Laphroaig 18, 1997, Cask 54 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

A while ago I reviewed a Laphroaig 18, 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd for the The Whisky Exchange. That one was one of the best recent releases of Laphroaig I’ve had, packing a big fruity wallop alongside the expected smoke and phenols. Here now is another Laphroaig 18, 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. I believe this one was bottled for Whisky Import Nederland (you’ll never believe it but they’re based in the Netherlands). Like the TWE cask, this one was a bourbon cask and it’s only 8 serial numbers away from the other; I think it’s safe to assume that they were filled at the same time in 1997 and probably bottled at more or less the same time in 2015. Given all of this it seems safe to expect this one to also be quite fruity. After all, many whisky geeks believe deeply in the shared qualities of particular vintages, and you’d accordingly expect two casks of the same type, filled with distillate made at the same time, and then bottled after the same period of maturation to be very close to each other. However, oak can be an unpredictable variable and whisky isn’t actually whisky till it’s matured in oak. Will this cask have given or taken away what the other did? Let’s see. 

Laphroaig 18, 1997 (50.2%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 54; from a bottle split)

Nose: Cereally, lemony, phenolic. On the second sniff there’s some muskier fruit trying to push out past the lemon and it’s sweeter with kelp and sea urchin roe (uni). Some vanilla/cream/custard with time. Very close to the cask for TWE. A few drops of water push the phenols back a bit and pull out citronella and grapefruit.

Palate: Much smokier at first here with lots of char and then the lemon and ashier smoke as I swallow but not the burst of tropical fruit that was present in the TWE cask. Lovely texture at full strength. The smoke gets ashier as it sits, and blends nicely with the lemon, but there’s still no tropical fruit explosion. More pepper and more lemon zest with water but still no tropical fruit.

Finish: Long. Smoke and cracked black pepper. The tropical fruit I’d hoped might be in the palate shows up late in the finish and builds slowly. Not much change here with water—the smoke gets a bit bitter maybe.

Comments: Missing the big fruit of the sibling cask but this is very good in its own right. Still, it goes to show that it’s hard to generalize about particular years at distilleries and that the cask is indeed a major variable: the TWE cask came out fruitier and this one smokier after the same period of time. Which better represents 18 yo bourbon cask whisky from Laphroaig? More research needed.

Rating: 88 points.

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