This will be my first post on Malted and unlike my brother, who has an unnatural interest in sherry; my principle interest is in peated whiskies. So what better way to start than with a review of the Laphroaig 200th anniversary 15 year old.
We have discussed the history of the iconic distillery of Laphroaig in previous posts (Laphroaig PX Cask) so won’t go over old ground again. Instead I will share some personal views on the distillery with the explicit disclaimer that Laphroaig is one of my favourite distilleries and their bottles form over a third of my, modest, collection.
In my view Laphroaig holds an interesting position in the whisky community. To many people it appears to symbolise a hardcore of the whisky experience that prides itself on liking something that the uninitiated would find unpalatable. Evidence for this view can be seen by browsing the opinions shared on the Laphroaig website or mentions on twitter. You will find statements such as “like licking a chimney sweeps arm” words like pungent and charred and numerous similes related the dram to fireplaces, bonfires and Vikings.
In fairness the distinctive taste of Laphroaig 10 and the quarter cask is what drew me to the distillery initially. However I sometimes feel that less extreme expressions such as the select or the 2016 Cairdeas don’t get a fair hearing by the many Laph fans who believe the dogma that the 10 year and the QC is what Laphroaig “should” taste like and any deviation from this is whisky blasphemy.
I believe the 15 year old is proof of the range of Laphroaig and why, like in many areas, variety is a good thing in distillery expressions.
The Laphroaig 15 year was historically part of the distillery’s core range, first created 30 years ago. According to the official website barrels “were individually selected for their particularly mellow rounded flavour”. Not words often used to describe Laphroaig. The 15 has a strong following, including HRH The Prince of Wales, and there was widespread upset in 2010 when it was discontinued in favour of the 18 year old.
To celebrate the distilleries 200th anniversary the 15th was recreated to emulate the original. This is bottle I will be reviewing today and if anyone wishes to source me an original bottle of 15 year old I would be very happy to compare them.
Colour: deep gold
Nose: sharp sweetness almost citrus in nature
Palate: Initial sourness that resolves to a soft earthy peat with a hint of cigarette smoke
Finish: soft earthy finish, initially aged leather that transitions to a surprising fruity conclusion of berries and summer fruit.
I love this malt. It has amazing depth and variety of character. That characteristic Laphroaig peat is certainly there although in a more moderate volume. This allows it to be accompanied by an interplay of sweet and sour that elevates this from a great peated whisky to a great whisky full stop.
If you believe that a Laphroaig has to be a heavy hard hitting peat and nothing else then I implore you to try the 15 and see if I can change your mind.