It was an oddly quiet Tuesday evening in Edinburgh airport. Here I was on route to another London tasting with the opportunity to check out the latest pours in the travel retail range. Out front on prominent display were the latest offerings from Bowmore and Laphroaig, both united by their Islay location and parent owner in Beam Suntory.
A sigh filled the void as I stepped forth to engage with these ranges. For the record, I actually had a tasting sample of the Laphroaig PX cask, so this wasn’t the right environment to delve into these whiskies. The small plastic cups put paid to any tasting notes along with the miniscule pours that make the Glasgow Rare & Old Show seem generous. No, at the airport you just want to engage and gather that quick impression whether something is to your taste and offers that rare commodity of value.
These distilleries to the general public offer that taste of a true Scottish whisky. Heavily peated, coastal, historic and manly. Laphroaig plays upon this with various quotes – sadly not my own that was projected on the side of the distillery – that underlines the sense of history and its rugged character. They embellish details by suggesting nothing has changed at Laphroaig in 200 or whatever years. This is complete and utter rubbish. Laphroaig is a pale shadow of its former self – so much so that there’s hardly any bottles at home from the current range. Except you’ll see social media littered with comments about its excellence even from those who are tasting it for the first or second time. If only it was as good, but Laphroaig like so many distilleries has been on a downward trajectory since the 1980’s.
Conversely, the sales trend is upwards nowadays, with the distillery focusing on punting out – that’s a polite phrase for it – no age statement releases with pointless names and increasingly expensive price tags. You can see our thoughts on the disappointing Laphroaig Lore or the bland Laphroaig Select. Oddly, well to me anyway is the realisation that whilst Laphroaig is content to pursue this formula, Bowmore has recently stepped away from this practice by deleting the awful Bowmore Black Rock a hideous whisky that was saturated in artificial colouring. Also taking the opportunity to expel the other themed entries in the series with the Bowmore Gold Reef and Bowmore White. Instead, returning to the age statement practice with the trio of 10, 15 and 18 year old offerings. It’ll be interesting to see whether Laphroaig follows suit in due course as the 10 year old remains a solid offering and the distillery exclusive cask strength represents the true essence of Laphroaig character.
The PX is a travel retail exclusive in the region of around £90, or some online retailers slightly less at £80-ish. That’s not cheap for what is essentially a No Age Statement release with a sherry cask finish. The process according to Laphroaig themselves is a triple cask approach. Starting life in ex-bourbon barrels (duration not specified), then moving into the Quarter casks (duration not specified) before finally ending up in Pedro Ximénez sherry oak casks; again duration not specified. The whisky information is all a little shallow – ultimately replicating the drinking experience itself. It can be summarised as utilising the wood to cover over the limitations in what is essentially a young spirit.
Laphroaig PX Cask – review
On the nose: there’s a timid peat vegetative blast, almost tired in some respects and memories of a hot cross bun. Some charcoal, toffee, chervil, aniseed, raisins and Lapsang souchong arrive and depart with a bitter dark chocolate finish.
In the mouth: it’s a sweet peat experience and whilst harmonious its as if the peat and sugary sweetness meet and almost cancel one another out. A goalless bore draw of whisky. A little soot, campfire embers and resin. Highland toffee, redcurrant and a flaccid piece of damp cardboard.
Yes it’s inoffensive and drinkable. This might tick the box for some out there. Personally, I prefer my Laphroaig’s to be more uncouth, layered and forceful. This is a gentle and approachable expression. Possibly warranting a 5/10 score but then I reconsider with the price circa £90 for a litre. Even doing the maths this would be around £63 for a standard sized bottle. The 10 year old is superior and can often be found in supermarkets for £30-£35 when it’s not on special and when it is under £30 then its a winner. The end result being for an inflated price, the score goes down…
Lead image kindly from the Whisky Exchange and there are commission links within this review but as you can see its all about the whisky rather than the money here at Malt.
Thanks to Aeneas for the sample!