Here’s a timely review for a change. I got word while I was in Los Angeles that the 2015 Cairdeas was already in Minnesota. The first thing I did upon getting back last week was to go and secure some bottles for myself.
As you probably know, the Cairdeas is Laphroaig’s bottling for Feis Ile, the annual Islay festival. It’s a different whisky each year (see here and here for my reviews of the 2013 and 2014 releases, which were from port and amontillado sherry casks respectively). This year saw a return to bourbon cask basics with an 11 yo whisky, made in small pot stills from floor malted barley from the distillery itself, and matured in their No. 1 warehouse down by the sea—all this information is from the back of the tube; well, the age isn’t on there but I’ve seen a number of references to that online. As 2015 is the bicentenary of this great distillery, the intent apparently was to produce a version of Laphroaig that looked back to the older style of whisky once produced here. As to whether they have succeeded in doing this is not something I will be able to judge as I have not had too much of that older Laphroaig (though I do very much encourage anyone who wants to help me educate myself to get in touch).
After last Tuesday’s Port Ellen here is another sherried and peated Islay malt: a Laphroaig that is just two years older (though distilled a decade later). This is from the Single Malt Whisky Society and, like all their releases, bears a very silly name: “Below Decks on HMS Victory”. I assume they have a random phrase generator that they use to come up with these things and then run the results through a filter that makes them 85% sillier. Anyway, whatever the name, it will have to be good to live up to the last Laphroaig 20, 1990 I reviewed: that was this one from the Whisky Agency, albeit from a bourbon hogshead. Last week’s Port Ellen was not particularly sherried, but this one, as you can tell from the picture, promises to be quite intensely so, despite being from a refill butt. The marriage of peat and sherry is one of life’s great pleasures when it clicks, and here’s hoping it did here.
If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen me expressing some confusion a couple of nights ago about this sample. As I began to take notes on it I noticed that it seemed to have the same abv as Batch 004. As it seemed unlikely that two separate batches would have the same abv I went to Whiskybase and discovered that Batch 005 was not only listed as being at 57.2% but as released in February 2013 and not January 2013. Batch 004, on the other hand, was released in January 2012. This made me think that perhaps Florin (the original lobby boy of the Hotel Budapest and the source of my sample) had mistakenly sent me Batch 004 and labeled it as Batch 005. But when I began tasting it it didn’t seem to map onto my notes on Batch 004. This gripping mystery was solved when Florin confirmed that this was not Batch 004—he’d finished his bottle well before we’d started swapping samples—and that he’d mistakenly transcribed the information for Batch 004 from his spreadsheet when making up the label. Isn’t the world of whisky blogging fascinating? Continue reading →
The venerable Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength (the regular Laphroaig 10 turned up to about 11) started being released in numbered batches in 2009. I’ve already reviewed Batch 003 (2011) and Batch 004 (2012), both of which I liked a lot. Here now is my review of Batch 001. It will be followed very soon by the Batch 005 (which might still be the current batch on sale in the US; I think Europe is already on Batch 006). There was a bit of a discrepancy, by the way, between the release dates of Batch 002 in the US and Europe, but I believe all the others have the same dates on the labels.
A lot of people bemoaned a claimed drop in quality from the old “red stripe” 55.7% version to even the early batch releases—and, of course, from the previous “green stripe” to the “red stripe” bottle as well—and Batch 005, in particular, has not been received very well, I don’t think. Actually, I’m not sure if there were any loud complaints about this first batch; but I’m interested to see if I can tell a significant difference between the first and fifth batches, which were bottled almost four years apart (I’m saving some of this to taste again alongside my sample of Batch 005).
This is a somewhat useless review even by my standards as it is not only of a bottle released in 2004 but also from an unidentified cask (but at least it’s a beautiful sample bottle picture). Yes, when I got this sample in a swap I failed to ask for cask information and failed to follow up later. Whiskybase lists three Old Malt Cask releases of single casks of Laphroaig 17, 1987 and since all OMC bottles are released at 50%, the abv is of no help either. “Why don’t you just ask the person you got it from?”, I hear you ask. It’s a good question but the problem is this was a UK member of the WWW forum who has since given up whisky and drifted away from the whisky parts of the net. Also, this was three years ago, so even if I were to intrude on him out of the blue I highly doubt he’d remember. I’m writing it up anyway because I haven’t had too many 1980s Laphroaigs and in any case I don’t really worry too much about the utility of my tasting notes: if you like Laphroaig you may find it of interest anyway. Continue reading →
I think I had my first pour of Laphroaig 10 in 2005. Until now I’ve not had any iterations of this classic malt distilled/bottled in earlier eras. The whisky in this sample, which I received in trade from Sku, was bottled in 2000, so it’s not so very much older than the earliest I’ve had but it will still be interesting to compare it with very recently bottled Laphroaig 10. Everyone says Laphroaig’s character has changed in just the last 10 years or so (and for most people this is a narrative of decline)—it’ll be interesting to see if I find it to be very different, and if so, in what ways. Accordingly, I am nosing and tasting it alongside an equivalent pour from my previously reviewed bottle of Laphroaig 10, which was probably bottled in the last couple of years (I’ve still not found time to hunt for and squint at its bottling code).
