A Whirlwind Tour of Speyside (Edradour, Dalwhinnie, Cardhu), Part One with Reader Wayne

Wayne Outside BalvenieThis two part series comes from reader Wayne, who is a staple in our burgeoning Facebook Group. He shares with us his experience touring several Scotch whisky distilleries this past summer. I’ll sprinkle in a few of my thoughts through but this is an awesome recap with some amazing pictures guaranteed to make you jealous! Part two will be published next Monday.

We’ve wanted to do a tour of Ireland / Scotland for a long time, so my wife and I decided it would be a great present to give to each other for our 30th anniversary. The Ireland part was for her – the Scotland part was for me!

Arrival in Edinburgh

EdinburghFor the Scotland portion of the trip, we flew in to Edinburgh on a Sunday afternoon. Before I start talking about our distillery visits, I have to say, Edinburgh was the COOLEST city we’ve ever visited, and we felt a little dopey for not scheduling more time to really enjoy the city.

We also happened to hit it, totally coincidentally during the Fringe Festival, which was a lot like Mardi Gras! What fun!

Fringe Festival Performer2

Speyside

Okay, enough of that. We engaged a tour service (Exclusive Scottish Visits) and our driver, John Harbour picked us up on Monday morning to start our drive up to Speyside. We were scheduled to be there for 4 days, and it was suggested that we visit distilleries in one region, which was fine with me.

Speyside is where Balvenie is, so that was an easy, if not automatic choice for me! Along the way, our driver called our attention to many points of interest we would have missed had we chosen to drive ourselves.

Edradour

EdradourIt’s a 3-hour drive to Speyside from Edinburgh, so our first stop was to Edradour in the early afternoon. This is the smallest distillery in Scotland – a statistic they are actually very proud of. Nevertheless, the tour group there was surprisingly large – maybe 12 people.

They bring in the barley but do have a malting barn. They (as every distillery claims to) use water from a nearby mountain spring. The tour guide was extremely friendly and went to lengths to explain their process. After seeing the fermenting process and then the stills, we moved on to the tasting.

Unfortunately, many of the areas at the distilleries are designated as “no pictures allowed” places. They say it’s a safety issue in that either the very fine powder in the air, or the alcohol in the air can explode with the right kind of spark.

That can ruin your whole day!

For a small distillery, they offer a TON of different scotches, AND a scotch-based cream liquor, which we did taste… it was actually quite good!

We also tasted a 10-year scotch aged in Barolo Wine casks. That was different, and I didn’t like it as much as the 8-year regular oak-aged selection we had. Either way, it was evident that their whiskies are of very high quality, but I’d be hard-pressed to say they had a characteristic “Edradour flavor.”

A point of interest was the casks we saw there with other distillery names on them. Apparently the whisky industry in Scotland is VERY incestuous… everybody seems to share with everybody else.

Dalwhinnie

DalwhinnieA quick stop for lunch, and we were off to Dalwhinnie, where, because of the late hour of the day, we opted for a tasting instead of a full tour.

Dalwhinnie’s scotches are interesting, with a notably higher level of smoke than the other Speyside choices and they do a really interesting thing by pairing the scotches you can taste with an accompanying piece of “matched” chocolate. It was a nice touch and they were on the mark with which chocolate worked well with each scotch.

As you‘d expect, the 15-year and the sherry-cask have that same distinction from each other, with the more prominent notes of vanilla being in the 15-year and the more prominent notes of spices being in the sherry cask stuff.

An interesting footnote here, the entire Scottish highlands appears to be covered with heather (purple) and as the plants die each year, the roots of the plant compress into the soil, making the peat they use in the drying process.

This is different from the peat used in Islay, which is made up of different vegetation leading to the intensely smoky flavor those scotches have. When Dalwhinnie describes their flavors as including hints of heather-honey, that’s why!

Jim: I did not know that! I always wondered how heather and “heather-honey” got into a spirit… funny enough, even if I knew, I probably still couldn’t pick it out!

