Tag Archive: Laphroaig

Berry Bros & Rudd: Williamson (Laphroaig) 2014 (Scottish Single Cask Single Malt Whisky: 7 Year: 61.8% ABV)

Visual: Moderate brightness gold with slow thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Oily. Hot tar. Kippers. Peat. Cooked barbecued pork and barbecue sauce – ribs. Sticky. Medicinal jelly. Camomile. Charred touch. Peppercorn. Wholemeal bread with extra grains. Water adds ash and dry smoke. Hot car engines.

Body: Oily, then drying. Peaty boom. Malt chocolate. Brown bread. Dry raisins. Dry medicinal spirit. Water adds dry beef slices. Bitter red wine. Hints of red fruit. Cherries.

Finish: Brown bread. Malt chocolate drinks. Nutty to praline. Peppery. Tarry. Dry camp fire ash air. Water adds a rum spice touch.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a heavy, heavy, tarry, peaty beast of a whisky. The easiest comparison I can think of is with the Ardbeg Wee Beastie which has similar youth and massive peat, but this is a much stickier oily beast – less straight peat and yet still matching overall in intensity.

Neat it is sticky and tarry with heat and a very barbecue themed meatiness. There is that Laphroaig medicinal character, but surprisingly it is more at the back due to that weight that the kipper like oily smoke style brings. What medicinal feel there is comes across more as a medicinal salve oiliness rather than the cleaner medicinal image of standard Laphroaig. So, this is big is what I am saying.

Neat the oloroso barrel ageing is there but easily lost in the mix. A HEAVY dose of water lets it really come out, bringing red wine, red fruit and such – still not a dominant force, but adding very much appreciated sweeter notes to the brutal edged peat oiliness of the rest of it. Here there are even darker sweet notes going from chocolate to praline in a way that most Laphroaigs don’t have a way to express – again it barely offsets the weight but the darker sweetness complements rather than clashes.

Not a whisky for everyone, or even a whisky for any time – it is so thick and gripping with the intense flavours. However when you are in the mood for it, it is amazing. It doesn’t unseat the Douglas Lain XOP 18 Year single cask from its seat as favourite Laphroaig ever – that is a much more polished beast, this is the sticky unrestrained beast. However this is about a third of the price and still amazing and distinctive quality that you tend to only find in very special single casks.

Brutal and great.

Background: Ohh I had heard a lot about this. Williamson is the name used for these independent bottlings of Laphroaig spirit – and they have a very good reputation. Sometimes released as single malts, sometime teaspooned (a single teaspoon of another whisky added to a barrel so it is not technically a single malt) and released as a blended malt. This one especially had a huge reputation with some very good reviews coming in and recommendations from friends so I succumbed and grabbed a bottle. Cask strength, one of 449 bottles from cask 05057 – a Oloroso sherry cask. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit who managed to get a good chunk of bottles of it in, and was drunk while listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! That album works so well with big drinks.


Elements Of Islay: LP9 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 54.3% ABV)

Visual: Very dark bronzed cherry.

Nose: Smoke. Charred dry grass. Gunpowder tea. Moss. Black pepper. Spicy. Tar. Sherry. Light menthol. Water adds dried tea leaves, tannins and sulphur. Smoked bacon.

Body: Cherry. Intense peat. Thai 7 spice. Black cherry. Thick. Water adds orange crème touch. Mulled wine. Cloves and turmeric. Smoked bacon.

Finish: Thai 7 spice. Tarry. Smoke. Intense. Bitter red wine. Plums. Oily charring. Bitter cocoa. Water adds cloves. Mulled wine. Spiced orange skins. Lots of smoke.

Conclusion: Ok, this is intense. I have been spoiled with intense, aged smooth but peaty Laphroaigs recently of which this is the latest wonder.

This one has lost some of the medicinal Laphroaig character , but more than makes up for it by pushing a) A smokey peaty thing – very burnt greenery, burnt moss and general just smoke intensity. It shows a drier, more herbal smoke than is usual with Laphroaig – giving it a peppery and intense kick.

Against that is super spicy mulled wine and bitter red wine character that takes that pepper note and throws handfuls and handfuls of spice in after it. Holding these two heavy sides apart is a thin red line of sweet cherry and black-cherry which just about keeps everything in control.

Water brings out even more smoke, if that can be believed, smoked bacon notes come out as a rewarding extra to the main body in addition to subtle variance in the existing flavours.

