If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen me expressing some confusion a couple of nights ago about this sample. As I began to take notes on it I noticed that it seemed to have the same abv as Batch 004. As it seemed unlikely that two separate batches would have the same abv I went to Whiskybase and discovered that Batch 005 was not only listed as being at 57.2% but as released in February 2013 and not January 2013. Batch 004, on the other hand, was released in January 2012. This made me think that perhaps Florin (the original lobby boy of the Hotel Budapest and the source of my sample) had mistakenly sent me Batch 004 and labeled it as Batch 005. But when I began tasting it it didn’t seem to map onto my notes on Batch 004. This gripping mystery was solved when Florin confirmed that this was not Batch 004—he’d finished his bottle well before we’d started swapping samples—and that he’d mistakenly transcribed the information for Batch 004 from his spreadsheet when making up the label. Isn’t the world of whisky blogging fascinating?
Anyway, you may be thinking that what this underscores is how inherently reliable this whole enterprise is. After all, who knows how often such errors are made: when I panned/praised a whisky you didn’t recognize in my review is it because I had a dodgy sample then too? It’s precisely because I don’t want to mask this aspect of the already highly contingent nature of my reviews that I post unattractive pictures of sample bottles (urine samples, as my highly witty friends refer to them). Keep in mind that almost all whisky bloggers are reviewing primarily from samples (whether provided by the industry or not)—it’s just that most use pictures of the proper bottles which gives a slightly different impression of things even when it is disclosed that what is being reviewed is a sample.
Now to the review. See here for Wednesday’s review of Batch 001, some of which I saved to compare this sample to directly. As I think I noted in that review, there’s a lot of talk of slippage in quality with later batches of the Laphroaig 10 CS. I liked Batch 003 more than Batch 004, but I thought Batch 004 was pretty good too. Is Batch 005 really a lot worse? Let’s see.
Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 005 (57.2%; released February 2013; sample received in a swap)
Nose: Hmmm…no big wave of smoke as I pour this and no phenolic wallop as I raise the glass to my nose. It’s not that it’s not peaty at all—your gauze and your mercurochrome and your disinfectant are all here—it’s just sort of…mellow: no tar whatsoever. Gets more acidic as it sits (lime) and then there’s a fair bit of cream and vanilla and then a minerally, slightly peppery note. The peat gets farmier as it sits and the lime turns to lemon. With a lot more time there’s more acridity. With a few drops of water it’s creamier still and the lemon and the smoke merge nicely.
Palate: Sweet arrival (vanilla, cream) and then dry smoke below it. Again, no tar whatsoever and it’s not even particularly ashy. Acidic, as on the nose. The smoke gets somewhat peppery as it sits and it gets quite lemony as well. Pleasant but not a whole lot else going on. The peat intensifies with time and, as on the nose, gets farmier. Gets even sweeter with water and even simpler.
Finish: Long. It’s on the finish that the smoke really expands. No tar, or darker notes in general, here either. As on the palate with water but now there’s more salt as well. And then in a bit of a surprise the smoke gets more ashy.
Comments: As peaty whisky goes this is very good. As the Laphroaig 10 CS goes, however, it’s a bit of a disappointment. The notes emphasized here (sweetness, cream, vanilla) are not what I look for in the 10 CS. This mellower Laphroaig is what I go to the 18 yo for. Then again, maybe if I weren’t comparing it directly to the far more old school Batch 001 I would be a little more generous with my score.
Rating: 85 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample and for being a good sport about all the grief I gave you on Twitter!