Our hotel that night was the Archiestown Hotel, in… well… Archiestown. I described it as being on the Scottish map of Nowhere, directly in the middle. It was a tremendous pleasant surprise.

A very small place – maybe 12 rooms – the opportunity for personal service was great and oh boy, did they ever do that! It was that night, as I went to the bar to see what scotches were available that I was first informed that they don’t call it “scotch” over there – its whisky!

Anyway, they had about 100 “whiskys” to choose from so dinner was enjoyable!

This is in chronological order, so I’m inserting a personal note here… we woke up Tuesday morning to a phone call alerting us to the passing of my wife’s father. After realizing we couldn’t get back to the airport early enough to fly home that day, we had a decision to make – to drive back to Edinburgh and sit out the day in the hotel or to finish up Tuesday’s tours, and fly home the next day. We decided to do the tours, but this cut our Scotland from 4 days to two. It’s okay – the next two visits were really great!

Speyside Cooperage

Speyside Cooperage1First up was the Speyside Cooperage.

Jim: I didn’t learn this until I went to Scotland and did some tours but a Cooper is someone who makes “barrels” (of varying sizes) and a Cooperage is where a Cooper does his work.

I gotta tell ya, it was fascinating to see how casks are built.

I never expected that the job was done with no caulking, glue, screws or nails. Those damn pieces of wood are cut precisely enough so that when the metal bands that hold the cask together, they don’t leak! It was also fascinating to realize how much the cask contributes to the final taste of the whisky. The kind of wood (the most preferred is American Oak) the previous contents of the cask (everything from rum to sherry to port wine to even Barolo wine) and the conditioning of the inside of the cask with flames.

These guys are a special kind of craftsmen, and they have to be good because they get quality 100% checked, but they also have to be fast as they get paid by the piece!

Cardhu

Cardhu1After that it was on to Cardhu. This distillery was originally owned by a woman, and these were lovely people. The tour was interesting – much like the Edradour tour.

They made an important point about the shape of their stills. The long necks of stills make a bend at the top, which varies off of an approximate right angle. This bend in the top of the still will affect the flavor and the top of Cardhu’s stills go decidedly upwards. This is one of the factors that lends to their decidedly light floral flavor.

THIS was the whisky product that appealed most to my wife, and would be a lovely desert whisky!

An interesting footnote, for all the distilleries, is that all whiskys that come out of the still are clear – it is the cask that gives scotch the amber color.

The distilled spirits also flow from the stills into a locked collection device, some of which were named “Wines Safe”. It was explained that the lock is needed because the measurement of the flow through that device is how the distilleries get taxed. Only one or two people in the distillery, and tax officials, are authorized to open it. They also measure the ABV in here and “mix” the flow of the distilled spirits from the multiple stills to maintain a consistent strength to the raw product.

Next week, we’ll get Part Two of this whirlwind tour and a deep dive into one of my (and Wayne’s) personal favorites – Balvenie.

All photos are courtesy of Wayne, thank you so so much for your generosity with the photos and this recap!

Posted in Travel | 1 Comment

What’s in Nuremberg Airport Duty Free?

This week’s report from the Nuremberg Airport (Nürnberg) duty free store comes from none other than Gary, who has sent in the most duty free reports of any reader (thank you Gary!). This report and photos come from the duty free shop by Gate A16.

As Gary said, and I agree, “Nice selection for a smaller airport. A few things I haven’t seen before.”

That’s for sure.

Nuremberg is an international airport (obviously, since it has duty free) but it served only about 3.3 million passengers in 2013 and is the 10th largest airport in Germany. By comparison, the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, saw 94.4 million passengers in 2013. Germany’s most popular, Frankfurt Airport, saw 58 million passengers in 2013.

