Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Vegas, Part 2!! Review Lagavulin 21-Year and Parker's Heritage Collection #4 Wheater!!!

Ok, as you faithful readers know, last week left us with a little fear and a lot of loathing for Las Vegas.  We'd ventured out into the whiskey universe and come up empty.  Like Pappy without his cigar.  After that we wondered around The Strip aimless.

And of course we wandered into the casino.  It was bound to happen.  But don't you know it, karma being the righteous soldier that she is, our fortunes turned.  Twenty-five dollars were converted into chips. Knowing slightly less than nothing about gambling, I put it all on black.  Roulette win!  Now it's $50.

One hand of blackjack.  Get a ten and a five.  Shit!  Gotta hit.  A two.  Double shit.  Stick.  It's a push. Next deal: king and an eight!  Dealer gets an ace.  Triple shit!  But wait, the next card is a four! That's a soft fifteen.  Dealer hits.  Next card is a ten.  That's a hard fifteen.  Dealer must hit.  My $50 burns a hole in the table a foot deep.  Next card: A TEN!!  Dealer busts.  Fifty bucks just became a hundred.

Next stop: craps.  Going with the groove, put it all on the line.  First role is an 8.  We're still in it. Next role: a five.  Third role: AN EIGHT!  Two hundred bucks!

And you know what we do next?  We f'ckin leave!  Because that's the only smart thing to do.  We take our $200 and leave and we go to the bar at the hotel, figuring that even though the drive to the whiskey tasting was a bust, now we've got two hundred bucks to drop on twenty shots of Jameson or whatever standard stuff they've got at the bar.

We scan the horizon and it's like a plethora of good whiskey. Plenty of high-end scotch and bourbon. We're getting excited. But then, upon closer review, one bottle shines out like the halo on an angel.  Could it be?  After all these years?  Hiding right here in our hotel???


Lagavulin 21-Year

When this bottle came out, in 2012, we thought it would be crazy to spend around $500 on a bottle of scotch.  We quickly came to regret it, not only because they now sell for almost double that, but because we're such Lagavulin nuts and we never got to taste it!  Well with $200 of gambling winnings in my pocket and this bad boy marked at $75/glass it was a no-brainer.  Would it measure up to my hopes and dreams?

In a word, YES!  This is everything we love about Lagavulin amped up to the tenth degree!!

Breaking it down: 

Lagavulin 16 Year is the best of the standard Lagavulin line because the age reduces the sharpness and the peat comes through all warm and lovely.

Lagavulin Distiller's Edition is a nice variation with the extra emphasis on sherry barreling.  The sweetness comes through which mingles wonderfully with the peat.  Ultimately we still prefer the 16, but the DE is a nice change of pace and a frequent drink for us, especially around the holidays.

Lagavulin 12 is the most powerful/peaty/flavorful of the standard bottles, mostly because it comes in cask strength.  It's a ballsy dram for sure, not for rookies, and you have to be in the mood for a fireball of peat.

Lagavulin 21 though, good God, it captures all the big bold flavor of the 12 (coming in at a perfect 52%) adding the sherry goodness of the DE (21 is pure sherry cask), and the maturity and warmth of the 16.  Actually those extra five years really make a difference, taking the complexity and maturity (think saddle leather, pipe tobacco, and vanilla) up to a whole 'nother level!  It really may be the best malt I've ever tasted.

Ok now we're having fun.  So what else does this hotel bar have in store?  Well we browse for a while and happen to see another gem that's been on our wishlist for some time.  We ask the bartender to put it next to the Lagavulin just for sh*ts & g*ggles.


Parker's Heritage Collection (#4 Wheated Bourbon)

We should really line up all the Parker's one day and do a massive PHC marathon.  So far the #7 "Promise of Hope" was a strong release last year.  The previous year's #6 "Blend of Mashbills" was even better (hint - keep these up at cask strength!!).  We got two opportunities to taste the #2 - 27 Year Bourbon and it was one of the finest American whiskies we'd ever tasted.  Big, deep, incredibly complex, and very woody but not over-oaked in our opinion.  A true gem.  But up to this point the #4 release from Heaven Hill's yearly limited edition lineup had eluded our taste buds.  Well Viva Las Vegas!  There it was sitting in the bar in our hotel just waiting.  And at not a bad sticker price of $30.  (So far we've only spent half our winnings, so the rest went towards a massive rib steak!).

Of course Pappy Van Winkle is the mother of wheated mashbill bourbon.  For a quick explanation, bourbon has to be at least 51% corn.  From there, distillers will add rye, malted barley, and/or wheat to complete the recipe.  "High corn" mashbills typically have 60% or 75% corn, and the rest rye.  "High rye" mashbills have 51% corn and 35+% rye.  "Wheated boubon" uses wheat as the second ingredient.  Pappy Van Winkle, William Larue Weller, and certain bottles of Willett are all highly sought after wheated bourbons.  The wheat gives it a dry and almost hoppy character with a lot of crack and richness.  Once you start drinking wheated bourbon, you tend to dream about it the next day.

The Parker's is no exception.  It's a delicious, big, sweet spicy and complex flavor that's 1,000% drinkable at cask strength right out of the bottle (well ok in a glass).  This is a total winner.  Lovely crisp short finish where all the wood and spice, sweetness and spirit warmth wrap you up in a flood of classic american whiskey bliss.  Definitely give it a go if you have the chance, a wonderful experience!

Cheers/SB