After last week’s 2014 release of Lagavulin 16 let’s do another 2014 release from an iconic Islay distillery. This one is quite a bit more expensive than the Lagavulin 16, though, despite being only nine years older: the 2014 release of the Laphroaig 25. This is now down to 45.1% abv. Considering that earlier iterations hit the bottle at much higher strengths, and that global warming hasn’t lifted Scotland’s temperature quite that much yet, it seems likely that this is a case of trying to stretch stocks as far as they can. Whether this is to try and sell even more of this overpriced malt (though the price seems to slowly be creeping down, it’s far away from being reasonable), or whether it’s because they’re genuinely strapped for aged stock (see again the demise of the 18 yo), I’m not sure. At any rate, I’m curious to see if I like this more than the other two Laphroaig 25s I’ve had—the 2009 release (which I’ve reviewed) and the 2011 (which I haven’t). I liked both of those, but not as much as far cheaper and younger standard bottlings from Laphroaig.
Laphroaig 25, 2014 Release (45.1%; oloroso sherry and American oak casks; from a bottle split with a number of whisky geeks)
Nose: Mellow peat with a hint of damp earth/concrete; wet wool; almond oil. With a bit of airing more acidic notes begin to expand: lime, a hint of olive brine; more ash now too and a slightly chalky edge to the sharper notes. The peat gets a little more pungent as it goes but this is no phenolic beast. Gets more coastal too: salty sea air blowing over kelp. With more time, hints of grapefruit and something sweeter as well. With water the citrus turns to lemon and there’s some vanilla too now.
Palate: Mellow to start on the palate as well, with that almost sweet, damp earth/concrete quality; it yields suddenly to a big wave of leafy smoke and the more acidic notes from the nose. Nice intensity despite the low strength and a very nice mouthfeel. The smoke is more acrid on the second sip and the whole is more mineral and austere. Quite a bit of cracked black pepper as it moves to the finish. More citrus on the next few sips (lemon rather than lime) and then it begins to mellow out again. With more time there’s teasing hints here too of the fruit I got a whiff of on the nose. I wonder if water will pull more of it out. Well, water really makes the lemon pop and it’s sweeter now but there’s no fruit explosion.
Finish: Long. The pepper hangs around for a long time; the lemon pops back up again and there’s coal smoke as well. Smokier with water.
Comments: As with the 2009 and 2011, this is not an older Laphroaig for someone looking for peaty fireworks. It’s not that it’s not phenolic or smoky, it’s that those notes are restrained and integrated into a package that’s pretty austere on the whole (and the oloroso casks aren’t much in evidence either). Very nice, but I wouldn’t recommend paying the asking price for a full bottle unless paying that only causes you as much of a pinch as paying for the (soon to be defunct) 18 yo does to me. Oh, and blind, I don’t know that I’d be able to tell this apart from a Caol Ila of similar age.
Rating: 88 points.