Laphroaig 15

Laphroaig 15
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.

10 thoughts on “Laphroaig 15

  1. Heeey, you’re starting to get bothered by caramel, good for you! I wonder whether subconsciously we think Laphroaig 10yo/15/18/etc and Caol Ila 12yo are supposed to be dark like that, because they are so… peated? I was quite disappointed the other day to read on a German whisky shopping site that all my beloved Laphroaigs, Caol Ila, and most everything else are “mit Farbstoff”…

    This being said, tastewise, peated whiskies can probably cover the caramel much easier than unpeated ones.

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    • I think some people do believe that peated whisky is supposed to be darker. I remember that coming up in reviews of the first batch of peated whiskey from Lost Spirits – I noted that the color was creepily dark for its age and there were definitely some misconceptions from others.

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      • I do hope to see the day when caramel is banned from single malt scotch. There’s simply no reason or excuse for it. Leave these tricks to rum and, fine!, blended scotch.

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        • I’m with Jeff. Just put it on the label–back label in small print, even. They’re required to do it in Germany and it doesn’t seem to result in Germans buying fewer malts with caramel in them.

          Personally, I’m not too exercised about caramel. I noted it here only because it’s rather obvious, and yet, Laphroaig doesn’t have a bad reputation among whisky geeks for doing this. As always, we’re very selective in our fastidiousness.

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          • Disclosure would be a good start. Germany is not enough to tip the scales, but if all of a sudden the US and UK markets become aware and vocal I can see an industry reaction.

            E150 affects the taste of several whiskies for me, and in some cases ruins it. Some literally blind tests would be interesting to do. Blends are worst offenders (e.g. Grant’s – otherwise a great blend, White Horse, JW Black), but I’m happy to let them use it. With single malts, especially at super-premium levels (cask strength, single cask, old age) there’s really no reason for it – whisky shouldn’t be orange, or dirty brown. One recent case that comes to mind is rather obscure – Cairnleigh 12yo, a “mystery” single malt. I could not get past the bitter, industrial e150 taste. Other times it’s just mildly annoying, e.g. Glenlivet 12yo. Other whiskies where I have a bitter finish in my notes: Stronachie 12yo, Speyburn Bradan Orach, JW Black.

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  2. Interesting!

    Not to start a war, but does e150 actually affect taste? I havent noticed, but better taste-buds have said it’s bitter and finish-killing. Does it account for the bitterness MAO found here?

    I’m a 15yr fan. The 18 has more wood, char, and smoke than the 15 and that’s why I like the 15! Or maybe it’s nostalgia for the first whiskies I loved (see also Aberlour and Balvenie 10yr olds.)

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  3. Did you try the new 15 year old? I’ve hear some positive reviews of the old 15 year old and per Laphroaig the new 15 is exact same recipe. Since the 18 yo (which I love) is going away I’m trying to figure out which one to buy.

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