Lagavulin 16 vs. Laphroaig 10 Year Cask Strength – Thanksgiving Day 2013 Blind Tasting

There were two smokey whiskeys that Joey, Arwin, Ravi and Anne were blind tested at thanksgiving.  Lagavulin 16 was my standard favorite smokey whiskey but the Laphroaig surprised me when I tried it on it’s own as to it’s nice smokiness. Joey thought #1 was a tad bit darker.  Arwin and Ravi thought they were the same in color. Ravi thought #1 was a nice up front taste but doesn’t lingered enough. It was  nice and smokey but wished it lasted longer. He also thought #2 lasted longer and was less intense.  He preferred #2 and thought #2 was Lagavulin and #1 was Laphroaig. But he was  hedging as he tried it more and the differences seem to went away when you tried them together. Joey thought #1 was in moderate smokiness, tasty but agreed that it doesn’t lingered enough.  It had a sweeter smell. Arwin liked #1 better and #2 hurts at the end. Joey would liked to drink #1 after a good steak but #2 at a fire. When eating, he wanted up-front flavor.  He thought #2 was Laphroaig and #1 was Lagavulin. Anne thought #2 was stronger. In the end, #1 was Lagavulin 16 year and #2 was Laphroaig 10 year cask strength.

This peaty Single Malt dates back to 1816, when John Johnston and Archibald Campbell each constructed a distillery on what today is the Lagavulin site. After Johnston died, Campbell consolidated the two, before selling it to malt merchant Alexander Graham. Today it continues to uphold the traditions of its past, using meticulous preparation to create powerful whisky. Their signature 16 year old malt has a strong peat, smoke and seaweed nose that is followed by a nutty complexity and light fruitiness. In the mouth characters of Charcoal, dry woodiness and iodine followed by chilli chocolate and a hint of toffee. (Source: http://danmurphys.com.au/product/DM_41788/)

The original Laphroaig is distilled the same way today as when Ian Hunter invented it over 75 years ago. In making Laphroaig, malted barley is dried over a peat fire. The smoke from this peat, found only on Islay, gives Laphroaig its particularly rich flavour. Those enjoying the 10 Year Old will first notice the bold, smoky taste, followed by a hint of seaweed and a surprising sweetness. This full-bodied variant is the foundation of all Laphroaig expressions and comes with a long finish. (Source: http://www.laphroaig.com/whiskies/10yo.aspx)

Brennivin, a nice summer drink

Darius, Donnie, Dad, Joey and Arwin tried Brennivin. Darius thought that he wouldn’t drink by himself because he doesn’t like licorice. Donnie felt it was ambivalent and just okay. For Dad, it was not his cup of tea. Joey tasted it as mild licorice with some other subtle spices. He thought it as not a single malt scotch  and it was better than vodka. It has its place for the right occasion, thus, it is a nice summer drink. Arwin thought of it as not a lot of flavor and he preferred fernet branca.

Brennivín is an Icelandic schnapps, considered the country’s signature alcoholic beverage. Having a national beverage seems to bede rigeur for small countries who want to  maintain their cultural identity. Iceland is no exception. It is made from fermented potato pulp, and flavoured with caraway seeds. It is sometimes called svarti dauði (“black death”). (Source: http://shopicelandic.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&category_id=193&flypage=flypage.tpl&lang=en&manufacturer_id=6&page=shop.product_details&product_id=2092&Itemid=104&vmcchk=1&Itemid=104)

At times it is drunk as a “chaser” after sampling “hákarl”, which consists of putrefied shark meat, to mask the meat’s taste. The word brennivín literally translates into English as ‘burning wine’, and comes from the same root as brandy, namely brandewijn which has its roots in the Dutch language. (Source: http://nammi.is/brennivin-1-liter-p-406.html)

Despite its unofficial status as national beverage and a traditional drink for the mid-winter feast of Þorrablót, many Icelanders do not regularly drink it. The drink has a strong taste and high alcohol content and carries an equivocal reputation despite the fact that Iceland lives huge taxes on most alcoholic beverages, brennivín is actually one of the moderately priced liquors available in the national alcohol store.

Brennivin today is mostly enjoyed as a patriotic drink, most notably on St. Thorlac’s Day (December 23), a holiday that honors the patron saint of Iceland. It’s a popular souvenir sampled then brought home by Iceland’s growing number of tourists.

 

The Laddie Ten – Bruichladdich, smooth

The other day, Joey, Dad and I tried The Laddie Ten. Joey said it has a sweet smell with some peat and hint of vanilla. Dad thought it was not his cup of tea. I said it was like an oban, smooth and not boring.

The very first 10 year old whisky to be wholly distilled, aged and bottled following Bruichladdich’s resurrection in 2001. In many ways this marks the beginning of the new era and this will be snapped up by connoisseurs and collectors. A true milestone bottling.

