scotch whisky review

Laphroaig 30-Year-Old Single Malt (2016) Review 


My love for Laphroaig is no secret, but the levels of admiration vary between malts.  For instance, I thoroughly enjoy the new Laphroaig Lore with its sherried richness. On the other hand, Laphroaig Select comes across as a touch anemic for my tastes.  Its signature peaty character didnt shine through.

Does that mean I won’t like older Laphroaig expressions?  After all, and I’m painting in broad strokes here, the peat component tends to calm down the older a whisky becomes.  Not necessarily.  I generally find that well made whiskies full of character like Laphroaig age well, and their bold nature is refined as the years pass by.

This is certainly true of the 2016 bottling of Laphroaig 30 year, as you’ll read in my tasting notes below.  According to press material, this limited edition bottling had a “double maturation in first and second-fill ex-bourbon casks.”  It’s bottled at 53.5% abv and retails for $1000.  So, what does a 30-year-old, bourbon barrel-matured Laphroaig taste like?

A refined nose of vanilla creme brûlée overwhelms at first. Once it settles in the glass, wood spice and ripe mango emerge alongside hints of earthy mushroom, briny peat, and orange. A soft entry for such a high proof 30 year old whisky. Lots going on here: dark toffee, freshly grated ginger, orange, and vanilla hit the palate first, followed by seaweed, tobacco and a whisp of lingering peat smoke. Some oak-driven baking spices hit the back palate, as well as a touch of astringency. The finish is long and a little warm, with orange candy, herbs and old oak.

What a zinger of a whisky!  Definitely one of the more complex Islay whiskies I’ve come across, and a completely different beast than last year’s 32-year-old Laphroaig, which was matured exclusively in sherry casks.  Both are refined and delicious, but this 30-year-old lacks the overt dried fruit notes provided by sherry casks.  This is pure, spicy and sweet bourbon barrel maturation that really allows Laphroaig’s bold character to come through.  Though it’s not as lively as the slightly younger 25-year-old bottling also being offered this year, Laphroaig 30 year is the elegant, refined, and complex peated whisky I dream about.   9.5/10

Thanks to Laphroaig for the sample!  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Laphroaig 25-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky (2016) Review

The end of the year brings two new Laphroaig bottlings – a 30-year-old and 25-year-old expression.  Laphroaig 25 is a blend of whiskies matured in second-fill European Oak sherry casks and ex-bourbon casks bottled at cask strength, or 48.6% abv.  Now we’re cooking!  There’s something interesting about extra-aged Laphroaig.  Sure, after a quarter century sitting in sherry and bourbon casks, the peaty bite that the distillery is so famous for starts to round out, but it still retains the distillery character.

How does it taste?

Lovely. Simply lovely.

The nose is bright, rich, and full of juicy seville orange, dark brown sugar, and smoked bacon. A touch of dried fruits and hay also appear. On entry, Laphroaig 25yr is more vibrant than expected for a whisky that is a quarter century old. Smoked fruits are tempered by freshly squeezed oranges. Waves of vanilla, toffee, and spiced cherries follow. Laphroaig’s signature ashy peat smoke more or less provides a soft bed, complimenting the rest of the flavors. On the back palate, tobacco and aged oak lead things into a long, slightly bitter and fruity finish, with a wisp of smoke.

Big question – is it worth the asking price of $500 a bottle?  Short answer, yes.  In fact I own a bottle from a couple of years ago.  Long answer depends on how much you’re willing to pay for a bottle of whisky, but that’s a discussion for another time.  Either way, make no mistake – this is a beautiful bottling of Laphroaig. 9/10

Thanks to Laphroaig for the sample!  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Compass Box Enlightenment Whisky Review

Photo courtesy of Compass Box Whisky

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past several months, you know about Compass Box founder John Glaser’s push for transparency in the scotch whisky industry.  Specifically, he is looking for the ability to write the ages and percentages of the whiskies that make up his blends.

The current European law states that a whisky producer may only list the age of  youngest whisky in the blend.  That law was meant to protect customers from certain marketing practices.  For example, say Producer X puts out a whisky that’s made with 99.99% 3-year-old whisky and 0.01% 40-year-old whisky.  In the past that producer could have marketed the whisky as containing 40-year-old liquid inside, even though it may amount to a thimble full of 40-year-old whisky.  As it currently stands, the law says that whisky must be labeled as 3 years old IF the producer chooses to put an age statement on the label.

Enter Enlightenment, Compass Box’s new limited edition blended malt whisky that, according to Glaser, “draws attention to the issues with the current regulations and encourages the industry to respond.”

If you want to sign a petition to help change this law, visit CompassBoxWhisky.com/transparency.

Enlightenment is non-chill filtered, natural color and bottled at 46% abv.  It retails for about $85.  While no age statements have been released, we know where the whiskies came from.  The breakdown is as follows:

  • 48.2% malt whisky from Clynelish aged in first fill American barrels
  • 36.7% malt whisky from Glentauchers aged in first fill American barrels
  • 10.8% malt whisky from Balblair aged in first fill American barrels
  • 4.3% malt whisky from Mortlach aged in rejuvenated American barrels

The nose is light, sweet and fruity.  Ripe green fruits, vanilla, candle wax and spice spill out of the glass.  Taste-wise, Enlightenment keeps the light character of the nose, at least at first.  Tart Granny Smith apples and honeyed berries dominate the front of the palate.  Lemon peel and vanilla creme soon develop alongside a touch of cinnamon.  Towards the end of the finish a richness in the form of toffee appears, leading to a spiced pear finish.

Enlightenment makes for a great sipper on a summer’s eve while sitting on the porch with a good book.  Not too heavy.  Not too complex.  It is one of the lighter blended malts I’ve had in a while, but the blast of richness near the back palate really elevates the experience.  I’ve read a few reviews stating lack of complexity in this whisky, but I like Enlightenment for what it is, and not what I think it should be.

8/10

Thanks to Compass Box for the sample.  As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.