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!

Glenmorangie Virtual Tasting with Global Master Brand Ambassador David Blackmore

I recently had a chance to host Glenmorangie’s David Blackmore for a virtual tasting of the distillery’s Original, 18-Year-Old, and Bacalta expressions.  In addition to tasting some wonderful whiskies, we discussed Glenmorangie’s wood management, secondary maturation and more.  Enjoy!

Please excuse the echo in the beginning of the video.  It corrects itself a couple of minutes in.

Rediscovering Lagavulin


I’m a lucky guy.  One of the bedrooms in my house holds most of my whisky collection.  I can’t mention that without thanking my lovely wife for putting up with my whisky blog shenanigans.  It’s a rather small collection compared to that of a lot of whisky fans/collectors, but larger than the average person has in his/her house.  Currently the count is just north of 220 full bottles (and countless smaller sample bottles).  When we have people over at the house for the first time, they ask to see the “whisky room.”  Most have the same “whoa” moment when they walk in.  Non-whisky folks always ask which is my favorite.  My answer is always the same.  “Picking a favorite whisky is like picking a favorite child.” Mind you, I don’t have kids, and everybody generally accepts my non-answer answer.

But the question does make me think about which whiskies I’d pack in the event of a fire or hurricane evacuation.  While I do have my favorites, Lagavulin never seems to make the cut.  I’ve tried both the standard 16-year-old and annual 12-year-old expressions, and loved them.  A lot.  So why do I seem to forget about Lagavulin?  Maybe I haven’t spent enough time with the brand, only having a single pour of each of the previously mentioned expressions.  After I post a whisky review, I tend to quickly move onto the next whisky.  Not that I’m complaining.  I do have the great pleasure of tasting a lot of whiskies.  Whatever the reason, I needed to put Lagavulin back on my radar.  I wanted to reconnect, and at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, I did so in a most unforgettable way.



History in a glass: these are the seven Lagavulin samples we tried that day.

Led by Diageo Master of Whisky Ewan Morgan, Diageo Head of Whisky Outreach Dr. Nick Morgan and incomparable whisky writer Dave Broom, the “Ultimate Lagavulin Seminar” was both a crash course in the history of the distillery and a tasting of rare expressions of Lagavulin.  And rare they were.  We’ll get to that in a bit.

Postcard courtesy of Diageo and Dr. Nick Morgan

An old photo of Lagavulin distillery.  Postcard courtesy of Diageo

This year is the 200th anniversary of the Lagavulin distillery.  We know there were several illegal distilleries on Islay around for a couple of hundred years before that.  1816 is the date the Lagavulin distillery was registered legally, hence the bicentennial celebrations this year.  

The distillery was founded by John Johnston, but it was Mackie family who really positioned the distillery for the future.  In 1850, James Logan Mackie became partner and eventually came to own the distillery under his company “James Logan Mackie & Co.”  His nephew Peter Mackie, joined the family business and under his leadership the distillery grew by leaps and bounds.  Lagavulin still honors Mackie’s legacy to this day.  Look closely at the label on a bottle of Lagavulin and find “Mackie and Sons” signature.

During the course of the seminar, we tasted seven whiskies, some very rare.  Here’s the breakdown along with some brief notes:

  1. 1948 White Horse blended whisky.  It was a standard blend of the day, and contained a bit of whisky from Malt Mill, a famous lost Islay distillery.  The whisky itself was pretty rich, with tropical fruit, burnt toffee and some slight minerality & a whisp of smoke.  There was slight spice on the finish.  Now this is how you start a tasting!
  2. 2016 Lagavulin 18-year-old Feis Ile (49.5% abv).  This expression matured in refill American oak casks and European casks.  I found grilled pineapple and toffee on the nose, along with a touch of smoke.  The palate carried light smoke and vanilla, along with some herbalness.  Pretty vibrant for an 18 year old whisky.
  3. Lagavulin 8-year-old (57.5% cask strength). Heavier smoke compared to the older expressions, as expected. The nose carried aromas of hay, slightly caramelized fruit and lemon zest.  Taste-wise, I found spice, lemon zest, salted toffee, sweet malt and a touch of ashy smoke.
  4. Lagavulin new make (63% abv).  Malty, smoky and hot!  Fruity, floral and smoky best describe this unaged whisky.
  5. Lagavulin 12-year-old (circa 1970s, 43% abv). Smoked mango, light toffee and a vegetal note.  It carried flavors of sweet tropical fruit, tame peat smoke, and vanilla.  Water brought out more smokiness.
  6. Lagavulin 1995 cask 3326 (45.2%). This one aged in an ex-bourbon cask and had lots of caramel and vanilla, as well as tropical fruit on the nose.  Those notes carried over to the palate alongside toasted grain and soft smoke.  In this case, water brought out more tropical fruit notes.
  7. 1976 Lagavulin 37-year-old (51% abv).  Wow.  Dark fruit, soft smoke, brown sugar on the nose.  The palate closely followed the nose, adding carmelized tropical fruit.

Seems I’ve died and gone to Lagavulin heaven.  If I had to pick a favorite, it would be between the Lag 12 from the 1970s or the 18-year-old Feis Ile release.  That 37-year-old wasn’t too shabby either.  See, I can’t pick just one.

Ewan Morgan went on to cover the production process at the Lagavulin distillery, but I was too enchanted by the drams in front of me to pay too much attention to that part.  Sorry Ewan.  Between that, the history lesson and the tasting, I get why they called this the Ultimate Lagavulin seminar.  Besides visiting the distillery, I couldn’t think of a better way to reinvigorate my Lagavulin love.

Later this week, I’m reviewing the new 8-year-old Lagavulin, and comparing it to the 12- and 16-year-old expressions.  In addition, I’ll share some information Dr. Nick Morgan provided regarding this year’s 200th anniversary releases.

Thanks to Ewan and Lia for letting me sneak into this unforgettable seminar.