Review: Laphroaig The Ian Hunter Story – Book 1: Unique Character

Oh, Laphroaig. It’s not only one of my favorite peated whiskies, it is one of my favorite whiskies, period. Imagine my joy when I heard about their new series, The Ian Hunter Story. Mr. Hunter was distillery manager between 1908 and 1944. He made important changes in the production process while in charge, like introducing American oak barrels into as maturation vessels. It’s clear he helped mold the flavor of the distillery into what it is today.

To honor Ian Hunter, the distillery is introducing this first entry in the Ian Hunter Story – Book 1: Unique Character. The 30-year-old single malt aged in first-fill bourbon barrels. It’s non-chill filtered and bottled at 46.7% abv.

So, does this whisky live up to it’s story?

At three decades old, this still has that Laphroaig DNA, albeit in a softer delivery. The nose features lemon candy and some peat smoke that’s less in your face than you’d think. As peated whiskies age, the smoky quality softens over time. Ripe orchard fruit, vanilla, and orange blossom honey round out the nose. On the palate, waves of lightly smoked honey arrive with flair, followed by hints of pepper and peat. Aromatic oak and seaweed meet a touch of rancio. The long finish is surprisingly sweet. Salted caramel pairs with toasted old oak and smoked herbs.

My answer to the above question is an emphatic yes! This is some of the loveliest older Laphroaig I’ve ever tasted. Can I use the word delicate to describe Laphroaig? This is the only time I can fathom using that word. It’s intricately flavored and blossoms beautifully in the glass with some time. I’m not going to call a $1,250 bottle of whisky a steal, but…

Thanks to Laphroaig for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Look Back at 2019

As the year concludes, lots of bloggers and publications are putting out their “best of” lists. Instead, I’d rather reflect on the past twelve months. It’s been a rather remarkable year. Here are a few standouts.

I was fortunate enough to see Scotland for the first time in an unforgettable manner that included touring three distilleries(Oban, Talisker, and Glen Ord) and a helicopter ride to Skye. In the spring, my wife accompanied me to the picturesque Maker’s Mark distillery, and I’m glad she garnered a new appreciation for the bourbon.

As far as whiskies, there were a few highlights. In the single malt Scotch arena, as sad as I was to see the Old Pulteney lineup placed into the archives, their new core lineup proved exciting. Highland Park knocked it out of the park with their Twisted Tattoo, which partially matured in Spanish red wine casks. Diageo stepped up their Game of Thrones collection with an exquisite 15-year-old Mortlach. Laphroaig killed it with their latest Cairdeas release, a cask-strength version of their Triple wood bottling.

On the bourbon side, Barrell released delicious batch after delicious batch of bourbon. Michter’s expanded delicous toasted barrel lineup wiht the addition of their Sour Mash whiskey. It’s a winning formula, in my humble opinion. Heaven Hill dropped a delicous new 7-year bottled-in-bond bourbon as well as a beauty of a whiskey in Larceny Barrel Proof. And don’t forget Maker’s RC6 release… wow. Some of the most interesting stuff coming from that distillery. Another standout – Booker’s 30th anniverary. It was nice to taste some older whiskey still centered around the vanilla-centric Booker’s taste profile. Little Book Chapter 3 is another release worth mentioning. It was a blend of Knob Creek, Booker’s, Baker’s, and Basil Hayden. The result was some of the best bourbon from Jim Beam I’ve tasted in a while. Buffalo Trace released a “low proof” George Stagg, which still managed to deliver a big, robust whiskey-drinking experience.

While we’re talking about Kentucky, I have to mention Copper & King’s A Song for You. That brandy was so delicous, I’m still thinking about it months after finishing off the bottle.

As far as rye whiskey is concerned, two releases really stood out for me. First was Michter’s barrel strength rye. It was big, rich, spicy, and most importantly, quite tasty. Second is probably my favorite WhistlePig to date – a New Orleans Bourbon Festival single barrel pick. That barrel was everything I like about WhistlePig turned up to eleven.

Of course, there were other delicious releases last year, but these stood out just a bit more. 2019 was a great year, and I’m excited about the possibilities of the upcoming one.

Lastly, thanks for being a loyal reader of this blog. Cheers to you, and have a happy new year.

Review: Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon (2019)

For the second year in a row, I managed to snag a bottle of Barrell Craft Spirits bourbon, and I’m glad I did. Like last year’s edition, this 2019 offering is 15-years-old. It is made up of bourbon distilled in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana and bottled at cask strength (106.52 proof).

The nose is sweet, rich, and oaky. Dark fruit meets fresh ginger under a dark maple syrup note. Aromatic oak is present, as expected, but no overpowering. The oak comes alive on the palate, followed quickly by a rich syrupy note. Vanilla extract and dark honey are joined by cocoa and cigar box notes. The long finish is fully of oak spice and toasted marshmallow.

I enjoyed this bottling as much as the inaugural 2018 edition. It’s a fine example of older bourbon. The oak notes are tempered by those dark and fruity notes, making for a sweet and rich whiskey. Nicely done! Recommended.

Barrellbourbon.com