June is a significant month in many ways – the year is half over, weddings abound, winter is clearly in hindsight for us Northeasterners; and for me especially it is time to visit the dentist and have a whisky tasting. Yup. OK, so it is actually the end of July and I am behind in posting this blog. Another casualty of summer distractions.
Dr. Paul and I have been scheduling my appointment at the end of the day for about seven years now. Doesn’t everyone drink with their dentist at the end of their appointment?
Over the years with Dr. Paul I have expounded my everlasting love for Lagavulin 16 YO, but for some odd reason we have never shared a dram. With that in mind I brought three different Lagavulin expressions to taste. The intent was to bring the full Lagavulin experience to him. As I was packing the bottles, I realized that I have NEVER tasted three Lagavulins together. This ramped up my interest.
Dr. Paul brought a few familiar bottles, just in case – Highland Park 18 YO, Hakushu 12 YO, and the Irish Glendalough. The Hakushu was the only one I secretly thought worth sampling along with the Lagavulins. My peat and smoke preference was rearing its spoiled head.
The Lagavulins were cracked and the first pour, the 200th Anniversary 8 YO, was offered…in dentistry rinsing cups no less…one must make the best of available “glassware”. My plan was to say nothing and let Dr. Paul give his opinion without any slant from me. He said there was a sweetness and no burn and that he didn’t get a lot of peat until the finish. He commented that he would drink this one straight up.
I mentioned that this time I was going to take a few notes when he commented on each whisky. He jumped up to rinse his mouth, which he never did during our tastings before, because he said he wanted to give a clean opinion of each whisky.
The 16 YO was next. Besides noting the deeper color, his expression completely changed after the first sip. I knew he was hooked. He immediately said it was smoother, with some caramel and rounded out edges. He went on, “You want to sip this to get the after taste where the smoke adds to the taste. The 16 is proportioned better than the 8. I definitely like this. I’ll buy it.” He quickly copied down the name and year. His perfect scenario was to buy a bottle and enjoy it while sitting in his library with a good book.
The third taste was the 1991/2007 Distillers Edition double matured Lagavulin. Richer in color still, due to the maturation in Pedro Ximenez casks, Dr. Paul only found a subtle difference in this whisky compared to the 16 YO. He remarked that it didn’t overpower and he admitted that five years ago he wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the nuances of any of the three expressions. I felt a tingle of pride knowing I had a hand in bringing him not only over to the Islay side but to an awareness of tasting and appreciating the differences in whiskies in general.
The Hakushu 12 YO was poured to see how it stood up to the Lagavulins. It didn’t stand out but it managed to stand alongside them. That surprised me. Some of the delicate smoke of the Hakushu was lost but it still presented itself overall well. (More on the Hakushu on my upcoming blog about six Japanese whiskies poured for a local fundraiser.)
While we were finishing the Hakushu, Tommy, I assume a patient, came in and handed some cash to Dr. Paul. Tommy joked that it was his bookie money. We offered him a “glass”. Tommy first read all the labels, stated that he was a Jameson guy, and went right for the Glendalough, poured and drank it right down with a big thanks to follow. Then off he went. Not quite our usual ending of the tasting day.
I came away thinking the Lagavulin 8 YO a disappointment after the 16 YO and the Distillers Edition. Actually, how could this have been a 200th Anniversary special bottling? It is drinkable, but lacking and not up to Lagavulin standards.
The 16 YO shines brightly for me again and again. My comfortable shoes, the sunset over the ocean, all the warm and fuzzy things in life – constant and consistent. The Distillers Edition provides a campfire smoke that sets it apart from the 16, not better, not lacking, simply well worth a good pour.
I raise a glass to quiet moments sharing a few special drams…even if it is with a dentist. See you in December Dr. Paul!