Six from the Vault

Posted on Saturday, Mar 31, 2012 at 10:28 PM

Parody of Grateful Dead CD cover art

After a string of highly thematic meetings, it was time for us to just kick back, relax, and open some interesting single malts. So that's what we did for this month's tasting meeting.


The lineup was:


Dallas Dhu 1975 Signatory, Cask no. 1899, 33 Years Old


Strathisla 1963 Gordon & MacPhail, "Book of Kells" for Limburg, 48 Years Old


Glenrothes 1970 The Whisky Agency, 39 Years Old


Highland Park 1978 The Bottlers, 21 Years Old


Glendronach 1972 Cask no. 711, for Kensington Wine Market, 39 Years Old


Port Ellen 1977 Old Malt Cask, 23 Years Old


Yep, it was that simple. Well, actually it wasn't, because the usual debating and obsessing ensued. But for a LAWS meeting it was pretty laid back and relaxing. Along that line, that's about all that'll be written here. Drink Whisky!


(As usual, whisky ratings and reviews will appear as members motivate). 

Glen Elgin Meeting

Posted on Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012 at 09:37 PM

Glen Elgin distillery and bottling

In 2006, ten friends gathered in a private bar to discuss the formation of "A gentlemen's club/society/group dedicated to the drinking of fine whiskies." From that dignified (cough) evening, LAWS was born -- and we also found our first A-range whisky, a 16-year Glen Elgin by The Bottlers that AS had picked up in London.
Heavily sherried whisky from independent bottlers The BottlersEver since that first meeting, we've wanted to explore Glen Elgin in greater depth. It's just one of those distilleries that you don't come across much, mainly because most of their whisky goes into the White Horse blend. 

We tasted through nine different Glen Elgins, specifically choosing some unusual expressions. The lineup was:

Then, we compared three 19-year-olds, each bottled exactly a decade apart.
Glen Elgin Centenary

Followed by three 16-year-olds:

And finally, we sampled the 2009 official release "The Manager's Choice," from the Diageo series that was met with ridicule upon release for its sky-high pricing and low age statements. Well, this was quite well enjoyed, but nobody seemed to think it should cost remotely close to $300+.

How Not To Email The LA Whiskey Society

Posted on Saturday, Jan 14, 2012 at 10:14 PM

Computer and whisky glass

We're not having an official meeting this month due to other whisky activities taking precedence. So I (Adam) thought I'd post something that's been on my mind. It is simply, this:

Who are you people that don't know how to send a proper email?

We receive a lot of nice emails at LAWS -- most are seeking whisky advice of some sort, many seek membership, a few just give us a nice pat on the back, and some are… uh… well, what would you do if you received the following?

From: [withheld]
Subject: funeral whiskey
I am looking for the absolute cheapest per ml./oz. whiskey, be it straight, blended, etc. Regardless of quality. I am an apprentice mortician in [locale withheld] and would like to offer complementary drinks in my business to family members of the deceased.

I'm not kidding. That was a real email. No, he wasn't joking.

From: [withheld]
Subject: Membership---
I am acquiring regarding your membership, please let me know how I can be part of the Team. Thank you

Okay, so that's just your basic, poorly-written email. But it's a terrible attempt at a first impression (and last). We get way too many emails like that. Is it because half of our readers are drunk? I don't think so. Even if I'm sipping a malt at my computer, I can still compose a coherent sentence (example: this one). Plus, there's a ton of info on our site about us, including hints on how to join. Nothing indicates that the following will be impressive:

From: [withheld]
Subject: "Member"-ship
Gentlemen, I would like to join your club.  Seriously.  As I sit here in my underwear, sipping (chugging) Taiwanese beer at 11:30 in the am --

That's as far as I read, but it went on for three paragraphs. Conversely, here's the entire email of another memberhsip-seeker:

From: [withheld]
Subject: Membership
I want to feel more important than I am...holding a tulip glass with my favorite single malt makes me powerful. 

I'd hate to see that guy's job application.

So from now on, when you send a stupid email, you will get an appropriate answer. First up, we have Mr. Cohen! He writes:

From: [withheld]
Subject: Hello
Interested in more info please. Thank you.
From: Adam at LAWS
Subject: Re: Hello 
Greetings Mr. Cohen, here is more info. Wombats are Australian marsupials; they are short-legged, muscular quadrupeds, approximately 1 metre (39 in) in length with a short, stubby tail.
Keep the good emails coming. As for the rest, I don't think I can do anything to deter them anyway.

Have a Very Sherry Christmas!

Posted on Sunday, Dec 11, 2011 at 10:29 PM

Ho ho ho! It's that time of year again, when we throw together a bunch of delicious-looking sherried malts, drink them, and then sit haughtily in judgment over them.

Well, maybe not quite -- only a couple of the guys qualify as haughty. The rest are... naughty? Wait, that didn't sound right...

Anyhow, we blind tasted eight sherried malts, beginning with a Whisky Agency Private Stock Bunnahabhain 1965. At a cask strength of 40.5%, I (Adam) put it at the beginning up the lineup, but this 43-year-old still didn't perform the way I expected it to. It's well-reviewed in other whisky circles, but ours didn't seem to take to it as strongly. Opinions were that it's a generally good and drinkable malt, but not exceptional. Though it's fair to say any of us would be thrilled to find it at your Christmas party.

We then moved on to a long-gone Springbank 25 (gold foil and gold wax seal), which most (but not all) found quite underwhelming. Of course, upon reveal, everyone re-sampled it to see what they had "missed;" but alas, it just didn't measure up to expectations. That's why I love blind tastings… if this had been tasted openly, it's almost certain that some would be tempted to compliment the "Subtle elegance," or "Gently nuanced complexity," or any other terms that are not-so-distant cousins of "Doesn't taste like much." 

