Laphroaig needs little in the way of introduction. This Beam Suntory-owned giant one of the most recognisable, distinctive whisky brands, an Islay giant that produces over 2 million litres of spirit a year. The white and green labels can be seen in bars and supermarkets across the country, each bottle bearing the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales. Laphroaig is now celebrating its 200th anniversary.
So why, then, is this glorious distillery putting out a distinctly average whisky?
Laphroaig Select is a new(ish) No Age Statement whisky. It’s been aged in a pic-n-mix of casks: Oloroso sherry butts, American white oak, hogsheads seasoned with Pedro Ximenez, quarter casks and first-fill bourbon casks.
A bottle of Laphroaig Select costs about £35, though it does appear in supermarkets at around £30. It’s bottled at 40% ABV.
Colour: yellow gold, old gold. On the nose: classic sweet Laphroaig peat on display. Hint of malt. Brine, with a few touches of citrus. Really quite lovely. Honey and almonds underneath the smoke. Coastal, almost agricultural.
In the mouth: a mellow dram, this, and not as potently smokey – nor as sweet – as the nose might suggest. It’s more leaning towards ashes and bonfires, rather than peat. Gristy, malty and briny again. Digestive biscuits. Perhaps cider. A little wood influence towards the end. The thing is: none of these flavours are really coming to the fore. You have to search for them. You have to be patient. I don’t expect that with Laphroaig. I expect the flavours to walk up and head-butt me, but that doesn’t happen here. Not all that much happens, in fact.
Laphroaig Select is a touch rough and ready, and the nicest that I can say about this is that it’s likely an everyday drinker for those new to peated single malt whiskies. It doesn’t reach the heights of the old Laphroaig 10, which is actually one of my favourites from the distillery. It misses that touch of sweet, strange iodine to balance out the other flavours in my opinion, and I’d love to have seen it just a couple of percent stronger ABV. It’s also not as good as the Laphroaig Quarter Cask, which in the world of No Age Statement whiskies is as good as it gets.
If you love your peat monsters, you probably should avoid this. If you like Laphroaig, well… I reckon this ain’t for you either. I guess this mellow whisky is designed to encourage non-peat freaks to take a step towards the smokey goodness.
But that seems to me to be denying the true character of Laphroaig. This is like the sanitised, politically correct version of an Islay great, scared of upsetting anyone with potent flavours. It’s as if they’re shy of being themselves.