Macallan, Highland Park & Laphroaig Whisky Masterclass

Upstairs at the Bellevue Hotel in Paddington, in a private room with Chesterfield lounges, gilded mirrors, a grandfather clock, lampshades and framed prints, the Whisky Workshop is about to commence. Tasting glasses are laid out in a pattern and the dimly-lit room is heady with the aroma of various whiskies.

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer
Upstairs at the Bellevue Hotel, Paddington

Jared Plummer, ALIA’s brand ambassador of 2011, is hosting the whisky event tonight that is set to take us on a journey through Scotland from Speyside’s Macallan, up to the Orkney Islands to Highland Park and ending in Islay, with the smoky and distinctive taste of Laphroaig.

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer
Jared Plummer, Brand Ambassador

On arrival, guests are treated to a classic cocktail created in 1894. The Rob Roy is named after the Scottish folk hero Robert Roy MacGregor and makes an apt introduction to the whisky tour of Scotland.

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer
Rob Roy Cocktail

Derived from the Manhattan, the Rob Roy is made with Teachers, a blended Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth and bitters, and comes served in a short glass with morello cherries. It has a well-balanced taste with notes of vermouth and a hint of burn on the finish – a good introduction to the whiskies that are to follow.

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer
Whisky platter

Accompanying the tasting is a whisky platter with Spanish Jamón, Italian Salami with tartuffo, aged cheddar and a delicious house-made spiced whisky and fig paste served with crisp bread.

“Everyone has a different palate and will taste something different,” is arguably a comforting statement for someone beginning a journey of whisky appreciation.

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer
Six whiskies on taste

There are six single malts on taste, two expressions of three different distilleries. Single malt refers to the single grain (barley) that goes into making whisky and it also comes from the one distillery.

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer

The first whisky on taste is the Macallan 12 year old expression from Speyside, in the north Scotland. We learn that the age statement is always the youngest whisky in the blend and that 25-40% of the flavour is in the clear spirit while the rest comes from the barrel.

To taste, we keep the glass still, put it under the nose, open the mouth and breathe in. Then after taking a little sip, we keep it for a few seconds, then swallow, taking note of the texture on the palate.

Macallan is known to have a cult status and has many expressions. Aged in sherry casks, they takes 16% of the run and use smaller stills which gives it a concentrated flavour. The 16 year old is smooth, fresh on the nose and has an oily texture. There are hints of sherry on the nose with toffee and fruit notes.

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer

The Macallan 18 year old expression is aged in brand new American oak that’s been charred. Burning the inside of the barrel caramelises the woodchip and gives it a flavour profile. The 18 yo has had another 6 years in the barrel, and consequently has lost more to the angel share. Over 18 years, about 1/3rd of the barrel is lost so the flavour becomes more concentrates.

The 18 yo is a bolder expression with a lot more flavour. While sherry casks bring out more fruit and spice flavours, American oak imparts vanilla notes which is a lot more evident in this whisky.

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer

Moving on to Highland Park, the most northern distillery in a very remote part of Scotland, this whisky has been aged in sherry casks not bourbon. 12 year old Highland Park is smooth, smoky and peppery on the nose with spices, toffee and caramel notes.

The 18 year old Highland Park has been labelled as the best spirit in the world. A well-rounded whisky that has all the flavour profiles, toffee notes, fruit, vanilla, floral, spice and is the standout of the night’s tasting.

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer

The tour of Scotland ends up in Islaywith Laphroaig, a whisky renowned for itsearthy characteristics with lots of smoke. During the prohibition, Laphroaig was allowed for medicinal purposes due its seaweed and salt water characteristics as the peat from Islay is known to have iodine in it.

The first expression is the Laphroaig Quarter Cask which we previously tastes during the Laphroaig Live event. This whisky has spent about 5-11 years in ex bourbon barrels which are obtained from Maker’s Mark. At 48% ABV, this is the strongest whisky on taste tonight. The name refers to the smaller size of the cask in which it is matured, a quarter of a 500 litre. second maturation process takes between 7-9 months, maturing faster due to having more wood contact.

The whisky has sweet toffee, caramel and vanilla flavours from the Bourbon barrels, lots of oak, as well as soft fruits and a spicy finish. It lingers long on the palate.

The tasting ends with a rare Laphroaig 15 year old, no longer available worldwide. At 43%, this whisky has a white chocolate sweetness. The smoke is still evident, but it has more toffee flavours – a textural dram that is sweeter, smoother, creamier, to be enjoyed as a dessert whisky after a meal.

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer

The whisky workshop was attended by whisky novices, enthusiasts as well as industry professionals highlighting Jared Plummer’s exceptional depth of knowledge and ability to communicate and educate in a relaxed environment .

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer
James Buntin (Chivas Whisky Ambassador) and Jared Plummer

Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer
Jared Plummer and Dan Woolley (Riversdale Group – Group Beverage Manager)

The Whisky Workshop with Jared Plummer was held on Wednesday 30 November 2011 at the Bellevue Hotel in Paddington which recently hosted the Johnnie Walker Double Black media launch. Tickets for the event cost $50 which include a cocktail on arrival, tasting of all 6 whiskies and the Whisky Platter.

Gourmantic attended the event as media guests of Dan Woolley.

The Bellevue Hotel
59 Hargrave Street
Paddington NSW 2021

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.