Google Laphroaig, A Wee Vertical

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

June 3, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild

A Wee Vertical 

I had intended to make it to Islay this year but, alas, life and work did not allow it. So, in lieu of that, I thought a wee Laphroaig session as a nod to Islay and all the friends and merriment there that I'm unable to join in with (Serge, I hope you have your tiny violin playing right now!) 


Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, -/+ 2016)

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, -/+ 2016) Still a benchmark whisky in my book and always a fun one to follow. Colour: Gold. Nose: Ash, antiseptic, vanilla, soot, a seashore in the sunshine and a whole hospital full of medical tinctures. It's emblematic, modern Laphroaig and unmistakably so. This distillery comes in for a bit of a kicking for quite a few of its bottlings these days (sometimes rightly so in my view) but the fact this is still such an aromatically distinctive whisky is to be commended. Goes on with some graphite oil, tar, bonfire smoke and various kippery notes. Further wispy and simmering notes of iodine and TCP. Mouth: A big, lumbering wave of drunken peat (you remember Drunken Peat right Serge?), feels straight away drier than some other batches of the 10 in recent times; a little more saline and vibrant coastal qualities. There is a rather rich sweetness to it overall but it doesn't feel 'driven' by the wood. A little sharper, some more lemon juice; the American oak is there but we're not quite at sawdust levels. The only trouble is the strength lets it down, 40% really starts to feel 'old fashioned' in the worst sense these days. More coastal notes of shellfish - whelks, langoustine - and a nice touch of slightly earthy phenolics. Finish: The warmth is brief, but the peat and the medicine kind of settle in for a long, ashy fade. Comments: This is still textbook Islay whisky in my view. A stalwart dram you can safely order in pretty much any pub. My only - and constant - great frustration is the 40% abv. I would cheerfully pay an extra £10 per bottle and have it at 46%. But then, as has so often been pointed out and probably for good reason, I am not in charge. (yet...) SGP: 448 - 84 points. 



Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Spirit Import, Italy, -/+ 1990)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Spirit Import, Italy, -/+ 1990) There are a number of variations of this era/presentation for different countries and importers. Almost always they're great so high expectations here... Colour: Gold (at least caramel never changes). Nose: It's a world apart and yet with charming similarities at the same time. You have this profusion of coastal freshness and a greener, more organic kind of peat but also more fruits: passion fruit, a little papaya and some greengages. Goes on with some citrons, lemon wax, mercurochrome and other very pure medicinal notes. It just feels bigger, more complex and yet still quite unequivocally Laphroaig. Some more seashore and shellfish notes, peat embers and some more re-surgent tropical notes. Mouth: What a difference those extra 3 degrees of alcohol make! It's bigger, fatter, oilier and 'wider' in a sense. Peat oils, a slightly more delicate medicinal profile, still a little iodine and TCP and of course more overt, fleshy fruitiness of the tropical and green kinds. Tar, oysters, a little more citrus, smoked grains and then more raw peat oils. Finish: Longer and more entertaining than the current 10, more fruits and peat tangling themselves around each other. Comments: It's amazing the different a little extra strength can make to a whisky. Of course, there is probably the whole issue of refill wood and a slightly more laid back production regime in the mid-late 1970s at work here as well. Beautiful old Laphroaig from a kind of transitionary period for the distillery where you get a great mix of its more traditional fruity style and the more peat-forward modern style which was emerging at the time. SGP: 537 - 91 points.



Laphroaig 7 yo (54.5%, OB for Dr Jekyll's Pub, PX Sherry Hogshead, 300 bottles, 2012)

