I know, I know, I know…..November is long gone, so why post this now? Well, primarily for club housekeeping and to ensure that I keep the club documents up to date! Hey, it’s my website, so I can make up the rules as I go, right?!
Anyway, at the final Newcomers Whisky club meeting of 2015 our theme for the evening was,
… all said in my very best Cockney accent – which really isn’t very good, but you get the idea!
As you probably guessed, the theme was to sample a series of single malt whiskies that all started with the letter “L.” And once again, the whiskies we sampled proved to be a lot of fun and with a couple of real surprises for the group! (As always, you can click on the link in either the image right or in the title above, or you can go to the Club Book Archive page to pull up a copy of the tasting notes book!)
The actual line-up for our “What The L” tasting consisted of whiskies from: Littlemill, Longmorn, Linkwood Ledaig, Laphroaig and Lagavulin.
Here’s a quick summary of the tasting!
We started out with a Chieftain’s Choice bottling of Littlemill 22 yr that was distilled Feb. 1992 and bottled March 2014 at 46% abv. This is a single cask bottling from hogshead cask #103807 that produced a total of 349 bottles. Littlemill is a now-closed Lowlands distillery, so this was an opportunity to taste a little bit of history. While Lowlands whiskies have a reputation for being on “light” side, this was a surprisingly big, richly fruity and elegantly spiced whisky. For me, this was probably the standout of the evening, in part because while I’d previously sampled whiskies from all the other distilleries, I’d not tried very many Littlemill before. This whisky was very pleasantly surprised and will definitely try to do some more exploration of this distillery before the available bottlings either disappear or become too expensive!
From there we moved on to the Longmorn 16 yr, an official bottling from the Speyside distillery that was bottled in 2014 at 48% abv. Longmorn has long been a primary component in the Chivas blends, bringing a richly bodied, “meaty” malt to these whiskies. Sherry cask-maturation is part of Longmorn’s character and this one fit that bill, full of stone fruits, dark chocolate, orange marmalade, herbal spices, and dried fruits, along with subtle hints of warm vanilla.
Next was the Linkwood 15 yr, another Speyside whisky. This was a single cask bottling from the AD Rattray Cask Collection, distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2013. Coming from cask #5088, another hogshead, this cask yielded 287 total bottles. The whisky was bottled at a cask strength of 54.7% abv. Based on the rather light golden color, this whisky appears to have been matured in an ex-bourbon barrel. Starts with notes of tropical fruits, pineapple and melon, with an undercurrent of vanilla and pepper, and quite a bit of fresh lemon juice. At cask strength it is a little closed, but adding a touch of water and allowing several minutes for this whisky to mellow brings out more ripe orchard fruits, sweet vanilla cream, some cinnamon, and a nice floral element. The finish is quite long on apples, lemon juice, white pepper, vanilla and some delicate oak tannins.
After a pair of Speyside whiskies, we headed west to the Isle of Mull and the Tobermory distillery……correct, Tobermory doesn’t start with L, but they do produce the Ledaig 10 yr, so this complies with the highly structured rules in place! This whisky is an official release, and as I suspected, the Ledaig prompted quite a bit of conversation. While I count myself as a fan, Ledaig has a rather singular profile, with a slight “farmy” nose, that doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone. But if you enjoy Port Charlotte, some Ben Nevis, or Brora (if you’ve had the wonderful opportunity to try it), you’ll probably like Ledaig as these others often also have similar notes. As for this Ledaig, the nose certainly brings up the farmy note, think wet farm animals, damp earth and vegetation, from the start. Yet there is much more to it: some soft vanilla, ripe red fruits, herbal spices, cinnamon, some tropical fruits, all of which makes this an intriguing whisky, if you like the challenge it presents!
From Mull we traveled south to Islay, the romantically rugged island home of some of the most individual and heavily peated whiskies around. Our next selection was the Laphroaig 15 yr, reintroduced by the distillery in 2015 to replace the 18 yr release which, in a twist of fate, was introduced to replace the 15 yr in days gone by. Laphroaig is very proud of its “Love it or Hate it” flavor profile, a reflection of the whisky’s character, full of medicinal notes, brine, peat, and even smoked fish, at times. Yet this 15 yr bottling, for me, falls much closer to the 18 yr than it does to the standard 10 yr bottling. Peated whiskies tend to become “calmer” with more age and here the whisky shows a very fruity, buttery, vanilla’d softer side. Certainly there are the traditional Laphroaig notes of iodine, tar, brine, but they are relatively subdued, balanced nicely by the sweeter, fruitier notes. This is a very mellow Laphroaig. While some pundits lament that newer Laphroaig has lost some connection with its storied whisky past, when considered independently of history, this is a very nice whisky that still carries enough of the unique character to retain its Laphroaig pedigree.
Staying on Islay for our final whisky of the evening, where else would we go but to Laphroaig’s Kildalton coast neighbor, Lagavulin to taste what is arguably one of the premier malt whiskies on earth, the Lagavulin 16 yr. This particular bottling was produced in 2015 and was bottled at 46% abv. Lagavulin is one of Diageo’s “Classic Malts” and held with an almost mystical reverence for so many scotch drinkers for its beautiful balance of peat and sherry-cask maturation. The color is a deep mahogany, but probably full of the e150a caramel coloring so common in Diageo whiskies. The whisky is full of oil, creosote, campfire smoke, and hints of lemon juice. There is a subtle grassy note, and smoked kippers. At the same time it is sweetly fruity and full of sherry-matured cask elements showing in the baking spices, dried fruits, and ripe red fruits. The elegant, long finish is full of the peat and tar, hints of the fruit and a nice honey sweetness.
So our final event for 2015 brought a close to the year. The evening had some wonderful malts for us to try; sometimes for the first time, sometimes to revisit and renew an old appreciation. We sampled a couple of whiskies from distilleries new to the club and one from a distillery that will soon be just a footnote in the long and storied history of scotch whisky lore. There were some surprises and, perhaps, even a new favorite for some. All-in-all, we had another very successful evening!