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Cadenhead’s Laphroaig 1998

The temptation in any Laphroaig article, is to issue a call to arms to repel the dire infestations of the official range. The desire to reject the waves of overpriced official releases not only from Laphroaig, but other distilleries continues to grow. Consumers want value alongside information, a natural presentation and a wee bit more than 40% strength.

Brand ambassadors will sing the virtues of their wares because that is their livelihood and professional being. They’ll repeat tales of traditional values and the old ways that remain unchanged. Laphroaig has stepped into this murky realm in recent years trying to pedal stories of things being unchanged at the distillery, which is frankly utter nonsense. Thankfully, I’ve not been invited on an official junket or all expenses paid dinner to hear such nonsense. Frankly, I’d have to clear my throat, wash away the taste of an official Laphroaig and point out the faux pas.

In life we all make mistakes and it’s how we respond to these lapses or errors in judgement that makes us a better person. Phil for some bizarre reason decided to purchase the Laphroaig Cairdeas 15 year old, not once, but twice. A fatal error even when faced with tragic consequences. However, Phil has bounced back and is now a better man for having is fingers burned by an official Laphroaig. The motto of his story being listen to Jason, as you all should do more often.

That’s enough. We’ve written countless times about the disappointment and frustration around Laphroaig. Thankfully there have been some glimmers of hope from beyond the official range. I’m done with pedalling the same angst and flicking through various Instagram photographs from those don’t know better i.e. if it says Laphroaig on the label and its official then it’s frankly not worth your time. Go check out our parade of the named and shamed for more details. A list that is interspersed with surprising joy from the independents.

Instead, let’s stop the Laphroaig criticism and approach this from a different perspective.

With this piece landing in January, we have the promise of a new year ahead of us all. A moment to reflect and anticipate what lies ahead. Personally, this boom has to end. The soaring price of whisky whether it’s at retail or on the secondary market has to come to an end. The gigantic combined output of many famous distilleries has reached a saturation point.

We have too many whiskies and too much choice. Something has to give and many whisky drinkers are stepping out of the vicious circle that has engulfed this wonderful liquid. Seeking pleasures elsewhere or retreating to their bunkers full of beautiful whiskies. A breather is required. The natural historical way of bringing about a sense of realism and needed a momentary pause is for the bubble to pop.

When it comes and it is only a matter of time as history confirms, this will be a different bust than before. Previously the distilleries were full of maturing stock, as they will be this time around. However, there is an additional whisky loch across the globe with the hoarders and collectors. Those of you who purchase to drink eventually will survive happily enough. Whereas those who merely seek financial gain will have to either adopt a long-term vision or start dumping stock on a depreciating market. As will the distilleries, when they realise that the collective wallets of consumers have been forcibly closed for a variety of reasons – Brexit?

An interesting dynamic as I play this scenario out in my mind, is how the distilleries will try to make their official ranges attractive once again. The enthusiasts who have turned their back on such offerings littered with inflated prices, E150, no age statements, next to no information about what’s within and shrouded in marketing nonsense. You know the culprits and we’ve seen them lately go to a whole new level of madness with the Macallan’s Make the Call. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to give them a piece of my mind over any telephone.

We’ll bottle that thought for now and move onto the whisky at hand today. Yes, it’s another Laphroaig, yet look closely and you’ll realise that it has escaped the clutches of the official range and the master blenders. This is a freedom fighting Laphroaig and at 20 years of age, a bargain on paper from Cadenhead’s retailing from memory for circa £140. I was pleased to see a recent flipper attempt fall on deaf ears as it failed to make reserve – maybe whisky is best opened and enjoyed? Have you tried such a thing before or even contemplated such an action?


Distilled in 1998, before being bottled at 20 years of age. This Laphroaig promptly sold out upon release in the UK although you can still find it online elsewhere. An outturn of 474 bottles at a strength of 54.3%, were produced from 2 bourbon hogsheads.

Cadenhead’s Laphroaig 1998 – review

Colour: Dulled gold.

On the nose: A gentle smoke at first, taking you towards Islay with a touch of leisurely TCP thrown in for good measure. The brine, sun-bleached seashells and chalkiness all linger. A dusty sense that is removed with a drop of water. Earthy peat woven with a well-worn jumper, those bacon crisps you tuck into during a football match, charred lettuce and smoked lemon. Cornflakes and over the hill apples all combine for a lovely presentation. One that you can explore with water and patience. The addition of water showcases more salted caramel, shoe polish and a light citrus dimension.

