Sampling peaty malts

Last week I tasted single malt scotch for the first time (Cragganmore from Speyside) and fell in love. So this week, on my birthday, I had saved up my nickels and dimes and was ready to do some tasting at the Duke of Perth, a scotch bar on the North Side.

bottlesI wanted to explore the peaty scotches, and explore them I did.  In order, they were Talisker from Skye, Caol Ila from Isley, and Laphroaig from Isley.  The Talisker was a great one to start off with, having the most distinctive peatiness. The Caol Ila was more subtle, and by the time I got to the Laphroaig, I was struggling to taste the peatiness–it was different in some way, although it’s definitely there. The Laphroaig I saved for last, and when no one was looking, swirled a couple of ice cubes from the water chaser around in the glass to make sure I had gotten every drop.

For the second course, I wanted to just sip something. I asked the bartender about Ardbeg, and he said it would be similar to the Caol Ila.  The Caol Ila would be considered more “peaty” while the Talisker is more “smoky”.

I ended up having Aberlouer, aged in a cask previously used for aging sherry.  I have to say the Aberlouer was perfect in the way that a man you are not in love with is perfect.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with this scotch.  In time, one could possibly get to know it better and spend some enjoyable hours with it. The only problem is, no spark.  What can I say.  Cragganmore was my first love and is still my true love.

cragganmore(Did you know there was a “whiskey architect”, Charles Doig, who rebuilt the Cragganmore distillery?)

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3 Responses to “Sampling peaty malts”

  1. jamessal Says:

    Congrats on your new love! (And happy belated!)

    Talisker is an old favorite of mine; really, the perfect amount of peat and smoke. I must say, though, I’m surprised to hear you had trouble tasting the peat in Laphroiag! That’s supposed to be the king peat (along with Lagavulin, which I prefer). Then again, if you just started drinking scotch, I don’t see how you could distinguish anything from anything after the just the Talisker, let alone the Caol Ila. You’ve still got the whole other scotch spectrum to experiment with: the fruity, sweeter malts, like Macallan and Balvenie. I like the peaty stuff myself (Robin the sweet).

    Looking forward to hear what you try next!

  2. jamessal Says:

    Almost forgot: I also wouldn’t turn my nose up at good blends. Johnnie Walker is boring, but Compass Box are my favorite whiskey makers, hands down. Their Flaming Heart blend is a lot like Talisker — same level of peat and smoke — except it explodes with spices, and more heat (higher alcohol content — near 49%!).

  3. Nijma Says:

    I just realized I was “sampling” the scotches–trying to understand how to categorize them–rather than “tasting” them for enjoyment, as I did when I had the after-dinner Cragganmore. The Cragganmore was just the final touch to a perfect New England seafood dinner with a very tight two-guy rock group playing “Rocky Raccoon” in the background.

    Of the four birthday scotches, the Laphroiag was the definite favorite, being both peaty and subtle. But I had quite a bad headache the next morning, while with the Cragganmore, I didn’t wake up with any headache at all, in spite of having had wine with the meal too.

    I shall save more nickels and dimes for the next foray–the spiced single malts sound intriguing–but later, much later, since we all got the letters saying we might not have jobs in July.


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