When something good comes to a close, end it with a bang. And when something awesome is about to start, kick it off with an equal amount of hoo-ha! True to that motto, my first-ever whisky tasting by Herr Lutz could hardly have been any more special. In the course of the “120 Years” masterclass, our host Michael “Jerry” Lutz welcomed me and the other attendees to the stylish premises of wineBANK in Hamburg, where we savored a quartet of out-of-this-world single malt Scotch whiskies from the isles of Islay, Jura and Skye. The classy location was perfect for such an exclusive event. The small group size allowed everyone to participate actively in the degustation. The chemistry among the participants was wonderful. And Jerry led us through this evening in a knowledgeable, attentive, generous and – most importantly – fun way.
The first whisky we had was Jura’s honey-sweet Origin, which paved the way for the distillery’s incredibly smooth 30 Years Old. This elegant drop was kept in ex-bourbon barrels for 27 years, before it received a 3-year finish in Oloroso casks. It opened with a soft, fruity nose full of ripe oranges, dark berries and burnt caramel. In the mouth, it was extremely creamy and fruity. Papaya, mango and kiwi laid an exotic foundation, while plums, currants and cocoa beans provided a darkish touch. The velvety finish was of good length and underlined the whisky’s dapperness and richness. Gentle, refined and memorable in equal shares, I found the Jura 30yo to be a perfect opener for such a precious tasting line-up.
Although Talisker is considered to be a medium-peated malt, I did not sense too many of these flavors and aromas in their 30-year-old flagship bottling. When I tried it back to back with the 10yo, the younger of the two was significantly more smoky and smutty. The older, however, was immensely fruity, spicy and intense. Freshly picked raspberries and dried orange slices dominated the nose, while mushy apples and sweet peppercorns coined the palate. After a while, thin layers of gleaming coals and sizzling grillables appeared as well. They ushered in a lengthy finish that Jerry described as smoked bacon marinated in maple syrup – a bang on classification!
Not unsurprisingly for an Islands tasting, our journey ended with a visit to the fabled Queen of the Hebrides. The first of the two Islay malts we tried that evening was Caol Ila’s awe-inspiring 30 Years Old. From the second it touched our lips, this paramount potion had us all under its spell. Aroma-wise, it had a ton of exciting notes to offer: Smoked meat, rosemary, driftwood, moss, pastry, ginger and so on. Taste-wise, it was equally complex. Among others, I made out shortcrust, sea salt, oak and tar. But there was also a certain freshness brought forth by mirabelles, pears and mint leaves. Unlike the classic 12yo we had on the side, the Caol Ila 30yo was bottled at cask strength with a considerable ABV of 55.1 per cent. Consequently, its sweet n’ smoky finish was not only of great length, but also of sturdy complexion.
The last in line was Laphroaig’s majestic 30 Years Old. After three decades in 1st and 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrels, this high-class whisky got surprisingly mild and tame for a ‘Phroaig. Both in the nose and on the palate, we only got to sense a hint of the medical character, which makes the distillery’s signature 10yo the epitome of a “love it or hate it” malt. Instead of an overdose of iodine, we were presented with an abundance of oranges, apples, oak, vanilla, mocha and tobacco. Although it clocked in at a strong 53.5 per cent ABV, the Laphroaig 30yo’s lasting aftertaste was smooth and soft. Towards the end, the rich potpourri of relishes got further expanded by subtle mango and physalis notes. As someone who considers himself a pretty big Laphroaig fan, I am incredibly happy for the rare chance to sip this out-of-reach expression. And I am even more happy that I got to taste it at such a great event and among such mighty fine folks!
Laphroaig 30yo (Single Malt/ Scotch / Islay / 30yo / 53.5% / ~1,000 Euro)
Laphroaig 10yo (Single Malt/ Scotch / Islay / 10yo / 40% / ~30 Euro)
Caol Ila 30yo (Single Malt/ Scotch / Islay / 30yo / 55.1% / ~600 Euro)
Caol Ila 12yo (Single Malt/ Scotch / Islay / 12yo / 43% / ~40 Euro)
Jura 30yo (Single Malt / Scotch / Islands/ 30yo / 44% / ~450.00 Euro)
Jura Origin (Single Malt / Scotch / Islands/ 10yo / 40% / ~30.00 Euro)
Talisker 30yo (Single Malt / Scotch / Islands/ 30yo / 45.8% / ~350.00 Euro)
Talisker 10yo (Single Malt / Scotch / Islands/ 10yo / 45.8% / ~30.00 Euro)