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Laphroaig The 1815 Legacy Edition

Ah, Laphroaig. The name is probably up there in the top-10 most talked about distilleries, probably. Mostly it seems from folks lamenting its downfall over the last couple of decades (why don’t we like change?) or those people who yap on about how good it is – the ones who put a borrowed Rolex on the neck of an unopened bottle in a wood somewhere in autumn, for a few dozen likes in the world of social media. You know the ones. Fair play to them. It’s more fun than doing laundry or topping up the oil in the car.

I’m going to state here and now that if I could only pick three bottles to have for the rest of my days, a Laphroaig wouldn’t be one of them. But then who the hell could pick just three bottles in the first place? That’s a discussion for the pub, not here. I do like their unique, easily recognisable peaty smokiness though, and find their TCP/medicinal element intriguing, but I couldn’t drink it every day. It’s a bit too characterful, which is an interesting counterpoint to my general feeling that a lot of whiskies these days lack a bit of character, but that’s a discussion for another day too.

I’m not going repeat ad nauseum the history of Laphroaig and bore you do death with it. That’s been covered plenty of times by others more knowledgeable than I. I’m not going to be able to add anything interesting or unknown to you in a few hundred words, and it would be embarrassing for me when I get schooled on the Islay icon anyway. And in terms of its history, and what something was like in years gone by, frankly I couldn’t give two hoots – I’m bothered about the “now”. I can’t go back in time and don’t have enough money to try older drams on a regular basis. I want to focus on the moment and not worry about history.

Except for the problem with that is the USP of this bottle is precisely “the history” – it’s a celebration of the distillery’s establishment in 1815 and bi-centenary of its existence. 1815 was a long time ago – Laphroaig had already been around 41 years when the Crimean War ended. I wonder if Laphroaig did a 1915 centenary release? Or perhaps a 1918 WWI celebration cask release? I doubt it. They were probably trying to produce whisky as fast as possible for the troops in Europe, who really needed a drink, to worry about marketing pap like that. As always, if you know, please do comment.

Instead, I will regale you with my own history of Laphroaig to help provide a yardstick for Laphroaig’s quality and style to compare with today’s offering. To date, this includes the 10-year-old (quite a few moons ago) and more recently the Four Oak, PX Cask and a dram of the Lore. The Ten is a distant memory, but a good one. The PX Cask is ok – inoffensive and quaffable but lacking a certain “je ne sais quoi” – I agree with Jason’s score of 4/10 for the PX. The Lore didn’t really do much for me at all – it was decidedly average and not well balanced. And the Four Oak is to whisky what a fart is to a 3-course dinner – a poor reminder of what has gone before. Again, I agree with Jason’s score of 2/10 for this. As I said, Laphroaig ain’t one of my faves.

Before I move onto the 1815, I must say a few words on the topic of “travel retail exclusive”. There aren’t many other phrases that raise the bile like it on Planet Whisky, except perhaps “flippers” I reckon. The phrase is met, usually, with derision and sneers. Travel retail exclusive bottlings are the place where (potentially good) whisky goes to die, on a shelf in an airport where the customer can’t really shop around (unless they wanted litres of Red Label or Bells). And yet we still buy these “limited” drams. And drink it. We must do, otherwise, it would cease to exist, right? I’m sure people do like them (each to their own and all that). That’s my observation of its current status.

Anyway, to the 1815. The 1815 is yet another no-age statement travel retail expression, released in 2017 with a pretty hefty price tag (which is becoming more the norm these days for this kind of thing) of £84.95 from the Whisky Exchange, or £90 via Amazon. That’s for a 70cl bottle, but it is bottled at 48% which isn’t too shabby – in comparison the Four Oak is bottled at 40% ABV. It has been aged in first-fill bourbon barrels and new European oak hogsheads. Otherwise, there’s very little else in factual terms mentioned about this release – I don’t understand why some distilleries don’t put details of their travel releases on their websites – are they trying to hide something? Yes is probably the answer to that question.

I must state that this bottle has come into my possession through my lovely and generous wife, but I will consider price in my review for parity.

So, taste time.

Laphroaig The 1815 Legacy Edition – review

Colour: Burnished amber illuminated by a red setting sun.

On the nose: Toasty walnuts, TCP, slight tar, oily rags, iodine and some tart lemon boiled sweets. A salty caramel pervades throughout. Juicy raisins join in. It’s intriguing, there are a few layers here. It has a heavy manner sitting on the tongue. The smoke comes through but it’s not a big a hit as I was expecting, it’s just a decent whiff in there, bringing it all together, but present enough so that you need to really find what’s hiding. Quite frankly, it’s very well balanced overall.