That said, still a decent selection at the store outside Gate A16.
irishwhisky-bourbon-whiskey

  • Top row: Ballantines and Tullamore Dew
  • 2nd row: Jim Beam and more Tullamore Dew
  • 3rd row: Jim Beam Honey, small bottles jim beam, Jameson
  • 4th row:Bushmill 10yo, regular Bushmill, Bushmill honey and teachers

scotch-whisky

  • Top Row: Glenfiddich Vintage Cask, Glenfiddich red wine cask, Macinlays shackleton blend, Aberlour, Talisker Dark Storm, Laphroig
    QA Cask.
  • 2nd Row: More Glenfiddich, Jura Superstition, Ardbeg 10
  • 3rd Row: Glenlivet 18, Glen Garioch Founders Reserve + 12, Bowmore Black Rock and Gold Reef.
  • 4th Row: Jura 16 and Jura Prophesy, Macallan Select, Glen Grant 10, Bowmore Surf,Bowmore 100 degrees
    proof.
  • 5th Row: Dalmore 12 15 and 18, Smoke Head extra rare, Highland park Vin2001 and Einar.

scotch-whisky-more

  • Top Row: Auchentoshan spring wood and heartwood,
  • 2nd row: Monkey Shoulder, Glenmorangie, And unfortunately the Balvenie which is all whited out
  • 3rd Row: Glengoyne big foot and distillers gold, Glenfiddich
  • 4th Row: Glenfiddich, Glenfiddich 3 pack, Scapa 16, Jura 10 origins, anCnoc Peter, Jura Tiraspol Mara,
  • 5th Row: Old Pulteney lighthouse, strathisla 12, Glenrothes

Their duty free has a list of spirits promotions its running too if you are planning a trip through there.

Thanks again Gary!

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FEW Spirits Bourbon & Rye Whiskey Tasting Notes

Paul Hletko, Founder & Master Distiller

Paul Hletko, Founder & Master Distiller

When I first started Scotch Addict, I was just getting into scotch whisky.

It would take me months, if not years, to learn the various subtleties of the spirit. How Scotch Whisky is made from the same basic ingredients as whiskey here in the states and how there are a lot of domestic productions worth looking at. Most notably, an entire class of spirits, Bourbon, that would open a whole new world after years of adherence to Scotch.

Fast forward to today and my love of things domestic (I like supporting the little guy, even if they’re not truly little by size and just little by how much television advertising they’r
e able to buy!) and I recently discovered a distillery named Few Spirits.

Few Spirits is based out of Evanston, Illinois and was the first legal alcohol-producing facility in Evanston, a city that extended prohibition until 1972. Yeah… that’s forty years after Prohibition was overturned by the 21st Amendment at the end of 1933!

They ferment, distill, and bottle everything on-site. They don’t buy stuff elsewhere and then slap their label on it (they don’t buy any outside alcohol from other producers), everything is made there and is legit (to be fair, newer distilleries don’t have a choice necessarily… but FEW has been around for enough years that they can do this).

They were kind enough to send me a few of their products:

  • Few Bourbon Whiskey
  • Few Rye Whiskey
  • Few Barrel Gin
  • Few Standard Issue Gin
  • Few American Gin

There was just one missing from their lineup, the Few Single Malt Whisky. It’s produced in much smaller quantities and not widely available but I did get a chance to sample five fantastic spirits so let’s talk more about what was included than what wasn’t!

I will skip tasting notes on the Gins for now because my experience with gin is extremely limited. But, that said, I can tell you that they smell wonderful, the flavors are all the botanicals you’d want from a well produced gin, but to get into the notes is beyond my experience.

As for the two whiskies… let’s dive right in.

Few Bourbon Whiskey

Few Bourbon bottle shotAs a recent fan of bourbon, I can say that this Illinois product does the name quite well (and I love the classy bottles). The mashbill consists 70% corn, 20% rye, and 10% malted barley.

The thing that really jumps out at you is the spiciness. Most bourbons are characteristically sweet and that’s it. This bourbon has a little spice kick to it that adds a different dynamic because of 20% rye. There’s a bit of youth in this too but not something that surprises, I kind of like it.

I don’t usually put much stock in awards or ratings but it’s worth noting that the Beverage Testing Institute gave it a 93 (Exceptional) earlier this year.