At Bruichladdich, we believe the whisky industry has been stifled by industrialization and self-interest – huge organisations have developed that require a stable status quo to ensure that their industrial processes can run to maximum efficiency, producing the maximum “product” with the minimum input and variation, all to the lowest unit price. We reject this. We believe that whisky should have character; an authenticity derived from where it is distilled and the philosophies of those who distil it – a sense of place, of terroir that speaks of the land, of the raw ingredients from which it was made. (Source: http://www.bruichladdich.com/progressive/our-philosophy)

The Laddie Ten, this whisky, this spirit, malted from only Scottish barley for authenticity, slow-fermented for purity, trickle-distilled for creamy texture and cask-filled at 70% for extra flavour, has been quietly slumbering in our loch-side warehouses for the last 10 years, and we are immensely proud to offer this landmark dram to you now.The true beginning of a new era. (Source: http://www.bruichladdich.com/the-whisky/bruichladdich/the-laddie-ten-year-old)

This 10 years old ‘Laddie Ten’ has been praised by a lot of people as a high-quality, low-cost whisky. It’s unchill-filtered and not coloured, as all bottlings should be these days.




Royal Stag – Pernod Ricard, a generic whiskey

The other day, Joey and Ravi tried Royal Stag Whiskey from India. Joey felt that it was drinkable and mixable. Ravi thought it was a solid whiskey that is drinkable but wasn’t anything special.  In short, it was the essence of a generic whiskey.

Royal Stag was created in 1995 from a blend of Indian spirits and imported Scottish malt. The first brand in India without artificial flavoring, it has become a key whisky and a benchmark among the country’s power brands. In 2011, Royal Stag sold 12.4 million cases and continues to grow. It is usually served on ice or with water. It is available in 1L, 75cl, 37.5cl, 18cl, 9cl and 6cl formats. The launch of super-premium Royal Stag Barrel Select in December 2011 added to the brand range. (Source: http://pernod-ricard.com/549/brands/see-all-brands/local-brands/royal-stag)

Royal Stag have an exceptional smoothness, taste and malty-flavor. This is one of the very few blended Indian whiskey in this category that can be taken on the rocks. Its consistent smoothness and flavor uplifted its status in the market.

Seagram is now part of Pernod Ricard due to worldwide takeover. Pernod Ricard produces and distributes many prestigious brands in many categories of alcoholic beverage. Some of world famous brands of this group are: Ricard, Seagram’s Gin, Chivas Regal, Royal Salute, Larios, Clan Campbell, Havana Club, Jameson, Martell, Ramazzotti, Wyborowa, Wild Turkey, Jacob’s Creek and Wyndham Estate. These brands are either global leader or one of the top selling brands of a select market. Pernod Ricard group is marketing more than 100 famous brands around the globe. Royal Stag is one such brand being marketed in India and Nepal as per requirement of these markets. (Source: www.awa.dk/index.php/whisky-catalog/india-indien/royal-stag)



 

Polite Provisions/Soda & Swine Review of Soft Opening – Creative but too much sweetness.

We visited my sister-in-law in the Normal Heights area of San Diego and were lucky enough to be walking by a much anticipated local bar, Polite Provisions, which features quite the array of Whiskey cocktails.  It’s apparently a partnership between a successful San Diego Restaurant group, Consortium Holdings, and a celebrity mixologist, Erick Castro, who was behind other speakeasy/whiskey oriented establishments like Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco.  As such, we were eager to try out the drinks (pictured below)!

Polite Provisions Cocktails

Polite Provisions Cocktails

The overall verdict?  It’s a very creative place with a real speakeasy atmosphere and friendly staff (more on that below).  I appreciated the nickels that lined the bathroom floors, for example.  But the cocktails, served pre-mixed in fountain style for speed and consistency, were way too sweet for my palate.  That would be fine if it just didn’t suit my tastes, which run to more smokey whiskeys, but my sister-in-law and her friend Cody were equally unable to stand the sweetness by the end of the evening.

Some comments on specific cocktails:

The Gin and Tonic – Anne felt it was ordinary and one could get a drink like that anywhere.  I thought it was very refreshing, but could undertstand Anne’s point.  Cody liked it.

The Full Windsor (A scotch drink – see menu here) – This was similar to an Old Fashioned.  I had one across the street at a restauran named Jayne’s and this was about the same, but perhaps a bit sweeter, which unfortunately masked the scotch.  Cody agreed about comparing it to a sweet old fashioned.

Champagne Cocktails (not on the menu, but given complimentary due to understandable delays with a soft opening) – I liked these because they weren’t as sweet as the other drinks.  And they were free.  Cody liked them because they weren’t too “champagne” like.  Anne didn’t really like them.

