A festival where you can hear yourself drink

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The annual WhiskyFest DC, which was held this month, is an opportunity for whisky aficionados and geeks to mingle together and, in some cases, with the folks involved in producing the whisky.

More importantly, it allows you to sample from hundreds of whiskies and other distilled spirits from around the world. There are also lively and educational tasting seminars. I skipped the seminars this time, as I was having too much fun chatting and trying the whiskies. The noise level was civilized and one could carry on a conversation without having to shout.


Amid the nearly 60 exhibitors of Scotch, bourbon, rye, Japanese, Irish, Taiwanese and Indian whiskies, I found myself most captivated by three booths: Laphroaig, West Cork Distillers and Whistle Pig.

Laphroaig is always great, but the standout for me was the Laphroaig 27-year-old Single Malt Islay Scotch Whisky (41.7 percent abv; $750): An immensely deep, complex and delicious whisky with a nose of wet ash, brine, tropical fruits and nuts and a stunning palate of citrus, nectarine, white pepper, espresso, something like banana and a litchi-like characteristic all enveloped in smoldering — almost sweet — smoke and peat. The finish is dry, long, a tad leathery and with a nice spice and citrus kick. Stunningly good whisky.

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The West Cork Distillers Irish whiskies were uniformly good, and while every fiber of my anti-marketing being wanted to dismiss it, I greatly enjoyed their gimmick-driven Pogues Irish Whiskey (40 percent abv; $50): Marketed as “the official Irish whiskey of the legendary band,” this is an impressive, sweet and intense blended Irish whiskey. The Pogues were an Irish-British Celtic punk band, with lead singer Shane MacGowan, formed in 1982 and dissolved first in 1996, reformulated in 2001 and dissolved again in 2014.

I’m a fan of the group. The whiskey, too. It was solid and enjoyable with a nose of treacle, honey, dried fruits, toasted barley, vanilla icing, and something faintly bubble gum like, and a palate offering caramel, dried apricots, lemon pith, hazelnuts, French toast, spice, vanilla and graham crackers. The finish is a little clipped, but offers nice malt, dried fruit, honey and toffee notes. The WhistlePig rye is always great, but the standout was the WhistlePig Farm 15-year-old Straight Rye Whiskey finished in Vermont Estate Oak (46 percent abv; $200): This is robust and complex, with a nose of punchy rye grain, toasted nuts, pears, strawberries, clarified butter, biscuits and a thick and oily palate of rye grain, toffee, caramel, butterscotch, honey, citrus, spice and a touch of dark chocolate. The finish is a mix of spice and caramel, with a slight-though-soothing bitterness. L’chaim!


Fill Joshua E. London’s cup with your questions about wine and spirits: [email protected].

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