Laphroaig 14, 1998 (Archives)

Here is another untimely review of a bourbon cask, peated Islay whisky released in 2013. This is a bit older than last week’s Bowmore and was released not by Malts of Scotland but by the lads at Whiskybase under their Archives label. It was part of a set of releases that marked the first anniversary of the launch of the Archives line—hence the “Anniversary Release” moniker (at least I think that’s what the anniversary was of). I own a couple more of these Anniversary Release bottles (a 22 yo Caol Ila and a 22 yo Littlemill) but given how long it has taken me to open this one, I’ve no idea when I will get around to those. This was their second release of a teenaged, bourbon cask Laphroaig. There was a 13 yo in their first release (I reviewed it a while ago). I can tell you that this one is as good as that one was: I opened it last month for a tasting of peated whiskies for my local group and I’ve drunk down the rest of the bottle at a very rapid clip. As I type this introduction only a couple more pours remain. Here are my notes.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1995 (SMWS 29.148)

Let’s get the year started off right with a Laphroaig. This was bottled a couple of years ago by the Scotch Malt Whisky Association and they managed to give it a less whimsical name than usual. Well, I guess “A Fantastic Fusion of Flavours” isn’t exactly restrained but at least it’s easy enough to decipher. I first tasted this at one of my friend Rich’s peat-themed whisky gatherings in St. Paul right after it was released, and when our host offered to purchase bottles from the SMWSA for anyone who wanted one, I jumped at it.

Fast forward a few years to a rough review from Michael K. on Diving for Pearls. This shook me, as Michael and I are usually not very far apart on our evaluation of whiskies. Was it possible, I wondered, that I’d over-estimated my small taste of this whisky on account of the tasting context? I opened the bottle right after reading Michael’s review and was relieved to discover I still liked it a lot. And then I realized that his notes were not actually far away from my own—it’s just that he didn’t like what it all added up to and I did. Always a good reminder: it’s not scores that matter but notes. And on that note, here are my own.  Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017

A shockingly timely whisky review for once.

The 2017 edition of Laphroaig’s Feis Ile release, the Cairdeas, landed in the US this month. You will recall that Laphroaig are the only Islay distillery that release their Feis Ile bottle in the US. They’re also the only one who seem to envision their festival bottling as intended for everyone and not just for those willing to spend a lot of money, either by going to Islay or on an auction site. This cost £77 on Islay (where a lot of it was still available in the distillery shop a few weeks after Feis Ile) and in Minnesota it seems to be going between $70 and $85, and is available at a number of stores including a big chain. Compare this with the cost and contortions necessary to get your hands on the Feis Ile releases from any of the other Islay distilleries. Continue reading

At Laphroaig, Pt. 2 (Summer 2017)

For my earlier post about my recent visit to Laphroaig, see here. In that earlier report I described the visitor centre and the distillery grounds more generally, with more pictures than could possibly be said to be necessary. Today I have an account of the Distillers’ Wares tour that I took at Laphroaig that day. You will be glad to read that it too contains far more pictures than could possibly be said to be necessary, including three of barley and four of the same set of casks. Useful information you can get anywhere else; for unnecessary pictures of barley and casks you come to me. This is our arrangement.  Continue reading

At Laphroaig, Pt. 1 (Summer 2017)

I’d originally planned to write one large post on my visit to Laphroaig, covering both the Distillers Wares tour that was the focus of my visit and a more general look at the distillery grounds and visitor centre (as in my write-ups of my visits to Talisker, Lagavulin, Tomatin and Oban). However, I have so many pictures from Laphroaig and—as it’s my favourite distillery—it is very hard for me to not post a large number of them. As such, a single post would become too overwhelming (both for me to format and for you to read). Accordingly, here first is a look at the distillery more generally; I’ll go over the Distillers Wares experience on Friday. Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 007

