie 1971- 33 year old

Retail: $720 – Sendliquor.com
Bonhams: $833
Macallan Select Reserve
1946- 52 year old


Retail: $4016 – Lion’s Whisky
Bonham’s: $7735
Glen Grant 1958- 49 year old


Retail: $435 – Arkwrights
Bonhams: $773
Springbank 25 yr- Millennium


Retail: $1002 –  The Whisky Exchange
Bonham’s: $1011
Bowmore Bicentenary 1964
Retail: $1596 – John Gordons Wine
Bonham’s: $3094
Mind you it did not take me long to find the retail prices.  The internet is a marvelous thing.  The world is interconnected, so use it.  I’m not sure how many specialized drink “searchers” there are out there, but my friends and I use http://www.wine-searcher.com/, and spring for the Pro version.  Search anywhere in the world immediately.  Cripes, this sounds like an ad but it’s not.  If you buy whisky and value your money, use it or something like it.
TIPS
• For Americans, some of the big shops like The Whisky Exchange, Royal Mile, Master of Malt, and WhiskyBase will remove the 17% VAT and ship overseas.  Some smaller shops won’t remove VAT or won’t accept credit cards.  Also, bottles are 50mL smaller in Europe than the US.  It’s a 7% penalty but often worth it.
• Don’t assume that a shop with traditionally bad prices won’t have good deals.  The whisky shop near my home has some prices that make me laugh, except when wine-searcher.com finds a bottle that’s the best price in the world.  That makes me happy.
• If an online shop lists in checkout that they are out of stock and can restock in 3 days, then forget about it.  They’ll never get that Laphroaig 40 in stock again, no matter what they say.
• The best gauge in the world for current whisky prices is whisky-auction.com.  Their “past auctions” search is difficult to use but the data is golden.
Please, please, please don’t be an idiot and drive up prices; unless of course it’s with a bottle I’m trying to sell myself.  In fact I think I might auction off that Macallan 1946 I’ve been sitting on for a long time.  I just hope that Lion’s Whisky can ship it to Bonham’s before the next auction starts.

Ardbeg Galileo – Space Meets Whisky

The Ardbeg Galileo release is a celebration Ardbeg’s ‘space maturation’ joint experiment with an American space research company . They say that anyhow. This whisky is a marriage of marsala and bourbon casks to keep up the theme of experimentation. Ardbeg admits the research isn’t directly related to the spirit, and marsala also has a pretty tenuous association with Galileo (both are from Italy, so expect an Ardbeg Mussolini soon.) It bears the words ‘Space 1999’ seemingly (and I’m not kidding here) because 1999 sounded cool and someone remembered the old sci-fi show Space: 1999. Technically, of course, it does now have to be at least 1999 or older.

Cynicism or not, the marketers have waved their magic wands and we want it, we want it, we want it.

I got it, I got it, I got it. For an Ardbeg comparison, see the Ardbeg Day article.

Ardbeg Galileo – Semi-blind/known
Price: $95 US, £75 UK/Europe

• Nose: Compared to other Ardbegs (which I have done extensively now), this one has less of the classic earthy and rich nose and leans more toward dark fruits and mustiness. I don’t think I’d pick this as an Ardbeg completely blind. It’s not bad, but its cousins are better.

• Palate: For a second or so it’s Ardbeg again (yay!), but then it veers off course (boo!) The word dank springs to mind. It conjures an image of something that has sat in the dark for a long time and gone stale. Sure there’s a splash of sweet peppery Ardbeg at first, but from the 1 second mark to the end it’s just, well, annoying.

As for the ‘special releases’, this is my least favorite and comfortably so. The makers and pushers of this are claiming that it’s ‘well rounded’. If dank and stale are somehow circular in shape then they are correct. Kudos for trying (seriously), but this one failed and should be on the shelf with the other so-so $50 bottles. Better luck next time!

For information:
Bill Lumsden interview
Ardbeg Galileo article
Galileo Galilei (did he drink whisky?)
Space 1999 (great campy show!)