To make things easier I’ve pasted in the notes from the previous review in brackets above each section of this one (I didn’t bother taking fresh notes on the other bottle this time as it doesn’t seem appreciably altered since my review).
I purchased this Laphroaig in knee-jerk mode. Laphroaig is my favourite distillery; sherried Laphroaigs are thin on the ground; the marriage of peat and sherry is great when it works out; almost every sherried Laphroaig I’ve had has been very good. So this seemed like as sure a bet as I was ever going to make.
I opened this bottle for one of local group’s tastings earlier in the fall and it did not do so well. One person did like it a lot but almost everyone else had it as their bottom whisky of the night (we drink an ounce each of four whiskies at each tasting and everyone other than me drinks blind). It wasn’t my bottom whisky but I didn’t give it a high score either. The problem? Sulphur. Now, it’s been my experience that sulphur can sometimes dissipate and so I let the bottle sit for a long time before coming back to taste it again. I could tell that there was a very nice whisky under there somewhere and I hoped time and air would pull it out. Did it happen? I’m sorry to kill the suspense, but no, it did not. There was some improvement but it remained a sulphured mess.
Van Wees seem to have released a number of sherried Laphroaigs from 1998, all drawn from casks with fairly proximate numbers. I’ve previously finished a bottle from cask 700348, but that was before the blog. My spreadsheet shows that I went through it at a very rapid rate. I recorded 85 points but didn’t keep notes on it, unfortunately (one of the reasons why I originally started this blog was to make sure I had an easily searchable database of my own notes); but I do remember it being a fairly raw beast (like this one it had a very high abv). Sherried Laphroaigs, especially at cask strength, are no longer easy to find and their prices have gone up. It’s hard to imagine very many more showing up from budget bottlers like van Wees.
Here is Laphroaig’s Cairdeas release for 2014. Last year’s release was double matured in bourbon and port casks, and this year’s release is double matured in bourbon and amontillado sherry casks. Laphroaig did not send this whisky to space, and nor is it being sold for $150 or more in most American markets. As a result, perhaps, there’s no disproportionate fuss being made about it. I’m not sure how old this is or what relationship it has to their Quarter Cask or regular 10 yo releases but given the rarity of official sherry matured Laphroaig and the high premiums the independents have begun to charge for their releases of sherried Laphroaig, there was no way in hell I was going to think twice about paying just about $60 for this bottle.
Yesterday, the Laphroaig 10, today its younger sibling, the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. My understanding, probably wrong, is that this is the regular spirit that would normally be destined to reach 10 years of age for the 10 yo release being re-racked at a younger age into smaller quarter casks which impart far greater wood contact and influence to it (claimed by some to “speed up” the maturation process). How much younger this is than 10 years old, I’m not sure. I’ve seen references to at least the original release (from 2004, I think) comprising five year old spirit that was re-racked for less than a year, and I think I’ve also seen references to it being a little older—the official website does not mention any ages for it. At any rate, it’s one I’ve liked a lot in the past, but I haven’t tasted it for a couple of years now and so I’m interested to see if I still like it as much.
This bottle was split with friends and had, I think, been open for at least a few months before I took my share (it’s another of the bottles left behind by a friend who left the country.) I’m pretty sure the bottle code was for 2011 or 2012—I looked when I took my share, but that was more than a month ago now and I forgot to write it down. Continue reading →
Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and in some ways the entry-level Laphroaig 10 may be my favourite real world whisky. By this I don’t mean this is the whisky I rate more highly than any other; I mean that it presents most of what I like about Laphroaig at a price that would allow me to drink it everyday if I were so constrained, and that I would not be unhappy drinking it every day—it rewards attention and it’s very pleasurable even when you’re doing other things that require more of your attention; it’s direct but it isn’t dumbed down. There may be a different whisky that fits this bill for you but this is mine*.
The only problem with it is that when I have a bottle open I go through it alarmingly fast. I took this photograph of the closed bottle a few days ago and I’m almost approaching the halfway mark already. For that reason I haven’t opened a bottle for a while now, which is why I’ve failed to review it for the blog until now. Continue reading →