Few Rye Whiskey

Few Rye bottle shotI’ve been getting into more whiskies that have a higher rye concentration because I just love the added complexity that rye brings. The mashbill for this spirit is 70% Midwestern rye, 20% local corn, and then 10% two-row malted barley (an exact flip of the bourbon).

The rye gives it that peppery kick again but you get a lot of caramel and honey sweetness, much more than you’d expect with 70% rye, and a nice finish. BTI gave the Rye Whiskey an 88 (Highly Recommended).

Before I go, I wanted to throw in a few notes about the gins too. On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I had the pleasure of enjoying some Jenevere. Jenevere is juniper-flavored and was the inspiration for gin, so I’ve started to appreciate the subtle floral flavors in many gins.

While I haven’t yet evolved into sipping gin neat, there’s nothing more refreshing on a hot day than a gin and tonic!

Posted in Tasting Notes | 5 Comments

What is a Replica Scotch?

Credit: sandwichgirl

Credit: sandwichgirl

A replica Scotch is one that was created to recreate the experience of a famous bottle.

Do you remember a few years back when they discovered three crates of Scotch whisky underneath the Ernest Shackleton hut in Antactica? Ernest Shackleton was a famous explorer in the late 19th century, early 20th century and often made these epic polar expeditions. Beneath one of the huts from a 1909 expedition were three crates of whisky and two crates of brandy, perfectly preserved.

Now back in 1909, Whyte & Mackay had supplied the expedition with 25 crates of Mackinlay’s “Rare and Old” whisky. W&M would now take this rare and wonderful opportunity to recreate the whisky that was inside.

Why do they make replica Scotches? Because it’s fun. There’s no denying that it would be fun to drink a whisky once enjoyed by one of the most intrepid polar explorers, right? Even if you don’t like exploring, there’s a bit of magic and nostalgia wrapped around drinking a whisky from another era.

How do they replicate it? I’m not entirely sure, since this happens so infrequently and distilleries don’t reveal their secrets, but I suspect the master blenders just mix and match based on their experiences until the right flavors are recreated. Seems like an exceptionally tough task… but a fun one. :)

If you’re interested, the replica of the Shackleton whisky is called “Mackinlay’s Shackleton Rare Old Highland Malt – The Discovery” and goes for about $170 per 750ml. here’s more on the Shackleton expedition, the whiky, and the replica.

There aren’t a lot of replica whiskies out there outside of these rare situations, but The Macallan loves to make various replicas from the 19th century too.

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Picking Your (Friend’s) First Bottle of Scotch

Credit: donhomer

Credit: donhomer

Whenever a friend who doesn’t drink a lot of Scotch finds out I have a blog about Scotch, they want me to help them get into it.

I’m all for being an ambassador! But rather than repeat myself over and over again, I thought this blog post could do the repeating for me.

Where to Start

For picking your first, or picking a first for a friend, it’s valuable to know their preferences as compared to other beverages.

If they’re a fan of whiskey to begin with, you’re basically 95% of the way there because, as you know, Scotch is whisky produced in Scotland! I know a lot of people who love Bourbons because it’s relatively cheap (being made in the US means you avoid a lot of taxes!) without sacrificing much in the way of quality. Bourbon is sweeter because of the higher sugar content of corn and so a nice introduction would be something on the sweeter, fruitier, floral side of the Scotch spectrum.

The same logic could be applied to gins and vodka, which differentiate themselves from one another based on those fruit and floral notes. Rums are often sweeter too since it’s made from sugar/molasses. Skip the islands, where you get more smoke and medicinal flavors from the phenols.

At this point, it sounds like anything you could possibly think of them liking points you towards Speysides/Highlands and away from Islays and the Islands. Well, if they’re a fan of craft beer, do they prefer hoppy beers like IPAs? Or wheat beers? Or do they enjoy them all?

If the answer is IPAs, like Dogfish 120 Minute IPAs and 90 Minute IPAs (IBUs of 120 and 90 respectively) then you might introduce them to an Islay. Islays have a powerful flavor profile because of the phenols and they won’t be put off by it.

