Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Repeat after me, Lagavulin

For February, the Bourbonators were treated to a Single Islay Malt Whisky aged 16 years by the Lagavulin (pronounced Laga-voolin) Distillery of Scotland. For us yanks across the pond, this makes it a scotch. The name Lagavulin comes from the Gaelic Laggan Mhouillin, "the hollow where the mill is". Interesting things you find on these boxes.

It is said that this is the oldest legal distillery to still exist in Scotland. I took the liberty of looking it up on a map and briefly considering making travel plans to it's home. The box described it still having 4 onion shaped stills. The box goes on to describe even more picturesque details of it's origins, but really, I'd go back for the whisky. Let me explain.

The host of this months meeting was hoping I'd be able to stop by the liquor store on my way over. Not really a problem because I drive right by one...if I leave home on time...ya right.

I was in a bit of a rush to get there. Good thing I know exactly where the whiskeys are kept. This particular store doesn't have the greatest variety in the world, but it's got most of the majors covered and usually has room for a few rarities.

I've really been in the mood for DoubleCasked lately. Probably the Balvenie from a few months ago. The first employee to ask me if I need help was a nice young girl I was willing to bet had absolutely no idea what fine whiskey was. I told her I was looking for a new whiskey we'd not drank before that would be as good if not better than the Balvenie and also DoubleCasked. I've seen that blank expression in people before. She was, without a doubt, completely clueless. She just smiled and asked another employee walking by. A nice young man, she asked him, "Do you know anything about whiskey?" To which he replied, um, no.

"Don't worry guys, I'll be ok," I told them. It's really not a big deal to me. I don't expect that on the last minute  on a Friday night that there's a whiskey expert in a liquor store.

I went back to reading boxes. I probably should research this more than I do, but that just wouldn't be my style.

The manager comes over and asked if he could help. He said he was quite familiar with whiskey. I said sure and told him what I wanted. We had a budget of $80 and I was really thirsty for a DoubleCasked whiskey that was as good or better than the Balvenie.

He point to the bottle of Lagavulin and said, "I'll bet none of your guys have tried this and I think they will all be very happy with it."

I looked at the box, then the shelf. I replied to the manager, "I'm not a real math whiz, but I'm pretty sure that with tax, the $84.99 price tag is still over $80."

"Well, let's just see what I can do about that." We walked over to the checkout and he hit the computer. Typing and clicking and typing some more. He put down the mouse and looked up at me and asked, "Is $79.18 with tax gonna work?"

Again, I'm no math whiz, but I do believe that falls below the $80 mark.

"Sold!" I said.

Wow. Was I glad I got this. It was FANTASTIC!

The nose had that smell of creosote that Cam tells me is from the peat. The smell isn't all that great, but the taste was really quite exceptional. The tasting notes from the web site describe it as:

Palate: Dry peat smoke fills the palate with a gentle but strong sweetness, followed by sea and salt with touches of wood.
For me the balance of all that made it work. Nothing was really "too" much. It wasn't too smoky or sweet. It was smooth all the way. The light burn of the 43% alcohol was hidden by the linger of it's flavor. Nom nom.

There seemed to be a unanimous agreement that this bottle was worth it, even if I was late. I will send a big thanks out to the manager at Apollo Northwest Liquor. He made an excellent recommendation. We will be back!

If you are interested in more information on this, I found the wikipedia article very interesting as well.

As for the poker. I was the grand master of coolers...receiving them. Oh well, I was conforted by the warmth of this amber nectar.


Astin said...

Sucks to be you - you've now reached the pinnacle of Scotch and everything else will pale in comparison.

The Lag was the first Scotch I enjoyed and has remained my favourite since. I find the depth and complexity unmatched in anything else I've had. Macallan, Glenlivet, Balvenie, Bowmore, Talisker, Cragganmore, Highland Park, Dalwhinnie, Johnnie Walker Blue, Oban, Auchentoshan, Peat Monster, Smokehead, etc., etc... they just don't get me the same. Of all the whiskies I've got sitting on my cabinet, the Lag's the one I make sure is always available.

The Lag Distiller's Edition is nice too, an extra year (or a bit less) in sherry casks for the regular 16 year subtly changes the profile. Still peaty, but more mellow and rich, and it really opens up with a couple drops of water.

For a more cost-effective choice - The Talisker 10 year is my usual bar backup (ie.- I don't feel like dropping $15 on a Lag). Isle of Skye instead of Islay, but still some good smoke, lighter body. I'm also a fan of the Highland Park 18, but then we're out of the cost-effective world.

OhCaptain said...

I don't think you overcommented. Quite the contrary. I've worried about this being it. The top of the heap. It's amazing that for $80 I was left extremely happy and satisfied, yet when I spend $200 I feel cheated and used. We will be going bottle to middle shelf for a few months and building back up a kitty for future treats. Hopefully, we'll reset the palate and be ready for the Lag Distiller's Edition. I see we did Highland Park 18 already. Maybe we should plan to have you attend one month...hm.

Astin said...

Well I'd suggest the Talisker or Ardbeg 10 on your return to middle shelf to minimize the drop. That or switch to a non-smoky option to contrast as opposed to easier comparisons - maybe a Glenkinchie or Glenlivet 12.

I think I'll hold off visiting until it's not winter though :)

BamBam said...

As usual, Astin knows his stuff. I survived the Lag, as my palet seems to be extra sensitive to the peat. Don't get mne wrong, I DID NOT hate it at all, just personally prefer a bit of smoothness without the mossy leftovers. Again though, that's my palet. The Distiller's Edition knocked it out of the park for me, by comparison.

I do love these Scotch posts, with kust a hint of Poker.


OhCaptain said...

Glad you like these Bammer! I'll extend the same invitation to you as well. You are always welcome to come join us for a meeting. I'd understand if you Canadian would like to wait for winter to be done. These winters are for a hardy breed.