Laphroaig 7 yo (54.5%, OB for Dr Jekyll's Pub, PX Sherry Hogshead, 300 bottles, 2012) A curious official bottling for Dr Jekyll's Pub in Oslo. Quite how a pub manages to get their own official single cask of Laphroaig I'm not sure, probably something to do with having an oil fund. Anyway, lets try Dr Jekyll and see if we encounter Mr Hyde along the way... Colour: Amber. Nose: A peat fire, scorched earth, burning leaves and then... raisins! Some dark fruit from the sherry arises quite pleasantly. Develops further with notes of ginger bread, mead, peat oils, resin, camphor and digestive biscuits in a dunnage warehouse. It definitely wears its 7 years very lightly this one, the richness from the sherry gives a sense of extra maturity I have to say. Perhaps a little ground black pepper and salted pork (one for Lord Of The Rings fans there). With water: some nice notes of black olives and dried mushrooms now with a resinous smokiness. The sherry is at least pretty clean I have to say. Mouth: The youth has returned and I hear some Mr Hyde foot steps around the corner, a big combination of raw peat and sticky sweetness from the PX. Toffee, bread and butter pudding, coal hearths, aspirin, gravel and more wet earthy notes. Perhaps some damp sack cloth and hessian. It's quite a bruiser this one. With water: a little green fruit, some notes of various teas and olive oil. Perhaps a little pink grapefruit and a really nice nervous saltiness. More black olives and some notes of preserved lemon. Water really works on the palate I think. Finish: quite long but a bit haphazard and unbalanced, some slightly cloying PX notes towards the end. Comments: It's a good young Islay whisky, suitable for hurricanes and bartering with in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. However, it is quite demanding and I'm not sure that - as with many modern Islay whiskies it seems - the extremes of sherry and peat really tango that well together. SGP: 539 - 82 points. 



Laphroaig 21 yo (51.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #29.111, PX sherry finish, 'Jazzy Jousting Hastlitude', 228 bottles)

Laphroaig 21 yo (51.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #29.111, PX sherry finish, 'Jazzy Jousting Hastlitude', 228 bottles) I'm going to just come right out and say it: I really do wish the SMWS wouldn't finish their whiskies. I don't think it really suits their great philosophy of celebrating the concept of the 'single' cask. Anyway, enough grandstanding, this is one of three bottlings specially done for 2017's Islay Festival. Colour: Gold. Nose: Hmmm, begrudgingly lovely! A gentle carpet of peat overlaid with dry leaves, mushrooms, spices and some moss and damp earth. A smouldering forest. Goes on with a little soot, some candle wax and lemon oils. Continues more towards dunnage, stables and camphor with some background notes of iodine and seawater. A nice teetering balance between farmyard and seashore characteristics. The sherry feels very 'controlled' (I'm disappointed to say). With water: becomes surprisingly fruity, even a little tropical. Some toasted cereals, muesli, dates. All rather annoyingly lovely. Mouth: The sherry comes across as a little more jammy here, some curious notes of Tizer and mead along with a nice hint of salted almonds and marzipan. There's a nice, lean oily texture in the mouth with notes of green tea, lemon rind and tar liqueur. With water: soft peats, green fruits, citrus, tar, oil, you get the idea... Finish: long and lemony with some earthiness and soot from the sherry. Drying and surprisingly mineral towards the end. Comments: Yes, the SMWS should really stop finishing their whiskies, this is clearly not working! I was going to 90 but the Tizer threw me off... SGP: 458 - 89 points.   



An old glory for the road...



Laphroaig 35 yo 1976 (43.4%, Scotia Royale, refill sherry cask, 211 bottles, +/-2011)

Laphroaig 35 yo 1976 (43.4%, Scotia Royale, refill sherry cask, 211 bottles, +/-2011) This was effectively bottled by the Loch Lomond group and sports one of their classic 'I wish I'd been at the meeting' kind of labels. Colour: Gold (I know, this hasn't been the most imaginative session when it comes to colours). Nose: A whiff of sea air and then an cavalcade of tropical fruits. In fact this one could almost be a 1968 Bowmore of similar age. Just baskets of fresh and tinned fruits with just a lick of peat smoke running throughout. Goes on with greengages, ripe melons, wet pebbles, white pepper, bandages - the list could go on quite some time. Perhaps a little tea tree oil which nods to the wood, although it doesn't feel at all woody on the nose - quite the opposite in fact. The kind of fruity intensity that just doesn't exist in whisky any more. Mouth: A little wood spice, but its precise and clean, a little sourdough yeasty note and some demarara sugar. But overall its like a fruit varnish has coated your tongue. Perhaps the strength feels a tad weakish but its not tired, just a bit misty eyed. Some pineapple, sap, lemon oil, dried herbs and even some notes of rancio as well. Starts to resemble some of these old G&M pre-war glories on the palate. Finish: alas, it's not the longest but the tropical aspects echo beautifully. Comments: This bottled ten yeas earlier would probably have been somewhere around 93-95 material. As it is, this is still glorious old Laphroaig, an emotional and increasingly scarce style of whisky. SGP: 635 - 91 points. 









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