The goal with picking the right first bottle of Scotch for someone new to Scotch is to make sure it’s a gentle introduction. It’s a first date, not a proposal. So it’sa bout finding something that closely fits what they enjoy and then let the experimentation come after.

The three factors I think about

I like to break it down into several factors:

  • Overall flavor profile
  • Alcohol content
  • Price

Overall Flavor Profile
As mentioned earlier, I like to match it with something they already enjoy. This is where your experience will have to come into play – based on what you know, try to match them with a Scotch production area that meets the general profile. From within that area, you can pick a distillery you’re familiar with.

The major areas are Lowland, Speyside, Highland, Campbeltown, and Islay. My basic rule is that if they like fruity and floral, go with Speysides and Highlands. If they like a bit of punch, a campfire-ness, go with an Islay.

As an aside, these rules are very very general. Not all Speysides are the same, just as not all Islays are the same, but I use these shortcuts because they’re good enough. For example, pop open a Highland Park and you’ll get a little bit of smoke despite it being a Highland.

On Finishes: Finishes are tricky for a first bottle because they’re often more expensive (more on price later) and they introduce characteristics that can be fun, especially if your friends enjoy the other finish. For example, I love port so Laphroaig Cairdeas was a great bottle for me but it vaguely resembles a Laphroaig. I would hold off on a finish until later with the exception of sherry oak.

Alcohol Content

Try to stick with the 40-43% ABV standard and avoid any cask strength expressions.

If they’re new to enjoying Scotch neat, then sipping a beverage that’s 40% alcohol will be a bit of a shock. Even if you add a few drops of water or an ice cube (please don’t add an ice cube… please please please don’t), it’s still a lot.

Give them a beverage that’s 58.5% abv (Macallan’s Cask Strength) and you’ll likely burn their taste buds off.

Go gentle and go low.

Price

I like to stick with the middle of the road in terms of price.

I don’t want those super-cheap blends but I don’t want to start my friends off with a Macallan 18 YO at $180 a bottle. It’s not that I’m cheap and don’t want to share an expensive dram, it’s that I don’t want ruin average Scotches for them.

Macallan 18 YO is a good Scotch, you can ask anyone regardless of their preferences, but how does it compare with a Glenmorangie 10? Glenmorangie 10 is a perfectly fine whisky, I enjoy it often and I love their line of finishes to boot, but it doesn’t compare. It can’t compare. Glenmorangie 10 costs only $37 while Macallan 18 costs a whopping $180. It’s like pitting the a AAA baseball team against a Major League team – it’s just not fair.

And it’s not fair to your friend! He or she has now sampled this awesome Scotch, now loves Scotches, but everything he or she will buy that’s not $180 a bottle will taste bad by comparison.

It’s better to introduce them to a $37/btl dram and then move your way up the price spectrum so they can appreciate it properly.

My first bottle recommendations

These recommendations are based on my experiences but also what I think is widely available and easy to get.

If your budget is the lowest of the named single malts, which is around $35-45 a bottle, then the best introduction is the $40 per bottle Glenfiddich 12 YO. Glenlivet 12 is nice too but the spicy finish might put someone off and have them mistaken the spiciness for high alcohol content.

Interestingly enough, if my memory serves me correctly, my first bottle of Scotch was actually a Balvenie DoubleWood 12. It’s a 12 YO that’s finished in ex-sherry and ex-bourbon barrels and very affordable, very tasty, and already breaks the guideline I mentioned in the section on finishes! (Heck, I might as well really break the rule, if your friend is a fan of sweetness, give Auchentoshan Three Wood a try… it’s pricier, more like $60-65 a bottle).

If they want to know what smokiness and peatyness is, go with a Laphroaig 10 YO (~$50). You have smoke and peat but it’s not overwhelming if you like that sort of thing (if you don’t, it is overwhelming). It’s not as medicinal as a Lagavulin and not nearly as peaty as Ardbeg, so you have a sense of Islay without being overwhelming in any one area.

