Laphroaig 13, 1997 (Duncan Taylor)

Laphroaig 13, 1997, Duncan Taylor for Binny's
Here is the second of three Laphroaig reviews this week. Like the first (this 17 yo from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America), this was distilled in 1997 and matured in a bourbon cask. It’s a bit younger though, having been bottled at 13 years of age by Duncan Taylor for Binny’s of Chicago back in 2011. I remember that this cask took a long time to arrive at Binny’s and that I was rather obsessed with tracking its arrival—I think it was first mentioned in their Whisky Hotline in early 2011 but it finally showed up in 2012. This is partly because back then is when I was the height of my whisky derangement (having recently arrived at that state), and partly because Binny’s had released a few rather excellent (and well-priced) bourbon cask Laphroaigs and the odds seemed good that this would be another one. Having waited for it for more than a year I then didn’t get around to opening it for more than another three years. I guess I wanted to stay in a state of permanent anticipation. Yes, this is fascinating biography.

Anyway, open it this summer I did, for one of my local group’s tastings, and so I can tell you before getting to the notes that it is much better than its sibling from the SMWSA. In what way? Let’s see:

Laphroaig 13, 1997 (53.5%; Duncan Taylor for Binny’s; from my own bottle)

Nose: Medicinal, cereally peat: not too strong, not too mild. Gets quite coastal with kelp and a sweetness reminiscent of seashells and uni. Some vanilla as well, but nothing too overbearing. After a couple of minutes there’s some lemon in there too and a bit of ink. With time the lemon gets more intense and it’s preserved lemon peel now with salt mixed in. With a few drops of water the lemon gets brighter and the peat recedes a fair bit.

Palate: A big bucket of ashy smoke to start (“bucket of smoke?” Ed.) and then to continue. On the second sip there’s the iodine and lemon and gauze bandages and just a hint of rubber. Sweeter on the third sip but also much more tarry. With time the tar all but drowns out the lemon. More balanced with water, with the lemon more assertive now and the tar much reduced (and the rubber gone).

Finish: Long. The tar and the ash hang on for a long, long while. With time the lemon returns on the finish, bringing some vanilla with it, but there’s no letup on the tar and ash front. Water brings the lemon out above the tar on the finish as well.

Comments: Very Caol Ila to start on the nose but on the palate it’s an altogether more brutal Laphroaig affair with lots of ashy smoke and tar. Good stuff; just missing a bit of complexity and development on the palate and finish. Frankly, there’s nothing here that wasn’t/isn’t available for less money in the OB 10 CS (most of which I’ve liked more). I liked the nose better neat and the palate and finish better with water.

Rating: 87 points.

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