Laphroaig 16, Retro Label (The Whisky Exchange)

Let’s keep the run of bourbon cask reviews going but add one that’s heavily peated. This Laphroaig was bottled for the Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show in 2015 and I purchased it soon after when bottles that survived the show went on sale. It has an attractive “retro” label. I think they put out two of these labels in different years; I think I’ve seen a reference to an 18 yo as well. Well, whether as a mark of its retro identity or not, the label does not specify year of distillation. But given the 2015 bottling I’d hazard that there’s a very good chance it was distilled in 1998. Well, the fact is I’ve enjoyed almost all the Laphroaigs I’ve had from the late 1990s distillations a great deal; particularly those that have expressed an excellent fruity quality along with the signature smoke and phenols. Will this be another such cask (assuming it was indeed a single cask)? Well, there’s only one way to find out.

Laphroaig 16, Retro Label (50.9%; The Whisky Exchange; bottled for the Whisky Show 2015, from my own bottle)

Nose: Phenolic peat mixed with citronella, hints of vanilla and musky malt. The phenols are more in the carbolic end of things (Dettol). On the second sniff there are more coastal notes of brine and kelp. Softer as it goes with the sweeter notes coming out to the fore. With a few drops of water some of the musky fruit emerges and the smoke gets pushed back further.

Palate: Less of the acid and more of the phenolic smoke to start. Nice texture and a good drinking strength. More char on the smoke on the second sip and more malt and vanilla but the fruit doesn’t quite come through. As it sits the salt expands here as well and there’s some white pepper as well. Okay, let’s see what water does. It pushes the smoke back here too and brings the musky fruit out a little earlier.

Finish: Long. Aha—as the dry smoke recedes the fruit expands on the finish (lime peel, grapefruit, a hint of passionfruit) getting muskier and then more custardy as it goes. More pepper here with water.

Comments: This is very nice indeed. Mellow bourbon cask Laphroaig that’s not a full-on peat assault. That said, I was hoping that the fruit that emerged on the finish would have been more pronounced earlier on the palate as well. Some of that happened with water but not enough to push it into the next tier. I’ll be interested to see how/if this changes as the bottle stays open.

Rating: 89 points.

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