The Laphroaig Select is the entry level core bottle in the range. The bottle I see time and time again being slated and criticised by the core fans who say they couldn’t live without the 10 year old or the Quarter Cask. Are these loyal customers missing out or are wisely avoiding disappointment?
I spoke at length in my last view about the origins of Laphroaig in my last view on the PX cask Laphroaig PX Cask. That is a bottle I really enjoy so please check out that post as well for more background on both the distillery and the Friends of Laphroaig loyalty scheme.
The Friends of Laphroaig scheme is important for this post as well because it was members of this exclusive club who voted this Select bottle as their favourite of the recipes given to taste before the official release of the expression.
The brief for this release was to take first fill ex bourbon barrels, ex Oloroso sherry hogsheads, ex PX sherry casks and ex bourbon quarter casks and marry them all together for six months in virgin American oak. The large number of different cask types meant quite a few different recipes could be concocted to allow customers to vote for their favourite. The final bottle which won that contest was bottled at natural colour and called the Select.
The RRP for this in the UK is £35 but my bottle was on offer for £25 in the supermarket. The three core bottles of Laphroaig (select, quarter cask and 10 year old) can all be found for this price somewhere in the UK supermarket chains. Although they are all coming in at 40% ABV they are all excellent value for money for the varied experiences they all give.
Colour – Golden yellow
Nose – Immediately Laphroaig peat, briny and earthy. There is a background note of sharp cooking apples and gooseberries coming through as you leave the glass to settle. It is sweet but also spicy which I think is coming from the virgin oak.
Palate – much less peat on arrival but that lets brown sugar and red fruits to cut through the spice
Finish – The laphroaig ashy peat finish you expect is here again with more of the strong spices from that virgin oak ending with preserved ginger and peat lingering on the tongue.
Let us be absolutely clear and honest about this bottle. It is a well constructed whisky that has depth and interest throughout. Is it the best whisky I have ever tried? No of course not but does it represent quality, value and entertainment? Absolutely it does and to discount it purely on prejudice of NAS whiskies, the price or a one dimensional expectation of what Laphroaig represents is to miss out on a great little bottle.
The nose on this whisky deserves a special mention it is truly quite an event. It has the peat for sure but also the coastal theme that really transported me to the distillery. The six months in virgin oak has made its mark for sure and for some perhaps that is what is putting them off. It is very obvious in the nose and finish that new wood has developed spice and especially, for me, ginger. The interesting thing for me is I immediately remembered a tasting of Auchentoshan Virgin Oak I had in October last year. Both distilleries have the same parent company and blender in the form of Rachel Barrie. No doubt also all the casks in both bottles spent their life in the same warehouses in Springburn, Glasgow. The virgin oak Auchentoshan is a £60 bottle though not a £35 one like we have here.
I guess the whiskies in this bottle are around the 7-9 year age range. This puts it in line with similar priced bottles in the Beam Suntory range and explains why the virgin oak is so pronounced. Tasting this Select side by side with the PX cask the PX cask tastes richer and feels older but it is a much more premium so you expect that.
The one thing you should take away from this review is the Select is just as good at the Quarter Cask and 10 year old. They are all different and they all have different positive and negative qualities but they are all quality.