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  1. #11
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    Re: New Scotch Labeling Rules Proposed

    Well argued, and the point that labeling regulations should benefit the consumer is well taken.

    Subscribers to WHISKY Magazine will notice that Dominic Roskrow has used his editor's column this month as a bully pulpit to address this issue, and he too makes some great points. Among them, he argues that applying the word "blend" to a beverage that is all malt whisky actually creates confusion about something that is now pretty well understood, which is that at least in the context of UK whiskies, "blend" always means a whisky that contains both malt whisky and grain whisky. He argues that moving that "fence" separating all-malt whisky from malt-and-grain whisky does a major disservice to consumers.

    But I think, Chuck, that you left something very important out of your essay. If one likes and cannot find Lagavulin, what is the best alternative?

  2. #12
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    Re: New Scotch Labeling Rules Proposed

    We have to be careful of allowing trade associations to set in stone, albeit for the consumer's benefit, rules of almost any kind, even those that designate how a product should be made. Why should there be appellation rules? There should be minimum standards, e.g., you shouldn't call "wine" something made from other than grapes, I think that's fair. And obviously there need to be basic rules about what is "whisk(e)y" and what isn't; we have those rules. I was surprised Diageo didn't push back harder when it was suggested last year that it shouldn't call its new vatted malt, "Cardhu". I had to laugh about that one. 25 years ago no one (almost) heard of or cared about the malts, now they are such a sacred cow their name can't (so went the argument) be extended for use on a vatted version? Please. But think about it, if you can call your grain distillate on a label by only one of 5 names, does that make it easier to launch a new cereal distillate product that doesn't quite fit that labelling scheme, or for a new entrant with a cool but unorthodox idea to get into the biz? Not really. I am not saying that is what is intended here, I honestly don't think that is the case; rather, it is I think an instance of over-meddling, an attempt to establish order and regulation where none is needed. Dominic is right as is Chuck #2 of Chicago. In my opinion.

    Gary


  3. #13
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    Re: New Scotch Labeling Rules Proposed

    But I think, Chuck, that you left something very important out of your essay. If one likes and cannot find Lagavulin, what is the best alternative?
    Short answer: Ardbeg.

    Long answer: That's sort of tough to answer because nothing else is really like Lagavulin---it's heavily peated but it is also a very full-bodied whisky. The other whisky that comes to mind with those characteristics is Laphroaig, but Laphroaig has a very distinctive, can't-confuse-it-with-anything-else flavor, and it is quite possible to like Lagavulin but hate Laphroaig, notwithstanding that they are both peaty Islays---indeed, the distilleries are right next door to each other. The same rationale would apply to Bowmore, which to me doesn't seem to have quite as much smoke to it anyway. The other Peat Monsters, Ardbeg and Caol Ila, are lighter whiskies, but both are nonetheless very good, and they don't have a house style that hits you over the head the way Laphroaig and Bowmore do. I'd give the edge to Ardbeg. So, if you like smoky Scotch and can't get the Lagavulin you prefer, I would recommend Ardbeg (or, barring that, Caol Ila) because it's a good, smoky Scotch that is less likely that the others to be objectionable based on the "house style".

    Other options include Longrow, a peated whiskey from Springbank, and Connemara, a peated malt from Ireland, but I haven't had either of those recently enough to opine on how similar they are to Lagavulin or the other peated Islays. There is also of course Port Ellen, but that distillery has been closed for over 20 years so the remaining bottles are getting pretty dear.


  4. #14
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    Re: New Scotch Labeling Rules Proposed

    As a fan of some Islays and whiskies in its style, I'd like to add that a peated malt, McCarthy's, is made in Oregon that is, I am sure, available at Sam's or Binnie's. It is somewhat older I understand than the stated 3 years of age. It has a good smoky character.

    I second the suggestion about Connemara but stick to the cask strength. It costs more but unlike the regular issue (which is still pretty good) it uses no caramel coloring and in my view is better off for it. However it doesn't have Islay iodine, just rich clean smoke and a distinctive "cereal" note. This is a true (Scots-style) single malt, not an Irish pot still.

    Regarding the other Islays mentioned, Ardbeg is the best bet but still rather different. It has that lemon skins taste which is unique. The 10 year old is a (relatively) good value. The 17 year old is not that peaty though, so don't buy that thinking it will resemble Lagavulin 16, it does not.

