Earlier this month I reviewed a Glenburgie 21, 1998 bottled by the Whisky Exchange. Here now is another 21 yo whisky distilled in 1998 and bottled by the Whisky Exchange under their obscure “The Whisky Exchange” label, this one a Laphroaig. I think it may have been bottled for TWE’s 20th anniversary, though it’s not listed on the page they have for those releases. Then again, the Inchmurrin 9, 2010 I reviewed on Tuesday was definitely released for their 20th anniversary and it’s not on that page either despite still being available. Mysterious are the ways of the Whisky Exchange. Anyway, back to this Laphroaig. It was distilled in 1998; in 2010 it was re-racked into an oloroso sherry cask (ex-bourbon before that? maybe it says on the label). Given that nine years is longer than seemingly most whisky being released in Scotland right now—if it even has an age statement—I think it’s well past being regarded as a “finish”. As a 21 yo Laphroaig, and sherry-bothered at that, this went for a very pretty penny, I think. It’s now sold out, which will save me a lot of soul searching if I like it as much as the reviews I’ve read make me think I will. Let’s see.
Laphroaig 21, 1998 (54.4%; The Whisky Exchange; oloroso sherry cask #117; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Just wonderful with brandied raisins and orange peel up top and damp earth and leather below. On the second sniff saltier notes emerge: olive brine, soy sauce. I haven’t mentioned smoke yet but it’s all around, of course, inky and phenolic but not very tarry. After about a minute of airing there’s sweet pipe tobacco everywhere. God, I could nose this forever! Gets stickier as it sits. Three drops of water and there’s toffee with the pipe tobacco and dry wood smoke seeping out of it.
Palate: The salt and brine and dry smoke are emphasized here but everything else is here too. Lovely, rich, oily texture that coats the tongue and a perfect drinking strength. Sweeter as I swallow with brown sugar and preserved lemon. On the second sip there’s some hoisin sauce as well. With time the orange peel comes up to the top bringing the leather with it. The smoke picks up more iodine and some of the pipe tobacco from the nose. Okay, let’s add a drop or three of water. Oh yes. Water emphasizes the citrus and pulls out more fruit still (plum sauce, marmalade, apricot jam) along with some cracked pepper.
Finish: Long. The dried orange peel and wood smoke and salt waft out together. Development more or less as on the palate. As on the palate with water but the smoke gets inkier and then at the end, tarrier. It also goes on forever now.
Comments: This is just lovely. And I liked it even more than I’d thought I might. Indeed, it’s one of the best Laphroaigs I’ve had—and as sherried Laphroaigs go, second only to the OB 27, 1980 that was a vatting of five casks (I had the good fortune of trying that a few times thanks to my friend Rich, but never got around to taking notes). Well, I can’t remember how much was asked for this but, as I would have been sorely tempted, I think it’s a good thing I didn’t taste it till it sold out.
Rating: 92 points.
Thanks to Billy for the sample!