Mr. Brownstone (Irish Whiskey with Cinnamon) – Anne loved this drink at first and gave it a 10, comparing it the apples you put into an apple pie before baking.  But then I let her finish the drink and she couldn’t because, like an apple pie, it was too sweet to drink so much of it.  I thought the cinnamon was a really nice touch…but it was still way too sweet.  Cody agreed that there was too much cinnamon and sugar.  This was especially true if you used a straw and drank from the bottom, which was even sweeter.

Misty Mountain Buck (Rye Whiskey with Ginger and Pineapple) – Cody liked it as she likes the ginger, though thought it might be better without the Pineapple.  Anne thought it tasted too much like ginger candy.  I liked the complexity and ginger taste, but again, it was way too sweet to enjoy a lot of it.

The Honey Stone Julep (Bourbon with Mint and Honey, pictured below)

Polite Provisions Honey Stone Julep

Cody didn’t love it and at that point it hurt her to say that as she was rooting for the drinks to be good.  It crossed a line in terms of appropriate sweetness for her and reminded her of a drink to be served to southern women with big hair.  Anne didn’t like it and thought the flavors didn’t work as it needed more mint.  I thought it was ok.  The mint was nice it could have had more, but like most of the drinks, the main problem was the overpowering sweetness.

Overall, I would go back.  I just wouldn’t order any of their pre-made drinks, which is technically the whole point of the place.  I appreciate any place that has friendly service and tries to be creative and will support such places.  They make all of our lives better by innovating.  We all loved Frank (pictured below with Cody), who bussed our tables and generally smoothed out all the kinks inevitable in a soft opening.  He told us he met the owner when he helped him move and the owner noticed how hard he works…and it showed that night for us.

Cody and Frank at Polite Provisions

Cody loved the giant ice cubes.  Anne and I would both go back and have beers.  And to top it off, the food from Soda & Swine, the attached restaurant that specializes in meatballs, was amazing.  The chicken, beef, and vegetarian meatballs were all great.  The bread was light and it felt like they achieved the impossible of a healthy-non-greasy meatball sandwich.  We will totally be back to enjoy the creative touches and great food.  We just won’t likely order any of the cocktails, until they start offering some savory or smokey concoctions too.

- Ravi Iyer

 

 

 

 

 

Ardbeg Corryvreckan wins Best in Show at LA Cocktail Classic

The LA Cocktail Classic was held recently at the Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles, and it was Christmas for whiskey lovers.

The brands are too numerous to list (actually, you can see the brands here on Drink Eat Play’s website) and definitely too numerous to drink them all, so I had to choose wisely.  Imagine the above space, plus an equally beautiful outside area, full of whiskeys, cognacs, and cocktails made by some of LA’s best mixologists.  Many of the spirits being sampled cost several hundred dollars per bottle.  Bowmore had a really neat booth where they paired their scotch with oysters in an oyster shooter.

However, one brand stood out as soon as I saw them.  As someone who likes smokey whiskeys, Ardbeg and Laguvulin are my 2 recent favorites, and to celebrate my daughter’s birth, I bought a bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I appreciated the opportunity to try some of Ardbeg’s other whiskeys and the award for the best whiskey at the LA Cocktail classic goes to: Ardbeg’s Corryvreckan.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan wins The VeniceWhiskey Best in Show at LA Cocktail Classic

Smokey, complex, and all around delicious!  It’s got the tastiness of a Rye with the smokiness that is classic Ardbeg.  Definitely a bottle I’m going to buy for my next special occassion as the Uigedail is nice, but the Corryvreckan was noticeably (I tried all the Ardbegs side by side) better.  Congrats Ardbeg on a whiskey well done!

- Ravi Iyer

 

 

Canadian Club Whiskey Factory Tours near Detroit (Windsor)

In December of 2009, I visited the Canadian Club Heritage Center in Windsor, Ontaria, just across the river from Detroit, Michigan where my father lives.  As someone who has visited Detroit often, I was quite surprised to find such a wonderful exhibit so under-promoted in the Detroit area.  I half expected the place to be closed, but when we arrived there, we were one of a handful of people to take the tour.

The highlight was the history of prohibition, as Detroit was one of the primary places where liquor was smuggled across from Canada (where liquor was still legal) and then brought to Chicago by the mob.  As such, there was a lot of colorful history of that time, like this woman, who had a convenient hiding place for her liquor.

Of course, we also saw their various brands of whiskey.  Apparently, they are very popular in Japan.  And I hadn’t drawn the connection between the popular “CC & Coke” (though not quite as popular as a Jack and Coke) and Canadian Club, the brand.

Our $5 tour price included a tasting of 3 whiskeys.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember them now, but for the purposes of this blog post, I bought a bottle (also to thank them for the hospitality) and here are my brief notes on the below bottle…

[ to be added...must by bottle! :) ]