...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Notes from a tasting: Peatin' Meetin' Whiskies at Home, Part 1

I did not drink at Peatin' Meetin' last weekend.  Well, I drank water because it's Summer and I was on site for over seven hours.  But no whisky for me.  With the event in Pasadena and my home (and my wife and my 3 month old daughter) 32 miles south, I had no interest in driving home peated to the gills.  But the event was great and the food was excellent.

And I grabbed thirteen whisky samples to go.

I'm gradually(?) tasting these here in the comfort of home, in a controlled setting.  For the samples that are 0.5oz, I won't be providing a numerical rating.  Instead I'll give a general grade range.  I have a few that are 1.0oz or more, and those might get a rating.  We'll see.

Here's the list of samples, with names being added in each post:

1. Balvenie 17 year old Islay Cask (OB, 43% ABV)
2. Loch Lomond Peated, green label (OB, 46% ABV)
3. Bowmore 16 year old 1990 Sherry Cask (OB, 53.8% ABV)
4. Laphroaig 13 year old 1994 (Cadenhead, 54.7% ABV)

The first four, from the comfort of home!

1. Balvenie 17 year old Islay Cask (OB, 43% ABV)
not the 'Peated Cask' from four years back, but the original 'Islay Cask' from ten years ago.
Nose -- Starts in Speyside: Peaches, Oranges, and Vanilla.  Then gradually shifts.  Citronella candles, anise, plaster, ashes, and lots of soil.
Palate -- Lots of dirt, roots, and bark.  It gradually grows sweeter.  Then there are hints of flowers and lemon.  A bitterness builds that feels more woody and resinous than herbal.
Finish -- Both sweet and bitter.  Cigarette ashes.

Grade Range: B-/B
I love herbal bitterness in my whisky, but woody bitterness is often due to cask problems.  I learned that lesson harshly with my own whisky barrel.  Without all of that resin, this would have been a B+.

2. Loch Lomond Peated, green label (OB, 46% ABV)
why not, right?
Nose -- Quite Finlaggan-esque, very young and very skunky.  Garbage on a hot day, rotting lettuce, notebook paper.  Also some cotton candy, apple skins, toasty grains, and peat moss.
Palate -- Much softer than the nose. Wormwood bitterness and a peatin' that gets sweeter with time.  But the two biggest notes are wood smoke and burnt marshmallows.
Finish -- Wood smoke and a little bit of sugar.

Grade Range: D+/C-
The nose is a hot mess, but the palate is good enough that I would drink this again.  Or at least I'd drink this before I'd drink The Fin, again.

3. Bowmore 16 year old 1990 Sherry Cask (OB, 53.8% ABV)
the casks were ex-olorosos
Nose -- Smoked sherry, tar, moss, and baking chocolate.  Then cigarettes, rotting apples, and dried grass clippings.  With water, it gets grassier and mossier.
Palate -- Hot.  Now the sherry is burnt.  Ashes, burnt peanuts.  Some sweet orange stuff.  With water, it gets grassier and bitterer.  The smoke and sweets remain.
Finish -- Sherry, ashes, maybe lavender?  No change with water.

Grade Range: B-
The nose is a B+, easily.  But the palate is oddly bland, though water helps a little.

4. Laphroaig 13 year old 1994 (Cadenhead, 54.7% ABV)
from a single ex-bourbon hogshead; I'd hoped to get a bigger sample but this bottle went quickly
Nose -- A real softie. Saline nasal spray. Cigarettes in strawberry ice cream.  Leather, hay, armpits, and dusty book pages.
Palate -- Sugared-up peat moss.  Smoke and a good bitterness that develops with air.  Vanilla and a peppery zing.  Hints of sweet citrus.
Finish -- Lemon-lime fizzy, peat smoke, vanilla.

Grade Range: B-/B
Mild and light, it's the politest bourbon cask Laphroaig I've tried.  While nothing is technically wrong with it, there's not a whole lot to recommend.  It falls short of the official 10yo CS batches (including 005).

Okay, so far Laphroaig probably edges the Balvenie for first place and the Loch Lomond sits comfortably in dead last.  Let's see what happens in next weekend's Part 2...


  1. Even though the idea of whisky festivals, in principle, is appealing to me I can never bring myself to attend any. Large crowds, high prices, uninspiring selections (in the US), heat, difficulty of tasting anything properly---all these things are off-putting. Looks like you've solved the last one at least. Are these 1/2 ounce samples? Is that the same size pour as you'd get if you were drinking there?

    1. That's my feeling about Whisky Fest and Whisky Live, not to mention the big $$$ Nth event in Vegas. I'd be paying out a couple hundred for tickets, and then throw in travel expenses, all so that I can wait in line after line after line for small pours of Macallan Ruby and Talisker Dark Storm.

      I enjoy Peatin' Meetin' because I know a lot of the folks there, the barbecue is always good, and the club always brings unusual bottlings. The two issues that remain are the heat and the difficulty of proper tasting. All of the samples I took home are at least 1/2 ounce. I snuck out larger samples of the less in-demand stuff. At the event, all of the bottles have 1/4 ounce spouts, but I've never had any problems getting a second pour or more. Can't do much with a quarter ounce.

  2. Interesting. If I recall the Islay Cask was Balvenie finished in a cask that previously held an Islay whisky (Islay distillery wasn't named).

    This sounds like the Islay Cask had some new or fresh oak influence somewhere in the maturation process.

    1. There was some weird wood stuff going on with it. Could also have been a crap cask or an overused one. Serge liked it the whisky a lot in '04, so maybe the bottle went strange after 10 years.