Balvenie Tun 1401 Deconstruction

Posted on Monday, Sep 2, 2013 at 07:43 PM

Bottle of Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch no. 6

Balvenie has been killing it lately with their "Tun 1401" releases. These are special (and delicious) combinations of casks dating as far back as the 1960s, vatted together in the aforementioned tun. If you've missed out, well… you've missed out!

If you're a fan of any of the Tun 1401 bottlings, you can't help but wonder, "What does each individual cask in here taste like?" Why "waste" them in a vatting like this?

To answer that question, LAWS sat down with Balvenie ambassador Lorne Cousin -- and cask samples of six constituent single malts in Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 6. Tasting notes and ratings on each cask would be somewhat pointless, since you can't go out and buy them anyway (or even really taste them), but here's the scoop:

Lorne Cousin, Balvenie brand ambassador, ladykiller pose in front of Balvenie Distillery.
The whole is better than the sum of its parts. It really is, and there was unanimous agreement on that. 

All of the single casks were interesting -- some were really fantastic -- while an under-proof one was pretty hard to love -- but none were as purely enjoyable as the vatted result. It really goes to show just how impressive David Stewart's skills are (Balvenie's master blender). We were thoroughly impressed.

What a great meeting! Great whiskeys and a great education. Thanks Lorne!

PLOWED Vertical

Posted on Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 10:48 PM

Sometime in the mid-90s, as something called the "world wide web" was starting to gain in popularity, a group of people from across the U.S. found each other through a common interest in single malt whisky. They used that magic new communication tool to share all they knew -- what malts they were drinking, what the hidden gems were, what history they knew about them. Remember, this was at a time when whisky databases, discussion forums, and countless blogs were still many years away. There were scant books and few easily accessible resources.

That group named itself PLOWED. Some say that's for "People Lucid Only While Enjoying Drams." You may never have heard of them because they've always kept themselves fairly secret and mysterious. Their only web presence is remnants of an old website (which you can find if you search hard enough), but the group still thrives. Entrance is by invite only.

One of the key PLOWED founders has had some health problems of late. Known publicly only as "S'tan," he's been a patient, kind, and generous mentor to many of us in LAWS. S'tan epitomizes what we feel is the true spirit of whiskey: being always ready to share, and happy to do so. 

In that spirit, PLOWED members pitched in and donated an incredible lineup of whiskies to LAWS. With those, we hosted a benefit tasting to help a father figure of today's whiskey community.

PLOWED has done six bottlings of their own cask selections. Some of these were back in the day when, believe it or not, you could get a 1972 Ardbeg or Brora bottled by Douglas Laing at a reasonable price. (It was actually partly because of PLOWED that the Laings started to realize they were sitting on a hell of a lot of great single malts). Some of those bottles have become legendary. Few even realize that the first issue was a Springbank bottled back in 1999.

So, for what is only the second time in history, all of the official PLOWED bottlings were assembled -- full and unopened -- into a single vertical tasting. We were joined by PLOWED veteran Dr. Free Energy, another driving force behind the group, who led us through each bottle and regaled us with stories of PLOWED adventures.
Though every bottle is from a different distillery, a clear theme became apparent: PLOWED bottlings are representative of the distillery's key characteristics, but also have an added "extra" factor that makes them unusual and special. That, and peat! Though some not nearly as much as others.

As if that weren't a ridiculous enough lineup, there was one more bottle to finish it all off: a Port Charlotte "Bloodtub" bottled for PLOWED member Alan Robinson. This is known for scoring a massive 94 points on WhiskyFun. With a grand total of only 24 bottles, we were thrilled by Alan's generosity to donate one for the tasting.

The favorite of the night was the Brorageddon, followed closely by Ardbeggeddon. However, opinions were quite varied. Some placed the Springbank as their favorite, while there was broad disagreement (healthy disagreement!) about the Port Ellen. The thing is, it was mere hairs of degrees that separated some of these… to pick favorites, it was a matter of choosing one "A" over others.

Huge thanks to all the PLOWED members who helped out! What an amazing lineup this was. Drink Whisky!

Bonhams Responds to "Conspiracy" Accusations

Posted on Monday, Mar 25, 2013 at 07:31 PM

Parody of Bonhams Auctioneers Logo reading


You may know that this website has been exposing the mistakes and blunders in Bonhams New York Whisky Auction. It started with a little ruckus last June that forced them to rescind a bottle and delete it from their website.


The latest Whisky Advocate magazine contains an article that seems to defend the auctioneer. We can't reprint it here (we do very much advise subscribing to the magazine though), but here's our fact-checking review of the Whisky Advocate article and Bonhams' responses in it.


If you don't see something wrong at these auctions, you're high on "Circa 1886" crack.

Lagavulin Vertical

Posted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2013 at 03:40 PM

Lineup of 30, 25, 21 old, 21 new, 16 White Horse, Feis Ile, and others 
One well-known Alsatian whisky blogger recently pointed out that comparing the new Lagavulin 21 "...with the older 21 is any whisky blogger's favorite sport these days." Count us in! We'd been waiting to get our hands on the new 21, and when we did it was finally time for our long-anticipated Lagavulin Vertical.
Lagavulin whisky being poured into LA Whiskey Society Glencairns
For a baseline, we started with a "White Horse" 16yo that dates to around 1990. We compared that to a 2012 16yo, and the general consensus was that the circa 1990 is more enjoyable, with a "dirtier" or "earthier" quality than the current version, which is sharper with a more peppery bite. (We did consider that 20+ years in glass might have mellowed out the White Horse a bit).
Then we went in reverse, from the 30 on down, figuring that we should hit the bottlings with subtler flavors (well, for Lagavulin) first. So the lineup in order was:
the royal seal on bottle of 1990s White Horse Lagavulin
...and we also tasted through various other 12's, 16's, DE's, and a 2010 Distillery Only.
The winner of the meeting was definitely the 2007 21yo, with it's "perverse complexity" standing head and shoulders above all others, including the current 21yo. And, the 25yo was unanimously preferred by all 15 tasters to the 30yo.
Lagavulin as seen from across bay

Bourbon Awesomeness

Posted on Saturday, Nov 10, 2012 at 10:59 AM

Rare bourbons dating from the 1940s through 2012
One of the reasons that LAWS is awesome is because we're awesome.

With that tautology proudly in mind, combined with our recent mockery of some massively misrepresented "circa 1950's" bourbons, we set off to taste some real bourbons from that era.
Bourbon bottle distilled 1948, bottled 1956
However, when we dug into our bourbon archives to create the meeting, we couldn't ignore the newly-arrived Jefferson's Ocean Aged, just begging to be opened. We don't do a lot of bourbon meetings -- so into the lineup it went. And then we just ditched the 1950s thematic and picked the dusties we most wanted to taste.
How did they fare? Reviews and ratings will appear as members motivate. 
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