Laphroaig Scotch

By Spirits Contributor
Neal Kotlarek

Laphroaig (La-‘froyg) literally means “the beautiful hollow by the broad bay.” The secret to Laphroaig is that it benefits from the happy circumstances of where it is produced—next to ocean water and on land that gives Laphroaig a unique peaty taste. It is one of only a few distilleries that still uses traditional malting floors, and dries and infuses its own malt with the thick smoke from old peat-fired kilns.

The History

Around 1810, two brothers, Donald and Alexander Johnston, leased 1000 acres from the laird of Islay for rearing cattle.  They require “feed” barley to sustain them during the long winter months, and often there is a surplus.  But, what do you do with it? For an Islay Scotsman there is only one thing to do: distill whisky.

Word soon spread around Islay that the whisky being produced at Laphroaig was particularly good, in part because of their water being very soft and lacking in minerals. In short order, it became  more profitable to distill whisky than raise cattle, and in 1815  Laphroaig whisky was “officially” born.

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In 1836, Donald bought out his brother Alexander for £350.  He later emigrated to Australia, where he died in 1881. Unfortunately, Donald only lived until 1847. It is believed that he died after falling into a vat of partially-made whisky, a fitting end if true. Donald’s only heir was his son, Dugald. At just 11 years old, he was too young to take over, obviously, so the distillery was looked after by his uncle, John Johnston, and a local farmer, Peter McIntyre.

By 1857, Dugald Johnston was old enough to take over the running of the distillery, assisted by his cousin, Alexander Johnston. Together they ran the operation until Dugald died in 1877.

Alexander died in 1887, and the distillery was inherited by his sisters, Mrs William Hunter and Katherine Johnston, and his nephew, J. Johnston-Hunter.  That same year, the leading whisky journalist of the time, Alfred Bernard, reported. “The whisky made at Laphroaig is of exceptional character. The distillery is greatly aided by circumstances that cannot be accounted for… largely influenced by the accidents of locality, water and position.”

Ian Hunter took over the running of the distillery in 1921, and revitalized it after years of costly disagreements with nearby competitors.

By 1923 the Laphroaig capacity had doubled, and the malting floors (where the barley germinates into malt, prior to fermenttion) as they now stand, were completed. A new wash still and spirit still were erected.  Hunter, being a stickler for detail, insisted they be exact duplicates of the originals.

With the increased production, exports grew to Latin America, Europe, and Canada. Even Prohibition America was targeted.  Ian managed to persuade US customs and excise officials that the whisky’s pungent seaweed or iodine-like nose was evidence of Laphroaig’s medicinal properties. A skillful salesman, indeed.

Bessie Williamson left Glasgow University with an MA in 1932. In her search for regular employment during the ongoing Depression, she kept in close touch with her uncle Willie, who was accountant to none other than Ian Hunter. One summer, Hunter wrote to Willie asking if he knew of a reliable woman for a summer office job. Bessie jumped at the chance, and arrived unaware that it would be 40 summers before she left.

Hunter was the last of the family line. The firm’s secrets had been carefully guarded by the family over the years, and Ian was incredibly protective with regards to the distillery, its setup, and the whisky’s recipe. However, in Bessie he found a person that had passion, integrity, and the drive to maintain the traditions of Laphroaig. So, over the years, he passed on to her all the distillery knowledge he had acquired.

Hunter died in 1954, bequeathing the distillery to Williamson.  She took the reigns as one of the first female owners and distillers in the industry. She was a pragmatist, and knew that for Laphroaig to continue to grow, it needed the support of an international group, one that would continue the old traditions but had the financial muscle to carry the brand through to new global markets. So, between 1962 and 1967 she gradually sold the operation to Seager Evans & Co (a subsidiary of Schenley International).

Williamson retired in 1972, and died 10 years later. John McDougal, who succeeded her as distillery manager, reminisced, “It was an honour to work with Bessie Williamson, and I will never forget her words of wisdom. They have stood me in good stead the years since she left the office next to mine. So far as I am concerned, she has never left Laphroaig.”

Over the course of the 1980s, Laphroaig’s reputation grew under a succession of managers. McDougal was followed by Denis Nicol, who in turn was replaced by Murdo Reed.  Iain Henderson arrived in 1989.  His 14-year tenure marked the dawn of a new era, one that saw the distillery being granted a Royal Warrant by Prince Charles and the accumulation of a raft of top-class awards.

