The start of summer invariably means at least some alfresco dining. Whether picnicking, grilling or full-on smoky barbecue, one can’t go wrong with healthy stock of proper, chilled, summery wines: sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, moscato, champagne or cava, rose and the like.
An especially agreeable example is the kosher edition of the 2015 Château Roubine Cru Classé Côtes de Provence Rosé ($25): this bright, sunny, light-to-medium-bodied, salmon-colored beauty is an elegantly crisp, refreshing, well balanced and deliciously dry blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and small doses of Carignan, Tibouren, Syrah and Mourvèdre; suavely discreet without being austere, with ripe yet layered aromas and flavors of red berry fruits, watermelon, a hint of grapefruit and lemon zest, a hint of minerality and fresh almond. An excellent and most yummy Provencal rosé.
Spirits-wise, while cocktails and scotch or bourbon on the rocks often make for chummier summer companions than a rich, brooding whisky, I find myself enchanted by the latest offering from Laphroaig, one of the iconic Scotch whisky brands based on the Scottish island of Islay.
Laphroaig (pronounced “La-froyg,” Gaelic for “the beautiful hollow by the broad bay”) is one of those mighty single malt Scotch whisky brands that command the respect of whisky drinkers, and near fanatic devotion from its fans. Back in 1994, Laphroaig established the “Friends of Laphroaig” club (FOL), membership available with the purchase of any Laphroaig whisky (just open the little green pamphlet accompanying each bottle to find your unique number to go online and join). Membership in FOL grants a lifetime lease of 1 square foot of Laphroaig land on the island of Islay in Scotland. The annual rent is a dram of Laphroaig which can be obtained upon visiting the distillery. It offers one of the best distillery tours in Scotland; there is a range of tour options available, absolutely go with the 4½ hour “Water to Whisky Experience” (details online).
Regular readers will doubtless know of my enthusiasm for all things Laphroaig. This newest offering, despite a hefty price tag and a slightly dark, pensive air about it, more than satisfies my every expectation.
Laphroaig Lore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (48 percent abv; $125): Dubbed on its label as both “the richest of the rich” and also, in case you didn’t get the message, “the most richly flavored of all scotch whiskies,” this new non-age specified release delivers the goods as promised. A vatting of Laphroaig whiskeys from as young as 7 to as old as 21 years, all aged in a wide array of differing casks, resulting in a robust, meaty, dark, smoothly smoky whisky that offers the vitality of youth with the steadiness, stoutness and sturdiness of a heavyweight bare-knuckled boxer. On the nose it is full of peat, toast, cured meats, seaside air, bitter chocolate, iodine, baked apples, banana chips and a touch of crushed mixed nuts. The oily, complex, layered palate offers much of the same with additional seaweed and brine notes, leathered fruit, green apple, dark chocolate covered citrus zest, overdone dark berry crumble, plum compote, charcoal ash, raisins, mild chili pepper, mild vanilla cream, tupelo honey, smoked meats, buttery toffee and dried dates. The palate gripping finish is long, dark and robust yet soothing. The peat smoke here is more of an earthy, savory, acrid, beach bonfire edge with a hospital bandage overlay than the usual Laphroaig fare, but it is no less delicious. This is not typical Laphroaig, but is distinctly part of the same lovable and warm family — and a most welcome addition. L’chaim!