I’m wearing my best dress socks over my hands during the interrogation of the leek. By moving my fingers in the rhythm of my voice, I hope to put this vegetable at ease. What I soon learn does not surprise me. The green part of a leek wishes it could smell like the nose of this whisky. It’s amazing, I know. What’s amazing is not that the leek can speak with a raspy squeak, but that the nose is a peat candle used as a door stop in Madame Tussaud’s boudoir. Then there’s the smell of North Sea oysters, tickled with eucalyptus and spearmint leaves, in the hopes that enormous pearls will form inside them. But what do I care of pearls when I have this in my glass?
The mouth astonishes me. I’ve drunk my share of Laphroaig over the years. I’ve slipped on their Wellies, cut peat in their fields, sipped water from the reservoir, and dipped a thief in the barrel room. But what I found here was unusual. It was a small implosion of peat and funk and quirk. I fear, briefly, that I’ve just pealed the bonding from my teeth, or rerouted my root canals, or sharpened my molars into incisors. Imagine, in short, that you swagger into a restaurant to get your favorite vindaloo and say, “How spicy would I like it? Do your worst. Go ahead and hurt me.” I think this is what this whisky achieves—an aggressive, explosive, but still utterly savory shifting of your gustatory goalposts. It is thin on the mouth, but that just makes it more of a Jack-be-nimble, candle-leaping sort of experience. After opening up with some water, we get more charcoal and vegetal dimensions—no doubt it’s the guaiacol and creosote knotted into thick chemical braids. I’m thinking there’s genetically-engineered plants for Jurassic World, and very lightly refined eucalyptus.
On the finish I’m overwhelmed with euphoria, first, but then waves and waves of survivor’s guilt wash over me. I’ve made it! I’m…I’m going to be okay! At this point a kaleidoscopic twist of surprises arrive, one after other in turn. First, all the menthol that the Trump admin just banned from US cigarettes. Then caramelized Belgian waffles made from oatmeal—and cigarette butts, but from cigarettes that feature very fine, very fresh tobacco. Third, a beautiful cheesecake with clove-batter crust—streaked by car exhaust. Against all odds it settles into something refined and nice that might be dragged behind a Buick by newly-weds on the golden highway, rattling out their joy for all to hear.
On the scale of famous 21st C. leeks–
The Laphroaig 8 Year 2010 Càrn Mòr Strictly Limited selected exclusively for The Whisky Barrel is the one spinning counter-clockwise in the hands of Orihime Inoue—Set to polka music, the meme known as Loituma Girl delights all who see it with its expression of youthful vitality and its devil-may-care attitude.
–Our thanks to The Whisky Barrel for the sample!