Google Laphroaig till the 500th

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

October 21, 2021


Laphroaig till the 500th, then more

I just realised that for months, our Laphroaig counter has remained frozen like winter in northern Siberia (hopefully), on 494 different expressions. Time to try to make that 500+ if you don't mind, and to find a proper glory as our #500. No worries, we've got ammo, but first, some apéritif... Expect some randomness too, as too much order can bring boredom and despair (quite). By the way, farewell John Campbell!


Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2021)

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2021) Three stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: always gauze, iodine, bandages, those forgotten hessian jute bags that were stored near the old oil tank, then rather more sweetness, maple syrup perhaps, then just the usual seawater, brine and ashes. Perhaps a little light, but appropriately medicinal. Mouth: very good, brings back memories, with gherkin brine, lapsang souchong, ashes and granny smith. The only problem is that those 40% vol. kind of kill it, as they always did since we first did wee tasting sessions opposing the 40 and the 43. Worlds apart and apologetic looks from everyone at the distillery, back in the days. The good old early Internet days, when some brands hadn't become autistic yet. Finish: nice, very Laphroaig, but disappointingly flattish, which would lead to a dry and cardboardy aftertaste. Comments: coitus interruptus, almost murder. Yet, the distillate is perfect and probably easily worth 88 when at 46% vol. Taxes? What taxes? Don't the other distillers pay taxes too?
SGP:337 - 83 points.

Laphroaig 'Quarter Cask' (48%, OB, +/-2021)

Laphroaig 'Quarter Cask' (48%, OB, +/-2021) Two stars and a half
One of the first official expressions where they cancelled the age statements and started to replace time with wood (and a higher bottling strength indeed). We had thought this was shocking back in the days, but's it true that the end results, in you glass, have been pretty pleasant. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then. Colour: gold. Nose: the 10 was tighter, this one's got more vanilla and bananas from some well-prepared American oak. That roundness first clashes a wee bit with the otherwise rather straight distillate, but all is well in the end, with some lovely medicinal tones, cough syrup, also lemon curd, some marzipan and perhaps a handful of winkles in the background, which adds to the coastalness indeed. Yep, works with cockles and clams too. Mouth: a little too sweet for me now, as if they had further cranked-up the oaky sweetness. The oak really feels, frankly. Some sour fruits. I find it hard and the little 10 really kills it now. Finish: long, too oaky, gingery, bittersweet, with a feeling of white sugar on top of that. I find it pretty dissonant. Comments: all was going well on the nose but this dissonant and 'un-married' palate just didn't work for me. We'll try to try the QC again next year, if God lets us live.
SGP:665 - 78 points.

Let's get our heads right, with…

Williamson 10 yo 2011/2021 (59.9%, Asta Morris, sherry, cask #AM083, 674 bottles)

Williamson 10 yo 2011/2021 (59.9%, Asta Morris, sherry, cask #AM083, 674 bottles) Four stars
Indeed, Williamson is Laphroaig, the name refers to legendary former manager Bessie Williamson (some say she was having an affair with a certain Dutch dentist but shh, we have no evidence). Colour: gold. Nose: but of course. Tighter, purer, pleasantly free of any excessive oak this time, all on seawater, mercurochrome, just peat smoke, seaweed smoke, lemons and gunflints. With water: sharp, millimetric, pure, smoky and medicinal. Those trademark whiffs of new Wellingtons too. Mouth (neat): it is a little sweetly creamy and rich (lemon gums, banana foam) at first but all this smoke and brine definitely save it at 60% vol. With water: further destroys the Quarter Cask, even if it is not the most complex Laphroaig ever. Purity always works. Finish: rather long, very good, with some smoked almonds coming through, as well as bitter oranges. Comments: you won't have to scratch your head here, all is well.

SGP:457 - 87 points.