Unlike the also awesome Laphroaig XOP 18 year I tried recently, this does not feel like a traditional Laphroaig in all things, just with extra boost from barrel ageing character. This feels like it keeps all the soot, smoke and peat from from Laphroaig – that is true – however the more medicinal elements seem to be lost under the spicy red wine like character. It is equally amazing, but different in how it expresses it. XOP is more traditional, this is more experimental. Both are great.

Another top notch, immense Laphroaig.

Background: Ok, wow, this was not one I expected to get to try. Independent Spirit had it on at a tasting I couldn’t make it to, and all the bottles sold out very rapidly. However they very kindly let me have a small sample to try and holy shit this is one that sounds awesome. Very many thanks! Distilled in 1998 this must be around 19 ish years old Laphroaig , aged in a single Pedro Ximénez Sherry Butt and bottled at cask strength. I tried this after getting back from seeing Progress Wrestling in Manchester for one of the best shows I have ever seen from them, so was on a high already. Put on some IDLES to listen to as Jim Smallman from Progress got me into listening to them due to tweeting about them, so they were on my mind. Awesome band.

Douglas Laing’s XOP Laphroaig 18 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Single Cask Whisky: 18 year: 56.8% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed with slow thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Peat. Charcoal. Strong alcohol. Salt. Sultanas. Moss and seaweed. Medicinal. Dry cake sponge. Kippers. Brown sugar. Water adds smoke and oily notes.

Body: Sherry. Strong alcohol. Charring and soot. Medicinal. Salt. Charred nougat. Salt. Water adds cherries. Dry red wine. Huge peat. Tannins. Raisins. Slight peach. Grapes. Plums.

Finish: Soot. Dried beef. Numbing alcohol. Malt chocolate. Iodine. Water adds tannins. More malt chocolate. Nut oils. Tofu. Vanilla toffee and chocolate toffee.

Conclusion: Usually Laphroaig loses some of the peat and medicinal intensity as it ages, losing some of those elements that make the younger spirit so very identifiable. For what it loses there it however gains greater subtlety, smoothness and complexity.

This does not lose the intensity in any way, shape or form. It is sooty, peaty, dried beef, salt, seaweed and medicinal all in one, all punching out at the brutal cask strength. The sherry ageing, usually so dominant in whisky, tries to push to the fore. It brings, oddly enough, dry sherry notes as well as the more expected red wine notes, but they are backing the intense Laphroaig character, not leading it or controlling it.

Neat it is a brutally intense experience – there is sweetness coming like nougat that has been quickly charred somehow – harsh, with oiliness coming in from kippers to nut oils seeping under that. It feels as much as it tastes, with hard to place savoury notes weighing in heavily to ground it.

Now, if that kick is too much there is always water to play with, and the high abv gives a lot of room to do so. It still keeps the medicinal and sooty character, but brings out layers of dry red wine, sultanas, cherries and even odd fruit notes, before heading back into a dry and medicinal finish.

Now, I tend to wait a week or so after opening a bottle to do notes these days, seems to clear out some rough notes, so I’ve had this a few times now. Caught at the wrong moment this can be quite closed as a whisky. The intense alcohol, charring and smoke can close off access to everything else, and sometimes is seems even water play can’t open it up. Other times, caught at the right moment it has all the goodness of a young Laphroaig, some quarter cask notes, matched with rich red fruit and a mix of red wine notes that makes it utterly exceptional.

I love it – it is a super intense ride of Laphroaig and more. However, even loving it, it is a ride of high points and low points depending on how it is reacting today. For the high points I am happy with it, as when it is on it us bloody amazing and I have not seen such a mix of intensity, Laphroaig character and wood character work so well before. However at the cost, something that may be not super reliable on the high may not be worth it for you.

So, look at the cost, look at the info here, make up your mind. You call.

Background: Ok, this is very expensive even for an 18 year old Laphroaig, and those are not exactly common. I was allowed to try the tiniest of sips of a sample at Independent Spirit and it blew me away, but there was no way I could get it at the time. Then I received a cheque saying an audit had revealed I was owed money and well, so now I own a bottle. I don’t believe in fate, but if I did then it definitely wanted me to have this whisky. Anyway, cask strength, in a stupidly over the top box which is so wasteful, but I would be lying if I said I did not find cool. I am a hypocrite, grr, down with wasteful packaging! Anyway, I was nervous breaking this open, hoping it would hold up to my memory – especially after buying the darn thing! Anyway put on some old, more goth era Lacuna Coil while drinking. Still like their more metal newer stuff, but it seems to waste the vocal range that the singers have – old school is where it is at.


Douglas Laing: Old Particular: Laphroaig 18 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 48.4% ABV)

Visual: Quite light grain gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin puckering.

Nose: Salted rocks. Peat. Medicinal. Dry. Ash. Salted lemon. Water adds ashtray style notes.

