Magnus Fagerström
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A battle between 5 peaty distilleries.

A couple of years ago I hosted a tasting I called The battle of the Giants. It was 2 bottles each from Ardbeg, Port Ellen and Brora. it was a very nice tasting indeed, but I wanted to take it to another level. This time I wanted it to be a bigger tasting with more bottles so I decided to go for 5 distilleries and 3 bottles from each distillery. I set the budget to 200.000 SEK which is about 20.000 Euro, so each distillery got 40.000 SEK to spend on 3 bottles. The distilleries was, of course, Port Ellen, Brora, Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. It turned out to be a challenge to get 3 bottles for the money I had to spen on each of them. Port Ellen, Brora and Ardbeg wasn't so hard but Lagavulin and Laphroaig was. Finding very expensive bottles was easy but to find a bottle for 20.000 and two for 10.000 each was harder, but eventually I managed to get all the bottles needed for the tasting. As it is a lot of money to spend up front I sent out invitations to the tasting 1 year in advance and it only took two days and then the tasting was fully booked. When everyone had paid the initial costs I could start hunting the bottles for the tasting. I already had some in my own collection and three of the people going to the tasting had bottles suitable for the tasting so I got a good start in finding interesting bottles.

Lagavulin turned out to be the biggest challenge as there are not that many to choose from and some of them are too expensive and others are too cheap, if there is such a thing as too cheap whisky, but I wanted to spend the same amount of money on each distillery so I had to look hard to find suitably Lagavulin bottles. I wanted to include the 37-year old but it was impossible to fit it into the budget.

As it was "only" 15 bottles to taste this time we had two flights of whisky. Seven in one and eight in another didn't appeal to me so I thre in a dark horse in the tasting. Not really a dark horse as in fact it was a White Horse bottled in the 70's. There should be some Lagavulin in that one so I thought it would be a good starter and it was.

41 people came to Påarp on February 25th to taste some amazing whiskies. We started at 3 pm and had 2 hours for each flight with an hour foodbreak between them.

The first flight had most of the low alcohol whiskies in it as I thought that would be the most fair thing to pair them together. We started with the old White Horse and I do think most of the people there was expecting something bland and uninteresting but they got a surprise. it was a very nice whisky indeed and I actually placed at number 6 in the first flight. The overall quality was very good and my points varied from 87 to 93 in this flight and I'm known for being a bit low on my scores. The 1969 Port Ellen, brown label Connoisseurs Choice was the one I scored at 87 and the old Ardbeg 10 YO, clear bottle/black label, from the 70's got an 88. White Horse got 89 so it beat some pretty heavy opponents. 
I had two winners in this first flight and the funny thing is that both of them were bottled by The Syndicate. I gave 93 points both to the Lagavulin 1979, 25 YO and the Laphroaig 1988, 27 YO. The two Broras in this flight came in third and fourth place with 92 points for the Annual Release 2016 and 91 points for the 2010 version. The Ardbeg 30 YO got 90 points from me. 
We all agreed that this was a great flight and everyone was looking forward to part two, but first some food and coffee.

The second flight had three whiskies at 43% and the rest cask strength so I put the 43% first. And what a start that was! First up was the Lagavulin 12 YO White Label bottled in early 80's followed by a bottle of the same whisky but bottled in the 70's. The last 43% was the Laphroaig Cairdeas 30 YO. I started the cask strength part with a Brora from SMWS. On the label it says 61.2 but it's a misprint and should read 61.20. I had saved 4 heavily sherried ones for last and as they were all cask strength it was a good idea to group them together and finish the tasting with them.

Both of the 12 YO Lagavulin was very good and I gave them 90 and 91 points. The Laphroaig Cairdeas 30 is a very good whisky but for me it didn't hit 90 so I scored it as 89. The Brora was fantastic though, very Brora-like and 92 points from me. The last four whiskies were very sherried and I knew that most of the people on the tasting love these kind of whiskies and I was right. The points were high and the cheers and smiles on peoples faces were contagious. Port Ellen 20 YO, Old Malt Cask for Top Notch got 91 points from me, Laphroaig 1980, 27 YO got 93, Port Ellen 1982, 22 YO, Jack Wieber's Auld Distillers got 92 points and the magnificent Ardbeg 1967, Cask 574, Signatory walked away with todays highest score of 95 points.

This was truly and amazing day with fantastic whiskies and lots of happy friends. It's getting harder and harder to arrange these kind of tastings as the prices are going through the roof, so I'm very happy that I could organize this one and share this experience with my friends.


Magnus Fagerström, October 2018