As I’m learning about scotch, whiskey, and bourbon, I’m going to write up my observations and share them with you. First up, Laphroaig!

New to whisky

I am a new scotch whisky drinker, and I’m still learning about scotch. Having developed a taste (and apparently a tolerance) for alcohol at a relatively late age (early 40s), I went from the sweet to dry white and red wines, then sweet to straight gin and vodka drinks, including perhaps a margarita or two. But I only started trying scotch in September of 2015 after discovering (and then getting completely obsessed by) a little show on STARZ called Outlander. Let me explain…

 

Scences from Outlander Season 1 on STARZ
Just a little show I’m totally hooked on

 

Outlander is a show about a married, time-traveling WWII nurse from 1945 thrown back to 1743 in Scotland where she meets a dashing Highland warrior just before the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Actually, Outlander is a whole series of books and novellas by Diana Gabaldon, the first volume published back in 1992. I have no idea how this series passed under my radar for so long…my only explanation is that I had 2 young daughters at the time, and the Harry Potter series was very big in my house. This show, now in its 3rd season, captivated me on many levels…there’s the sci-fi time-traveling aspect, the history of Scotland (what was it that happened in 18th century Scotland that was so important anyway?), and to spice things up a bit, a sexy romance with an incredibly handsome leading man and gorgeous leading lady. Having inadvertently fallen down the rabbit hole, I watched the entire first season, read all the books, discovered an online book club and various Facebook groups, started listening to the English History podcasts, and going to the New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival (another perk of living in Boston). It was at this last event that I tasted single malt scotch for the first time.

 

New Hampshire Highland Games & Festival standing stone
The standing stone of New Hampshire

 

Because I had become so obsessed with Scotland and Outlander, and on the show the people were always having a dram or two, I wanted to try scotch and like it (being a fangirl can be tough). There was a tasting from the Laphroaig distillery at the first Highland Games that I went to, and Simon Brooking, Laphroaig’s US Whisky Ambassador, gave a wonderful presentation of the history of the distillery and details about each of the 4 bottles we were tasting. They were big, smoky, peaty…and I loved it. I admit now that I probably started in the deep end of the whisky pool after only drinking wine and vodka up to that time, but that’s the point…there was flavor by the bottleful, and like wine, each distillery and each bottling carried its own charms. I was hooked, and happy to be so.

 

New Hampshire Highland Games & Festival Laphroaig scotch tasting lineup
My first taste of scotch a the New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival…what an eye-opening experience that was!

Learning about scotch

After that first tasting, I started collecting notes as I tasted whisky and bourbon at restaurants, airports, and friends’ houses because I wanted to remember what I liked and what I didn’t. And then…the notes disappeared. My 6 year old MacBookPro had started having hard drive issues, and eventually got so corrupted that, unbeknownst to me, the Notes app started writing over existing files. After my laptop crashed, I was unable to recover those corrupted files, so over a year’s worth of notes were gone. ** SIGH **

Ok, the reason for this blog (finally!)…I love to learn, and learning can be a communal event (that’s why tastings are so popular and fun). As I continue to try new and favorite single malt scotches, whiskeys, and bourbons, I’m going to write up my observations and share them with you. In return, Dear Reader, I’m hoping that you will share with me your opinions of the expressions I’ll be presenting. Most importantly, as my palate is still developing, I need help in coming up with adjectives…I can only call something spicy, smoky, peaty, and leathery for so long before they cease to be descriptive.

So without further ado, here’s my first entry…

(Ok, just kidding, there’s a little more ado…you might be wondering why my blog is called Scotch & Scones…what’s this about scones?!? Well, that will be explained in my next post. This introduction has gone on long enough…)

To the scotch…

Gordon’s Fine Wines and Liquors DTX, 39 Temple St, Boston, MA is a wonderful wine and spirits shop located across from Boston Common (DTX stands for Downtown Crossing, just so you know). They have weekly Whiskey Wednesday tastings, and the staff, led by Ken Gordon, are friendly and knowledgeable. I’ve been going to these events on and off for a couple of months, only having discovered it last Fall (alas, those early notes are gone, but we must soldier on…). There are even “regulars” that I’ve started to recognize and learn from. The world is my classroom…I’m learning about scotch.

So since this is my inaugural entry, I thought I’d start with the single malt that started it all for me…

Laphraoig is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, started (officially) in 1815. Located on the isle of Islay (pronounced “eye-la”, meaning island…yes, it’s the isle of island) located in the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, north of the Irish coast. There’s a strong ocean influence on the peat in the region, so when the malted barley is smoked, it’s a heavy iodine-peat that inhabits the mash. Of course, the different whiskies will have different flavor profiles based on the amount of smoking that occurs (as well as due to other factors such as type of cask and time in casks used to age the whisky, grains used in the wort, etc.), lending various characteristics to each expression.

