Fox and I are not professional bartenders, but we certainly could be called cocktail enthusiasts. So imagine how psyched we were to find out that the US Bartenders Guild has a level of membership just for people like us! As soon as we learned about it, my wife and I promptly joined the Pittsburgh chapter of the USBG at the “Associate/Enthusiast” level, for a cool $100 apiece per year.
Now, it may seem like $100 (really, $200) is a lot to throw down. But when you examine the many perks that come with membership, it honestly pays for itself. You get to be part of an awesome community, and take part in a lot of really cool events. Such as:
An evening of whisky tasting held this past mid-spring at the top-notch Pittsburgh craft cocktail bar, Acacia.
What made this tasting particularly special was that it was hosted by none other than the brand ambassador for Laphroaig* scotch whisky, Simon Brooking!
The evening consisted of a tasting of seven scotches. We began the night with two non-Laphroaig tastes. The first was Connemara Peated Irish Whisky. It wasn’t a scotch, but delivered as promised with a harsh burst of peat. We also tasted Ardmore single malt scotch.
We started with the Laphroaig we keep at home, the Laphroaig 10-Year. It has this sea salty campfire flavor that we can’t get enough of. After this tasting, Simon also showed us a cool trick. Here’s how you do it:
1) Wet your hand with a few drops of Laphroaig.
2) Rub your hands together until they’re quite warm.
3) Cup your hands and inhale deeply.
You get this amazing wood aroma that smells just like the distillery when you open the doors.
Next up, we had the Laphroaig Quarter-Cask. This stuff is aged 5-11 yrs in bourbon barrels, and then moved to a 125-liter 1/4 cask for eight months. The result is a scotch that is sweeter than the Laphroaig 10, and also slightly creamier. The reason Quarter-Cask can vary in age is because it’s bottled to a flavor profile, not to a year.
Third on the Laphroaig menu was the Laphroaig Triple Wood. Essentially, to get the Triple Wood, the distillers take their Quarter-Cask, and age it an extra two years in Spanish sherry casks (three casks = triple wood). The smokiness of the peat is tamped down even further, and you get a fruity sweetness creeping in. Fans of The Macallan would enjoy this one, and it would be a good bridge scotch for folks who are really into wine.
Then we went into the Laphroaig 18-Year. In addition to finally being able to vote, this Laphroaig brings an interesting note of pear to the table. If you’ve ever had and enjoyed a smoked pear, then you’ll likely dig this fellow. (Personally, though, I prefer the 10.)
Lastly, we had a taste of the very delicious Laphroaig Cairdeas (pronounced Cart-yas). Here’s what goes into the Cairdeas: 50% of it is aged 7 years in a 1/4 cask, 48% is aged 13-15 years in 200-liter bourbon barrels, and the remaining 2% is aged 20 years in sherry casks. It’s super boozy, and super tasty.
We had an amazing, informative time at this Laphroaig event, and we felt so lucky to be part of the USBG that evening. If you’re into cocktails, or even better, if you tend bar, we suggest you join! Until we see you at the next big event…
* In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced la-FROY-g. For more pronunciations, look no further than the assistance of famed Scottish actor, Brian Cox!