It’s been almost four months since my last Laphroaig review, which seems too long. I acquired this large sample as part of a bottle split at the same time as the sample of the Ledaig 17 from the same bottlers (Cooper’s Choice) that I reviewed in April. That was also a heavily peated whisky from a sherry cask. Unlike that one, however, this Laphroaig 21 is not at cask strength. It’s also apparently still available, which seems odd for an older Laphroaig from a sherry cask. The skeptical might wonder if that means that this is not very good, possibly sulphured. Might that be why they diluted it to 46%? Maybe, but it’s equally likely that they did it to get more bottles out of the cask and into the budgets of more drinkers. Anyway, I quite liked that Ledaig 17—ended up buying a full bottle—and if I like this as much, and it is indeed still available, I might consider a bottle of this as well. It’s not every day, as I said, that an older, sherried Laphroaig shows up.
Laphroaig 21, 1994 (46%; Cooper’s Choice; sherry butt #3441; from a bottle split)
Nose: Mildly phenolic peat accompanied by some raisiny sherried sweetness; some coastal notes as well (kelp, oysters) and also some vanilla. The smoke expands a bit as it sits and gets a bit ashier; more acid too now (tart apple). Water emphasizes the acidic notes and mellows the smoke out.
Palate: Much bigger here with a good wallop of smoke: mostly in the charred wood family, with some smouldering wet leaves and some burnt rope in there as well. The mouthfeel isn’t too thin. Hard to pick much else under the smoke at first. On the second sip there’s some cracked pepper, a fair bit of salt and it’s more phenolic now. Nope, nothing else pops out with air and time; let’s see if water does anything. Nope, with water it’s just a slightly thinner version of itself.
Finish: Long. That smoke just sticks to the palate at first. With time it gets a bit sweeter with the vanilla from the nose showing up late. Less sweet here with water.
Comments: Hard to taste anything else fully after this one, I’d say. Anyway, it’s good, and there’s no sulphur of any kind, but it’s a bit one-dimensional. I preferred their younger Ledaig, which I suspect cost less than this one does (if it is indeed still available). I think I’ll pass on looking for a bottle.
Rating: 86 points.