After last night’s not very heavily peated Hakushu Heavily Peated let’s try a whisky that is very unambiguously heavily peated: Lp1, the first Laphroaig release in the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. I have noted before my love of young bourbon cask Laphroaig and so I will not repeat myself here.
However: in a comment on my review of the Lg2 in that series, Billy Abbott of TWE noted cryptically that it may be an error to think of the whiskies in this series as young on account of there being no age stated on the labels (an assumption that is otherwise a safe one to make in today’s Scotch industry). Well, my memories of this one are that it is pretty youthfully aggressive. Let’s see what I make of it tonight:
Laphroaig, Lp1 (58.8%, Speciality Drinks; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sharp smoke and minerally sweetness at the same time, more or less. Something savoury as well–a touch of ham, perhaps. Gets more and more phenolic within minutes: ammonia, bandages, old glue, varnish. Two minutes in it’s quite brutal with intensely salty and acidic phenolic smoke. You could clear a blocked nose with this. With a little more time there’s a dry, leafy quality to it, and also wet earth after a late autumn rainfall. Then comes some citronella (it would be a brave mosquito that would try to fly through this). Five minutes later it’s quite civilized, with a musky sweetness, a hint of lemon and just a few licks of smoke (or maybe my nostrils have been beaten into submission). Water subdues the smoke further. After a lot more time a creamy note develops as well.
Palate: Sweet first, then intensely lemony and salty, then lots of dry smoke, and then salted lemons again. All in about 1.5 seconds, and then it turns to ashes in the mouth (except in this case it’s not a bad thing). Not very much more development after that but let’s see what happens with water. Well, the salt gets dialed back quite dramatically: now it’s like a very smoky limoncello with some oysters on the side. There’s some fruit too now: pears maybe and even some appley notes. By the time I take the last sip it’s quite sweet; smoky, but sweet.
Finish: Long and very salty after the initial wave of smoke subsides. At the very end, a lightly ashy and stony taste lies lightly on the sides of the tongue. Water lowers the saltiness of the finish as well.
Comments: This is winter whisky. This is what you want after trudging home through a blizzard and sitting down to rest in front of a roaring fire with a blunderbuss across your lap and your most faithful walrus at your feet. But it’ll do in other circumstances too.
So, do I think it is young tonight as well? It’s not as brutal as I remember it being but the bottle’s been past the halfway mark for some time, and it may well have mellowed for that reason. I would say young, but not very: probably between 8 and 10 years. But the main thing is it’s very good (though you must account for my heavy Laphroaig bias). Now, how is it possible that Elements of Islay have got all the way to Lp3 and I’ve not tried anything but Lp1? At any rate, I’ve got a lot of other Laphroaig to console me.
Rating: 89 points.