Laphroaig 15, 1998 (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)


This week of reviews of sherry cask Laphroaigs began with the 2022 release of the official 10 yo Sherry Oak. That one is a sherry finish. It continued on Wednesday with a 13 yo refill sherry cask, distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2011 by A.D. Rattray. We’ll end the week now with another refill sherry butt filled with spirit distilled in 1998. This is a 15 yo bottled by Signatory for The Whisky Exchange in London. There were quite a few of these casks filled in 1998 bottled around that time. This is from cask 700393. I’ve actually previously reviewed cask 700394. That one was another 13 yo and was released by Van Wees in 2011. My understanding is that a lot of Van Wees’ casks came from Signatory in those days and so it’s not a surprise that the numbers are adjacent. Anyway, I really liked that 13 yo—and, for that matter, I quite liked cask 700348 as well, which was also bottled by Van Wees. Will another two years of aging make this 15 yo even better than those two? If only things worked that way. Anyway, I opened this bottle earlier this week and so I know that it’s certainly not a disappointment. At 60.8% abv and almost 10 years in the bottle, however, that first pour was a bit tight. And so these notes are being taken from the third pour.

Laphroaig 15, 1998 (60.8%; Signatory for The Whisky Exchange; refill sherry butt 700393; from my own bottle)

Nose: Slightly closed but there’s still a big blast of phenolic smoke with salt and cereals right behind. Sweeter notes of raisins and pipe tobacco emerge on the second and third sniffs; some plum sauce in there as well. Continues in this vein. With a few drops of water the smoke picks up some ash and the dried tangerine peel pops out here as well, along with some dried mushrooms. A couple more drops and now we’re talking, with toffee and apricot emerging to join the rest.

Palate: Comes in with the salt neck and neck with the phenolic smoke. Hot but surprisingly approachable at full strength; good texture. Some dried tangerine peel on subsequent sips but this needs water to open up. With water the salt gains on the smoke and there’s more of the tangerine peel. More balance with the additional water here as well, as the smoke and salt recede and let the fruit and sweeter sherry notes out.

Finish: Long. The smoke and the salt keep each other company for a long while, with the salt finally outlasting the smoke; just a bit of oak too as it goes. The smoke gets ashier here as well and the finish gets even longer. As on the nose and palate with water.

Comments: Very good from the get-go in a more brutal vein; but with the right amount of water—at 60.8% it can take quite a bit—it really sings. Still a bit short of true greatness in my book but might get there quite quickly with more air in the bottle. I’ll report as I get further into it.

Rating: 89 points.


 

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