Laphroaig 16, 1998 (Signatory for TWE)

Laphroaig 16, 1998, Signatory for TWE
Let’s keep the Laphroaig thing going and let’s keep the timely review thing going too. This was bottled by Signatory for the Whisky Exchange—one of three selections in Signatory’s signature decanters, with green labels on this occasion. The other two were a 33 yo Glenlivet and a 18 yo Clynelish. All are still available.

I got samples of the Clynelish and Laphroaig from Sku in L.A (as you probably guessed by looking at the quality of the label). I figured if I liked them I might consider ordering them but the steep shipping price from the Whisky Exchange—especially for these Signatory decanters—is a hard obstacle to overcome. On the other hand, this is a Laphroaig from a sherry cask, and a high quality sherried Laphroaig is, for me, an even harder proposition to turn down. Well, let’s see if this is going to cause me to make any difficult decisions.

Laphroaig 16, 1998 (59.9%; refill sherry cask #700389; Signatory for The Whisky Exchange; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Mossy, slightly rubbery peat. Even more vegetal/organic on the second sniff. After a minute or so it calms down and there’s some pepper and some leather; lime zest too. Gets inkier as it goes and the citrus expands as well. With a lot more time there’s some orange peel and a hint of toffee and then some pencil lead and ham (the sherry is getting to talk a little louder). Hmmm the organic, slightly dirty/farmy note comes back a bit with a few drops of water; saltier now too (as in cured meat).

Palate: Starts out much sweeter on the palate (raisins) and then charred, meaty smoke comes pouring in. The pepper is here too and there’s a lot of salt to go with it. On the second sip I get some of the organic peaty notes from the nose but there’s a lot more of the iodine/medicinal complex here. The citrus expands with time but so does the charred meat thing; later it’s charred oak rather than meat and quite tarry. Quite drinkable at full strength from the get-go but water should open it up further. Water makes it brighter (citrus) but also sharper and more phenolic.

Finish: Long. The smoke and the salt keep at it for a while. Gets tarrier as it goes. With water the citrus hangs out into the finish and there’s some toffee here too.

Comments: Well, the nose didn’t get me terribly excited at first, but it improved significantly with time and the palate is very nice throughout. The peat and the sherry battle each other to a harmonious draw. Hmmmm…it’s very nice (though not as good as this younger one, also from 1998 and from a proximate cask); more fruit on the palate and I’d be in; as it is, I think it might be a little too expensive for what it is in my book. I have to say I’m a little surprised Sku liked this as there’s definitely mild sulphur here on the nose to begin and he usually has zero tolerance for sulphur.

Rating: 88 points.

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