Whisky Advocate

Laphroaig lets their Cask Strength “live”

April 8th, 2009

I’m sitting at the Grand Cayman airport waiting for my flight back home. (Great vacation!) The airport has free WiFi, fortunately.

I got this info from Josh, a “Friend of Laphroaig” and WDJK follower. The Friends of Laphroaig email update he got from John Campbell, Laphroaig Distillery Manager said this:

Single Batch 10 year old cask strength
Those who saw my Christmas broadcast will have heard about the change. Rather than trying to match each batch that is bottled we are going to let each bottling “live”  as an individual in its own right. This is I think the more natural way as each batch is effectively bottled straight from the barrel. This means each bottling will vary but that is all part of single malts. Edition No1 will be bottled shortly and again I hope to make some available to you.

Very exciting. Since he calls it “Edition No 1,” I get the impression that this might be a different release than the standard 10 year old Cask Strength, but I’m not certain.  I’ll try to reach out to John, but in the meantime, maybe someone else out there knows the answer?

17 Responses to “Laphroaig lets their Cask Strength “live””

  1. DavidG says:

    Does this mean they are doing each as a single barrel bottling, or, to use the bourbon parlance, are these going to be small batch bottlings?
    What do you think the reason for the change, and the admission that single malt from a distillery bottling can change?
    Hope you are enjoying vacation.

  2. John Hansell says:

    He uses the phrase “Batch” so I assume it is small batch but will vary slightly from one batch to another.

  3. Red_Arremer says:

    So it’s going to be a single barrel, with variations in strength profile and all that then?

    I’m glad to hear it. Do you think the question of batch quality will generate as much discussion for peat heads as abundah has for sherry fanatics?

    • John Hansell says:

      I think it is a “small batch”, not single barrel, but with variations in strength and flavor. It should generate some interest, as it will be fun to compare one batch to the next.

  4. Jon W says:

    I think this is a great idea. Seems to be a lot like the Nadurra which are batch releases and to my tastebuds range from excellent to supreme. I’m sure the Laphroaig will be up to the same standard.

  5. MrTH says:

    I assume this will be analogous to, and perhaps inspired by, Aberlour a’bunadh. I think this is great news, and, given the amount of blether I see about the various a’bunadh batches, a smart move. Yes, it acknowledges that there is some mystery to the process of whisky-making, and that consistency is not the be-all and end-all. In fact, I seem to recall hearing somewhere that it is the hobgoblin of small minds.

  6. Todd says:

    That’s great that Laphroaig has the courage to acknowledge the reality of batch variation and parlay this to attention for their product. It also suggests a much more nimble market awareness than we saw in the bad old days under Allied’s management – batch variation is a hot topic in connoisseur circles at present and this trickles down to the general market that is increasingly educated.

    I’ve been enjoying batch variation of OB Laphroaig Cask Strength 10 yo for many years now. Different batches produced to date be distinguished on a broad level by differences in packaging changes (the earlier green stripe bottlings, which are phenomenal versus the more recent red stripe bottlings which were introduced around 2002 or 2003) and a production change from from the earlier bottling at 57.3% ABV to 55.7% that occurred in 2005 (Mr Campbell himself at the 2005 Feis Ile Laphroaig Quarter Cask tour noted that this reflected a change in the absolute strength of the raw spirit into the barrels in the 1990s). On a finer level of resolution, one can detect existing batch differences by the bottling codes which have recently become more transparent in terms of matching code to date of bottling – I’ve detected this for 2008 bottles available in the US. Regardless of the opacity of the earlier bottling codes, they can be used to distinguish one batch from another. As a personal aside my favorite all time bottling of Laphroaig Cask Strength 10 yo was a 1 liter green stripe bottle (57.3%) purchased in Rome airport duty free in 2004. It was superb!

    So Bravo Mr. Campbell for making it easier and more transparent for us interesting in distinguishing different batches.

    I have two questions. 1) is this change associated with a tangible production change (eg fewer numbers of casks per batch to encourage batch variability, different batches bottled at different ABVs or other such factors) as John suggested?

    2) Does this welcome improvement in batch transparency come at the price of a not so welcome higher price for the product?

    Mr. Campbell, if you read this, please keep up the good work, and I love the entire line – or at least the bottlings that are affordable by people other than AIG executives.


  7. Tim says:

    Must be providence, as I pulled up WDJK I had just poured a not so wee dram of Laphroaig 10 yr cask strength. cant wait for the new releases!

  8. Tim D says:

    Ironically, I too have just poured a dram of Laphroaig – from the Signatory Unchillfiltered Collection (an almost 7 year old).

    I, too, got the email – and it sounds like these bottles will fall into line with the likes of Signatory type bottlings – where everything is single cask, etc. – I wonder if they’ll disclose cask # and bottle “x” of “y” bottles like Signatory does?

    FWIW: These Signatory efforts are just outstanding. Highest praise for their efforts and selections.