In the mouth: Very oily at first, impressively so, hinting at 1970’s Laphroaig. A spent bonfire lingers on the finish. Autumnal, a soaked handmade woven jumper, sea salt crisps and a touch of menthol. Limescale, grapefruit and certainly Kiwi fruit give a freshness alongside walnuts, crackling or pork scratchings – I’m torn here as to which. Water reveals more pepper, rugged peat and cardamon.

Conclusions

The more time I spent with this Laphroaig, the more I appreciated it’s hidden charms and unlocked new secrets. In these situations, it always comes back to why the official range is so off target in comparison? Bottling stuff like this in its natural form, is the only way to survive any pending storm and rebuild consumer confidence in your tarnished brand.

Score: 8/10

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Avatar
    Juju says:

    I, too, am praying for the whisky-mageddon to get rid of all the hubris from the official bottlers. Having said that, we still have some hope in the likes of Springbank, Ben Nevis, etc. But they are a dying breed. Marketing, not the liquid, rules nowadays. I haven’t bought an OB Laphroaig for a long time – although I have an old label SMWS hidden in my cupboard and will open that and share with friends. IB’s, it seems, are a better bet nowadays (but there are some shitty ones too). Thanks for the review. Now to find myself some Cadenheads. Cheers.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hey Juju, thanks for dropping in, I agree with your sentiments. Sounds like a great Laphroaig you’ve got stashed for the right moment. I’ll be sharing some of this bottle with friends and family in March. I know they’ll appreciate it.

  2. Avatar
    MaxHill says:

    I’m wondering – how come? Is it that IB purchase full barrells or just spirit in let’s say some tank and use wood of their choice? If the first is true theoretically official i.e. Laphroaig 20 Year Old Double Cask should have similar quality if the latter is how it works it makes complete sense then.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Watering down the contents thereby reducing the strength, chill filtration, artificial colouring, poor casks. I suppose there isn’t a single answer more a combination of factors?

  3. Avatar
    Jens says:

    For once I’m in disagreement, or we just have different tastes, because I really didn’t like this bottle. Luckily enough, I only bought a sample of it, and not a full bottle.
    It nosed/tasted fishy, peppery, cheesy, peaty (less than in the standard 10yo), and water turned it into seawater with rotten apples and fish.
    Could it be that the sample was bad? Could be, but it was from the official Cadenhead’s shop here in Denmark, so I doubt it.
    Could it just be my tastebuds? Could be, but a friend of mine was even harder on it, and practically called it undrinkable swill, I just found it a huge disappointment.

    To me, it’s a bottle that showcases perfectly the problem with hype and big name brands. Because it’s popular they think they can bottle whatever they want at whatever price, and unfortunately people will buy it no matter the quality. Look at Macallan, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and basically all Japanese whiskies for other great examples.
    Not that said brands can’t produce good whiskies, they most assuredly can, but is it really worth the money they demand?
    And in this case Cadenhead’s bottled a 20yo Laphroaig for an outrageous price, at least here in Denmark, and it sold out in no time. And at least in my opinion, I’d rather spend my money on something else, cause this bottle just wasn’t worth it.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Jens, sad to hear this one didn’t deliver. Odd, as it did grow on me. I’m due to share what I have with friends in March, so will gauge their reactions with interest.

      The name does attract that demand and anticipation. UK price was circa £140 if I’m not mistaken? A little premium but still reasonable value in the UK. Hopefully our next Cadenhead’s piece will be more to your tasting. Cheers, Jason.

  4. Avatar
    Ali says:

    It is a crying shame for anyone who enjoys the finest malt offerings from the west of Scotland. Ardbeg was dead to me when they started their murky road down the overly trendy (priced) track.

    All is well, lagavulin, Caol Isla, bunnahabhain, and possibly kilchomen. I have also recently tried last year’s 12 year Springbank and am on bottle number two.

    Just to put the cat amongst it – co-op has a single malt for £20 that really does compare favourably against many bottles that are two or three times the price. If you can get over the fact it’s been dyed then sup away – it is the least pretentious ‘nee’ whiskey I’ve come across in a fair wee while.

    Fars like us?

    1. Avatar
      bifter says:

      Springbank is certainly keeping their end up. Ledaig has had a marketing makeover but (IMHO) the quality of the OBs has risen over recent years. The 18 is currently available for under £80 and represents pretty good value for a quality coastal style malt, 46.3% and NCF.

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