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I just returned from an outing where I had occasion to temporize in the bar of a nearby restaurant for a while.
I couldn't spot anything on the American whiskey shelf that I hadn't already tried; so I picked an unfamiliar dram from the top shelf of scotch. I picked Lagavulin 16 (if I read the label right; it could have been 18). I think I now know what peat tastes like.
At first sip I wasn't sure that I could finish it; fortunately I had had the foresight to order water back. My meeting got underway before I had made a dent in my drink, and at $8 a shot, leaving it behind was not an option. I ended up nursing the drink for about an hour, while listening to a guy explain why my investments are worth less today than they were three years before I retired in 1998.
Over the course of that hour a curious thing happened. I can't say that I came to like it, but I certainly began to dislike it less -- much less. Now, an hour later, with the finish still lingering, I find myself wanting to try it again. I'm wondering whether my Laphroig (sp?), as yet unopened, will have a similar taste.
Oh, yes it will, Dave. You're tasting more than peat there, though the peated water of Islay is famous (check out the softness and Highland-like character of Bunnahabhain [sp.?], which draws water from higher in the rocks than the other Islay distilleries - before it flows through the peat). You're also tasting the sea-brine of the air of the island and the sweetness of the barrels. Laphroiag is, if anything, even more intense - some folks liken its first taste to a mixture of bacon fat and seaweed. The weird thing about them both is that they grow on you, I guess like the harsh country they come from. If you want to approach the Islay-style malts a little more carefully, try Talisker, from the Isle of Skye. The peat and ocean tang is very much there, but there's also a warm sweetness, like the sun on the rocks. These are demanding, contemplative drams, not an easy knock-back.
>Over the course of that hour a curious thing happened. I can't say that I came
>to like it, but I certainly began to dislike it less...
The first time I ever had a peated scotch was when I bought a bottle
of Laphroaig. A friend and I sat at my dining room table listening to
music and pouring *very small* glasses of the stuff. We hated it.
We looked at each other like we'd just wasted our money, but didn't
want to admit it. The stuff tasted like licking an ashtray. A tarry ashtray.
We drank little sips, trying to smile.
It was a week before I summoned up enough courage to open the bottle
again. It slowly started growing on me...
A month later, I declared that it was the best whisk/e/y that I had in
the whole house.
p.s. The effect of chill filtering is *huge* for peated scotches. If you have a
chance to try a non-chill-filtered Laphroaig (especially side-by-side with
a chill-filtered version), you'll be absolutely amazed at the difference.
The non-chill-filtered version in an absolute PEAT MONSTER.
Dave: First, you read the label right--Lagavulin is 16yo. Secondly, Laphroaig will have similar peaty qualities to the Lagavulin, but will be distinctly different. Laphroaig has the most medicinal taste of any of the Islay malts. Some have compared it to sucking on wet bandages. Laphroaig is like a punch in the face; Lagavulin a big bear hug (as Michael Jackson says). Then there's the third of the "Holy Trinity of Peat"--Ardbeg. The Ardbeg TEN is a great malt offering peat and fruit in a neat interplay. If you're looking for a malt with just a little less peat, try Bowmore (from the middle of the island). They put out a number of fine versions that, while peaty, are not peat monsters like the other three malts mentioned.
BTW, one of the first single malts I ever tried was Laphroaig 10. As I raised the glass to my mouth for that first sip, I was overwhelmed by the strange aroma eminating from my glass. Even before I tasted it, I said to myself "this is the real deal." It was love at first sip.
Since then, Ardbeg and Lagavulin have overtaken Laphroaig among my favorite malts, but recently I tried the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength (57.3%/114.6 proof). Let's just say I have finally tasted THE Laphroaig. Ah, the battle for my affections continues http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif
I agree the Talisker is easier to approach...I definitely have to be in the right frame of mood...remember my post on "autumn inspired whiskeys(?). I remember when my sister-in-law poured a huge glass of Lagavulin for me (she did not realize the job she presented!) I nursed that puppy all evening!
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