When I received the last Friends of Laphroaig Newsletter some time ago, I couldn’t believe what I read there: FoL Dinner in my one-horse town! Together with the guy that owns my favourite Shop in the neighbourhood: Whiskykoch. We already did some tastings there
(always including delicious soup) and also ate one of Chris Peppers menus in a restaurant close by. The fact that Chris Pepper cooks dishes to and not whith Whisky is what makes him special in my eyes. Always wanted to book a Whisky dinner but never happened to actually do this.
But there was no way not booking this, as my partner was the biggest Friend of Laphroaig I know. Booked and -puff- it was sold out.
The dinner was held in Jagdhofkeller in Darmstadt, there was already a queue on the street when we got there. As good Germans we just stepped in line and waited patiently. At the entrance Mrs. Pepper welcomed us very warmly and gave way to the dim 2-storey
cellar where the Dinner was held. The ambience fitted the occasion perfectly, with our aperetif of Maker’s Mark and Ginger Ale in hand we choose a table with an older and a younger couple already sitting there. While everyone else was seated we already studied the menu and the tasting cards on the table. After everyone was seated Chris Pepper, cook & shop owner, and John Campbell, distillery manager and brand ambassador of Laphroaig, gave an introduction to the menu and whiskys of the night. Every course was introduced with the tasting notes of the cook followed by the description of the distillery manager.
We started the menu with a Cheese Soup with Apple Relish to accompany the 10 year old Laphroaig. I liked the sweet and sour taste of the soup and it went perfectly with the Whisky, which was only a little peaty but also sweet with a touch of caramell and vanilla.
The first main coruse was a Salmon Steak with Fennel – Sour – Cream – Ragout and Lemon Rice and Laphroaig Quarter Cask. This was the weakest dish in my opinion. The Salmon was okay, so was the Fennel but with too much sauce and I missed the Lemon note in the rice. From my perspective it also didn’t complement the whisky. The described citric notes of the whisky I couldn’t make out, maybe that’s why it didn’t fit from my perspective. The Quarter Cask is standard in our whisky shelf, it is a classic peated malt with a smokey sweet finish.
The second main course was the only dish, that actually contained whisky. The Braised Beef stuffed with Liver, Walnuts and Ham accompanied by glazed Leeks and smoky mashed Potatoes was very tasty. I was a little scared, I don’t like the taste of liver but the stuffing was more like liver sausauge which I appreciated. Unfortunately my nut allergy paid me a visit when I tried the stuffing, so I focused on the beef, the smokey mashed potatoes with whisky, leeks and the malt, that gave the dish a perfect severe finish. The 18 year old Laphroaig with its smokey, saltey taste and the long woody, peated finish was a good supplement and rounded up the dish.
The Dinner was closed with my (and almost everyone elses) favourite dish: Malty Sherry Panna Cotta with spiced Pear and Laphroaig Triple Wood. I took the first spoon and instantly wanted to eat a bucket or a bathtub full of this very delicious desert. It was accompanied by my favourite whisky of the night, the Laphroaig Triple Wood. With its sweet taste, the strong caramel and toffee notes this whisky made a perfect match.
After the desert we enjoyed the last whisky of the tasting as digestif: 25 year old Laphroaig, cask strength. I must confess I did not like this one. I am more a fan of “girly” whiskys, I cannot stand those very peaty and smokey ones, to me they have a finish like a cable fire. This one was not as bad as cable fire, but I had the fantastic Triple Wood before and the 25 year old, though pretty special, couldn’t compete.
In between the courses John Campbell came round all tables to talk to everyone in the room and gave the opportunity to ask questions. We asked about the best time to visit our plot and what other whiskys John himself drinks when not having Laphroaig. We were surprised that the first other Destillery he mentioned was Balvenie. My partner and I loved the Balvenie Islay Cask as this was our First-Date-Whisky. John also told that the islay casks used for said favourite whisky wereold Laphroaig casks. What a coincidence.
John Campbell is a perfect brand ambassador, a very knowledgable, down-to-earth person and a distiller with all his heart. I was rather surprised in a good way I must say. I expected a distillery manager of a worldwide operating distillery to be more a manager than a distiller. Thumbs up, I was not a huge fan of Laphroaig before but this wonderful night with the Friends of Laphroaig and John Campbell I changed my mind!