Today, on my birthday, instead of celebrating with a nice beer (I have an insane number of fantastic ones in the cellar), I chose to have short glass of Scotch.

My mother-in-law bought me a bottle of Laphroaig for Christmas – cask-strength and aged 10 years (a little young next to other bottles in its price range). After sipping it, I was blown away. It is the ultimate Scotch. This takes all of the crazy peat-smoked malt flavors that you get in other Scotch whiskeys (smoke, seaweed, dirt) and takes them to the next level. I don’t want to suggest that it is over-the-top or will assault your palate. These descriptors may not sound pleasant to some (seaweed!?! dirt!?!), but, in fact, these wild and strong flavors meld well and make for a relaxing and quite smooth glass of whiskey. Despite its being cask strength (~56% abv instead of diluted to the usual 40%), it is remarkably clean with little of the heat and solvent flavors you’d expect from such a strong liquor (which are present in many lesser whiskeys). It is so strong that, after swishing it around in the mouth to really detect all flavor therein, it begins to make the inside of your mouth and your gums go numb – without being harsh on the palate.

I am far from a Scotch connoisseur, so I’m a novice (bear with me if you actually know something about Scotch). I like whiskey. I usually prefer bourbon: Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage in particular because it is tasty and sippable – but also because it is inexpensive enough that I can mix with it in drinks that call for bourbon. It’s a great value if you like bourbons on the sweeter side (which I often do).

My last nice bottle of whiskey (other than Crown Royal, which is a staple in our liquor cabinet) was a gift from my friend Bob: Tyrconnell Irish whiskey. It is very smooth and well-rounded, but lighter in flavor than Scotch. It is closer to the Crown Royal from Canada than to any other whiskey in my collection.

My favorite – at least as of this moment – is definitely the newest addition. This crazy bottle of Scotch. Delicious. It’s actually nice enough, despite the incredibly high alcohol content, to sip neat (i.e. poured straight from the bottle with nothing else – no ice, no water, nothing).

This is a beer blog, so I should probably say something about beer. I did drink some beer today – one 12 ounce serving of Anchor’s Christmas Ale. I also had a few sips of homebrew while dispensing Hump’s Credit Crunch Ale into bottles to make room for Hump’s Smoked Maple Stout. I’ll be adding some Grade B Maple Syrup and some lactose to that keg so that it keg-conditions over the next week or two (as opposed to the usual force-carbonating it from the CO2 tank).

Speaking of homebrew, my friend Rob from work has begun brewing. He brewed his first batch last week and kegged it today. I think he’s pretty happy with it. I’ve been trying to help him out with the hobby. I don’t have any other friends that actively brew (lots that used to though), so it’s nice to have someone to “talk shop” with. And since I have more experience, I can feel useful by answering questions and helping him out. His first batch was actually one of my recipes – though modified to accomodate available ingredients and his setup (extract with specialty grains, partial boil).