Laphroaig 10

Laphroaig 10Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and in some ways the entry-level Laphroaig 10 may be my favourite real world whisky. By this I don’t mean this is the whisky I rate more highly than any other; I mean that it presents most of what I like about Laphroaig at a price that would allow me to drink it everyday if I were so constrained, and that I would not be unhappy drinking it every day—it rewards attention and it’s very pleasurable even when you’re doing other things that require more of your attention; it’s direct but it isn’t dumbed down. There may be a different whisky that fits this bill for you but this is mine*.

The only problem with it is that when I have a bottle open I go through it alarmingly fast. I took this photograph of the closed bottle a few days ago and I’m almost approaching the halfway mark already. For that reason I haven’t opened a bottle for a while now, which is why I’ve failed to review it for the blog until now.

*I should say that I feel this way about the 43% version available in the US. Elsewhere in the world (or at least in the EU and in travel retail) it is bottled at 40% and that version I’m less happy with.

Laphroaig 10 (43%; from my own bottle)

Nose: A big wave of smoke, phenolic and ashy and cereally all at the same time. Peated lemons below the smoke and then muskier fruit and a touch of ham. Gets sweeter as it sits, with apple joining the cereals while the smoke wafts all around. With even more time the acid returns and some notes of vanilla-cream emerge. A couple of drops of water pull out more of the fruit.

Palate: As on the nose the smoke and cereals make the first impression with the fruit arriving as I swallow (again, citrus first and then sweeter notes heading towards the finish). The mouthfeel is just a tiny bit too thin but it’s very far from watery. The phenolic notes intensify with time. With water the smoke gets a little sharper and there’s some menthol coolness.

Finish: Medium-long. The late arriving fruit expands with the lemon edging into muskier, almost tropical notes before collapsing into the underlying ash. At the very end the smoke gets more tarry. As on the palate with water.

Comments: Quintessential Laphroaig character. It’s not very complex but it’s far from one-note. A solid, dangerously drinkable whisky that’s consistent from beginning to end. No whisky shelf should be without a bottle of this. Water is superfluous, I think.

Rating: 87 points.


12 thoughts on “Laphroaig 10

  1. Well said, Mao. I find Laphroaig 10 to be a standard among scotch. It’s well made, delicious in every facet, and has an excellent price tag. Unless the quality drops or the price increases, or my priorities drastically change (which does happen when your family expands), this will always be stocked (plus a backup) on the shelf.

    It’s delightful to see you giving such high praise to readily available “every man” scotch.


  2. Thanks for the review. I assume some will want to know the bottling code or at least whether you purchased this more recently or not in case the quality changes over time.


      • Thanks. “Bought within the last two years” is good enough for me. Just didn’t know if you recently pulled this from some well-stocked closet.
        I’ve preferred Ardbeg 10yr to the Laphroaig, but haven’t revisited it in the past year; I’ll have to open a bottle. I know you’ve said that you’re a fan of the Laphroaig 18–I’ve never had it, so I would love to see you review it. You have any interest in this year’s Cairdeas? I liked last year’s Port Wood, and agreed with your review.


        • Frankly, I think the Laphroaig 10 and Ardbeg 10 (and even the Caol Ila 12) are close enough to each other that, not tasted blind, preferences for one or the other probably come down to mood, the presence of a bit more/less of some small element in one or the other, or even some non-rational element. The Laphroaig 10 (like the Highland Park 12 and Clynelish 14) is a whisky that I associate with the period when I really fell hard for single malt whisky and so they hold special places in my heart.

          By the way, this review is the first of a mini-run of OB Laphroaig reviews that will culminate on Monday with the new Cairdeas. I don’t have a review of the 18 yo lined up soon but I have recently secured yet another bottle for my end-of-the-world stash and so it’s not unlikely that I might open another one before the year is done.


  3. I feel this way about Caol Ila 12yo. With Laphroaig I’ve been probably spoiled by the CS OB so now I’m not that crazy about the standard 10yo anymore.

    I’m shocked – shocked – that you said nothing about how Laphroaig gets a free pass with geeks on its caramel use! What happened this time?


      • Does make you wonder how good Laphroaig 10 would be if they did switch to craft presentation.

        My personal theory is that the distilleries that kept operating through the low period (Laphroaig, Caol Ila, Bowmore) never felt any incentive to change, whereas the ones that were restarted or flew under the radar (Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain) needed to go that route to generate some buzz. Ardbeg was pretty notorious for 40% releases until the current millennium.


  4. So someone help me on this, I bought one of these for $50 the other day. I am an infrequent American whiskey drinker (Jack, etc.), and definitely not a connoisseur of such. I was looking to try a brown sipper drink so thought to try this off the shelf scotch after seeing the numerous reviews here. So oi grabbed a bottle of Laphroaig 10.

    My tasting revealed a strong nose of urinal cakes, with a hint of freshly opened toilet paper. The first sip was strongly reminiscent of Listerine (original flavor). And i am not kidding… I felt as if I had just got up from the dentists’ chair. Wow what a bummer! I am taking the bottle back for my money back at Total Wine. There’s so many reviews but maybe MAO you can recommend just another bottle to try of an American whisky, maybe a bourbon or rye, that’s in the $50 range, please. Also, have you ever had anything like this happen?


    • Don’t know about freshly opened toilet paper but urinal cakes and listerine: you’re doing a good job of describing heavily phenolic whisky. Given how much you disliked it, I would say stay away from all peated whisky. You’ll be on far safer ground with milder whiskies from the highlands or the Speyside. Total Wine has the Balvenie 12 Double Wood—my guess is you will like that one.


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