  9. Rich says:

    well, as long as Laphroaig is figuratively on the table…

    tonight i finally open my bottle of Laphroaig 1993/2006 12 year 57% (Signatory) with a good friend. i’ve been waiting for the right moment, and he’s long been a big fan of Laphroaig, so this is it.

    it’s supposed to be pretty good; wish me luck. 🙂


  10. Rich says:

    simply put, the best Laphroaig i have ever tasted. absolutely delicious, a perfect balance of strength and subtlety. even at 57%, i had no interest in adding water…

  11. Todd says:

    Rich, which cask was your Sig Laphroaig? Signatory has had such a great run of high quality Laphroaig casks. I’ve tasted many of the 3400 series casks distributed in the US, UK, France, and Switzerland, and they were excellent. The best of the bunch was the US release, a 13 yo, bottled at 59.4%, distilled 27/4/92, bottled 24/8/05, Signatory cask #3408 from a bourbon barrel, and a bottle run of 213 – truly outstanding, it had just a little more citrus sweetness that than the others. There still may be the odd bottle of this available on the shelves. One of my favorite drams from 2005. The UCF Sig-Laps are pretty good too.

  12. Harvey Fry says:

    Todd & Rich & WDJK:

    first, i (think i) have it on very good authority that the new 10yo cask strength
    vattings will be large enough to take care
    of the anticipated worldwide demand for a
    period of roughly six months. so, if/when
    they guess right, there’ll be a new batch
    as often as twice yearly. each will be allowed to more or less come into its own=
    with variations in flavor profile & ABV
    being determined by a cask selection that
    is maybe a mite less concerned with such things as coming as close as is humanly possible to replicating past versions &,
    as alluded to by Todd, hopefully somewhat
    more aware that the serious single malt
    drinker/collector, having been weaned on
    single cask/ cask strength bottlings, is far more concerned with the contents of the bottles than the packaging/ brand building
    culture of yore. it’s been mostly uphill
    but i believe we’re making steady progress.

    second, AS & CO.[Signatory] have their ears very close to the ground we tread. for the
    last 6 years or so they’ve done Laphroaig better than anyone except (possibly) SMWS.
    starting with the unchillfiltered (’88s on)
    & progressing to the aforementioned 3400
    cask series from ’92 & ’93; the young (7yo up) bottlings for Binny’s + others & now,
    the latest 15-17yo goodies from ’90 & ’91,
    most welcome, in spite of their horribly
    (heavy, awkward & ugly) designed bottles/
    canisters. of the 3400s= <3408, 13/92-05,
    54.4; <3474, 57.0 & <3475, 57.2 (both 12/ 93-06) & <3480, 13/93-06, 53.2, all came
    to the USA & i rated all high 80s-low 90s.
    i now regret having avoided the UK versions
    for fear of unhappy transportation. if ‘U
    are not already members, both of ‘U should
    join the Society (SMWS-A) because we’ve had
    TEN single cask/ cask strength offerings
    since 2001. it began with a 10yo from ’90;
    went on with 11, 12, 13 & 14yos from ’91;
    jumped back/forward with a 17 & three 18yos
    from ’88 & ’89 &, most recently, bounced
    all the way back to an 11yo from ’96. 2 of the 18yos were sherry casks & one of ’em i made a 95= their cask number 29.64 & easily the best single cask Laphroaig i’ve ever had.^ BTW, even though they have probably
    brought out more new Laphroaig expressions
    (this century) than Signatory & the Society
    combined, i did NOT consider Douglas Laing
    & Co.IN the running because they insist on
    bottling the overwhelming majority of their
    offerings at their “preferred strength of
    50% ALC/VOL.” high alcohol may be better
    even than 46.%, unchillfiltered. it is NOT,
    however, a viable substitute for TRUE (or
    even slightly altered) CASK STRENGTH! ANY
    what’s more, THE DISTORTION (expression to
    IS CUMULATIVE &, over time, poses a real
    threat to the fine tuned structure= THE
    COMPUTER ‘U’ve been building in your head over all these years. ‘U may think ‘U can make the adjustment(s). well, good luck.
    once ‘U become a yo-yo, the adjustments
    may end up making ‘U. also, few of the Old
    Malt Cask Laphroaigs made their way over here.

    WDJK: sorry, my liver & other problems kept
    me from Chicago. i had hoped to bring ‘U a
    few samples of my concoctions & talk about
    blogs & so on. i haven’t contributed here
    mostly because, for the time being, i’ve pretty much limited myself to what i call
    the ol’shapeShifting/snozSniffing, a very poor substitute even for my usual immitation
    sommelier (nose, sip & spit) act. as ‘U
    might imagine, when what ‘U know is there has to keep its distance, trying to hold forth about it can be as, maybe even more painful than the abstinence itself. think
    about JUST looking up at more than 1800 different single malt expressions lining most of the walls in most of the rooms ‘U
    spend most of your time in &………NOT
    being able to……………. anyway,
    i’m willing to let bygones bend to their
    own winds= begin again. perhaps we’ll find
    much else to speak of whenever next time
    comes around?

    Harvey Fry

  13. John Hansell says:

    Welcome back Harvey. Sorry we missed you at WhiskyFest.

  14. B.J. Reed says:

    I have already got my “person” in Edinburgh on the look out for these bottlings.

    Harvey is a great fan of Laphroig at cask strength and I have collected a few of the SMWS bottlings as well – Will be fun to compare as they come out.

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