Dispatch From WhiskyFest DC | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Dispatch From WhiskyFest DC

Dispatch From WhiskyFest DC

At WhiskyFestDC

L’Chaim shares whisk(e)y tasting notes

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At the recent WhiskyFest DC, there were nearly 60 different exhibitors of Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Japanese, Irish, Taiwanese, and Indian whiskies. I found myself most captivated by four booths: Laphroaig, West Cork Distillers, Whistle Pig, and, perhaps most surprisingly, the Suntory Japanese whisky booth—surprising because what grabbed me most was their “highball machine.”

Laphroaig is always great, but the standout for me was the Laphroaig 27-year-old Single Malt Islay Scotch Whisky (41.7% ABV; $750): an immensely deep, complex, and delicious whisky with a nose of wet ash, brine, tropical fruits and nuts, and a stunning palate of citrus, nectarine, white pepper, espresso, something like banana, and a litchi-like characteristic all enveloped in smoldering almost sweet smoke and peat. The finish is dry, long, a tad leathery, and with a nice spice and citrus kick. Stunningly good whisky.

The West Cork Distillers Irish whiskies were uniformly good, and while every fiber of my anti-marketing being wanted to dismiss it, I greatly enjoyed their gimmick-driven: The Pogues Irish Whiskey (40% abv; $50): Marketed as “the official Irish whiskey of the legendary band,” this is an impressive, sweet and intense blended Irish whiskey. The Pogues were an Irish-British Celtic punk band I like, though a whiskey tie-in is exactly the sort of sell-out shtick that I typically hate. This, however, was a solid and enjoyable 50/50 blend of malt whiskey (10-year-old single malt Irish whiskey aged in sherry oak casks and seven-year-old Irish whiskey aged in bourbon oak casks) and four-year-old Irish grain whiskey aged in bourbon oak casks. The nose is treacle, honey, dried fruits, toasted barley, vanilla icing, and something faintly bubble-gum like, while the palate is caramel, dried apricots, lemon pith, hazelnuts, French toast, spice, vanilla, and graham crackers. The finish is a little clipped, but offers nice malt, dried fruit, honey and toffee notes.

The WhistlePig rye is always great, but the standout for was the WhistlePig Farm 15 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Vermont Estate Oak (46% abv; $200): This is robust and complex, with a nose of punchy rye grain, toasted nuts, pears, strawberries, clarified butter, and biscuits, and a thick and oily palate of rye grain, toffee, caramel, butterscotch, honey, citrus, spice, and even a touch of dark chocolate. The finish is a mix of spice and caramel, with a slight though soothing bitterness. Lovely rye whiskey.

Finally, while the Suntory Japanese whiskies are always satisfying, they had their Toki Highball Machine cranking out wonderfully refreshing, ice-cold, and very tasty whisky-n-sodas with a shpritz of grapefruit zest. This proprietary highball machine is a mix of refrigerator (keeping the Toki blended Japanese whisky and the soda at super-duper cold temps so that the ice shouldn’t dilute the drink much at all), and one part super-charged soda-gun producing five times the carbonation of regular soda water (roughly one-and-a-half times the carbonation of Champagne). The result is a light, refreshing, super fizzy whisky-n-soda that served as both palate cleanser and palate reviver at WhiskyFest. If only I could find one of these highball machines near me. L’Chaim!

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