If they want smoky but are a little scared of an Islay, Highland Park 12YO (~$50) is a nice compromise. It’s like a richer floral sweetness with smoke, without the smoke being dominant and pushing everything else out.

What’s your recommendation for a “first bottle” of Scotch and why?

Posted in Tasting | 4 Comments

National Scotch Day

Credit: Ethan Prater

Credit: Ethan Prater

Did you know that there’s a National Scotch Day!?

Yes!

This year, it’s July 27th! As in this Sunday!

I have no idea why that day is National Scotch Day, nor do I know who chose it, but I will happily celebrate it! :)

But honestly, who cares? It’s not like we need an excuse to enjoy Scotch in the first place.

That said, it did pique my interest and I wanted to know about the other celebrated Days that focused on the delectible spirit that is whisky (or whiskey). Here’s what I found:

Other Whisky Days

National Scotch Day isn’t the only named “day” to celebrate the spirit of Scotland, there are several others and most of them, like any of these Hallmark holidays, have commercial origins. But honestly, who cares… it’s fun.

International Whisky Day was recognized on March 27th, 2014. That particular date has a clear meaning – it’s the date of Michael Jackson’s birthday (the famed whisky writer) and was started in 2008 to celebrate his life and raise money to fight Parkinson’s Disease.

World Whisky Day happened to be May 17th, 2014. World Whisky Day started in 2012 and was started by Blair Bowman, a student at the University of Aberdeen, and it’s grown to be a pretty big event each year with a ton of sponsors. According to their estimates, over 20,000 people took part in WWD last year.

Whatever day it might be, it’s always a good day for whisky!

The one thing I do like about National Scotch Day is that there’s no central body that has “claimed” it. There are organizations behind the other ones and they hold a singular central event. With National Scotch Day, it feels more organic because there isn’t some fancy website and sponsors and all that jazz. It could be that I didn’t look hard enough or it’s because true aficionados are too busy celebrating a dram!

What do you plan to do on National Scotch Day?

Posted in Events | 15 Comments

Should I Worry About Condensation in a Whisky Bottle or Decanter?

Credit: Muffet

Credit: Muffet

Usually not.

Think about the last time you took a cold soda or beer out into the warm air. After a minute or so, the outside was covered in condensation right? That’s because the temperature of the can was lower than the outside air and the condensation you see is the moisture of the air.

The same principle works in reverse. The moisture inside the bottle, from the air and the liquid, is coming in contact with the bottle neck, which might be colder because of the ambient temperature. So from time to time, due to temperature fluctuations, condensation will occur inside a bottle.

Now the question is whether this is good or bad for the whisky.

Generally speaking, you won’t notice and it probably won’t matter.

If the bottle is sealed and there’s condensation inside, I’d check the seals to make sure that they’re still sealed. Cork will dry, seals are imperfect, and condensation might be an indication that the seal isn’t perfect.

Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect, you now have an excuse to drink it. :)

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Glenlivet 15 YO French Oak Reserve Tasting Notes

Glenlivet-15yo-French-Oak-ReserveA couple weeks ago, I visited my sister up in Boston. Her husband, my brother-in-law, is also a big fan of whiskies, so we I had a chance to enjoy a few drams of his collection.

One bottle sitting in his case was the Glenlivet 15 YO French Oak Reserve. It’s not rare or hard to find, I just haven’t had a sip of it in years. I have a bit of a history with Glenlivet, seeing as the 12 YO was my first, and the last time I tried Glenlivet 15 YO French Oak Reserve was at the distillery itself.

We’d gone up to Scotland for a few days during a month-long vacation through Europe and visited both Glenlivet and Macallan. We’d tried to sneak in Aberlour and Cardhu too but time just wasn’t on our side.

We went on the Glenlivet distillery tour and at the end, they give you a few samples to enjoy. You had the option of choosing a glass of 12 Year Old and 15 YO French Oak. The tour was free, so this was a great bonus!

My wife chose the 15 Year Old French Oak and I chose the 12 Year Old, a familiar favorite. My wife isn’t much of a whisky drinker so in reality, I got both (she was also our designated driver… which was a smart choice).

