Laphroaig Tweet Tasting

It’s almost that time of year again to consider the latest batch of New Year’s resolutions. Looking back across 2014 I’ve failed miserably, particularly with my statement of intent to cover Laphroaig in greater detail.

The recent Peated Malts of Distinction Tweet Tasting event provided the opportunity to experience the Laphroaig Select, which despite some warnings from friendly quarters was actually ok; I can see a place for it in their current core line-up. The Bowmore Small Batch instead came in for criticism on the night. Whether we like No Age Statement whiskies or not, they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future so let’s make the most of the good exponents. A surprising Laphroaig was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society as 29.133 (Studying rock pools on a hot day), at 19 years of age I was expecting a raging inferno of core distillery traits, but was frankly taken aback. Apart from these brief forays, 2014 has been an utter failure towards meeting my earlier resolution.
Not all is lost as I was given the opportunity to participate in a Laphroaig Tweet Tasting event organised by the Whisky Wire. This vertical tasting would almost complete the lower end of the core range by including the classic 10 year old, another outing with the Select, and the Quarter Cask and Triple Wood expressions. Without further delay let’s step into this chemistry medicinal experience.

Laphroaig Select
Distillery: Laphroaig
Strength: 40% ABV
Additional: natural colour, uses a blend of spirit from Laphroaig Quarter Cask, PX Cask, Triple Wood (European Oak casks) and the 10 Year Old.
Price: £34.99

Colour: very pale just a hint of wood

Nose: malted vinegar, plump raisins, stale white supermarket bread (not that I buy this stuff anymore, I bake my own) and pine cones. On another swing past I’m taken with the classic sweetie now as refreshers. Another taster suggested being in a saw mill and that is spot on.

Taste: a mixture of salty sweetness and maple cured bacon. I had heard bad reports about this whisky but it isn’t as poor as those comments lead me to believe. The classic iodine note is there but a supporting act. Cloves, white pepper, that smoky residue on your clothes when you had to endure smokers in the pub. Perfectly acceptable to a newcomer, but like the new Mortlach’s, if you know what the distillery is capable of then you’ll probably ignore this release.

Overall: a lightweight Laphroaig and while this has come in for criticism from staunch fans of the distillery, as an amuse bouche it works. Enjoy this and become comfortable with this offering and then you’re reading to truly step into stark gothic impaling a real Laphroaig delivers.

Laphroaig 10 year old
Distillery: Laphroaig
Strength: 40% ABV
Additional: the classic Laphroaig
Price: £35.99

Colour: corn syrup

Nose: at this time of year its a dram to welcome you indoors with a roasting fire after being out for a coastal walk along a rocky outcrop. The classic iodine note, saltiness from the ocean spray and the resilient influence of seaweed. To some this will sound awful but you’ll grow to love Laphroaig as the years go by. Beyond its rugged exterior resides ripe pears, a little marzipan and lemon fizz. An oily note that I’d summarise as fried smoked back bacon.

Taste: not as pronounced in the mouth as I recall some other 10 year olds from this distillery. Strange in a way, as a tad muted, especially when I think about the Talisker 10 year old. Restrained peat, vanilla pods, some of that crisp bacon influence, sea salt and seaweed.

This is a dram I’ve enjoyed at relatives in front of their roaring fire many an evening. This is the perfect setting for Laphroaig and after a day being buffeted by the Highland weather, a welcome respite. Arguably not the beast it once was, but still very enjoyable when you’ve got inkling for a taste of Islay.
Laphroaig Triple Wood
Distillery: Laphroaig
Strength: 48% ABV
Additional: a combination of bourbon casks, quarter casks and Oloroso sherry butts
Price: £46.99

Colour: corn syrup

Nose: roasted peanuts, a swipe of fresh mint, subtle smoked hay and simmering charcoal embers.

Taste: maple cured bacon of all things. With water the sweet pastry richness of rhubarb crumble but it doesn’t suit water; too finely orchestrated and it all falls apart and becomes flat. For a Laphroaig this just won’t do.

A little disappointed by this one especially at this price point. It tastes young and is passable on the nose but far too thin on the palate. A combination of casks used in its production and methods meaning it lacks an identity of its own.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Distillery: Laphroaig
Strength: 48% ABV
Additional: a young Laphroaig that has been accelerated through the use of Quarter Casks after spending an initial period in ex-bourbon casks

Price: £39

Colour: melted butter

Nose: slight moss, more damp firewood or kindling as I recall it. A mellow chap that features your iodine and coastal influences again, not as sweet on the nose or peaty, but a wee bit of Birds Eye vanilla custard, apple juice and the oily buttery note.

Taste: wow this has more peat oomph than the nose suggests – almost an equal with the 10 year old. Very well pieced together. Initially a woody influence, then the peat cascades in, moving into the iodine, saltiness and grapefruits. Leaving you with a prolonged medicinal finish with a touch of bark.

The nose was a disappointment but the dram comes alive in the mouth. It’s a saving grace and the only issue remains the price point that is slightly above the 10 year old. This is a young swashbuckling thug of a dram. The 10 year old is a more refined elder statesman.

Difficult to split both of them but the 10 year old is regularly discounted at retail. For instance this evening I spotted it for just £25, I’d put it above the Quarter Cask for that reason.


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