Williamson 2010/2020 (52.2%, The Whisky Jury, refill barrel, cask #twj-Lph01, 230 bottles)

Williamson 2010/2020 (52.2%, The Whisky Jury, refill barrel, cask #twj-Lph01, 230 bottles) Four stars
The cask # leaves no doubts, should some have remained in our minds. Ah by the way, those Williamsons technically are blended malts. Colour: straw. Nose: even less oak, more tar, more petrol, the floor of an old garage in England, almonds, fresh walnuts, perhaps one olive, and everyone's happy. With water: embrocations. How very Laphroaig. Mouth (neat): closer to the Asta Morris, even if a little purer and tighter yet. Rhubarb juice, marzipan, liquorice wood, lemon… With water: lapsang souchong, ashes, grape pips. Finish: rather long, saltier as expected, and pretty ashy. Would you know of any cough medicine that would be salted? I mean apart from seawater? Comments: check.

SGP:457 - 87 points.

Lp12 2014/2021 (54.7%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, 1672 bottles)

Lp12 2014/2021 (54.7%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, 1672 bottles) Four stars and a half
Boy was this one young! It's from 2 refill and 2 sherry hogsheads. Colour: white wine. Nose: closer to the raw distillate yet, that is to say with more tincture of iodine, creosote, hessian, seawater and kerosene. Whiffs of fresh-cut grapefruit are adding a kind of lightness. With water: bingo. Pure young Laphroaig without artifice. Utterly love these whiffs of used engine oil. Will future generation even know what engine oil was? Will they use 'recycled batteries' instead? Mouth (neat): oh well done! You feel it's young but what they've been doing with the woods managed to filter-out any unwanted roughness, without imparting any obvious 'oakiness' (as in the official QC). Very lovely, with some menthol that we hadn't encountered before, lime, agave, gentian… Me happy. With water: perfect. Stunning lemon brine, olive oil and sardines, all put together into a tin, fur future picnics 'on Laphroaig'. Finish: rather long, crystalline, perfect. Comments: the mouthfeel was perfect too. We're almost going for 90, at 6 or 7 years of age!
SGP:467 - 89 points.

Time to choose our #500…

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, for Cinzano Italy, unblended, +/- 1985) Five stars
I've tried this one before, but that was in 2004, from another bottle of course, and in the very early days of Whiskyfun. Just like that of Macallan, or say Bowmore, the reputation of Laphroaig has been built on these very old batches, in the case of Laphroaig batches of the 10 (sometimes the 15).

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, for Cinzano Italy, unblended, +/- 1985)

Colour: white wine. Nose: a walk in the woods, surrounded with pine trees, fir trees, eucalyptus, cedar… I'm not sure those trees would grow well together but there, poetic license you know. There's rather less of those tropical extravaganzas that were to be found in other versions of the 10 (Bonfanti, Filippi, Buckingham Vile…) but as far as various embrocations go, you couldn't go any farer than this. Quite some plasticine too. Having said that, I had noticed some mangos back in 2004, but these bottles have now gotten 17 years older, have they not. Mouth: no, there, maracuja and mangos, served with grapefruit and crème de menthe. Touches of sour apples too, but all in all, this old Laphroaig has evolved just like any great wine would have (albeit at a slower pace, naturally). You'll never fin this oily, tertiary kind of complexity in a 'new' bottle. Finish: medium, rather resinous, with a few lovely sappy touches, a discreet smoke and then some fat fish. Not talking about any politicians here. In the aftertaste and as almost always with these bottles, hints of old herbal liqueurs, especially chartreuse 'of course'. Comments: probably not the 'utter best' old Laphroaig 10, partly because it's got a little fragile here and there, but as they say, the legend was en route.
SGP:464 - 91 points.