Taking a sip of the French Oak Reserve brought back memories of our trip, which was a nice reminder, but it also reminded me that it’s a delicious dram on its own.

Tasting Notes

On the nose, you get a hint of tart green apples mellowed with some sugary molassas. There’s a bit of fresh fruit but no citrus, a little vanilla.

On the palate, there’s very much the vanilla and apple, hint of caramel, and then spicy finish of Glenlivet, though mellowed out considerably compared to the 12 YO.

Finish is nice, doesn’t linger though and reminds you that it’s been aged in oak.

It’s a 40% abv whisky with a lighter amber color.

It’s like a friendly, mellower version of the 12 Year Old and interestingly enough, my wife remembers the tour guide saying that the 15 YO is marketed directly to women.

I don’t really know what that means per se but I remember him making that comment as well.

Either way, it was a nice remembrance of a Glenlivet I haven’t enjoyed in years.

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What’s in the Los Angeles International Airport Terminal 7 Duty Free?

LAX Duty Free @ Gate70ALos Angeles International Airport is an enormous airport and it has seven duty free stores (ten if you count brand specific stores like Burberry, Gucci, and Hermes).

There are a staggering nine terminals and today’s report is just of the DFS Duty Free shop located in Terminal 7, which (my guess) serves flights for United Airlines.

While Gary says he’s not much of a writer but so far he’s sent me two sets of photos from duty free shops, this one and Toronto Pearson Airport – Thanks Gary!

This time he was on his way out through LAX and sent this recap of what’s available at the store near Gate 70A:

Just took a couple pictures of the duty free at LAX. This store is by gate 70A. Rather small selection of liquor. Johnnie Walker dominated the shelves, Glenfiddich a decent second place.

So on top you have the Macallan 1824 collection which has no age statements that I could see.

The balvenie is a triple cask, first fill bourbon, refill bourbon and then sherry. I guess it is available in 16 and 25 editions as well but this store only had the 12.

The Glenlivet was the 12 and 18 and appeared to be the standard bottles.

Glenfiddich had the fancy 18, then the Distillers Edition 15yr , interesting looking packaging. A non chill filtered for those who care. Also had the Reserve Cask and the Select Cask bottle.

Johnnie Walker had a huge selection. Red, Black, Double Black, Explorers club, XR 21, Blue, Gold, Odyssey, King George V and a very special packing just for Los Angeles with the blue.

Not much on the whiskey, bourbon, vodka, etc… it is a rather small shop.

Here are some photos (click to load full size versions to get a closer look) – Gary’s recap is pretty much spot on about the whole lot:
LAX-Duty-Free-4

LAX-Duty-Free-1

LAX-Duty-Free-3

One thing I did notice was the absence of Islays. It could just be that they’re out of the photo, sequestered somewhere else that Gary missed, but given the detail he’s done before I suspect that’s not the case.

My guess is that Terminal 7′s DFS is one of the satellite stores, the main ones are probably in the named Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), and so they only stock the highest sales items here.

Whereas many airports have a dedicated international terminal, LAX’s terminals are set up, due to volume, by airline so you have a lot of satellite stores that carry the best selling subset of brands. It’s why Gary saw a limited selection across a variety of brands.

If you’re making a trip through any international airports and have a few moments, I’d love it if you could take some photos of the Scotch areas of the duty free. Email me and we can feature it in a future post on Scotch Addict!

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Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer – Toasted IPA, Rum Aged & The Original Tasting Notes

Innis & Gunn Favourites LineupI received an email a few weeks ago from Innis & Gunn asking if I’d be interested in getting a sampling of their various oak-aged beers.

Heck yeah.

I love beer.

And I love oak.

This sounds like a match made in heaven.

Did I mention I love beer? :)

Since I mostly talk about whisky, here’s the rundown of my beer loving. I’m a fan of craft beer (I like supporting the little guy). I enjoy the occasional IPA, I love porters and stouts in the winter and a nice hefeweizen in the summer. If you put a Trappist beer in front of me, it’ll disappear (at an appropriate speed to enjoy it of course, but it’ll disappear), and I really enjoy the craft aspect of it. The tinkering and the diligent study. The perfection of the craft. You have to respect artisans and experimenters.

