Laphroaig 21, 1990 (Silver Seal)

Last week I reviewed a Laphroaig 21, 1998 bottled recently by the Whisky Exchange that I thought was amazing. Here now is another Laphroaig 21. This was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2012 by the well-regarded Italian outfit, Silver Seal. I nabbed a bottle from Whiskybase when it was released. Even with the much higher exchange rate of the time it ran me less than $150. Those were the days etc. After almost 8 years on my shelves I opened this last week to pair with the TWE cask. When I tried it alongside that one it felt a bit overshadowed and so I decide to taste it a few more times and take notes on it by itself so it wouldn’t suffer unfairly by juxtaposition. Here now are those notes as the bottle has come down to the 3/4 full mark.

Laphroaig 21, 1990 (57.7%; Silver Seal; sherry cask #10839; from my own bottle)

Nose: Big sherry here too but much more organic than the TWE cask. There’s toffee and citrus peel and cocoa but floating above it is something rotting in wet undergrowth (I know it doesn’t sound appetizing but it works). Definitely a dose of savoury sulphur here. Dry woodsmoke running through it all. Gets saltier as it sits (soy sauce) and earthier (dried shiitakes) and the decomposing rodent note subsides. A few drops of water push the sulphur back almost entirely and emphasize sweeter biscuity notes along with pipe tobacco.

Palate: Everything from the nose with some savoury gunpowder up front and then a big hit of phenolic smoke unfurling through it. Meatier with every sip and sweeter too (honeycomb, marmalade, biscuit—all of it smoked). The soy sauce and mushrooms show up here as well and there’s a bit of dry balsamic vinegar as well. Fruitier with time (apricot, orange peel). Okay, let’s add water. Meatier (ham, other cured meats) and sweeter with water and the smoke is less phenolic and more on pipe tobacco.

Finish: Long. The earthy notes expand and the phenols make a big comeback, picking up salt on the way out. As on the palate with water.

Comments: This is not one for the sulphur-phobes—though they’ll find less to object to on the palate than on the nose. A very different kind of sherry cask than last week’s 21 yo, and not quite at that level, but very, very good in its own right. Water takes it over the top into the next tier.

Rating: 90 points.


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