Van Wees seem to have released a number of sherried Laphroaigs from 1998, all drawn from casks with fairly proximate numbers. I’ve previously finished a bottle from cask 700348, but that was before the blog. My spreadsheet shows that I went through it at a very rapid rate. I recorded 85 points but didn’t keep notes on it, unfortunately (one of the reasons why I originally started this blog was to make sure I had an easily searchable database of my own notes); but I do remember it being a fairly raw beast (like this one it had a very high abv). Sherried Laphroaigs, especially at cask strength, are no longer easy to find and their prices have gone up. It’s hard to imagine very many more showing up from budget bottlers like van Wees.
Anyway, let’s get to it.
Laphroaig 1998-2012 (60.1%; van Wees; refill butt 700394; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: The first impression is of cereal; sherry below that (the regulation raisins), and then the smoke begins to waft out getting increasingly medicinal as it goes: gauze, disinfectant. The darker sweet notes merge well with the smoke. Nice balance and quite expressive despite the strength. With more time it gets more coastal with salt and seashells. With even more time and air the sherry begins to dominate the smoke a bit (this is not a complaint, merely a description). With a few drops of water a lot more fruit (orange peel, apricot) and some toffee as well (or is that light maple syrup?).
Palate: Ah, that’s good. As on the nose, except the smoke is front and center, and it’s equal parts medicinal peat and woody campfire. A lot more salt on the second sip and then the rest of the seaside with it: shells, kelp, brine. Hot but very drinkable neat. Still, I’m pretty sure water will unlock a lot more. A couple more sips and then a couple of drops (“Your interior monologue is fascinating!” ed.). Dried orange peel emerges with more time and also a bracing bitterness (not wood, more like the bitter edge uni sometimes has). Okay, let’s add water. Ah yes, water integrates everything beautifully—as on the nose, there’s far more fruit, and it’s sweeter now too. I don’t mean to suggest that it’s less medicinal: if anything, the iodine is more intense now. And the mouthfeel is soft and satiny. Lovely stuff.
Finish: Long. Long. Long. The marriage of peat and sherry is at its most harmonious on the finish as the raisins and the smoke meld into one. A bit of orange peel pokes its head out too (earlier than on the palate) and then the salt comes back. Long after the swallow there’s a growing ashiness on my tongue. As on the nose and palate with water but with a far stronger ashy undertone.
Comments: You’d have to be dead, or to hate peat utterly (which is kind of like being dead), to not love this. Far superior to the sibling cask I had a bottle of. Water lifted it out of the high 80s and made it seem much older than it is. I wish I’d bought a bottle!
Rating: 90 points.
Thanks to Gimmeadram for the sample!