[Note from Chris:  This is Adam's perception of how this bottle was received.   I saw several B+ and A- ratings at my end of the table and comments that it was definitely better than the first bottle.  So maybe there is a subtle elegance and nuanced complexity, but him and the others at the kiddie table weren't able to appreciate it.  To be settled in the Thunderdome.]
[Adam adds: Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves!] 

Single Malt Scotch bottle with blind tasting bottles behind it.
Next up was a 30-year-old Glenugie from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (of America). Many found this one strangely likeable, with some odd, intangible qualities -- perhaps rightly so, as the SMWS's own title for it is "Medieval Banquet," described as "weirdly complex." If you're an SMWS member, this is one to get.

Picture of bottle, darkly sherried whisky.
The first big hit of the meeting came next, with an Old Malt Cask 32-year-old Glennallachie. This 1972 sherry monster packs all the delicious flavors you'd expect, and a few you wouldn't. I'd recommend snapping some up while it's still available, if you can.

1974 Inchgower from our friends at The Whisky Fair followed and met with mixed reviews. Farmy notes turned some off, though others really liked them (myself included). As with the Glenugie, this one had some unusual characteristics, which can make this somewhat of a "love it or hate it" whisky. Let's see what the guys' official notes say as they post them.

Another massive sherry bomb detonated with a 1965 Douglas Laing Platinum from "Speyside's Finest Distillery," aka Glenfarclas. We loved this, and it was exactly as you'd expect -- a classic, heavily sherried Speysider. At $350 pre-VAT it's a very expensive one, but if you're looking for a very high priced whisky gift, this is a great candidate. Too bad it's not in the US.

We finished up with a Benriach 1976 34yo OB and another DL Platinum Selection, a 20yo Tamdhu. Both were very much enjoyed, but with the way these writeups go, I'm burnt out on blurbing. Besides, who reads this far anyway?
If you do, then Happy Holidays!

Charbay and Marko Karakasevic

Posted on Saturday, Nov 19, 2011 at 04:32 PM

Charbay logo

If you keep up with LAWS, you may know that we have an obsession with Charbay whiskey. We chase down bottles of Double Barrel Release One as if they cost a fraction of the $340 they usually retail for.

As a quick refresher, we're talking about the original 1999 distillate, which was made from bottle-ready pilsner beer from Sonoma Mountain Brewery (closed 1999).

Nearly everyone points out the high price tag. After all, that first release is only 2 year old whiskey, and typical American booze that age sells for, uh, maybe 10 bucks.

bottle picture
But this isn't typical American booze. Think about it this way: last time we opened a Release One, alongside it we also opened an Ardbeg ProvenanceSpringbank 21, and a fantastic Glendronach cask

The first bottle killed was the Charbay.

So on pure enjoyment alone, one could argue you're paying a fair value.

Anyhow, that first release is long gone. (If you can find one, it's a true piece of American distilling history). We're fans of Release II, but we also know that Marko Karakasevic -- the mad genius behind Charbay's whiskies -- is secretly holding onto a lot more of that 1999 distillate. Some of it is quitely stored in stainless, and some continues to age in oak.

So for the past few years, we've been bugging Marko to let us taste the still-barreled remaining 1999 Pilsner. At first it was out of the question. We suspected that maybe Marko wasn't proud of it. Or maybe that he just didn't want anyone telling him what to do with his booze. Or maybe he just didn't like us.

Well, all that was laid to rest at our last meeting. We finally had the pleasure of an evening with Marko Karakasevic. And his whiskies. Holy shit. What a guy and what a night!

We first tasted through five different versions of the 1999 pilsner. Release One, Release Two, and three unreleased versions.

Actually, that's not quite true -- because one of them is LAWS's own bottling. Our first private and exclusive whiskey is the now 12-year-old original 1999 Pilsner distillation. (Unfortunately, we can't sell you any.) Of the five variations tasted, the favorite was ours, of course! It would be too self-serving to post notes/ratings for it on our own website, so we're gonna refrain from congratulating ourselves more than what's been already done in this paragraph.

Distiller Marko Karakasevic standing in front of alambic still with hygrometer.
We then went on to taste Charbay's more recent whiskey creations -- in Marko's tradition, these are distilled from finished, bottle-ready beer.

We tasted two casks of IPA Whiskey, one distilled from Bear Republic's Racer 5 IPA, and the other distilled from a custom "adjusted" Racer 5 batch (90 min vs 30 min). And we tasted two casks of Stout Whiskey, distilled from Bear Republic's Big Bear Black Stout.

To make things even more exciting, we tasted these whiskies alongside fresh kegs of the very beer they were distilled from, Racer 5 and Big Bear Stout. Pretty cool, and quite educational.

Now, Marko doesn't like a lot of oak on his whiskies -- in fact as far as we can tell, he doesn't seem to like any! But us LAWS guys being raised on single malts and bourbons tend to prefer more time in oak. With that said, the young samples of the IPA and Stout whiskies were pretty well received. One of our members was threatening to buy an entire barrel of 17-month-old Stout right then and there. (For better or worse, this offer was not taken seriously).

Suffice it to say that we have a very sharp eye on some barrels currently aging in Charbay's warehouse. 

So it was another great night on the books. Huge thanks again to Mr. Karakasevic. As the US craft distilling movement continues to boom, Marko continues to be at the forefront of it.

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