In the mouth: There’s some nice body to this. It’s thick and chewy with a lovely mouthfeel – there’s some heat there but it isn’t harsh. It’s really quite refined. The smoke and peat punch big and bold at first and lasts for quite a long time, overriding everything initially whilst partnering a medicine cabinet aroma. So long does it last that it makes you wonder what else is to come, but come it does. As it fades it reveals toffee, dried fig and a hint of ash. A dash of salt and iodine too with lingering tar carried by some woody notes, some spice and burnt almond to finish. Again, this is really well-balanced delicious dram. The sweetness from the toffee notes balance the heady smoky notes really well. Really good stuff.

Conclusions

I tried a sample of this straight after a sample of the PX Cask on a separate evening, and that body and richness the PX is missing, is present so much more in this 1815. It’s nice to see that not all travel retail exclusive releases contain naff whisky.

The 1815 is very well balanced and keeps that medicinal/smokey fingerprint of Laphroaig all the way through without overdoing it. For those who might mention the “no-age-statement” argument relative to the price – well this shows that it doesn’t need to have a “10”, “12” or “15” on the bottle for it to be any good. If you want to put what you think is an acceptable price based on an age, you’re doing yourself out of lovely experiences like this one.

So, what about the future of Laphroaig? Well, by the powers of probability, they must be putting some of their juice in good casks. So maybe there’s some good stuff that might just come our way in the future. Here’s hoping. And if not, many folks can wax lyrical about it. All whilst balancing a bottle of it on a rock in the ocean for that insta-pic.

A note of caution. I’m not sure about others out there, but I find my taste preferences vary significantly with mood, time of year, what I’ve had for dinner etc. but I’ve tried this across several weeks and find my notes and opinions towards this pretty consistent. This is damn fine and a whisky that I’m pleased to have in my collection, thanks to my incredibly generous wife.

Score: 7/10

There are commission links within this article but as you can see, they don’t affect our judgement. Our thanks to the Whisky Exchange for the lead image.

CategoriesSingle Malt
Alex
Alex

Alex lives in London and is on a mission to try every whisky he can. He's enjoyed it for a long while now, but it was just a few years ago that he caught the whisky bug. When he’s not sipping a dram, you’ll find him reading about it, thinking about it, or visiting one of the many whisky shops in Soho.

  1. Avatar
    Andy & Hellen says:

    May have to try and sweet talk my better half into treating me to this one … what’s your secret?
    Have been left underwhelmed by recent Laphroaig expressions! The Lore, PX & Select (nothing ‘select’ about it in our opinion), all seemed lacking something of the Laphroaig of old. We still occasionally buy the 10 year old, but feel that this is also a shadow of its former self … maybe our memories are harking back to better times? The one current staple in our collection that seems to hit the spot for our palates at least is the Quarter Cask expression, full of peaty smokey goodness and seems to be a consistent whisky quality wise and at a great price point too!
    We have found that Laphroaig like some other distilleries do wax and wane quality wise but have always put that down to a bad bottle or change of taste, but as this pastime is such a subjective one I’m sure others will wax lyrical about the expressions we’re not enjoying! If we were all the same what a boring pastime it would be!
    Great article as ever …

    1. Alex
      Alex says:

      Hi Andy and Helen,
      Thanks for taking the time to read my article and comment.
      It’s no secret – I really don’t know how I’m so lucky.
      I’ve heard good things about the Quarter Cask, and the price is very attractive. I must try and have a sup some time. I think it would be a good bottle shared amongst a group one evening.
      Regarding our past time – I couldn’t agree more. Tasting a large variety of whiskies is exciting, and we are all different, so we must like different things! And I agree that our memories naturally hark back to those good times, where we can be let down sometimes.
      Thank you for your kind comments. Much appreciated.

  2. Avatar

    Hi Alex
    Your point about ‘travel retail exclusive’ bottling is worth mentioning. I have never bought such a bottle and when seeing them discussed online it is usually in the context of collectors buying them for the sake of completeness of their lineup, or travellers thinking they are still duty-free. These bottles seem to be simply a means for distilleries to offload some blends of casks that aren’t suitable for their age statement character. They also seem to have odd non-descriptive names as in this case. Maybe the marketing department blue sky thinking is a little clouded here – or as you point out the name won’t appear on the website so who cares…
    Just a suggestion- maybe the distilleries should try selling airport exclusive miniatures of cask strength single cask whisky so that we can carry them on to the plane to ease the trauma of low cost flights to Spain!
    Bon voyage.
    Matt

    1. Alex
      Alex says:

      Hi Dr Bishop,

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Much appreciated.
      Yes, I agree – it didn’t occur to me that some folks just like to collect and entire range from a distillery, and would go out of their way to do so. Another aspect of the human psyche I think the marketing people understand more than most.
      That’s a great idea – instead of buying an awful miniature of a JW BL on the plane, we could take a few miniatures from various distilleries on to save us from the horror of the food they serve! It would certainly make the flight less arduous.
      Many thanks again.
      Alex

  3. Avatar
    Anthony Ryder says:

    Laphroaig ‘s downfall is Diageo now ware house their barrel s in Alloa and the sub par once famous Laphroaig is now a mere memory. Sad but true.

