Here is a rather atypical Laphroaig. This is the first rum cask Laphroaig I’ve ever come across and I cannot remember reading reviews of any others. This is not to say that there have not been any others: Douglas Laing have released at least a couple of rum finished Laphroaigs and Whiskybase lists a Malts of Scotland release as well—I’m not sure if that one’s explicitly stated to be a finish or now. This one was released by a bottler named Kingsbury who, as far as I know, operate in the Japanese market. It is said to have been matured full-term in the rum cask. However, it doesn’t say so explicitly on the bottle and as we all know—courtesy Glendronach—the rules allow bottlers to describe a whisky in terms of the last cask it was in. If it was indeed a full-term maturation in a rum cask then this means that Laphroaig must have a lot more in their warehouses. If so, what might they be planning to do with them?
Anyway, as a fan of the distillery I am always on the lookout for unusual and interesting Laphroaigs and couldn’t resist bidding on this at auction last year (before shipping most US states from Europe completely dried up). I’m excited to finally get into it.
Laphroaig 16, 1999 (55%; Kingsbury; rum cask 4144; from my own bottle)
Nose: Bright, phenolic peat (the full medicinal experience) plus lemon and quite a bit of salt. No sign of the fruit you might expect from rum cask maturation. With some air there’s a slight chalkiness and then an increased sweetness. Softer and sweeter with water (a bit of vanilla and some sweeter fruit—apple?); mothballs too.
Palate: Sweeter and much smokier here (very sooty) and far more complex on the whole as the smoke and peat and lemon are joined by smoked pork and a bit of charred pineapple. Very drinkable at full strength. The smoke integrates with the other notes more with every sip. Let’s see what water does. It integrates everything even more fully and it’s much sweeter now than previous.
Finish: Long. Gets tarrier as it goes and the salt comes back at the end. Sweeter on the finish too with time. More sweet fruit (candied lemon) and less tar with water.
Comments: I don’t know that this is worth the premium I paid for it; I couldn’t say that the rum maturation makes it so significantly different from ex-bourbon Laphroaig of similar age (except for the increased sweetness and that bit of pineapple). Nonetheless, it’s an excellent Laphroaig. I wonder if there’ll be a rum cask Cairdeas bottling soon (or maybe now that the next Ardbeg Day release is going to be a rum finish Laphroaig will wait a few years).
Rating: 89 points.