Laphroaig 18, 1998 (SMWS 29.218)

I started the week with a review of a young bourbon cask Caol Ila. Wednesday brought the recent Guinness cask finish release of Lagavulin’s Offerman Edition. Let’s close the week at one of Lagavulin’s south coast neighbours: Laphroaig. Like the Caol Ila this is from a refill bourbon hogshead but it is eight years older; it was also bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Okay, let’s get to it.

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (58.1%; SMWS 29.218; refill bourbon hogshead; from my own bottle)

Nose: All the classic stuff: carbolic, phenolic peat out the wazoo, laced with lemon, brine and oyster liquor; sweeter cereals underneath. After a while there’s a hit of damp smouldering leaves and also some cracked black pepper. With more time and air still the cereals come to the fore. A few drops of water and the phenols recede just a bit as the lemon turns to citronella and some muskier tart fruit emerges (pineapple, unripe mango).

Palate: Comes in as promised by the nose with the lemon and the smoke expanding as I swallow. Lovely texture and approachable, if hot, at full strength. On the second sip there’s some green olive and even more phenols and the lemon and smoke merge to produce—why not?—charred lemon. With more time there’s some sweetness mixed in with the lemon and smoke (smoked limoncello?). Okay, let’s add water. Picks up more char and more salt here to go with the muskier fruit that develops.

Finish: Long. The smoke keeps going, phenolic but bright with the lemon keeping pace. Sweeter as it goes. As on the palate with water—a lot of salt now at the end.

Comments: This is everything you want from a bourbon cask Laphroaig of this age, Somehow both elegant and brutal at the same time. A little more fruit on the palate and I’d be tempted to get carried away.

Rating: 90 points.



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