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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

October 14, 2013


Laphroaig until we succumb

No new Ardbegs, very few Lagavulins, even Coal Ila seems to be getting scarcer (yes, relatively), so we have to rely on Laphroaig or on new cats Port Charlotte or Kilchoman to have our fix of new peaty Ileachs these days. Today it's going to be Laphroaig. Let's see how far we can go...

Laphroaig 'QA Cask' (40%, OB, travel retail, 100cl, 2013)

Laphroaig 'QA Cask' (40%, OB, travel retail, 100cl, 2013) Two stars I've been procrastinating with this double-matured baby, I have to say the mention of 'warm vanilla' on a bottle of Laphroaig was really scaring me. Colour: gold. Nose: very, very discreet, as if the glass would be two metres away. Now, it's kind of pleasant, very light, apparently quite smooth and rounded, and I don't even get much of the dreaded vanilla, which is to Scotch what sugar is to Coca-Cola in my opinion (no we're not talking caramel). And I do get some nice whiffs of seawater and garden bonfire. So yeah, I think this is nice, just very light. A whispering Laphroaig. Mouth: woosh! Good arrival but there's almost no middle. Very frustrating! A little honeydew, vanilla indeed, sweet liquorice, drops of seawater and that's pretty all. Finish: short but clean. Brine and smoked apple juice. Comments: Laphroaig's Blasda? Not bad of course but this is frustratingly weak and flat. I wouldn't have kept 'The most richly flavoured of all Scotch Whiskies' line on the cardboard tube - and I like the regular 10 way better, even at 40% vol. SGP:334 - 74 points.

Let's hope we'll have more luck with...

Laphroaig 'PX Cask' (48%, OB, travel retail, 100cl, 2013)

Laphroaig 'PX Cask' (48%, OB, travel retail, 100cl, 2013) Three stars It doesn't say finished but that it's 'enjoyed a final subtle maturation' in Pedro Ximenez casks. Ha, semantics! Colour: gold. Nose: starts a little rubbery but that goes away and presto. What's sure is that I like this one much better than the QA, despite the finishing. It's certainly more Laphroaiggy, with quite some kelp, beach sand, tarry ropes, seashells, notes of bicycle inner tube (not quite the same thing as plain rubber) and liquorice. What it's lacking a bit is the medicinal side, but I'm happy about the fact that the wine remains kind of unobtrusive. Mouth: the PX's sweetness and the very obvious raisiny side do seem to cope with the distillate, there's almost a feeling of rum finish rather than PX. Nice touches of blood oranges, then liquorice allsorts and a little leather and tobacco, then more cherries and tar. It's also a notch more medicinal than on the nose (drops of cough syrup). Finish: of medium length, a little bittersweet (Chinese sauce, the sweet one for dim-sums, you know). Curious notes of black olives in the aftertaste. Comments: a pretty fine Laphroaig that seems to have survived the odd treatment. SGP:546 - 82 points.

Time to have the natural ones, don't you think?

Laphroaig 2005/2013 (56.9%, Svenska Eldvatten, barrel, 186 bottles)

Laphroaig 2005/2013 (56.9%, Svenska Eldvatten, barrel, 186 bottles) Four stars and a half Indeed, this is very young. Colour: white wine. Nose: this is obviously very distillate-forward and, once again, I cannot not think of some high-end very smoky mezcal blanco. Or gentian and almond oil... The wood has already filtered out the naughty components but the spirit remained beautifully naked. And what spirit it is! 'A walk on the beach on Islay while someone is burning seaweed'. With water: it's the mercurochrome that comes out more. These noses make you anti-septic ;-). Mouth (neat): same plus plenty of lemon and bandages. Wonderful green/blue tea (best wu-long?) and just touches of kiwi and grapefruit. With water: a little more sweetness. Lemon honey? Finish: long, saltier again, still sweet, citrusy, coastal, medicinal, smoky... Yes, Laphroaiggy. Comments: proof that young whisky (when it's a great distillate, especially when peated) doesn't need much oak and/or wine. It doesn't even need to hide its young age if you ask me. SGP:457 - 89 points. (I was even tempted to go to 90.)

Laphroaig 15 yo 1998/2013 (59.1%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, 292 bottles)

Laphroaig 15 yo 1998/2013 (59.1%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, 292 bottles) Five stars This very good wee bottler really impressed me with their new Jura the other day. Colour: straw. Nose: more maturity than in the 2005, obviously. In this situation more maturity doesn't obligatorily mean 'better', rather different styles and profiles. So this is rather rounder and mellower, with a little more vanilla and brioche, while the smoke's a little gentler and the fruits a little more 'active'. It remains wonderful, with again a little mezcal. Some mezcal people claim their output resembles whiskies from Islay but it could be that it's the other way around. Oh, forget about that gibberish. With water: ink and mint? Mouth: mellow? Of course not, this is sharp, zesty, 'accurate', very lemony and briny. It's almost smoked lemon juice with a dash of salt. I also enjoy these wee hints of tangerines that pop out from time to time. With water: perfect, balanced, firm, fruitier, smoky, coastal... Finish: what? Cane juice??? Comments: it's not a very medicinal Laphroaig but it's as wonderful as Laphroaig can be at 15 years of age. SGP:557 - 90 points.

Laphroaig 15 yo 1998/2013 (60.1%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #3, refill sherry butt, cask #700353, 527 bottles)

Laphroaig 15 yo 1998/2013 (60.1%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #3, refill sherry butt, cask #700353, 527 bottles) Five stars Lovely back label! Or is it the front label? This is Signatory Vintage stock and Signatory always have/had great Laphroaigs. Colour: gold. Nose: this is interesting, there are obvious similarities with the 'First' and several differences that may well come from both the sherry and a more active wood. Well, maybe not because this is globally more medicinal and more on tar and pitch, even rubber. It's also very strong and do not want to burn my nostrils, so... With water: they converge. Maybe wee touches of fruitcake in this one, much wee...

Mouth (neat): too strong. Ethanol and mercurochrome at cask strength. With water: phew! Classic middle-aged Laphroaig, salty, smoky, citrusy, tarry and a weeeee tad more medicinal again. One or two spoons of orange marmalade (per 100 litres of whisky). Finish: long, with maybe a little Demerara sugar? Cherry stem tea? Otherwise it's classic Laphroaig. Comments: really hard to beat, these 1998s... SGP:557 - 90 points.

Laphroaig 16 yo 1996/2013 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, ref DL10002, 323 bottles)

Laphroaig 16 yo 1996/2013 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, ref DL10002, 323 bottles) Four stars and a half This sweet little baby was bottled for La Maison du Whisky. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's a grassier, more mineral, narrower, more 'rieslingesque' Laphroaig than the 1998s. There's more mint, more camphor, lime, chalk, then grapefruits and citrons. It's actually a kind of great dry chenin, if you will. It's even a little floral, with honeysuckle and lilies of the valley. Not that narrow, after all... Mouth: this time it's frankly fruitier, starting with a slightly prickly fizziness (lemonade) and touches of grenadine, pineapples and oranges. Maybe mangos. It's smoky but not that smoky, and remains a little unusual over time. Excellent but curiously lightish and fruitier than expected. There's even a little bubblegum! Even jellybeans? Finish: of medium length, still fruity, this time with also a little honey and strawberry jam. Maybe one or two lavender sweets. Comments: as I said, it's unusually fruity and we aren't talking tropical fruits such as the ones that can be found in older Laphroaigs. Anyway, another very good one for sure, and the world needs variants (what?) SGP: 646 - 88 points.

I think we'll have a last one, these babies are quite heavy despite their zestiness...

Laphroaig 21 yo 1990/2011 (48.9%, High Spirits, cask #10868)

Laphroaig 21 yo 1990/2011 (48.9%, High Spirits, cask #10868) Five stars Not quite a new one but I think it's still available here and there. Not need to remind you that 1990 was a great 'vintage' at Laphroaig. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's a Laphroaig that's already quite mature, in the sense that it's not that smoky anymore but also that it became more complex. In a way, it reminds me of the highly drinkable official 30yo. More soot than straight smoke, more crushed olives than plain brine and more 'old tropical cordial' than plain citrus. Add a little brioche, light vanilla, a pinhead of mango chutney and a long-forgotten pre-war bottle of cough mixture. Well, I imagine. Also a little old tarry tea and, yes, a wee wet dog. A Chihuahua? Mouth: impeccable, on the same flavours and aromas except that it's bigger and firmer than expected. There's something smooth and round (orange cake?) but other than that, it's full of smoke, brine, pepper, cough syrup, lemon and smoked fish. Kippery indeed. Finish: long, rather more medicinal. More eucalyptus, for example. Funny praline and fudge in the aftertaste. Comments: it's bad whisky because it goes down too well. Complex. SGP:447 - 91 points.

Yeah well, I should really stop now, but is this Whiskyfun or not? Let's see if I can find something interesting in my wee library, such as an older vintage of Laphroaig... I think I found something...

Laphroaig 19 yo 1972/1991 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection)

Laphroaig 19 yo 1972/1991 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection) Five stars I think the Original Collection was meant to shelter 'lighter' bottlings (wrt the Authentic Collection) but I've already found many gems amongst the 'ACs'. Let's see... Colour: straw. Nose: bingo, 'transmuted peat'! It's akin to what can be found in the old tens (the infernal trio Filippi-Bonfanti-Cinzano) or in the first batches of the 10 Cask Strength (green stripe), that is to say a stunning blend of all tropical fruits, except that that mix is then smoked using peat, coal and tobacco. It's hard to describe (or I'm being very bad) but aficionados know what I'm talking about. So, it's great. Mouth: a.s.t.o.u.n.d.i.n.g. Bonfanti-esque indeed. An avalanche of tropical fruits (I won't list them all but passion fruits and mangos come first) plus soot, liquorice, kippers, some heavily smoked salmon and then just touches of ink and cardboard, which is the weakest part in fact. There are many other flavours but I can hear the anti-maltoporn brigade coming. Finish: I've seen (even) longer finishes but the smoke/tropical fruits combo is perfect. Liquid jam of the highest grade, with smoke and pepper. Comments: only the wee inky (and maybe soapy) side somewhere before the finish will prevent me from going even higher than... SGP:655 - 93 points.

(heartfelt thanks Franco and Marcel, keep rocking!)







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