Good, now that we've had our 500th, we can celebrate… (tsk-tsk, any excuses…) And since we've mentioned Bonfanti and Filippi…

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB for Bonfanti, Italy, screw cap, mid 1970s)

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB for Bonfanti, Italy, screw cap, mid 1970s) Five stars
Pure legend but we've mostly tried Bonfantis at 43% vol. So, this might be a little different… Colour: gold. Nose: I think I can hear the angels sing (but why are thy singing Frank Zappa?) Fruits and vegetables, strictly all of them, this would make Fortnum & Mason's Food Hall look ridiculous in comparison. For example, I'm finding plantain, hops, salsify, jujubes, carrots, prickly pears, papayas, citrons, eggplants, celeriac, pink bananas, avocado, pistachio, lovage, celery, chives, wee white onions, 'plane' mangos… What a soup indeed, this is simply staggering. I think I'll have to go to bed early tonight. Mouth: did you call the Anti-Maltoporn brigade yet? Starts with some unexpected raisins and dried longans, and would go on with myriads of dried, candied, stewed or preserved fruits. Actually, it is rather less on fresh tropical fruits than I remembered, but for example, these dried figs covered with salted honey and butter caramel sauce are probably more addictive than any violent and perverse series on Net-f*****g-flix. And less poisonous. Finish: medium and grand. Those dried figs again. Comments: as we've been asking before, who's broken the mould?

SGP:653 - 94 points.

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB for Filippi Import, Italy, short screw cap, late 1960s)

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB for Filippi Import, Italy, short screw cap, late 1960s) Five stars
Gasp, I think we need air… It's to be noted that the 'short screw cap' is older than the 'long screw cap'. Colour: gold. Nose: I think we'll keep this short. More mangos than on a mango tree, and more medicinal 'things' than in the basement an old abandoned hospital (on Netflix). All essential oils, plant extracts and secret ointments of the creation, some probably long-forgotten. And oh, those mangos! Mouth: floors you, literally. We've had other bottles that had gotten a little drying (remember no two bottles remain the same after so many years) but this one remained perfect, tight, fresh, and eminently mango-y. Maracuja too, dried fish, kippers, grapefruits, a little chalk, lapsang souchong, beeswax, dried longans and rambutans, raisins even… Finish: loses a bit of steam at this stage. We won't blame it. Comments: it lost one point at the finish but there is no need to throw a fit, I suppose.

SGP:654 - 93 points.

Where are we? Ah, there…

Laphroaig 'Old Scotch Whisky' (20 under proof, OB, early 1960s)

Laphroaig 'Old Scotch Whisky' (20 under proof, OB, early 1960s) Five stars
This is a first. It comes from an extremely rare miniature. Colour: gold. Nose: totally different, this time with more roots, celeriac, gentian, carrots, turnips and parsnips, also artichokes… Careful because in my meagre experience, when noses have become like this and however pleasant they may have become, the palates are often wrecked, flat, dead or even foul. Let's check that subito presto… Mouth: Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Halleeeee-lu-jah! No signs of any weaknesses, rather small citrus and dried fruits everywhere, raisins again, mulberries perhaps, figs for sure, camphor and many kinds of old cough medicines (remember, the recipes have been lost), and just, guess what, peat! Beyond that, a very lovely pine-y development, mead, fir honey, roasted pinecones, verbena, and of course, chartreuse. Finish: not that long but you could still feel 'the kiln'. No, really. The aftertaste's pretty medicinal again. Old cough syrups. Comments: what's striking when you try these glorious old malts is that nowhere do you actually feel 'oak', let alone lousy vanilla or worse, vanillin. And in the old 'sherry monsters', you do not feel wine either. Hope there wasn't one mini of this left for the whole world ;-). Incredible peatiness after so many years.

SGP:555 - 95 points.

Good, perhaps one or two newer bottlings now, before we call this a tasting session? We'd also like to revise a few old Laphroaigs Samaroli but we'll do that, say for Christmas.