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 007
Here to close out 2016 on the blog is Batch 007 of Laphroaig’s 10, CS. I’m not sure if Batch 008 made it to the US—I haven’t seen it in Minnesota, at any rate. This year we got a bit of a scare when word began to make the rounds that the 10 CS was going to be discontinued after Batch 008; the distillery put out statements shortly thereafter to reassure customers that this is not true (I covered all this in my review of Batch 006 earlier this year). Since then, however, I’ve been told by a reliable person that he’d heard first-hand at Feis Ile from a high-up at the distillery that the 10 CS was indeed on the chopping block—so who knows? If it is going out—and I hope it is not—I hope it will go out strong. The series took a big dip with Batch 005. Unlike some others, I thought Batch 006 was a big improvement, and I’m hoping Batch 007 will be further along in that direction. It certainly has been received a lot better than Batch 006 (see here for Grinch Kravitz’s take). Less vanilla and more phenols: that’s what we want.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 20, 1996 (TWE “Masterpieces”)

Laphroaig 20, 1996, TWE "Masterpieces"
After a week of bourbon reviews (all Four Roses single barrels: here, here and here) let’s close out the month with single malt whisky. This Laphroaig was bottled by the Whisky Exchange for their annual Whisky Show in October and was apparently a huge hit there. Remaining bottles made it to the website with a single bottle limit per customer. I snagged one before it sold out. Why the fuss? Well, it’s a 20 year old Laphroaig from a sherry cask, and a PX sherry cask at that. (I should say that I have no idea if this was matured full-term in a PX cask or if it finished its life in one—these days in the Scotch industry it’s best not to take anything for granted.) Between the Islay premium, the Laphroaig premium and the sherry bomb premium this was not a bargain bottle—but as a Laphroaig fan it was hard for me to look past it. As I’ve said before, the successful marriage of peat and sherry is one of the greatest things in the whisky universe and Laphroaig in particular stands up to heavy sherry really well. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Laphroaig Lore

Laphroaig Lore
The Lore is a new entry in Laphroaig’s lineup—which is so much larger suddenly than it used to be when I first acquired whisky derangement syndrome. It is apparently the replacement for the discontinued 18 yo and will see batch releases every year. It will not surprise you to learn that it is a NAS whisky. The talk around it is that there’s a mix of ages and cask types in the blend but it’s probably the case that most of it is very young. It’s also said to be an attempt at putting together an expression of Laphroaig that pulls together all parts of their profile—young, old, bourbon cask, sherried, wine cask etc. But if there’s a lot of sherry cask spirit in here I will be almost as surprised as I would be if there turned out to be very much in here over 10 years of age. If pressure on teenaged stock is what made the 18 yo go away and the 200th anniversary 15 yo just a one-off, then there’s probably only just enough older whisky in here for them to be able to wink in its direction without too much embarrassment. Well, as I purchased a bottle anyway and am reviewing it I guess I shouldn’t get on too high a horse about this—what can I say? I’m a fan of Laphroaig and people I trust said it’s a good one. Well, let’s see.  Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016
The 2016 edition of the Laphroaig Cairdeas has been in the US for almost two months now and I’ve finally got my hands on a bottle (okay, two bottles). I am very happy to say that I paid only $5 more per bottle than I did for my first bottle of Cairdeas back in 2011. And I’m also very happy that those of us in the US still have no difficulty purchasing the Cairdeas which is always widely available here, unlike every other Feis Ile release which require trips to Islay or large amounts of money or both.

Last year’s edition of Cairdeas was a classic bourbon cask Laphroaig. This year’s edition, however, returned to the wine cask experiments that marked the previous few years (the 2014 release was double matured in amontillado sherry casks and the 2013 in port casks). This year’s has been double matured in “Madeira seasoned traditional hogsheads”. I assume these means that these were not casks actually used to mature Madeira. The wine influence should therefore be mild. I’m curious to see what it’s like—though as a Laphroaig aficionado the odds are against my not liking it (please keep this bias in mind).  Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 006

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 006
I’ve reviewed the five batch releases of the iconic Laphroaig 10 CS previous to this one (though not in sequential order): see here for Batch 001, here for Batch 002, here for Batch 003, here for Batch 004, and here for Batch 005. I’m not the only one who was not very excited by Batch 005, though I did like it. I’ve heard that Batch 006 was a return to form and that Batch 007 and 008 have gone further in that direction. I hope it’s true.