Fun side story, one of my friends from college, Abe, got me into homebrewing and so I really enjoy that aspect of beer. Funny enough, Abe was studying Math and Physics at Carnegie Mellon, which means he’s freaking brilliant, and now finds himself as the R&D Pilot Brewer at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co! They have yet to send me any experiments! :)

I’m not a beer snob though, I’ll drink almost any beer. The only rule I have is that I won’t drink a beer I drank a lot in college, which means cutting out a lot of Milwaukee’s Best, Natural Light, Natural Ice, Golden Anniversary, Olde English, and Keystone. Pabst Blue Ribbon is also in that list but I’ll have from time to time just for nostalgic reasons. And, of course, Bud Light is in my cup holder when I’m mowing the lawn or playing softball.

Back to the beer at hand, Innis & Gunn is a small brewery located in one of my favorite places in the world, Edinburgh Scotland. My wife and I visited Edinburgh a few years ago, during The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so we’re biased. Anyway, their claim to fame is that they age their beer with oak chips.

In their particular process, they don’t age the beer in an oak barrel entirely, they chip the oak and then age it with an Oakerator process (which they created themselves at a cost of $150,000 at Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh). It gives them a way to impart a variety of flavors into the beer depending on the chips they use. So rather than having just one barrel imparting one flavor, they can have several and mix it in a way to impart different flavors. Definitely clever. (if you want to learn more, they explain the whole process here)

So they sent me three of their beers to enjoy – the Toasted Oak IPA, Rum Aged, and the Original. These are the three beers that make up their Favourites line-up.

The Original

The Original is a 6.6% ABV Scottish style beer that is a golden color and smells of malt and vanilla. There’s a hint of floral hops and bitterness but it’s mostly malt and oak. It’s very refreshing, has a medium body which makes it a great summer beer for me. The label says hints toffee but I don’t get much of it. The oakiness is nice (and easy to identify because I’m not used to it in beer) and the result of 77 days of oak maturation.

I tend to favor wines with a lot of oak flavor in them and this reminds me of that (except in a beer).

Rum Aged

First reaction was: wow. I’ve never had a beer like this before.

Once I got my surprise out of the way, the 6.8% ABV beer has a rich red color I haven’t seen in a long while (I haven’t had an Irish red in a long time but I can’t imagine a deeper and richer red than this). It smells great.

If I was given this in a blind taste test and were told its aged in a cask, I would’ve guessed rum or brandy. There’s a sweetness to it that is very rich, like molasses, and uncharacteristic of any type of beer. Even the high gravity beers, like Russian Imperial Stouts, that have a sweetness to them are unliked the rum aged.

The flavors are really fun, very fruity and a hint of spiciness. It’s a little heavier than The Original but not much. I don’t see myself drinking a lot of these in the summer but this makes for a great fall or winter beer for my tastes. Of the three, I liked this one the most.

Toasted Oak IPA

Weighting in at just “only” 5.6% ABV, the Toasted Oak IPA is tripled-hopped and aged in oak for 41 days. It comes in a brown bottle but it pours out this pale gold color and smells exactly what you expect an IPA to smell like. It tastes like an IPA too, a fresh floral hoppiness with a hint of vanilla and sweetness, probably from the oak. It’s hard to really get more than a hint because the refreshing hoppiness is very forward.

In terms of body, it’s light, as you’d expect from an IPA, and one that would make it a good beverage for the summer.

In summary, I was impressed.

The introduction of oak, especially in their Oakerator process, really makes for an intriguing (and different) flavor profile. The pricing is on the high side, $10-12 for a four pack at my local Total Wine, but I think they’re worth checking out just to see what oak aging can do with a beer. I’m not sure any are on the “absolute favorite” list, in terms of me wanting one always sitting in my fridge, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if they were. :)

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