husband, father, whisky lover, blogger, freelance whisky writer, and head of the New Jersey Whiskey Society & leading the USBG NJ efforts...currently the New Jersey Whisky Ambassador for Diageo & therefore leave the recent writing duties to guest bloggers, primarily that Bourbon loving fella named Gerard

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Laphroaig Tasting At The Turtle Club (Hoboken, NJ)


Ever meet someone that is passionate about what they do?

It seems harder to find these days.  Sometimes this is a dark world where I feel apathetic attention and halfhearted salesmanship is ubiquitous. 

It can make you feel detached…like the universe is even colder than it already is.

I say hi to the gas attendant and smile when I fill up my tank…no response.

I say thank you & have a great day when I buy something at the grocery store…they barely glance up from their cell phone. (Cell while working?…ugh)
Pregame posing with Simon

Shining like a beacon through this bitter fog is Simon Brooking.

Gregarious by nature.

Boisterous by choice.

He cares about what he is doing, and is unapologetic & passionate in his approach.

When I heard he was conducting a Laphroaig tasting at the wonderful Turtle Club in Hoboken, I knew it would be quick to sell out.  Besides, the deal was outstanding…food, Scotch & A BOTTLE TO BRING HOME for $85…I was likely one of the first to buy a ticket.

Considering residential permit parking surrounds the Turtle Club, I felt lucky to have found a spot on the street about half a mile away.  Happy to hoof it in the bitter New Jersey cold, it was a small price to pay for what I knew would be a great experience.

I met my buddy there, and we were having a great time catching up while Simon and the Beam team staged the event.  The Turtle Club is split in two; the classy bar area where we were crammed and waiting, and the warm & inviting dining/bar type area that was being prepped.

 
 
By the time we were all seated, the place was packed.  It was clear that in addition to the standard seating, there was another small crowd standing by the entrance, just peeking in to see what all the fuss was about.
The Beautiful Turtle Club + Four Expressions (plus one bonus later)

Simon is a leader.

He led us through the tasting (Laphroaig 10, Quarter Cask, Triple Wood, 18 Year Old).
60+ Sing Along

He led us through educational slides & tales of yore.

Heck, by the time the night was through, he even led us in song. 

His voice is better than he gives himself credit for too. 

Even when he hilariously & briefly drifted off into a Katy Perry inspired “I Kissed A Bog” when we were discussing Peat, he was right on key.

Rather than the depressingly detached attitude that we all get on a daily basis, Simon was connected to everyone in that room.  He made sure that any questions were answered.  He made sure if you wanted a bottle signed that it was addressed.  He even shared a bottle of the 2009 Cairdeas out of his boot to cap the night.  (Those of you that have been around Simon or been to tastings with Simon before know that he usually keeps a little something up his sleeve…er…boot)

Ever the Pollyanna, I was hard pressed to find a flaw in the night.  (aside from the parking)

Later, when my buddy pushed me for something to be critical of     (I was gushing as I reviewed my tasting notes) there was only one thing I could come up with.  The food, while delicious, was quite limited for full grown adults drinking a solid amount of whisky.

Although, even more that the serving size, my larger issue with the food is that I felt there was little attempt to pair them with the whiskies.  The delicate (if that is possible for Laphroaig) Triple Wood was served with super spicy BBQ ribs.  (spicy rather than smoky which would have worked better)  The spiciness just crushed all of our palates.  Multiple people at the table noted that after the ribs it was tough to get our palates straight.   Which leads me to note that there were no palate cleansers to be found...not even a simple roll or bread of some sort.
Laphroaig about to be served

Please note the food was DELICIOUS.  I have eaten at the Turtle Club before, and would eat there again in a heartbeat.  It was not the quality of the food, but rather the quantity and pairings that frustrated a few folks.

Nevertheless, this is truly a minor detail in the scope of things.  I left the Turtle Club a happy customer, thankful for the experience, and excited about whisky. (what else is new)
 
I don’t know if it was the fine quality spirits, the haunting lighting of the Turtle Club, or the hearty burning block of peat that was smoldering the whole time, but this was the opposite of detached…we were all part of something that night.

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