I must admit, I’ve always had a soft spot for Laphroaig’s whisky. The Quarter Cask was phenomenally good value, and the 10 Year Old used to be terrific (before they lowered the ABV). The 18 Year Old is still superb, if a little expensive these days. There’s no doubting the quality of the spirit either, as I’ve had some simply delicious single cask releases over the years.
Laphroaig – la-froyg – is an Islay icon, and certainly one of the most well-known distilleries around the world. Established in 1815, it recently celebrated its 200th anniversary. For many years it remained in the same family until the last member died childless in 1954. He left the distillery to Bessie Williamson, his one-time secretary (Whisk(e)y Treasury, Schobert.). She sold up over a decade later, though remained director until 1972. Today it is owned by the corporate drinks giant Beam Suntory.
Laphroaig Lore is the distillery’s new ‘No Age Statement’ release for 2016. It is made up of whiskies aged in a combination of quarter casks, sherry casks and ‘reused’ peated casks. Again without an age statement we must instead get some story or a marketing hook, and in this case it is that the Lore is very rich – ‘the richest of the rich’ Laphroaigs, in fact. On Twitter it was revealed that this single malt is a vatting of various ages between 7 and 21 years old.
So that makes the Laphroaig Lore a 7-year-old whisky. There’s been quite a bit of talk about this online, largely stoked through Laphroaig’s very clever and talented brand agency. Laphroaig Lore is bottled at 48% ABV and costs about £80, which you may think is quite steep for a 7-year-old whisky. (Compare that to the new Lagavulin 8 Year Old, which is stunning, brave and superb value at £50 – Diageo’s best move in ages.)
Anyway, the real question is this: is Laphroaig Lore any good?
Laphroaig Lore Tasting Notes
Colour: deep gold.
On the nose: timid. There’s that classic Laphroaig peat in there, but it’s seriously muted. A little honey. Orange blossom. Touch of butterscotch. A little leather. Not at all unpleasant, but heavily lacking any complexity.
In the mouth: ashy, but not overly so. Creamy, but not too much. A little toffee. Briney. Lemonade. Butterscotch. Vanilla. Milk chocolate. A lingering, dry peppery finish. The peat vanishes to something more earthy. And there end the tasting notes – it’s as simple a whisky as that for me. There’s not much going on at all, and I suspect any power is being given by allowing this to be a higher ABV. That said, it’s one of the most boring whiskies I’ve had in a long time.
I actually tried Laphroaig Lore twice. Once at the Midlands Whisky Festival, and again in the calm of my own home. Both times I was disappointed. At the show, many other people were too – especially when price was mentioned. Let me repeat: Laphroaig, or Beam Suntory, are asking £80 for the Lore. £80!
If Laphroaig Lore was £35 and slotted alongside the Quarter Cask (which is far better) or the Select on a supermarket shelf, it’d be fine. But this is too blunt and boring a whisky, and not even much older. Sure, some people will yell that this contains some old whisky in with the young, which highlights one issue with ‘transparency’ – that declaring it contains old whisky will be used in an effort to justify the price what is incredibly average younger whisky. (Be careful what you wish for, whisky fans.)
Regardless of the age statement – and not that I’m particularly bothered by such matters – Laphroaig Lore is a below average whisky. It is a dull McLaphroaig, the Nickelback of Islay whiskies, and that they’re charging £80 for it is bordering on ridiculous. Buy the new Lagavulin 8 Years Old instead.
(And yes, Jack Sparrow has returned.)