-> 2008 -> Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Whisky Masterclass

Thursday, 06/Nov/2008

Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Whisky Masterclass

Picture of Armin Grewe standing in the venue for the Laphroaig Masterclass

Yesterday afternoon I took a train, no, not to Islay, but to London. As mentioned a month ago I was invited to a Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Whisky Masterclass with Robert Hicks. My guest was Ralf The Cartoonist Zeigermann, another blogger. He writes about weird and wonderful things and not surprisingly draws cartoons. We met at Piccadilly Circus to walk the short distance to Pall Mall and the Institute of Directors at 116 Pall Mall.

On arrival in The Nash we were welcomed with some canapés and soft drinks while we were waiting for others to arrive. Once all participants had arrived the main event began with Laphroaig's Master Blender Robert Hicks:

Robert presented an overview about the definition and history of whisky, including an overview of the regions. Next an overview of the history of Laphroaig, the Johnston brothers, Ian Hunter and Bessie Williamson. From an introduction to the whisky distilling process (incl samples of malted barley and peat) Robert moved on to the main part of the evening: 5 different expressions of Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Whisky.

Picture of 6 glasses of whisky on a mat for whisky tasting

Well, kind of 6, at least there were 6 glasses. The first one we didn't really taste though, as it was fresh spirit. However, we did nose it and we could identify some of the typical characteristics like the peat and iodine.

The Laphroaig 10 years old was the first real whisky we tasted. First the nosing, then the tasting. But before we came to the tasting Robert taught us how he likes to taste whisky: Instead of adding water to the whisky add whisky to the water. How and why? If you taste a number of whiskies your taste buds will go numb fairly quickly. So he recommends to take some water into your mouth, let it warm up and then have a sip of the whisky. That ‘cushions’ the alcohol. We found that really opened up the whisky and its flavours. On the Laphroaig 10 years old the strong peaty smoke combined with a sweetness.

Next was the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. After giving us some background how it was developed (and how he had to defend it against the accountants and marketing people as it has no age statement) we moved on to nosing and tasting. Obviously there was the peaty smoke again (although less strong) followed by more of a creamy sweetness. Still one of my favourites, I think also one of Ralf's.

Back to the 10 years old, but this time the cask strength version. Heavy stuff, when we nosed it at cask strength as well as after adding water. Really quite a difference. Tasting it I really noticed the sea salt as well as some kind of peaty earthiness.

Picture of Robert Hicks presenting the Laphroaig Masterclass

The next two were ‘unfinished’ and very rare expressions: First an 18 years old. Comparably sweet, the word marzipan was mentioned. The peat was still there, but it was mellower. Last but not least (by far) a 25 years old Laphroaig at cask strength. This was the first one where Robert didn't suggest the ‘whisky into the water’ method, instead we tasted this neat. Mellow peat, iodine, sweetness, fruitiness were some of the terms coming to mind. Unfortunately not one I'll be able to afford at £250 (if I remember correctly, or was it £500?) per bottle. Still a bargain compared to other similar aged whiskies probably. But with very limited availability probably very difficult to get.

The evening closed with a ‘heads up’ of a 30 years old Laphroaig for the 200 year jubilee in 2015, he has earmarked a few casks for that one. Some further one to one chats over a few drams completed a great evening.

Oh, and he answered my question about which chocolate he thinks goes best with whisky: Dark chocolate, at 60-70% cocoa solids. Take a bit and let it start melting in your mouth. Add the whisky and enjoy the flavours complementing each other. Sounds perfect to me (you have one guess what I did while writing this...)

Many thanks Robert and Laphroaig!

PS: Ralf says Sláinte!

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