Laphroaig 1991/2019 (52.1%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, refill bourbon barrel, cask #2652, 265 bottles)

Laphroaig 1991/2019 (52.1%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, refill bourbon barrel, cask #2652, 265 bottles) Five stars
With a kraken on the label. Given the nasty quality of that 'rum' also branded 'Kraken', I would have gone for a different animal instead, perhaps even a blob or a paramecium, but indeed, not my business ;-). Love our whisky friends in Taiwan! Colour: straw. Nose: the utter pleasures of refill wood, without any wood influence as such, this is only wood as 'a facilitator', not as a 'flavouring agent'. Long story short, this is pristine fresh and pure Laphroaig that's taken its time and was never rushed. Superb lemons, seawater, oysters, touch of aniseed, and just hints of caraway and juniper. Luminous and obvious (bravo, S.) With water: best of Pouilly-Fumé. I know I shouldn't always use wine references, that that's too easy, but really, I'm not finding a description better than 'Pouilly-Fumé'. Mouth (neat): fantastic, ultra-tight, salty, ueber-vertical, blade-y. Terrifyingly vertical! With water: cuts you into halves, as we sometimes say. The menthol in the background is flabbergasting too. Chalk, lemon, peat, brine, menthol. Finish: long, ultra-clean, bone-dry, with more ashes and even a feeling of carbon dust. Comments: it sure wasn't easy to come after a Cinzano, a Bonfanti and a Filippi. This wee Kraken (!) came out with a real blaze of glory.
SGP:467 - 91 points.

Another newer old one please…

Laphroaig 30 yo (53.6%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, 344 bottles, 2020)

Laphroaig 30 yo (53.6%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, 344 bottles, 2020) Five stars
There's some cocketry for sure in not stating the vintage while there obviously is one, according to the size of the batch. Or am I missing something? What's sure is that this far, this Kinship series has been nothing short of stellar. But they are humans so they could fail, I'm sure (cavernous and sardonic laughter)…  Colour: light gold. Nose: not this time, apparently. Old books, carbon paper, magazines, plasticine, wood varnish, French beans, mashed peas, carbolineum, brake fluid, kelp, peonies, hibiscus… It sure isn't your 'average' Laphroaig and some transmutations seem to have taken place, but I find this nose stunning this far. Unless it would all go pear-shaped from now on… With water: truffles, mashed potatoes, carbon, newspaper of the day, Brussels sprouts, kelp, oysters. Who said this one would be unusual? Mouth (neat): oh! It is a wrestler on the palate, with some very 'green', almost acidic arrival on concentrated lime juice, some varnish, then a loud and clear feeling of mezcal. Which, as always, leaves me speechless (who said thank God, who?) With water: stunning salty bouillons plus, once again, Pouilly-Fumé, kippers, wax, lemon, and some pink pepper in moderation. Finish: sadly. Comments: they needed 100 years to build cathedrals, you need 30 years to build great whisky. Makes sense, no?

SGP:466 - 91 points
(almost 92).

A last one for the road…

Laphroaig 18 yo 1995/2013 (58.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, refill bourbon barrel, #29.143, 'Finish Tar Syrup', 226 bottles)

Laphroaig 18 yo 1995/2013 (58.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, refill bourbon barrel, #29.143, 'Finish Tar Syrup', 226 bottles) Four stars
Finish Tar Syrup? Wouldn't that rather be Finnish Tar Syrup? I would suppose you owe me a beer next time I'm in Edin, dear SMWS! Colour: white wine. Nose: nail polish remover, plasticine, linseed oil, old tarry ropes, carbolineum, mushrooms, damp ashes, mud, plaster. In short, yet another variation on the Laphroaig theme. With water: green apples, cider apples, apple peelings, and just anything apples. Another first on WF, that's brilliant. There's less apple in proper Calvados, if you ask me. Mouth (neat): totally huuuuge! Very aggressive, acetone-y, difficult, extremely dry. Mega-smoke and ashes. Careful with my heart and palate, SMWS! With water: I would say we tamed it, but barely. I would add that you couldn't recognise the make, for it is so deviant, extreme, and, well, varnishy. Have they not rather bottled the boiler's oil by mistake? Do they now grow apple trees behind the distillery? Finish: long, ultra-tight, acetic, acidic, almost chemical at times, and greener then grass. Unexpected touches of coconut wine in the aftertaste (no, really). Comments: fun Laphroaig, totally deviant indeed, and extreme. These are not quite scorable, in truth.

SGP:475 - 85 points.

(Thank you mucho Aaron, Jon, Nick and François)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Laphroaig we've tasted so far







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