Laphroaig 18, 1997 (SMWS 29.204)


My previous Laphroaig review was of a single rum cask—a 16 yo distilled in 1999. We return now to regular programming with a single ex-bourbon cask. This is a 18 yo distilled in 1997 and bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (who gave it the name, “A day at the beach”). The vintage and the age are exciting on their face. A number of recent Laphroaigs of this age from 1997 have displayed levels of fruit that range from the tantalizing to the highly excellent. On the other hand, there are others that have not (see this 18 yo from 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd). Where on the continuum will this one fall? Let’s see.

Laphroaig 18, 1997 (53.6%; SMWS 29.204; refill hogshead; from my own bottle)

Nose: Bright phenolic peat, lemon, salt, wet charcoal. Gets more savoury as it sits with some bacon fat (maybe sizzling on the charcoal?), and there’s some cracked pepper as well. Water knocks back the smoke here and brings out sweeter notes: a touch of vanilla, berries, some musky fruit that’s hard to pick. 

But what did they do for dinner?

Palate: Smokier than advertised by the nose: big, mouth-colonizing smoke, tarry at first and then ashy as I swallow. It’s also sweeter than advertised by the nose and there’s just a flash of fruit—let’s see if it expands any. Yes, the fruit does get a bit more talkative: some grapefruit to go with the lemon and maybe a bit of apple as well. Gets more phenolic as well as it goes (Dettol). On the palate, water amps up the smoke and brings out more charcoal and pepper.

Finish: Medium-long. The smoke, pepper and lemon fade out together; at the very end there’s a hint of muskier fruit (charred pineapple). Longer and smokier with water but the citrus comes back at the end.

Comments: Not as fruity as I was hoping for, but very good in its own right and quite quintessentially Laphroaig. Interesting how it went in different directions on the nose and palate with water.

Rating: 88 points.

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