Cubans

Published on May 23rd, 2019 | by Ken Gargett

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Por Larranaga RR Belicosos Asia Pacific 2008/Lagavulin 8-Year-Old, 12-Year-Old, 16-Year-Old.

Well, this is awkward. Apparently, this is the third time I have looked at the Por Larranaga RR ‘Asia Pacific’ Belicosos 2008 for Kenfessions. I had not realised that when I sat down with it the other evening. At least, the drinks have been different, so I should be getting it right soon. As the famous Ron Swanson says, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing”. I think we can safely say that the PL RR Belicosos have been thoroughly whole-assed. Now might be a good time, again in the words of Ron, for me “to put some alcohol in my mouth to stop words coming out of it”.

Looking back, they have been variable but the good news is that recently, the ones from my box (EMA JUL 08) have been extremely good. This time, it came with a lovely pale russet wrapper, which looked good. An easy draw, this opened with attractive mild chocolate notes and cinnamon. Refined, mature, complex. There was a small hint of nougat and even some honey. As it moved through, the flavours evolved and developed. There was a lovely biscuity note which emerged. Then some delicious creamy notes. It was a little harsh on the finish but this is a cigar which still has legs. Early, I was thinking 94, then it kicked up to 96 with those creamy biscuity notes, but the harshness just took the edge off at the end, so back to 95. Nothing like that firm decisiveness. 

I know Rob believes that these still need time and I am inclined to agree with him. 

What is really interesting is how different the flavours were a few months ago. “An initial hit of bitter almond which quickly dissipated. Then it was dark berry notes, leather, bitter chocolate, black cherries and licorice. All the time, an undertow of caramel.” Not one of these flavours made an appearance in the most recent stick. So where the hell does that leave us. I really do not know. One stick at a time. 

The match? In keeping with our different options, I went with three whiskies, all from Lagavulin (mind you, fans of ‘Parks and Recreation’ will have twigged to that already) – the 8-Year-Old, 12-Year-Old and the famous 16-Year-Old. I picked up this swag from a mate who was shifting stock between his stores and holding a big sale. The 8 was a ridiculous $25 (in Australia, you are lucky to get a beer for that, these days). The others a bit more, but still great buying. 

Lagavulin was ‘established’ in 1742, but it was not “legal” until 1816, when it became the first recognised distillery on the island of Islay – there were something like ten illegal distilleries still operating at the time. It is said that the wonderful peaty, smoky, seaweed flavours of Lagavulin, so typical to the whiskies of Islay, come from the barley which is malted, very slowly, allowing around twenty times the exposure to peat smoke than, say, a Speyside whisky. 

The 8 is a Limited Edition, released to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the distillery (or it becoming legal, if you prefer), in 2016. Back in 1886, a whisky expert named Alfred Barnard described their 8-Year-Old, a staple of production at the time, as ‘exceptionally fine’. Lagavulin has attempted to recreate that. Very pale in colour, there is the peat, oysters and sea breeze notes one expects. Powerful, yet nicely balanced with length, it does not exhibit the refinement of some, but is a bracing 48%. As a match, they worked well enough, but not necessarily the most comfortable combo. 

The 12-Year-Old is a special release that comes out most years. This one was released in 2014. Loved it. Bottled at cask strength, 54.4%, it walks an amazing tightrope between the fire and finesse. It offers refinement and elegance. I would never have picked the alcohol to be anywhere near that level, if I hadn’t known. A sensational whisky, a pale colour, there are smoky characters, plus fruitcake, spices and cinnamon. Brilliantly balanced and very complex. Stunning stuff. My pick of the range, though of course, one cannot go wrong with the 16. For a combination, this is the one. Melded superbly. Two became one. 

The 16-Year-Old is much deeper in colour, a bronzed orange. Smoke, peat, honey and seaweed. Delicious. Balanced, complex and very long. Another fine match. 

There is perhaps no greater fan of the Lagavulin 16 than Ron Swanson, which he describes as “Nectar of the Gods.” 

Ron didn’t have much time for Europe. His view was that if you wanted to “experience other ‘cultures,’ use an atlas or a ham radio”. So when his friends bought him a ticket to Europe, he was mortified. It was, however, to visit the Lagavulin distillery (he became the fictional 51% owner).

His thoughts – “All my life I’ve avoided Europe, and it’s multitudes of terribleness, but it turns out, much to my surprise, there is actually one place in Europe that is worth seeing. These tiny islands off the coast of Scotland, where God’s chosen elixirs are distilled, barrelled, and prepared for consumption. This is worth the trip.” Lagavulin were obviously delighted by the attention, and the joke, as they released an ad featuring Ron. https://youtu.be/ebUT7-tRE8s. Nick Offerman, the actor who plays Ron, is apparently a huge fan in real life. 

To finish, a few of Ron’s more memorable thoughts. A committed carnivore, when presented with a salad, he remarked in horror, ‘but this is the food my food eats’. “Any dog under 50 pounds is a cat, and cats are useless.” “Clear alcohols are for rich women on diets.” “Dear frozen yogurt, you are the celery of desserts. Be ice cream, or be nothing.” Skim milk was described as water that was lying about being milk. 

A man with whom it would have been fun to raise a glass and have a cigar. 

KBG

Por Larranaga RR Belicosos Asia Pacific 2008/Lagavulin 8-Year-Old, 12-Year-Old, 16-Year-Old. Ken Gargett

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