This is a rather well-received Laphroaig from the Belgian bottler, The Nectar. I was lucky enough to score a bottle of this (and also the Whisky Agency 1990, 20 yo) right before the prices of Laphroaig from the boutiquey indies went through the roof. I am a sucker for the marriage of peat and sherry when it works well, and I am an even bigger sucker for Laphroaig. And I am pleased to report this bottle did not disappoint. I opened it right away in late 2010 and have slowly, jealously been drinking it down (and I can report that it did not degrade noticeably in that time). When it recently got past the halfway mark, I poured off a 6 oz reference sample for future comparisons and sped up my rate of consumption. Tonight I bade farewell to the bottle and decided to finally record some notes.
Laphroaig 11, 1999 (59.5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, sherry butt; from my own bottle
Nose: Sweet peat, and the leafy, vegetal quality that’s often there in phenolic malts matured in sherry casks. Some graphite too, and something meaty–bacon? pork fat? The graphite turns a little inky with more air, and a tarry, slightly rubbery note emerges as well. With more time, the graphite, ink and tar subside and the sherry begins to assert itself just a little bit more: salted nuts, the faintest hint of brandied raisins. More iodine now too. After 10-15 minutes it almost becomes delicate. (Almost.) After more time still there’s a farmy note to the peat. A subtle fruitiness emerges too; perhaps water will cause it to expand. Oh yes, indeed, it does cause it to expand: cherries, I want to say and then lime and then notes of tart-sweet mangoes (more Langda than Himsagar). But the fruit doesn’t hang around very long, or at least it doesn’t talk loudly for very long. Gets brinier and oyster liquor joins the party, and then the lime comes back too. In the end, everything comes together in a great, harmonious whole.
Palate: Massive. A huge wave of sweet peat hits first, and then after a moment an even bigger wave of ashy smoke blows you back. Ashy, meaty smoke; grilled pork with hoisin sauce. Gets inky and minerally as it passes over the tongue. Iodine and the sweet, briny stink of the sea. Let’s see what water does. Oh, it makes it limey and salty (more lime peel/oil than juice). It also intensifies the smoke, and makes it more tarry.
Finish: The smoke keeps going and going and going. Not much development but the smoke just lingers and lingers and lingers. Water adds lime to the smoke and keeps it going and going and going. More peppery too now.
Comments: I took a very long time to take my first sip, so probably missed some early development on the palate and finish. But what can I say? Colossally entertaining nose, and while the palate is far more direct it is also colossally good; the finish is where it’s lacking just a bit (no new notes; it’s more like that last chord of “A Day in the Life” taking forever to fade out–but reminding you as it goes how much you liked what came before). This is one of the best Laphroaigs I’ve ever had–it is proof positive, I think, that young whiskies can kick the asses of much older whiskies, and also evidence for the position advanced by some (and which I generally agree with) that peated Islays are at their best in their low teens. What I do know for certain is that when massive peat and assertive sherry find such perfect balance as they do here, there are no other styles of whisky that can trump it, as far as I am concerned.
Rating: 91 points.