    1. Alex
      Alex says:

      hi Anthony,

      I’m no expert – indeed I did not know that their whisky goes to Alloa. But I would hazard a guess and put my money on it being more down to pressure to produce as much whisky as possible and starting with a sub-par spirit combined with demand on casks, resulting in less than desirable whisky.

      Thanks for your comment – I’ve learnt something today!.
      Kind regards
      Alex

  4. Avatar
    Tom O'Donnell says:

    I find it hard to be critical of a dram that first brought me to the falling down water, but many friends have wandered to Ardbeg and others of Islay and although mentioned often it has betters on the Isle. I find the quarter cask my favourite. More complex with subtle notes overpowered in the 10yr.
    I purchased a Adelphi 17 yr laphroigh a while back and it was a revelation. Creosote, oily earthy roundness smelt on an oil rig. As I work in the industry it had everything a man could want.
    Thanks for your review

    1. Avatar

      I have felt in love with the 16yr aged Laphroaig, I live in Houston and can’t find it anywhere, I’m calling my sisters in the valley of California to see if they can put their hands on a couple or three bottles and crossing my fingers. If by any chance you can help me with this it will be very much appreciated, thanks.

      Floyd Streams, Jr.
      3600 Fuqua St
      Houston, Tx. 77047
      Cell# 281-226-2701
      ( I’m very serious about getting my hands on the 16yr, again thanks. )

    2. Alex
      Alex says:

      Hi Tom,
      Thanks for reading and your kind comments!
      Another one who likes the Quarter Cask! For 35 odd quid it must be worth a punt. Maybe next pay cheque….

      My plan for this year was to explore more indies, but alas as yet I’ve been side tracked by blended whiskies and some stalwarts of the whisky world that get me salivating. I really must try some though.
      many thanks
      Alex

      1. Avatar
        lowlander says:

        For £35 I think its really good value for money.

        As has been said in a couple of other comments, in general I think the overall quality of Laphroaig in general has sadly been on the decline and compared to the other distilleries on the island. Its quite sad for me to write that, as despite my username, it was one of the whiskies that brought me into the world of Scotch whisky.

    1. Alex
      Alex says:

      Hi There Kallaskander,

      Yeah- I tried this a few times, I thought after the first time thinking “wow this is damn good” it might wane a little and it’s true colours would be revealed, but this (for me) fits in with the scoring band for a seven”Very good. Might um and ah over buying a full bottle if the price is high, but you can buy a glass with confidence. If it’s under £50, take a punt.”
      I really did take price into consideration, and would have docked it a point if it wasn’t good.
      As always, this is my opinion, and I’m aware that what I like isn’t going to be the same for someone else, but this would be a seven for me.
      Many thanks for reading and commenting.
      Ale

  5. Avatar
    Nathan B. says:

    Nice article, but from my point of view, your comments on Laphroaig in general are much too harsh! I like the 10 Year, but the Quarter Cask is really good, and it’s been very consistent for me over the last six months. I love its peaty, salty, smoky expression! But even better is the Triple Wood. This is everything the Quarter Cask is, and more–a little sweeter! And it’s “dramn” good!

    1. Alex
      Alex says:

      hi Nathan, thanks for reading and your kind comments.
      I actually try to not be too harsh, I think the guys working making the stuff work hard in a very competitive environment, but at the end of the day, we’re all different right? This Quarter Cask I must try. Might go twos with a mate perhaps.
      Not tried the Triple Wood – I think I’ve had my fill of Laphroaig for a while.
      Thanks again
      Alex

  6. John
    John says:

    Hi Alex,

    Great review. This may actually get me to buy OB Laphroaig again. The quality of their standard releases and the more recent Cairdeas have been disappointing. My faith in Laphroaig is going to die soon. I hope this makes the flame stronger when I see a bottle.

    1. Alex
      Alex says:

      hi John,
      Thank you – appreciate your kind comments. As I say, I haven’t tried anything as exotic in the Laphroaig larder as a Cairdeas bottling. £150 for a bottle of Scotch is fancy-land for me. I’d rather get 3-4 bottles for that price! I would never say never to any offering from a distillery, I’m too much of a boozer for that – hell, I like Bells – but do you know what, maybe the downs make us appreciate the ups.
      Cheers,
      Alex

      1. John
        John says:

        Hi Alex,

        I’ve become such a slow drinker that I’d rather buy an expensive bottle than buy 3 to 4 bottles which amount to an expensive one. But I get what you mean! I haven’t had Bells in a such a long time. To each his own?

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