Body: Dry. Lemon juice. Vanilla. White grapes. Dry white wine. Salt. Peat. Water adds lemon cordial and wine gums. Slight oily and slight creamy character.

Finish: Lemon juice and dry salted lemons. Slight golden syrup. Cinder toffee. Water adds more lemon. Toffee. Even more water adds malt chocolate.

Conclusion: This is an odd mix of fresh squeezed lemon and dry salted lemons, all mixed up with a medicinal Laphroaig character. It is less harsh than the similar medicinal notes in a younger Laphroaig, but it still shows some of that pure salt behind the more mellow salted lemon character.

Nice as this is it doesn’t have the booming depth or intensity of the Quarter Cask – instead it makes a fresher, and somehow refreshing, yet intense character. The spirit is smooth – showing surprisingly little alcohol character and with that gives a show of an oily base and a slight creamy character that doesn’t seem to come out in other expressions I have tried. With water it becomes more creamy and slightly dessert like making it almost a medicinal lemon meringue of the Islay world. Another case of words I never thought I would type. I know the idea sounds horrible. It is not. This is actually pretty darn nice.

This is a strange expression – the lemon character reminds me of the unpopular Laphroaig Select – an ok whisky but one I tend to refer to as the lemonade of the Laphroaig world due to its lighter character and lack of a lot of what makes Laphroaig recognisable. This however does not sacrifice its fuller character as it brings in the smoothness and lemon flavours, making it far better than that weaker attempt. In fact this lays in the same area as the blended malt Kiln Embers – which is both a complement – as that is a very nice whisky – and a problem, as that was far cheaper than this expression. This is slightly better than Kiln Embers, but only just and for that slight bit extra it costs a lot more cash. So, depending on your cash flow, make your choice. Had as I did, I enjoyed it, but for grabbing a bottle – Kiln Embers is the one I would return to if you can still find it.

Background: One of 317 bottles this is a rare independent bottling, single cask Laphroaig expression and the final of the five whiskies had at the uber whisky tasting night at Independent Spirit. I am a huge Laphroaig fan, and you don’t see many bottlings of these guys so was looking forwards to this. My photo skills were pretty much gone by the time I took a photo of this glass – sorry – I blame alcohol. As before due to the social environ and number of whiskies tried at the event my notes may be less comprehensible than normal – I try my best.

That Boutique-y Whisky Company: Laphroaig 12 Year Old (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 52.4% ABV)

Visual: Pale clear and light, just slightly gold touched, spirit.

Viscosity: Slow thick streaks.

Nose: Quite creamy. Slight lemon. Orange crème. Butterscotch. Very light medicinal. Water makes slightly salty.

Body: Lightly salty. Some alcohol presence. Water makes creamier. Chocolate toffee eclair sweets. More medicinal and light custard sweetness. Light lemon meringue.

Finish: Dry peat intensity. Light grapefruit. Malt chocolate drinks. Water adds caramel and cream. Light lemon sorbet air. Light beef slices. Salted notes. Shredded wheat and honey.

Conclusion:An easy going Laphroaig? Kind of, yes, but with a sting in the tail. Spoiler – in a shock twist it is not the high alcohol level that gives the punch that provides the sting in the tail. In fact for the abv it is remarkably easy going, and while you only get a few of the notes neat, it only needs a tiny amount of water to start opening it up.

This is a mix of three definite, and distinct styles. There is the expected, though lighter than usual, medical, salty, salted rocks and such like notes that makes up the traditional Laphroaig elements- much more subtly used than normal though. The second string is a heavy twist on a note that can sometimes be seen in Laphroaig – lemon. Here it is far from normal – creamy, between lemon sorbet and lemon meringue, but now bringing light grapefruit and orange fruitiness that nigh unheard of from the distillery. It actually reminds me of traditional lemonade at times, that odd mix of flavours. Third and final is the chocolate caramel sweetness – there is normally a sweetness in Laphroaig backing everything but never as ramped up and thick as it is here.

Together it is only just recognisable as Laphroaig – until that sting in the tail – that being a peat punch pounding out in the finish; Finally stamping the Islay styling home.

Over time the more beefy, peaty notes rise up, more towards the standard ,expected notes- so by the end if feels like a more traditional expression, but enhanced by all that additional creaminess, sweetness and fruitiness.

Oft I have seen the expressions from the big Booming Islay distilleries mocked for the impression that they all taste the same. This shows this as the lie it is and slays the concept – this is recognisable, but different and delicious.

