Scotch

A Glenfiddich Night for the Ages

Sometimes I’m in the right place at the right time.

Or I’m just lucky.

I recently attended a Glenfiddich tasting at the Bourbon House in New Orleans. Glenfiddich ambassadors Dave Paradice and Struan Grant Ralph led the tasting of four Glenfiddich expressions that heavily feature ex-bourbon barrel-maturation. Just before the tasting started, I met up with the two brand ambassadors to say hi.

Jorge Lauriano, the William Grant & Sons Division Manager for Louisiana, came over to greet me. Then he lowered his voice and asked what my plans were for the rest of the night. It’s that moment he told me he, Paradice, and Ralph were going to host a very private tasting with two local single malt fanatics after the Bourbon House tasting.

“I just dropped off 27 different bottles of whisky (at a local restaurant). Do you want to join us?” Lauriano asked, knowing I couldn’t turn down his invitation.

My answer was a resounding yes. I knew at that moment it was going to be an epic whisky night.

But first, the Glenfiddich tasting at the Bourbon House. Four expressions: Glenfiddich 12-year-old, 14-year-old, 19-year-old Age of Discovery bourbon cask, and a preview of an upcoming 23-year-old expression. The last two were especially delicious. Paradice was on-point with his presentation, with Ralph occasionally fielding questions from the small but sometimes rowdy crowd.

If this wonderful tasting was the supporting act, what followed was the headliner.

We made our way to the restaurant where the six of us began lining up bottles of whisky, mostly Glenfiddich, on a long table. Twenty seven bottles in total. So many that we couldn’t line up the bottles neatly down the longside of the table. With some appetizers served, we began. We did a round robin, of sorts, allowing every person to choose the next pour. As we nosed and tasted, the two brand ambassadors casually presented background on every pour.

Nose, taste, dump, repeat. That was the motto of the night.

I didn’t take tasting notes, but did somehow manage to jot down what we tasted. Here’s what we tasted, with some thoughts on select pours:

  • 15-year-old
  • Reserve Cask (travel exclusive)
  • Cask of Dreams 2011 – love the ex-bourbon cask influence here
  • 18-year-old
  • Rich Oak
  • 14-year-old
  • Malt Master – one of the group favorites
  • Fire & Cane – Smoky with rum-sweetness. Yes please!
  • Vintage Cask – slightly peated and utilizes American oak casks
  • William Grant & Sons Ghosted 26-year-old – very light; paired well with our salad
  • Age of Discovery 19-year-old bourbon casks
  • 40-year-old – decadent, resinous, dark, with a finish that lasts for days
  • Winter Storm – a dessert dram if there ever was one
  • The Original 1963
  • Vintage Cask – Select Barrel
  • 26-year-old
  • Kinnivie 23-year-old
  • 30-year-old – Rich, lively, and without the heavy rancio notes found in the 40yr
  • Vintage Cask 36-year-old (1978) – one of the top pours of the night
  • Project XX – nicely balances the different cask types used

One thing that struck me was the balance of flavors through all the expressions we sampled. Nothing was ever one-sided. Those sherry notes were never overpowering. That Glenfiddich signature vanilla and orchard fruit character always remained at the core.

We didn’t make it through all 27 bottles. Twenty seemed to be our limit. No matter – this Herculean tasting was one of those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ events, and one I’ll remember for a very long time.

Thanks to everyone for allowing me to take part in a such special tasting and for sharing your whisky knowledge. Especially Jorge. He’s an extremely generous guy who loves nothing more than sharing a great drink (and a dirty joke or two) with people. Thanks for an unforgettable whisky night. Slainte!

Review: Highland Park Valnut

HP-2018-Valknut-Hero-Bottle+Carton-750ml-CMYKHighland Park has just released Valknut, the sequel to last year’s Valkyrie.  The distillery has partnered with Danish designer Jim Lyngvild to design the packaging.

As for the whisky itself, it’s said to be a “bolder, more intense style of Highland Park,” according to press materials.  The whisky was mostly matured in American  sherry seasoned casks.  Additionally, this expression features a slightly higher phenolic level than Valknut and was partially made from Orkney-grown tartan barley.  Valknut has been bottled at 46.8% ABV and is available for $80.

Love the nose here.  It’s vibrant and aromatic, with hints of toffee, toasted almonds, vanilla, herbs, and heather.  Taste-wise, Valknut is sweet, herbal, and a touch spicy.  A small wave of vanilla pod develops into cloves and spice, which becomes a bit dry and slightly leathery.  A nice smokiness becomes a bit bolder, especially towards the long finish.  In fact, those spice and heather notes ramp us as well.

I like it, but tend to prefer Highland Park Valkyrie.  I think that expression is a bit more sherry cask-driven and balanced than Valknut.  It simply has more going on.  The nose is fantastic, but it falls a bit short on the palate compared to Valkyrie.  That said, Valknut is a great choice for those looking for an aromatic and spicy whisky. 7.5/10

highlandparkwhisky.com

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

Review: Laphroaig 28-Year-Old

Ultra-aged expressions of Laphroaig can be some mighty fine whisky.  For 2018, the distillery has released a 28-year-old expression.  The whiskies that make up this expression have matured in different sized casks, from quarter casks to butts.  For the last year, they’ve been married together in sherry casks. Peated whisky in sherry casks? I’m sold.

Bottled at 44.4% ABV, Laphroaig 28-year-old has a fantastically interesting nose with hints of toffee, dried herbs, tropical fruit, anise, and cloves.  On the palate, fresh fruit juice and stewed pears are matched with toasted cedar staves, peppercorns, brine and grilled mushrooms.  The finish is long with sweet peat, grilled tropical fruit, and spice.

The Islay-based distillery has done it again. It’s released a carefully matured whisky showcasing some of its best qualities. This expensive ($799) bottle is a treasure trove of classic Laphroaig aromas and flavors delivered in droves. The tropical fruit and spice notes are prominent, as the famous medicinal-like notes come across in a more laid back fashion. Delicious. Yes. Expensive? Definitely. Worth it? If you can afford it. 9/10

www.laphroaig.com

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