The Whisky Live world tour debuted in Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Whisky Live, which touches down on every continent, save Antarctica, is a whisky tasting and sampling event for industry and consumers alike.
The event featured master classes, sensorial and educational whisky experiences, and a tasting hall of whiskies from the single malts of Scotland to the Bourbon stills of Kentucky. Regardless of your experience, the event catered to all levels of drinker from the novice to the industry pro.
Whisky Live attendees had well over 30 booths to choose from serving such illustrious Scotches as Highland Park, Macallan, and Glenlivet, blended Scotches from Johnnie Walker and Famous Grouse, Yamazaki from Japan, and American whiskies like Bulleit Bourbon and Old Potrero.
Outside, cigars were ablaze at a smoking lounge set up by Taylor’s Cigar Lounge located in Long Beach, CA, while a lively crowd tasted, sampled, learned, and schmoozed.
This event had more than enough great whiskies to try, although I would have liked to have seen more independent bottlers. The big houses were well represented, and there were some nice surprises.
Of the 15 whiskies sampled at Whisky Live 2009, there were some true standouts.
From Independent bottler Scott’s Selection, the 1971 Longmorn-Glenlivet. This was a cask strength (no distilled water added) single-malt Scotch with a proof of 84.8%. This fine Scotch is from the Highland region of Scotland is smooth with hints of sweet fruit. It retains its character from first sip to nicely tapers off in the aftertaste.
Also from Scott’s Selection, the 1984 Caol Ila Single Islay Malt. Scott’s featured all cask strength Scotches at its booth. At 106 proof, the Caol Ila cask strength is strong. The pourer at Scott’s Selection added some water with an eye dropper, which is what you should do for anything over 45% alcohol, and the Caol Ila opened up beautifully. There is a wonderful presence of peat in this Islay region Scotch, and all the elegant seaside notes of salt and seaweed.
Old Pulteney 17yrs, another Highlands Scotch with an alcohol percentage of 46, is aged in 30% Pedro Ximenez sherry casks and 70% bourbon casks. It is unchilled-filtered, which means it never gets below 38 degrees during the filtration process, a good thing for Scotch whiskies. The Old Pulteney has delightful vanilla and floral notes with a long lasting finish.
At the Classic Malts booth I enjoyed a glass of Lagavulin 16yrs. from the Islay region of Scotland. It’s aged in American bourbon casks and finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. Delicious peat, sherry, and sea salt notes from one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland.
Highland Park 25yrs., deserves all the accolades bestowed upon this fine producer. This Scotch is 48.1 proof and is aged in American and European oak. Its distillery is located on the island of Orkney, with elegant whispers of caramel, salt water, and mild peat.
Other notable tastes was Signatory Scotches Banff 28yrs., a robust Speyside region, cask strength Scotch whisky aged in a hogshead sized cask. I tried this on the way to have cigars at Taylor’s cigar booth, one of the many scothes on display at the LA Scotch Club’s table. The best blend I tasted was Famous Grouse 18yrs., a blend of two single malts, Highland Park and Macallan. This blend is a nice drink, smooth and well balanced.
Whisky Live is a party above all else. It’s a gathering of fellows in kilts, industry people, whiskey fans, and their companions. All of the exhibitors were knowledgeable and informative, and most of all the whiskies were substantial. Now that the Whisky Live world taste events has added Los Angeles to its schedule, spirit loving Angelenos have an event to put on their calendar for next time around.
Bill Esparza is the founder of Street Gourmet LA