In 1990, the distillery was sold to Allied Spirits, a subsidiary of Allied Lyons, which in 1994 changed its name to Allied Domecq after acquiring the Spanish brandy and sherry giant Pedro Domecq. It was during this time that Laphroaig 10 Year Old became the world’s fastest-selling single malt.

In 2005, Allied Domecq was acquired by Pernod Ricard, which immediately sold Laphroaig to Fortune Brands, rebranded as spirits specialist Beam, Inc. in 2011.

John Campbell was named distillery manager in 2006, fulfilling a 12-year-old ambition. He is the first Ileach (native of Islay) to run the distillery in its over 200-year history.

Three of the Whiskys

Laphroaig Cairdeas

Each year, Campbell crafts a limited-edition malt to celebrate friendship (“Cairdeas” in Gaelic).  (Visit the distillery’s web site for information on the most recent selection.)  For 2017, Laphroaig Cairdeas Quarter Cask offered a doubling of flavor, due to maturation in pairs of American oak barrels. The 2017 Cairdeas featured different ages of Laphroaig matured for more than five years in first-fill bourbon casks, then laid to rest for a second time in smaller quarter casks. After six months of further maturation, the liquid from 177 of the casks was bottled at Cask Strength — no color added, no chilling, and a simple barrier filtration. The flavor features a sweet vanilla dryness that develops into a creamy, oily mouth-feel with bitter licorice root and a throat full of smoke. The finish is long, creamy, and (predictably) smoky.

Laphroaig Lore

This whisky is rich and deep with smoke, peat, and seaside minerality. The flavor is the result of liquid being drawn from a selection of casks, including first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels, virgin European oak, first-fill Oloroso Sherry butts, first-fill and refill quarter casks, and refill ex-Laphroaig stock. The taste is richly peaty with a spicy chili bite. The finish is short and dry, but with an unexpected long, sweet aftertaste.

Laphroaig Select

This expression brings selections of Quarter Cask, PX Cask, Triple Wood, and 10 Year Old together to create a subtle blending of peat, oak, and sweetness. The spirit sees a final maturation in new American Oak casks. For the last six months of aging, Select rests in the highest, warmest reaches of the Laphroaig warehouse during the Scottish summer. On the palate, this whisky is deep, complex, and smoky, with a bit of sweetness. The long finish features smoke and spice.

https://www.laphroaig.com/en/

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The Singleton of Glendullan

The SingletonBy Spirits Contributor
Neal Kotlarek

The Singleton of Glendullan is a fine example of Scotland’s most famous region for single malts, Speyside.

The Glendullan distillery was founded in Dufftown, Speyside in 1897. The distillery receives its pure waters from the River Fiddich, a tributary of the Spey River. The whisky is available in ages of 12, 15, and 18 years old, all matured  in used oak casks from both American bourbon and European sherry. The combination creates a well-balanced, rich tasting malt that can be enjoyed as a cocktail before dinner or as an after-dinner treat. It has a semi-crisp taste that is refreshing and even zingy without being overpowering, an excellent choice for those not yet ready to try some of the heavier Scotch offerings.

Glendullan Distillery

 

In a blind tasting conducted by the Beverage Tasting Institute, The Singleton scored a 92-point rating. That rating is considered “exceptional,” and outscored traditional category leaders such as Macallan 12 (90 rating), Glenlivet 12 (88) and Glenfiddich 12 (86). Not too shabby (for those of you who care about such numerical rankings).  Regardless, it’s a darn good buy for an exceptional Scotch whisky.

The Glendullan is part of the Diageo beverage alcohol empire.

https://www.thesingleton.com/products/

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Teeling Irish Whiskey

Teeling WhiskeyBy Spirits Contributor
Neal Kotlarek

In 1782, Walter Teeling started up a small craft distillery on Marrowbone Lane in the industrial heart of Dublin City.

In 2012, two of Teelings descendants, Jack and Stephen, opened their new Teeling Whiskey Distillery just down the road from where the original family distillery once stood. It is the first new distillery in Dublin in over 125 years.

Alex Chasko is the Master Distiller and Blender. Originally from Portland, Oregon, he started his career working in the emerging craft-brewing scene on the West Coast of the U.S. After marrying in Ireland, he found himself looking to get into the Irish whiskey industry. Once he met Jack Teeling, it became clear that they shared the same vision, and Chasko became Teeling’s first  employee.

“The process of creating our whiskey takes around nine months start to finish, including pilot blends, trade sampling, cask selection, and scaling up to full production,” said Jack Teeling,

Bacardi purchased a minority stake in Teeling in 2017, paving the way for more widespread distribution.  This also gave them access to a huge catalog of spirits to use to experiment with on barrel finishes.

