The venerable Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength (the regular Laphroaig 10 turned up to about 11) started being released in numbered batches in 2009. I’ve already reviewed Batch 003 (2011) and Batch 004 (2012), both of which I liked a lot. Here now is my review of Batch 001. It will be followed very soon by the Batch 005 (which might still be the current batch on sale in the US; I think Europe is already on Batch 006). There was a bit of a discrepancy, by the way, between the release dates of Batch 002 in the US and Europe, but I believe all the others have the same dates on the labels.
A lot of people bemoaned a claimed drop in quality from the old “red stripe” 55.7% version to even the early batch releases—and, of course, from the previous “green stripe” to the “red stripe” bottle as well—and Batch 005, in particular, has not been received very well, I don’t think. Actually, I’m not sure if there were any loud complaints about this first batch; but I’m interested to see if I can tell a significant difference between the first and fifth batches, which were bottled almost four years apart (I’m saving some of this to taste again alongside my sample of Batch 005).
Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 001 (57.8%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Oh yes, you know where this is from the moment you open the bottle….Ashy smoke as I pour and a deep phenolic wallop as I raise the glass to my nose (all your usual medicinal descriptors). This is the stuff. On the second sniff the sea is everywhere: it’s briny with seashells and the sweet stink of rotting kelp. Quite a lot of cereals as well in the early going and then after a bit a creamy sweetness with some vanilla but also some lemon. After a couple of minutes there’s some ink mixed in with the iodine and there’s also some fish guts (from very freshly cleaned fatty fish). The citrus expands as it goes with salt crystals replacing the brine, and the smoke turning tarry. With a few drops of water the citrus backs off and makes way for some ham and hickory smoked bacon.
Palate: Sweet arrival and then the smoke bomb goes off—brighter, ashy smoke emerges first and then a dark, phenolic cloud spreads slowly to the back of my mouth and up the sides and everywhere. On the second sip it’s saltier and there’s also quite a bit more citrus poking its way out on the mid-palate (lime and maybe a bit of grapefruit too). Gets more acidic with every sip and the cream and vanilla from the nose begin to show up as well. With water it’s sweeter and less tarry.
Finish: Long. Smoke, smoke, smoke…going from ashy in the early going to very tarry soon after. When it begins to finally die down the salt emerges again from below it. At the very end it’s like I’ve been licking a heavily charred steak. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Looking at my notes for Batch 003, they seem quite similar with perhaps more tar in this one (unfortunately, I haven’t opened the bottle of Batch 003 that I purchased right after reviewing it so can’t compare them head to head). I gave that one 89 points and for no good reason I’m going to give this one more point. Actually, I have a good reason: the first sniff reminded me of my very first taste of Laphroaig way back when. I guess that might mean that the profile has changed a bit in recent years. Well, I guess I’ll see what I make of Batch 005 tomorrow.
Rating: 90 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample!