People who learn of my hobby often ask why I have so many bottles, and why I drink so much, or so often. I assume it’s something they want to use as an ice breaker, and they’re just too used to the idea that drinking a lot means alcoholism.
My immediate response is always to tell them that it’s because I enjoy the flavors. It’s a quick and simple answer that often leaves them baffled—baffled, because most say all whisky tastes the same to them. I know that everyday there are more enthusiasts getting into this hobby. The bafflement of these others, sadly, is a reminder that a lot of us are still more or less alone in our endeavor—and that simple answer, true as it is, does not mean easy. Regardless, I do find myself wanting to provide a more complete answer, an answer that requires more words than they’re sometimes willing to hear. In short, the most complete reply involves memory.
I once heard that we never really forget memories; we just can’t access them as easily. In this situation, the brain was compared to a hall with many doors. Each of our memories is locked behind each door. Our being unable to remember certain experiences is just our brain lacking the key to open the door to that memory.
With a lot of us going through life quickly, whether we like it or not, we sometimes forget to take in the small details that help paint a better picture. Luckily, or not, things like both music and drinking alcohol unwittingly help to “tag” these experiences. I can’t easily recall much of my grade school and high school experiences, for example. It’s easier for me to recall more memories after I started drinking more seriously. It may just be recency bias, but drinking seriously helped me learn to pay more attention to what is happening. In this way, drinking spirits allows me to unlock doors to memories in the past, even as I more fully enjoy the present. The result is both flavor references and a half-assed way to time travel.
All said, I just realized I could have added that one of the reasons why I drink is to remember.
I do wish we had the ability to choose to forget certain experiences, though. I bought this bottle to be reviewed sometime 2014 in Tokyo. Having only started collecting for at least a year, and with Manila really having shit availability back then (the only single malts in major stores were the 3 big Glens), this was an early, accidental holy grail for me.
As a result, I was milking this for a long time, until I started getting into rum and mezcal. That was like a red pill moment for me, as it led down a rabbit hole of fermentation and distillation.
What used to be a sacred sip for me is now merely… meh. Has my palate shifted? Am I just more spoiled? Have I become more jaded towards whisky? Or is whisky now empirically not as good, with quality dropping due to the heavy demand?
Bottled aged 15 years on 19th February 2014, this was distilled on 22nd September 1998. Residing in cask #700383 in a refill sherry butt. This being, bottle 129 of 787.
Signatory Laphroaig 1998 – review
Color: Waxed wooden floor
On the nose: An initial sensation of peat, dates and toffee. The toffee smells close to a local candy I grew up on called Chocnut, next followed by smoked instant coffee and hints of stone fruits like peach and apricot. A lingering smell of something like coconut chips dumped on cream and some watermelon juice.
In the mouth: Initial flavors of coffee bitterness, peat and smoke. Followed by more peat, oolong tea, and dark chocolate. There’s this weird mix of a watered down syrup made up of cherries, strawberries and fudge inconsistently there at the back.
Comparing the nose versus the taste of this reminds me of meeting a date in person whom you initially met online. She turns out to be shyer live than on the Internet, and while you think you may be able to engender that spark out of her after spending more time together, there’s this nagging feeling that it won’t happen.
The nose on this was so good. It smelled so opened up, and there was this wonderful complexity I don’t always get in ex-sherry cask matured peated Islay single malt. Unfortunately, it fell short upon drinking it.
Side note: I’ve been getting a lot more sulfur notes in sherry influenced spirits these days. I’m glad that this one didn’t give off any sulfur notes, or else I would have made this a 4/10.