Kicking off a week of Laphroaig reviews here at AdventuresInWhiskey.com, we start things off with a look at their 10-year-old whiskies, both the standard expression and the cask strength expression.
There’s smoky scotch and there’s Laphroaig. Islay whiskies are known for their brininess and smokiness, but Laphroaig stands out. Founded about 200 years ago, Laphroaig is one of the most flavorful (read: smoky) Islay whiskies around. People either really love or hate Laphroaig. The company has embraced that idea with open arms in their “Opinions Welcome” marketing campaign. See video below. Even Prince Charles is a fan, supplying the company with a Royal Warrant. The 15-Year-Old expression is said to be his favorite.
The base entry in the Laphroaig lineup, the 10-year-old expression is the youngest age stated Laphroaig. In the US, it’s bottled at 43% (40% in Europe). This is where I suggest you start if you are new to the brand. On the nose, there’s that big hit of peat smoke along with some toffee, toasted grain and a bit of eartiness. You can smell an open bottle from a mile away. Taste-wise, there’s an initial wave of iodine and bbq smoke, toasted barley, vanilla and chewy toffee candy. The finish is long with a slighty-sweet smoke. The body is a little thinner than I’d hoped, but nonetheless full of flavor.
Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Cask Strength (Batch 006) 58% ABV
Moving onto the cask strength version of their standard 10-year-old expression. According to information on the packaging, Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Cask Strength is non-chill filtered. That means all those fatty flavor carriers are left in the whisky. The upside to this is a richer whisky. The downside, according to the whisky industry, is the whisky in your glass may become cloudy in temperature extremes. However, more and more non-chill filtered whiskies are being released this way, and I applaud the companies doing so.
The nose here starts off with a more concentrated sweetness than the standard expression, almost candy-like. Look past that and you’ll find some barbecue smoke, toasted grain, heather and an herbal note. Tasting this whiskey at full strength, I get an initial hit of toffee followed immediately by a wallop of peat smoke, wood char, fruitiness, salt, and some earthiness. The finish is long, warm and smoky. This rich, almost chewy whisky leaves behind a smokey film covering your mouth and throat.
Laphroaig is an acquired taste and might not be for everyone. I really enjoy its earthy, smoky, salty, and sweet flavors, as does my wife. She’s not a whisky drinker, and generally can’t stand my favorite bourbons. However, she does like a sip or two of Scotch, especially Laphroaig.
One word of advice. If you are doing a tasting of several whiskies, and Laphroaig happens to be one of them, save it for last. The smoky finish will stick with you for the rest of the day. It will overpower any other whisky you might be sampling.
I recommend both of these expressions, but if you’re only buying one, I’d stick with the Cask Strength. There’s a better concentration of flavors here, and you can proof it down to your liking.
(Note: A sample review was provided by Beam Suntory.)