Remember when Laphroaig’s releases were really good?
It wasn’t too long ago, to be honest. Probably about five years ago you could by the Quarter Cask for £25, and be seriously impressed by the value for money. Maybe a bit longer back and the 10 year old was just a brilliant go-to whisky Since then, one release after another has trickled out, each one slightly duller, with the dullest by far being Laphroaig Lore. And it’s a great shame, as I really like what they used to put out, I love the classical styling of the packaging, and I even like the little royal warrant.
Laphroaig’s Royal Warrant was issued during the year of Prince Charles’s first visit to the distillery, in 1994, where his plane actually overshot the runway. (There are a few nice photos of that visit on the Laphroaig Collector website.) He’s been back couple of times since then: for his 60th birthday in 2008, and for the distillery’s 200th Anniversary celebrations in 2015. Since 1994, Laphroaig have always released a bottling for Prince Charles under his Highgrove label.
Today’s whisky was a bottling from the 2009 release – a 12 year-old Laphroaig distilled in 1997. It’s quite expensive to find this particular bottling now, around £200 in some places, but you can find other later Highgrove releases much cheaper than this.
Laphroaig – Highgrove Islay Single Malt (2009) Review
Colour: yellow gold.
On the nose: about as perfect a peat note as I can imagine. Hemp and old rope. Smoked salmon and anchovies. Then it changes to more medicinal notes after a few moments, with those old-school Laphroaig iodine flavours. A mixture or citrus, coastal notes, gentle vanilla. Buried under these strong aromas are floral notes: honeysuckle.
In the mouth: lovely oily texture, carrying a perfect balance between sweet and sour qualities. Mossy, earthy, blended in with black tea for the peat. It’s not medicinal, and slides towards the sea food. Salty, with a real malt presence. Lime cordial. A little menthol. Then, at the end, the peat is expressed more traditionally: ashier, with a bitterness that balances well with the sweet vanilla. But it’s the emergent properties of the whisky – that it is greater than the sum of its parts – that real winner here.
A beautiful whisky that makes me lament the downward slide of late. Rather than being overly complex, there’s a wonderful honesty about the expression of flavours. Just a lovely, lovely peated whisky.