What I hope is not true is the report that the Laphroaig 10 CS is being discontinued altogether after Batch 008. Words to this effect were typed yesterday by Louis Dachis, the proprietor of Ace Spirits here in Minnesota. He didn’t have the clearest information and said he’s going to check, but Louis is generally a trustworthy sort. That said, there have been rumours of the 10 CS’s demise before that proved unfounded. However, we are in a time when the 18 yo has been discontinued and when Laphroaig—who once had a streamlined portfolio—are pumping out the NAS product, and it would not surprise me if the 10 CS had to make way to feed those vats. It will deeply sadden most whisky geeks though—this is one of the most beloved of all single malts, and in one label style or another, has been around for a very long time. It has also always been very fairly priced. If it is indeed being discontinued it will be hard not to see this as the end of an era. Again, I hope it’s not true. Continue reading

Laphroaig 21, 1994 (Cooper’s Choice)

Laphroaig 21, 1994, Cooper's Choice
It’s been almost four months since my last Laphroaig review, which seems too long. I acquired this large sample as part of a bottle split at the same time as the sample of the Ledaig 17 from the same bottlers (Cooper’s Choice) that I reviewed in April. That was also a heavily peated whisky from a sherry cask. Unlike that one, however, this Laphroaig 21 is not at cask strength. It’s also apparently still available, which seems odd for an older Laphroaig from a sherry cask. The skeptical might wonder if that means that this is not very good, possibly sulphured. Might that be why they diluted it to 46%? Maybe, but it’s equally likely that they did it to get more bottles out of the cask and into the budgets of more drinkers. Anyway, I quite liked that Ledaig 17—ended up buying a full bottle—and if I like this as much, and it is indeed still available, I might consider a bottle of this as well. It’s not every day, as I said, that an older, sherried Laphroaig shows up.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 17, 1997 (Signatory for Binny’s)

Laphroaig 17, 1997, Signatory for Binny's
Monday’s Laphroaig 18, 1997, bottled by Berry Brothers and Rudd for The Whisky Exchange was a real beauty with unexpected fruit and a lot of it. Will lightning strike a second time with this 17 yo also distilled in 1997 and matured in a bourbon cask? Am I going to have to start hunting down Laphroaigs from the late 1990s bottled in the high teens?

This was bottled by Signatory for Binny’s in Chicago. Binny’s have an excellent track record with their Laphroaig selections and so even it isn’t as fruity as the TWE/Berry Bros. & Rudd I expect it will be very good anyway. Let’s see. I should note that the regular price is in the new normal range for Laphroaig (i.e $169.99 for a 17 yo)—but it’s currently discounted down into the almost plausible range ($129.99).   Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1997, Cask 46 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

Laphroaig 18, 1997, Berry Bros. & Rudd for The Whisky Exchange
This Laphroaig was bottled for the 2015 edition of the Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show in London. I’ve tasted and purchased a number of these special bottlings over the years and they’ve always been very solid. So when the opportunity arose to get a large sample of this bottle in a split I jumped on it. As you will see below, I was not disappointed (this “introduction” is being written well after the notes were taken). Whisky geeks who are older and/or have more money rave about the tropical fruit notes in Laphroaig from the 1970s and earlier—notes that are not really present in latter day Laphroaig, which has tended to be all about the heavy peat and smoke. This one, from a cask filled in 1997, has a big whack of fruit; last year’s 200th anniversary release of the Laphroaig 15 had some fruit as well. Is this a note that’s re-emerging in middle-aged Laphroaig distilled around that time or is it just a case of unexpected things happening in certain casks? More data needed but it’s a welcome development if true.   Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 002

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 002
For my last whisky review of the year I am going to back away from the older whiskies, from the independent releases and go to a 10 yo from my favourite distillery: Laphroaig. But don’t worry, I’m still annoying! It’s not a currently available 10 yo! No, it’s the second batch release of the venerable 10 yo CS.

With this review I am caught up on the first five batch releases of the Laphroaig 10 CS. In 2016 I’ll try to get current (are we up to Batch 007 in the US—did the distillery miss a chance to release/co-brand that with the last Bond film?) Long story short: I thought Batch 001 was excellent and that Batch 003 was very good; Batch 004 I rated a little below that and Batch 005 lower still. I am happy to be able to say that Batch 002 is very good as well. After keeping the bottle on my shelf for years I opened it a few months ago for a tasting and it made 80% of those present very, very happy (the other 20% are not fans of peat and it made them the opposite of very, very happy). I liked it so much that I jumped on the opportunity to purchase a second bottle at the original price. Anyway, here, only five years after its original release, is my review. Continue reading