Signatory Laphroaig 1998

People who learn of my hobby often ask why I have so many bottles, and why I drink so much, or so often. I assume it’s something they want to use as an ice breaker, and they’re just too used to the idea that drinking a lot means alcoholism.

My immediate response is always to tell them that it’s because I enjoy the flavors. It’s a quick and simple answer that often leaves them baffled—baffled, because most say all whisky tastes the same to them. I know that everyday there are more enthusiasts getting into this hobby. The bafflement of these others, sadly, is a reminder that a lot of us are still more or less alone in our endeavor—and that simple answer, true as it is, does not mean easy. Regardless, I do find myself wanting to provide a more complete answer, an answer that requires more words than they’re sometimes willing to hear. In short, the most complete reply involves memory.

I once heard that we never really forget memories; we just can’t access them as easily. In this situation, the brain was compared to a hall with many doors. Each of our memories is locked behind each door. Our being unable to remember certain experiences is just our brain lacking the key to open the door to that memory.

With a lot of us going through life quickly, whether we like it or not, we sometimes forget to take in the small details that help paint a better picture. Luckily, or not, things like both music and drinking alcohol unwittingly help to “tag” these experiences. I can’t easily recall much of my grade school and high school experiences, for example. It’s easier for me to recall more memories after I started drinking more seriously. It may just be recency bias, but drinking seriously helped me learn to pay more attention to what is happening. In this way, drinking spirits allows me to unlock doors to memories in the past, even as I more fully enjoy the present. The result is both flavor references and a half-assed way to time travel.

All said, I just realized I could have added that one of the reasons why I drink is to remember.

I do wish we had the ability to choose to forget certain experiences, though. I bought this bottle to be reviewed sometime 2014 in Tokyo. Having only started collecting for at least a year, and with Manila really having shit availability back then (the only single malts in major stores were the 3 big Glens), this was an early, accidental holy grail for me.

As a result, I was milking this for a long time, until I started getting into rum and mezcal. That was like a red pill moment for me, as it led down a rabbit hole of fermentation and distillation.

What used to be a sacred sip for me is now merely… meh. Has my palate shifted? Am I just more spoiled? Have I become more jaded towards whisky? Or is whisky now empirically not as good, with quality dropping due to the heavy demand?

Bottled aged 15 years on 19th February 2014, this was distilled on 22nd September 1998. Residing in cask #700383 in a refill sherry butt. This being, bottle 129 of 787.

Signatory Laphroaig 1998 – review

Color: Waxed wooden floor

On the nose: An initial sensation of peat, dates and toffee. The toffee smells close to a local candy I grew up on called Chocnut, next followed by smoked instant coffee and hints of stone fruits like peach and apricot. A lingering smell of something like coconut chips dumped on cream and some watermelon juice.

In the mouth: Initial flavors of coffee bitterness, peat and smoke. Followed by more peat, oolong tea, and dark chocolate. There’s this weird mix of a watered down syrup made up of cherries, strawberries and fudge inconsistently there at the back.


Comparing the nose versus the taste of this reminds me of meeting a date in person whom you initially met online. She turns out to be shyer live than on the Internet, and while you think you may be able to engender that spark out of her after spending more time together, there’s this nagging feeling that it won’t happen.

The nose on this was so good. It smelled so opened up, and there was this wonderful complexity I don’t always get in ex-sherry cask matured peated Islay single malt. Unfortunately, it fell short upon drinking it.

Side note: I’ve been getting a lot more sulfur notes in sherry influenced spirits these days. I’m glad that this one didn’t give off any sulfur notes, or else I would have made this a 4/10.

Score: 7/10

CategoriesSingle Malt

John is a cocktail and spirits enthusiast born and raised in Manila. His interest started with single malts in 2012, before he moved into rum and mezcal in search of malterntaitves – and a passion for travel then helped build his drinks collection.

  1. Craig says:

    An excellent opening article. Trying to explain whisky to people who drink only to get drunk is an art form all of its own.

    I was at a wedding where I brought along a bottle from my own collection and was pouring out drams to guests who were interested. One of the guests walked over and drank several swigs straight from the bottle. He was as confused as I was after. He couldn’t understand why I would have paid so much for a bottle if it’s only “to get pissed”.

    1. John says:

      I misplaced my reply earlier. Sorry.
      Copy pasting it here!

      Thank you!

      Straight from the bottle? That must have been horrible!

      I have a theory that people who do not want to pay much for booze are people who also will not appreciate the intrinsic points of food.

      “An excellent opening article. Trying to explain whisky to people who drink only to get drunk is an art form all of its own.”

      It is a worthwhile effort though when it works. It’s usually people past 25 who get it once it’s explained well to them though. It’s on us to get the message to them in contexts they will understand it the most.

  2. John says:

    Thank you!

    Straight from the bottle? That must have been horrible!

    I have a theory that people who do not want to pay much for booze are people who also will not appreciate the intrinsic points of food.

  3. Josef says:

    Quite enjoy led the read, thanks John. I feel with you talking about drinking. When I had my birthday a couple of days ago almost any allowed me to drink more on this day. Not have a great new War, have a great rum or Malt or what so ever. Funny, hm? Cheers, Josef

    1. Well, just a mistake. I meant not wishing me a “great new year” instead of “have a good drink or five” for my birthday. Sorry for the mistakes, was writing on the phone in a hurry but wanted to answer!

  4. Brian says:

    Excellent article and welcome new voice to MALT. It is interesting how our tastes change over time along with the spirit itself. My malt journey began in the deep end of the pool of Islay peated singles almost 30 years ago. I struggle to find the same depth of satisfaction from those standards that I once did. Is it my taste buds evolving or the juice now days just isn’t the same quality? Probably both…

    1. John says:

      Thank you!

      “Is it my taste buds evolving or the juice now days just isn’t the same quality? Probably both…”
      I agree. Familiarity breed contempt plus the whisky being different. I’m sure there’s been discussion about different yeast and barley being use. Then the change from direct flame heating to steam heating among others.

  5. Graham says:

    John, nice review and interesting thoughts. I absolutely love sharing my whisky but generally it’s a solitary experience too.

    In relation to changing tastes, I certainly think that each new whisky informs our next and that going back to a whisky can lead to disappointment. I actually find my opinion of whisky can change within 24 hours in relation to what other whisky I have drunk. For example starting with a Wine or Sherry cask can be deliciously delightful. However drinking the same whisky after a bourbon barrel cask dram can taste brash and unsophisticated.

    1. John says:

      Thank you!

      I don’t mind sharing my whisky too but not all of them. People need to pass a certain test for me to share the rarer stuff with them.

      Changing tastes is like add more road to the flavor map in your mind I think. The more you explore the more dull certain “scenery” become.

  6. Alex says:

    Great article John. Got me thinking about the thought processes I have whilst I have a dram. Doing that seems to open those memory doors.
    My tastes change constantly. I can have a dram of something one day and love it and the next day it doesn’t hit the spot.

    1. John says:

      Thank you!
      I think we have the same issue. Variety is the spice of life after all. It makes me such a slow drinker. I buy faster than I drink because of this.

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