Long considered a beverage for the high-minded connoisseur, scotch has enjoyed a reconceptualization in recent years. Laphroaig distiller and spokeswoman Vicky Stevens talked with us about how the American palate has evolved during this time.
"The United States is the fastest growing market for Scotch globally," says Stevens. "We are in an era of exploration where people are keen to try new experiences and are open to different flavors."
But it's not just a phenomenon here in the States. Back in her native Scotland, Stevens notes that bourbon is enjoying an enhanced prominence after years of being eschewed for its sweeter, corn-heavy notes.
If only her countrymen could get their hands on the Four Roses Single Barrel, they would certainly have a clearer understanding of the oft-missed complexities defining the American spirit. Master Distiller Jim Rutledge selected an 11-year-old barrel for this year's offering. Uncut, the cask strength whiskey weighs in at a proof ranging between 108.3 and a mind-numbing 127.6.
Four Roses only produces 5,000 bottles of this exclusive stuff, retailing at $99. But that's only if you're lucky enough to get your hands on it. As of last week, K & L Wine Merchants in Hollywood had a few left in stock, with a sensible one-bottle-per-customer limit strictly enforced.
Don't expect it to last long. And while there's always the internet, elusive items often come at a premium: Sites such as wine-searcher.com are already offering the Limited Edition at a 50% markup.
The supply is almost equally constrained when it comes to the 2014 Amontillado from Laphroaig, although you still have time to prep; Hi-Times down in Costa Mesa expects to shelf a few bottles sometime this week. But aside from the extremely limited release — what makes it so special?
"The expression [is] unique in the fact that it has never been offered before and has enjoyed a second maturation in an ex-Amontillado cask," says Stevens. The additional aging introduces hints of cinnamon and a sweeter nuttiness into the smoked peat regularly associated with an Islay scotch. This mellowed effect is by design. "It's a sweeter expression that is approachable for a wide spectrum of whisky drinkers."
The scotch and bourbon crowds might find common ground in the Laphroaig Select. Marrying classic casks, such as their Quarter, PX, Triple Wood and 10-Year Old, the Select receives the bourbon treatment— aging for over three years in new American oak.
According to Stevens, "[Select] is inspired by Ian Hunter, the last family member to own Laphroaig and one of the first to combine traditional European oak casks with new American oak to develop a flavor never tasted before." OK then.
You can taste that flavor again and again by heading over to Wally's Wine & Spirits
in Westwood, which expects to stock a healthy allotment of the scotch come early August.
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This summer is a splendid season for whiskey lovers, with two notable, limited edition brown spirits hitting liquor stores across Los Angeles. For the all-American bourbon aficionado, Four Roses has released the 2014 incarnation of their Single Barrel Series. Scotch enthusiasts, meanwhile, can take solace in two new expressions from Laphroaig. Their revamped Select joins Cairdeas 2014 Amontillado Edition as the year's first addition to the Islay-based distillery's lengthy catalogue.