by Steven Doyle
Laphroaig Brand Ambassador Simon Brooking is known for his charming toasts and his vast knowledge in the ways of whiskey. Clad in his kilt set with the tartan reflecting his Robertson Clan roots dating back to the 13th Century and the Celtic Earls of Atholl, Brooking spoke wistfully of his whiskey, while eyeing his dram with much alarm.
It was a languid luncheon that consisted of this amazing peaty scotch that has been an absolute favorite of mine for many years. But the first sip all those years ago wasn’t what I had expected. The peat, or smokiness infused into the scotch can be a bit of a surprise and a shock to the taste buds. But allowing the spirit to mellow on the tongue it takes on this bright and jovial finish.
When the staff at Trinity Hall poured the various drams of Laphroaig we had ordered, they implemented an aerator, something I had not seen used prior to this visit. It is generally known that most spirits can be improved with a little oxygenation; this is why you might swirl your scotch just a bit before sipping. The result is a smoother finish that mellows through the process.
Another tip Brooking passed along is more of an observation. Our Ambassador noted that when pouring the scotch into a glass it will form micro bubbles at the top of the spirit. The longer the bubbles last, the higher the alcohol content.
Laphroaig is a single malt known for the peatiness that is characteristic of an Islay spirit. The 18-year we sampled had a slight saline flavor along with a definite toffee pungency. Much of the smokiness found in the 10-year bottle is siphoned off by the casks they are aged in after the addition of 8 more years. The alcohol content is just a notch under 100 proof, but each batch varies ever so slightly. Scotch is an art form, not a science.
As the afternoon progressed we sat back and grinned with each sip of the drams, and then Brooking smiled and offered this toast:Willie brews a damn fine scotch, and Rob and Al came to taste it. Once uncorked, the friends confessed that not a drop will be wasted. Oh, we’re not drunk. We’re not that drunk. Just a little tipsy. The day may dawn, work may call, but we’ll still drink our whisky.