    I am not really a fan of Caol Ila which to me has a cigaret ash-like taste. I have had numerous ages and they all taste like that to me. Just not my taste.

    Laphroig is very good, but again quite different, more iodine, more salt, very assertive in taste.

    Bowmore always tastes fern-like to me, the smoke is there but that sandy peat they use is in evidence.

    I don't fancy much the other Islays that are available except Port Ellen but as mentioned it has not been produced for many years and surviving bottles will cost.

    Tip: some Islays are available which do not identify the producer, e.g. as part of a well-known regional series (Lowland, Highland, Islay, etc.). This is true single malt and you'll see them for sure at Sam's. This can be very good, and good value, oh I remember the trade name they use now, McClelland. Someone once told me their Islay is young Bowmore well, if so, I like Bowmore young. Very good whisky. To make a Lagavulin, add some of that to any good aged Speyside, you'll get close.

    Speaking of whisky I had a 10 year Edradour (rare house bottling) recently: wow, it has that knitted nougat-like taste I like, the sherry tastes are brown and rich not "ruby port" like some sherry casks seem to taste.

    GAry

  5. #15
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    Re: New Scotch Labeling Rules Proposed

    Nicely put, chasking.

    I've found that both the Ardbeg 10 and the Bowmore 17 have strong appeal to anyone interested in peaty Scotch. They are what I pull off the shelf (instead of Laphroaig) when I ask what they'd like and they say, "Well, I like Laphroaig." (That is, unless I say, "Well, maybe you should try some good bourbon...")

  6. #16
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    Re: New Scotch Labeling Rules Proposed

    Tip: some Islays are available which do not identify the producer, e.g. as part of a well-known regional series (Lowland, Highland, Islay, etc.). This is true single malt and you'll see them for sure at Sam's. This can be very good, and good value, oh I remember the trade name they use now, McClelland. Someone once told me their Islay is young Bowmore well, if so, I like Bowmore young.
    Aha! That reminds me: Signatory Vintage Islay, in its 80 proof incarnation, is (at present, anyway) Laphroaig, but not too long ago they did a cask strength version that I am pretty sure was Lagavulin: 116 proof and 5 years old, it was a different animal from the standard 16yo, but quite good. You may still see this on a shelf somewhere, although it's done as far as Signatory is concerned (a rep at an in-store tasting told me it was NLA). I got several bottles at a Binny's last fall, so it's not long gone.

    Enjoy your young Bowmore; for my part, I find Charles Shields' comment on maltwhiskey.com accurate:

    <font color="blue">A young Bowmore can put a strong man off spirits. The briny, medicinal, phenolic character may taste like sucking on an old band-aid to the uninitiated, but add some age and those same characteristics soften and become the stuff of legend.</font>

    But if it works for you, great!

    Chuck King

  7. #17
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    Re: New Scotch Labeling Rules Proposed

    Oh, and a note about this:

    I am not really a fan of Caol Ila which to me has a cigaret ash-like taste. I have had numerous ages and they all taste like that to me. Just not my taste.
    I've had that same experience with Caol Ila bottlings from Signatory, but on a trip to Scotland in '03 I picked up a bottle of the "official" Caol Ila 12yo, and it was better, although it was less smoky than the Signatory 11yo I got here. The Caol Ila distillery bottlings are now being sold in the States (I saw 12yo and 18yo at Sam's recently).

  8. #18
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    Re: New Scotch Labeling Rules Proposed

    Hey if you like 4 year old straight rye you'll like anything.

    Gary

  9. #19
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    Re: New Scotch Labeling Rules Proposed

    Yes we have those two in Ontario, too, I was afraid to try them based on two 25 year olds I had from merchants. Can't recall who at this stage, but that taste seemed so characteristic I think I'll stay away.

    What do you think by the way of the new Macallans? I find them disappointing, I've had the 15 and 18 year olds, haven't had the 21. I really was surprised Macallan, for this new series, moved away from all-sherry cask, never did I think they would do that.

    Gary


  10. #20
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    Re: New Scotch Labeling Rules Proposed

    What do you think by the way of the new Macallans? I find them disappointing, I've had the 15 and 18 year olds, haven't had the 21. I really was surprised Macallan, for this new series, moved away from all-sherry cask, never did I think they would do that.
    Actually I haven't tried Macallan in a while because I don't usually like whisky with such a strong sherry influence. If they're using non-sherry casks now, I may have to check them out again!

 

 

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