Let’s get the year started off right with a Laphroaig. This was bottled a couple of years ago by the Scotch Malt Whisky Association and they managed to give it a less whimsical name than usual. Well, I guess “A Fantastic Fusion of Flavours” isn’t exactly restrained but at least it’s easy enough to decipher. I first tasted this at one of my friend Rich’s peat-themed whisky gatherings in St. Paul right after it was released, and when our host offered to purchase bottles from the SMWSA for anyone who wanted one, I jumped at it.
Fast forward a few years to a rough review from Michael K. on Diving for Pearls. This shook me, as Michael and I are usually not very far apart on our evaluation of whiskies. Was it possible, I wondered, that I’d over-estimated my small taste of this whisky on account of the tasting context? I opened the bottle right after reading Michael’s review and was relieved to discover I still liked it a lot. And then I realized that his notes were not actually far away from my own—it’s just that he didn’t like what it all added up to and I did. Always a good reminder: it’s not scores that matter but notes. And on that note, here are my own.
Laphroaig 18, 1995 (60.7%; SMWS 29.148, “A Fantastic Fusion of Flavours”; refill hogshead; from my own bottle)
Nose: Wood smoke, lemon and a herbal/rooty thing suggesting eau de vie of some exotic kind. The lemon turns to citronella pretty quickly and some sweeter notes start wafting out from below as well. The smoke gets more phenolic with time, the herbs intensify (sage, thyme, a bit of mint) and there’s some cereals in there too. With a lot of time and air the notes on the nose integrate nicely with the lemon to the fore. Mellower with a few drops of water, and some mustard seed to go with the herbal notes..
Palate: Big herbal arrival (more fresh than dried here) and then a big wallop of smoke behind it. Remarkably drinkable at full strength. Even more smoke on the second sip and there’s more ash in here now. Gets saltier as it sits and there’s a hint of charred meat too now. Spicier with water and the smoke is a little sweeter.
Finish: Medium. Not much happening here—the smoke slowly washes out leaving the salt behind. The finish is longer with water and much more peppery.
Comments: This is basically a smokier, more herbal version of the OB Laphroaig 18. It’s a bit of a wild ride but I like it.
Rating: 87 points.