Here is my review of the Laphroaig 15, beloved of many, which was phased out a few years ago in favour of the newly introduced 18 yo. Imagine that, a time when an iconic distillery replaced a 15 yo core expression with an 18 yo. Imagine if you will, as well, a store in Minneapolis that sold this Laphroaig 15 for less than $40 more than a year after it was discontinued. And imagine, finally, an idiot who did not buy a couple of cases of it at this price to put away for his dotage. Well, I do have two bottles left–and frankly, I like the 18 even more and so don’t really mourn the passing of the 15.
Laphroaig 15 (43%; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)
Nose: Phenolic, medicinal but not overwhelmingly smoky. Quite salty too and after a bit there’s some sweeter notes of kelp as well. Air brings out a little bit of vanilla as well. With even more time there’s a savoury/meaty note and some lime (which eventually comes to the fore). Water pulls out more vanilla but also more ashy smoke.
Palate: Very much as on the nose but the smoke is a little more bitter/tarry. The mouthfeel is a little thin. The lime emerges here too after a bit and the smoke turns ashy and dry on later sips. Very direct throughout (i.e. not much of a progression of flavours). Okay, let’s add a small drop of water. No, water doesn’t do anything new for the palate–wait, with time it pulls out a fruitier sweetness (orange).
Finish: Medium. The bitterness expands at first but then recedes leaving an ashy aftertaste. Some of that sweetness hangs around as well. The bitterness comes back with water and the smoke seems to expand well after the swallow.
Comments: This has quite a spectacular fake tan–it’s a dark amber in the glass; it’s funny how Laphroaig seems to get a pass from us geeks over their free hand with the caramel. It does also feel just a bit too thin on the palate. It’s possible, of course, that this has deteriorated in the sample bottle–it’s been a long time since I had some of this from a freshly opened bottle and do not remember if the mouthfeel was different then. Still, it packs a smokier wallop (especially on the palate) than either the current 10 or 18 yo’s do.
Rating: 87 points.