Background: After my last notes at the Hideout, I resolved to go back and try this. A rare independent Laphroaig bottling, with a cool Back To The Future inspired label. That Boutique-y Whisky Company always has cool, cartoon labelling which I dig. Apparently the people on the label are the winners of a contest. This is one of 421 bottles. While I do not control the music when in public, The Cranberries : Zombie came on while doing these notes, which was pretty nice.


Cairdeas Port Wood

Laphroaig: Cairdeas: Port Wood (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 9 years: 51.3% ABV)

Visual: The colour of rose wine.

Viscosity: Medium sized thick streaks.

Nose: Rose wine. Peat. Light medicinal touch. Salt. Leather and beef slices.

Body: Rose wine and plums. Salt. Medicinal. Alcohol burn neat. Beef slices. Red grapes and spices. Raisins. Custard sweetness and toffee.

Finish: Light alcohol. Beef. Salt. Spiced rum. Raisins. Light charring. Fruitcake.

Conclusion: In words I never expected to associate with a Laphroaig whisky Fruity must have been pretty high on the list. They are a lot of things, big. Medicinal, peaty and booming. Now…fruity? Here, both in colour and taste you seem to get a rose wine style characteristic resulting in a flavour half way between rose wine and medicinal. It’s a hell of a contrast, huge and full.

You don’t get much of a hint in the aroma, there is some wine touches, but mainly plays with the standard Laphroaig fair. The base of the whisky still is that full medicinal and salty Laphroaig, but the extra finish has brought lovely raisins, rose wine, and plums. They are extra notes rather than the main base, but this fruitiness gives a whole new range to explore. I love the dark fruit weight and fruitcake richness but they in no way hurt the Islay character.

The mix results in a wine whisky of extreme range, you actually get lighter notes that somehow still manage to survive despite the weighty base and these notes give the rose wine characteristics. The full port wood influence is seen the more weighty fruitcake notes and it works well with the sheer heavy nature of Islay whiskies.

This, as you can probably guess form the above, is very unusual, and very nice. Many may find it contrary to their expectations as I have not run into another Laphroaig with this styling, but that is what makes it so interesting. If it had sacrificed some of the main Laphroaig elements to achieve it I would have been less kind, but there is no danger of that here.

Very well balanced, if by balanced you mean sheer assault with complexity. If you get the chance try this, it is a thing to behold.

Background: This may be a bit of a shorter tasting note that usual as I got to sample this at the Bristol Whisky show 2013. I was not planning to do any tastings at the show, rather enjoy some time with friends and good whisky, but the chance to tasting note this was too good to pass up. While most whisky at the show was included in the ticket price, this required picking up an extra token to purchase. As a Laphroaig fan I considered it worth it. Cairdas apparently means friendship and this bottling is made for a festival each year, and sold via their website to “Friends of Laphroaig” or so some googling says, I could not say for sure. Also the age I grabbed from the web, saying 8 years in bourbon and 14 months in port finish, again take with the grain of salt that using google as a research tool should require.


Signatory Vintage: Laphroaig 1998 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 14 year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very light grain colour.

Viscosity: Very slow, puckers to middle sized streaks.

Nose: Butterscotch. Salt. Medicinal. Lemon sherbet. Honeycomb. Touch of oak. White grapes. Smoke and peat. Water lightens to a sulphur style.

Body: Good peat. White grapes. Butterscotch. Custard. Water adds meat broth, syrup and salt.

Finish: Smoke. Light oak. White grapes. Dry. Water lightens and adds beef slices. Some treacle and milk chocolate for sweetness.

Conclusion: An independent bottling of Laphroaig. Should be worth an experiment. This comes in much sweeter than the official bottling. It is smooth and without and hint of alcohol kick which allows real juicy grapes and sweet butterscotch to come through.

Before anyone calls heresy I will mention that there is still that medicinal and salt touch to the aroma . The body does lack a lot of Laphroaig’s traditional harsher elements thought it emphasises the peat and meat flavours. It is still Laphroaig but with a change of emphasis.

It is a refined Laphroaig, smoother even still than the quarter cask but without that lovely level of complexity.  It does have a great mix of Islay character and lovely sweetness.  Water makes even sweeter and more butterscotch dominated but I will say that the brasher character you get neat is much more to my taste.

A whisky for when you want to dance with the bigger flavours of Islay but don’t want it to punish you for it. Not the quintessential Islay but an exceedingly good bottling. I would highly recommend it. Distinctly Laphroaig and yet still distinctly its own thing.

Background: Bottled 2012 and non chill filtered, bottled from a hogshead cask. This was drunk at the tasting rooms and was one of the new bottlings they had got in.  I don’t often see independent bottlings of Laphroaig and it is a bit of a favourite so I decided to grab it.

