This is a 21 yo Laphroaig from a refill bourbon barrel, bottled by the Scotch Mat Whisky Society. I acquired it, along with a few other SMWS Laphroaigs, at auction in the UK a few years ago, back when it was possible to have whisky shipped to the US without having to sell a kidney or a child first. I don’t know what I’d been saving it for all these years but on November 7 of this year an appropriate time was finally at hand. On the one hand, I was in the dangerous situation of not having an open bottle of Laphroaig. On the other, I needed an appropriate celebratory bottle to open to go with the day’s news. My eyes lit upon the label of this bottle. The SMWS had given it the name “Jumping for Joy”. I usually make fun of the SMWS’s silly names for their releases but this seemed like it had been bottled for just such an occasion. I’ve been drinking it down steadily since I opened the bottle. Here now are my notes.
Laphroaig 21, 1995 (57%; SMWS; refill bourbon barrel; from my own bottle)
Nose: Bright carbolic peat with lemon and cereals and just a slight leafy edge to the smoke. More coastal with every sniff—kelp, wet rocks, brine. The peat gets sweeter and mellower as it sits with more of the cereals joined by a little cream and vanilla; the lemon is still here too—more preserved now; the leafy note is gone. A few drops of water wake the phenols back up—there’s some ink now and seashells join the coastal notes.
Palate: A lot of ash here off the top and then it turns sweet heading into the finish. In between is everything from the nose. Very approachable at full strength (though at the point I am taking notes the bottle is at the halfway mark). The lemon expands with time and it gets more peppery. As on the nose, water expands the phenolic complex, giving it more weight. More salt now too.
Finish: Long. A little burst of muskier fruit here but it doesn’t expand. As on the palate with water but that fruity burst goes away.
Comments: This is absolutely flawless bourbon cask Laphroaig. Imagine a more elegant version of the best 10 CS releases and you’re pretty much there. If that fruit that had peaked out on the early part of the finish had emerged I might have gotten carried away. As it is it’s excellent.
Rating: 90 points.