 

Simon Brooking leading a Laphroaig scotch tasting at Gordon's DTX
Simon Brooking, Laphroaig’s US Brand Ambassador

Laphraoig Whisky Tasting

At Gordon’s DTX, presented by Simon Brooking (yes, the US Whisky Ambassador, himself!), January 13, 2017

Laphroaig Select

40%ABV
Finished in bourbon and sherry casks
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Scottish
Keyword: Bourbon Cask Finish, Islay, Peated, Scotch, Sherry Cask Finish, Single Malt, Whisky
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Tasting Notes

  • Taste: soft peat, smooth, not spicy

Laphroaig Triple Wood

48%ABV
Aged in American Oak ex-bourbon barrels, then 19th century Quarter Casks, and finally in Oloroso Sherry casks
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Scottish
Keyword: Bourbon Cask Finish, Islay, Oloroso Cask Finish, Peated, Quarter Cask Finish, Scotch, Single Malt, Whisky
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Tasting Notes

  • Taste: peatier, a little briny, smoke lingers, some spice

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016

51.6%ABV
Finished in bourbon and Madeira casks
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Scottish
Keyword: Bourbon Cask Finish, Islay, Madeira Cask Finish, Peated, Scotch, Single Malt, Whisky
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Tasting Notes

  • Nose: fruity
  • Taste: some peat and smoke, creamy, smooth and accessible, big finish
  • Comments:  accessible price, my favorite! (This one I bought, and Simon was kind enough to autograph the bottle for me)

Laphroaig Lore

43%ABV
Designed to represent all of Laphraoig's flavors: smoky, peaty, floral, spicy, sweet, dry
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Scottish
Keyword: Islay, Peated, Quarter Cask Finish, Reused Peated Cask Finish, Scotch, Sherry Cask Finish, Single Malt, Whisky
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Tasting Notes

  • Taste: classic flavor profile
  • Comments: Very good, but most expensive of the flight (champagne taste, beer budget...), a favorite of Sam Heughan (Outlander's star)!

Laphroaig 10yr Cask Strength

58%ABV
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Scottish
Keyword: Cask Strength, Islay, Peated, Scotch, Whisky
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Tasting Notes

  • Taste: Big, bold, smoke, peat
Laphroaig scotch tasting lineup at Gordon's DTX
Laphroaig flight (minus the Lore)

A quick comment…

When I took these notes I wasn’t planning to blog about them. I’m hoping to record the presenters at future tastings so I don’t miss out on their detailed descriptions. Also, now you see what I mean about adjectives — I need more descriptive words!

Well folks, there you have it…my first tasting entry. Please leave me your comments about your experiences with these whiskies (especially if you have different words to describe them!), suggestions on other single malt whiskeys and bourbons to try, and questions and comments about the blog. Here’s to a long and happy blogging/reading relationship!

Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!

Tammy

p.s. I’m relatively new to the Boston area, having grown up in Southern California. When I first arrived 3 years ago, I was in awe of my surroundings, and wrote about those experiences in my first blog called The Adventure Continues…A Cali girl’s exploits in Boston. Please come by and check it out!

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25 Comments

  1. normsimonton February 4, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    Hello Tammy, wow what a good post about your first ever tasting with Simon, he is the best and at one of the tastings he even sang for us, not a bad voice could of been the scotch talking.
    Laphroig as I’ve told you is one of my favorites. Big flavor big smoke, next tasting is the chieftains a collection of some great scotch that I think you’ll enjoy plus whatever I bring.
    See you then. I’m going to try and record the next one.

    Reply
  2. rita February 5, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Nice post. Thanks for sharing this info.

    Reply
  3. Wawa February 7, 2017 at 4:56 am

    Beautifully written. Although I’m not a Scotch drinker, I can appreciate hearing you talk about it and I’m trying to learn about it. As you know, I live with a Scotch drinker!

    Reply
  4. Beth Borenstein February 7, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    Great post, Tammy! What a great adventure you’re having up in Boston, I can’t wait to read further posts!

    Reply
  5. Darren M. February 9, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Tammy, nice to meet you recently @ the Gordon’s DTX store! I wish you the best in your journey with ‘The Water of Life’ – may you never stop exploring!

    Reply
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  7. Tammy February 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Very nicely written – can’t wait to read more! See you in April!!!

    Reply
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  9. adelegoodfellow April 9, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks for that Tammy. V interesting. Getting into Scotch recently- it was great to read your thoughts. Will need to start saving tasting notes too 🙂

    Reply
    1. Tammy April 9, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      Thanks, Adele!

      Reply
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