 

Teeling doesn’t chill filter their whiskies, to leave as much of the body, character, and flavor as possible. Prior to bottling, they are brought from cask strength to an ABV of 46%.

Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey

This is one of only a handful of single grain bottlings in the world. Made from 100% malted barley, it is matured in red-wine barrels, resulting in an intensely fruity, amber liquid with tastes of lush berry, dry fruits, citrus, vanilla, and spice.

https://www.teelingwhiskey.com/us/en/

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Boondocks American Whiskey

By Spirits Contributor Neal KotlarekBoondocks American Whiskey

Crafted in close cooperation with Dave Scheurich, one of the world’s most respected master distillers and winner of the Whisky Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award, Boondocks American Whiskey Cask Strength 127 has an ultra-smooth finish, with distinctive aromas of rich caramel and vanilla. A robust and pleasantly aggressive palate is highlighted by fall spices and oak. This expression received a Gold Medal/91 points in the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition 2016 and Best of Category in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2016

Boondockswhiskey.com

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Wyoming Whiskey

Wyoming Whiskey

By Spirits Contributor Neal Kotlarek

Small batch whiskey, we have been told, is a welcome trend. The Mead family first came to Wyoming in 1890 as ranchers. While subsequent generations have endeavored in law, politics, and extreme skiing, Sam Mead is leading the fifth generation toward renown as a premier whiskey producer. Wyoming Whiskey products include four varieties. Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is a traditional bourbon whiskey that is dark amber in color and smooth to the taste buds. Flavors that can be detected include brown baking spices, vanilla crème, caramel, and cinnamon.

http://www.wyomingwhiskey.com

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MacKinlay’s Shackleton Whisky

MacKinlay’s Shackleton Whisky

By Spirits Contributor Neal Kotlarek

Looking for a good story to tell your house guests over an after-dinner drink? MacKinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malts are re-creations of the original malt whisky shipped to Antarctica in 1907 by explorer Ernest Shackleton on his “Nimrod” expedition.

In 2007, a century after the expedition, three cases of the perfectly preserved whisky were discovered, frozen into the ice beneath Shackleton’s base camp at Cape Royds.

In 2011, three of the discovered bottles were excavated and flown to New Zealand where they were carefully thawed by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust in a purpose-built environment and public gallery at Canterbury Museum.  Following scientific analysis and replication, malts from Glen Mhor and Dalmore distilleries were selected and combined with others to create a blend that is, according to the MacKinlay website “light honey in colour with an aroma that is soft, elegant and refined, and a taste that is both harmonious and exhilarating.”

My personal view is that the whisky is as fabulous as the tale behind its presentation. The bottle is raffia-encased, reminiscent of the straw-bound bottles found in the Antarctic. The label graphics are meticulously hand drawn to ensure a perfect match to the original.

https://www.theshackletonwhisky.com/

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The Singleton of Glendullan

The Singleton of GlendullanEvery once in awhile I like to take a a wee nip of Scotch whiskey just as variety from the grape. So when I received word of this single malt, it seemed like an opportune time to tickle the taste buds. The Singleton of Glendullan is the object of interest here, and a fine example of Scotland’s most famous region for single malts, Speyside.

The Glendullan distillery was founded in Dufftown, Speyside in 1897, and the distillery receives its pure waters from the River Dullian, a tributary of the Spey River. The whiskey is matured for 12 years in used oak casks from both American bourbon and European sherry. The combination creates a well-balanced, rich tasting malt that can be enjoyed as a cocktail before dinner or as an after dinner treat. It has a semi-crisp taste that is refreshing and even zingy without being overpowering, an excellent choice for those not yet ready to try some of the heavier Scotch offerings.

Although I’m not much interested in numerical ratings here at Winervana, they certainly do exist elsewhere.  In a blind tasting conducted by the Beverage Tasting Institute, The Singleton scored a 92-point rating. They rank that as “exceptional,” and The Singleton outscored traditional category leaders such as Macallan 12 (90 rating), Glenlivet 12( 88), and Glenfiddich 12 (86), for what it’s worth.

https://www.thesingleton.com/?ds_e=GOOGLE&ds_c=B:+Singleton+Of+Glendullan_Exact_EN_US&ds_k=the+singleton+of+Glendullan&gclid=Cj0KCQiA5dPuBRCrARIsAJL7oegsuzrNuj1zmBDCeqPwZqu2nTQrk1yxrpiTVFdflBVF3uHUt7VBtR8aAjb-EALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

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