Thursday, October 13, 2011

Going Laphroaig crazy in Sydney

My whisky journey has been long, but I feel that I may finally have arrived. Where? As a Laphroaig fan.

When I was growing up my dad used to enjoy a dram of whisky in the evening and I'd sometimes have a taste from his glass. I thought it was horrible tasting fire water! When I arrived in Australia I joined the Distant Thunder Whisky Club, and was reminded last week, I took some beers to the first meeting as I knew I wouldn't be able to manage more than a couple of drams of whisky all night.

Over successive club meetings I've been slowly finding whisky more palatable and even finding ones that I like. However, I definitely wouldn't say I appreciate whisky to the same level as some of the other members. That might have changed last week with some Laphroaig madness in Sydney.

Laphroaig Tasting at Oak Barrel
Last Wednesday I was back at Oak Barrel for an evening tasting Laphroaig whiskies with the distillery manager John Campbell.

It was interesting to hear about the history of the distillery, how the range has developed, what makes them unique and more about John. However, what really excited me was the taste of whiskies (and some of the malted barley we got to nibble on). I can't give you flowery descriptions of buttery, vanilla and citrus noses. But I could taste some very distinct differences between the whiskies on offer.

The 10yr and 15yr old were similar in style. Sweet, smooth and easy drinking despite a definite presence of peat.

The Quarter Cask and Tripple Wood have spent longer in smaller oak barrels which imparts a definite spice to the whisky. If you get to do a side by side tasting of the 10yr old and Quarter Cask it really is quite remarkable.

Our final tasting of the night at Oak Barrel was the 25yr old. A strong whisky (58%) it gave me a bit of alcoholic shock. Complex.

 Whiskies being tasted at Laphroaig Live

Laphroaig Live
Courtesy of the Whisky Cast podcast I was lucky enough to get my hands on a ticket for Laphroaig Live for the evening following the Oak Barrel event.

For the past few years Laphroaig have been hosting an annual webcast for fans around the world. We learnt the night before that some descendants of the Laphroaig distillery emigrated to Australia, which was the connection for the event being held in Sydney.

 The camera man warming up for the webcast

I wasn't sure what to expect from the night as sitting in the audience could have been a bit of a disappointment after the interactive tastings of the night before. However, it turned out to be a good fun evening.

If I'm honest I didn't think the webcast had a lot of substance, but it was good fun. In the audience we got to taste along with the panel. We got to try the Quarter Cask and Tripple Wood again. The new whisky of the night was the Cáirdeas 30yr old a special edition whisky. My favourite whisky of the Laphroaig range it was smooth with hints of spice and a mellow finish. Lovely.

The panel during the webcast

The highlight of the evening was a sixty year old bottle of Laphroaig 10yr old, which was produced around the time the Laphroaig descendants  left for Australia. I got the impression from John Campbell the night before that he wasn't particularly hopeful for the whisky, they aren't designed to sit in the bottle unopened for fifty years.

A bottle of Laphroaig 10yr old from the 1950s

The bottle was opened and tasted live on the webcast. After the broadcast, and emboldened by the three whiskies I had drunk, I shot up to the table to try and secure a tasting. John remembered me from the previous night and was kind enough to give me a dram.

So how did it taste? Pretty damn good. Overall I preferred the Cáirdeas 30yr old, but it was a fine whisky and good to be tasting something unique. Apparently they have four other bottles in the warehouse which makes it nearly priceless.

My only disappointment of the night was that as a whisky club we found it difficult to get tickets to Laphroaig Live. There seemed to be quite a lot of people in the audience who didn't like / drink whisky and were there just for a freebie. It would have been nice for some more genuine whisky fans to have been there. (Descendants excepted.)

However, overall they were two excellent events. I discovered a lot about Laphroaig, furthered my appreciation of whisky, tasted an excellent whisky BBQ sauce and found a new favourite.

The Converted

D.T.W.C. was invited as a guest this event. All views and opinions are our own unless otherwise stated.