Laphroaig: Quarter Cask (Scottish Single Malt Islay Whisky: No Age Statement: 48% ABV)

Visual: A slightly custard hued gold.

Viscosity: Moderate thickness slow streaks with occasional larger sheets around the glass.

Nose: Smoke, oak and kippers with a touch of malt loaf. Water lightens significantly.

Body: Very viscous.  Salty but with custard sweetness. Slight alcohol tingle that never burns, and slight to moderate beef influence. There is peat throughout.Water adds a sherry touch and makes the sweetness treacle tart like.  Water adds chocolate and oak edging to it whilst enhancing the meatiness.

Finish: Dry oak. Bitter chocolate. Salt, smoke and peat.  Water makes much more chocolate filled, and closer to praline but without removing the salt and alcohol from the end. Spiced raisins.

Conclusion: Laphroaig is nigh always a classic in my eyes, but it is pretty much the medicinal marmite of the whisky range.

This version, which has no age statement, is Laphroaig with pipe and slippers, and a touch of rising oak beneath the surface.  A touch of class, but with an edge.

Salty and peaty, it is matched by delicious sweet smoothness. The higher abv gives it energy but not burn, and the sweet chocolate element that underscores the Laphroaig finish has a wonderful praline like element with water. All just turning the quality up a notch.  The abv also means it survives significant water play, becoming smoother but still keeping a hint of salt amongst the emerging spicy element.

The aroma similarly is rich, with the surprising kipper like element as an addition. Again deliciously unique and contrary, whilst still enhancing the whisky.

At around the same cost as Laphroaig 10 this is the much more distinguished competitor.  So what does the whisky lose from all this added class? Well the medicinal harshness for one, which for some is the defining element of the distillery.  It’s still not a light whisky, and definitely does not bow to public opinion, but it does have some of the rougher edges smoothed.

A great balance between Islay character, sweet smoothness, dry oak and spice, with enough odd elements to keep you interested.

Seriously. Just get it.

Background: Ah Laphroaig. The unmistakable whisky, and an old friend.  The Quarter Cask is one I have tried at whisky shows, and from shops sampler sections, but have never tried a full measure of.  Thus when I saw it at “The Raven” I thought it well worth giving it a try. There were no jugs or spoons for adding water so we improvised using a straw with a thumb over the top to transfer the small measures of water over. By stretching or compressing the flexible joint in the middle of the straw it was easy enough to ensure we drew up the correct amount of water. The quarter cask refers to the fact that the whisky has spent time in a smaller cask, thus has had more contact with the wood, which ages the whisky significantly faster.

Malt Musings: That Metal Tin.

I have this great metal Laphroaig tin, back from the days when whisky boxes were fearsome beasts designed to survive a nuclear apocalypse.  It’s found its uses over the years as a carry case for plugs, headphones, spare camera batteries wires and the like. It’s also great for bringing fragile stuff back from on holiday as long as ye use some bubble wrap.

However used this way it puts the shits up security people at airports majorly.

I will never forget their expression as they asked me to empty my bags. Nor my knowing realization of exactly what a metal tin filled with wires and batteries could possibly look like under an x-day.

Boy has my bag been thoroughly checked, double checked, swabbed for plastic explosives and so on over the years.

No real point to today’s musings. Just memories.

And maybe apologies to the poor airports staff who have to put up with those painful long seconds as I rummage in the bag to bring it to light.

I don’t do it to be pain, it’s just such a useful carry box. Thanks for being understanding, and not sending me to that private room for a more…thorough… examination.

Laphroaig 10 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: An almost sherried gold, light but vibrant.

Viscosity: A mix of fast and slow streaks break out in a schizophrenic manner nigh instantly.

Nose: Peat, but more evident than that is iodine and medicinal punch which mostly hides the lighter vanilla back. Light sawmill wood and syrup.

Body: A higher dose of peat. Golden syrup. Slightly salty and sea influenced. Slight sherry and raspberry. Leather.

Finish: Peat, burnt charcoal. Iodine/antiseptic again. Rising warmth. Raisins.

Conclusion: Possibly the most unique and opinion splitting of all whiskies. Medicinal leather and peat, this is not one that will win over everyone.

Personally I love its harshness and uncompromising nature. Once you get used to the roughness there is surprising richness underneath, but most people don’t sense it for the first few measures due to its amazing strong main body.

This is a whisky where no review can tell you if you will like it, only experience will say of you love or hate this distinctive whisky.

Thankfully enough taverns carry this whisky that you can try without the marriage like commitment that a full bottle entails.

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