The flavors evolve on the nose and palate, with peat kiln smoke, fresh asphalt, damp earth warehouses, morning-after campfire ash, and old boat dock contrasting nicely with toffee apple, crème caramel, delicate raspberry preserve, and dried citrus. Long, smoky, spicy, briny, seaweed, dirty martini-tinged finish. This whisky comes from a combination of both sherry and bourbon casks, and the marriage works. I also like that it retains some of its youthful brashness, while showing the depth that maturity affords a whisky. A delicious, well-balanced, old-fashioned Laphroaig.(Reviewing this whisky gave me an excuse to open a “fresh” bottle of its predecessor, the 30 year old, and here are my thoughts. The 30 year old is softer, mellower, drier, and more debonair. The 25 year old is bolder, more youthful, more dynamic, richer, and sweeter — bottling at cask strength really helps here. Both whiskies are very nice, but quite different in personality.)
This is the first time I’ve been up for reviews here so I had a game plan: play it cool, mark tightly, let everyone know I’m hard to please. Then they gave me this, the whisky equivalent to front row tickets to Neil Young on his current Twisted Road tour: not just a chance to get up close and personal with an old favorite, but to do so with an old favorite who’s on fire. Laphroaig’s owners are intent on ensuring a big peaty engine for any new release, but this is a monster by anyone’s standards. It’s essentially Quarter Cask finished in oloroso sherry casks, so in addition to the intense charcoal smoke attack there are rich fruity notes; blackcurrant and berries. It’s an evening barbecue whisky. Grill that fish until it’s blackened and crispy, drizzle on lemon, and as the smoke rears up in protest, sip this. Big, moody, broody, fruity, and rich: what’s not to love? (Travel Retail and some European specialist retailers)
Laphroaig 10 year old Cask Strength (Batch 010), 58%
Single Malt Scotch | $70
A turbocharged version of the formidable standard 10 year old, Cask Strength varies in ABV from batch to batch. Tar and antiseptic hit the nose immediately, along with peat smoke, malt, newsprint, and new leather. There’s also lemon, vanilla, and brine. The sinewy palate mirrors the nose, adding charcuterie and cocoa powder. Predictably medicinal and phenolic in the very long finish, with balancing sweet malt.
Initially aged in bourbon barrels before being transferred into quarter casks, and ultimately oloroso sherry butts. The sherry influence adds an additional dimension to the quarter-cask style, hence an oily nose of dates, vanilla, tropical fruits, and bonfire smoke. The palate is drier than might be expected, with Laphroaig iodine, barbecued meats, muted sherry, and peat smoke. The finish comprises dried fruits and lots of oak.
The Exclusive Malts 22 year old (distilled at Laphroaig) 1990 vintage (Cask #10866), 47.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $250
Clean and complex, showing a matured, somewhat restrained personality for Laphroaig: less medicinal, but more rounded. Tar, pencil shavings, anise, honeyed citrus, Spanish olive brine, and a hint of seaweed and white pepper on a bed of creamy vanilla, caramel, and light nougat. Lingering, satisfying finish. Frustrated by a dearth of 20-plus year old distillery-bottled Laphroaigs? Look no further. Delicious!
Any sherried Laphroaig is welcome, and this does not disappoint. Rich, resinous, medicinal, with underlying soft fruits, the smoke is all-pervading, but never dominant. In other words, it isn’t just complex and balanced, but has that other dimension which elevates it in mind (and marks). With water, there’s antiseptic cream mingling with oxidized fruits and nuts; think manzanilla pasada. The palate shows storm clouds gathering over Texa. Rich dried fruits, cacao, and a ferny lift on the finish. Fantastic. (The Whisky Exchange only) £100
This expression offers an uncompromising note of brine-laden peat and iodine, with charcoal and sweeter fruit notes also present. The palate is equally out there, with old-fashioned fabric Band-Aids, bladderwrack seaweed, black pepper, smoldering peat, vanilla, caramel, and sweet oak. The finish is as big as everything else, with barbecue, iodine, and asphalt. Still a classic!
Amber with gold streaks. Its aroma and flavor is fresh, powerful, and medicinal, with notes of peat smoke, band-aids, tar, rich toffee, seaweed, and brine. Thick in body, with an almost molasses-like viscosity.
This expression is aged for approximately 5 years in bourbon barrels before spending a final few months in quarter casks. Characteristic tar, engine oil, and ashy peat on the nose. Oily and full on the palate, with sweet grain notes, cinnamon, seaweed, hot peat, and black pepper. The finish is long and powerful, with persistent peat and chili, plus a sprinkling of sea salt.
Deep amber color. Wonderfully complex, and nicely balanced aroma and flavor of vanilla sweetness, tarry rope, oak, toffee, seaweed, and brine. Medium to full in body, and creamy in texture, with a finish that doesn't quit.
The whisky begins sweet and creamy, with notes of vanilla, honey, and ripe malt (reminiscent of a malting floor). Then the Laphroaig signature peat smoke, seaweed, tar, and medicinal notes emerge. Bottling at 48% and without chill-filtering keeps the whisky from being dulled down. A whisky that is very dynamic. Nicely done.
Hart Brothers 18 year old (distilled at Laphroaig) 1990 vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $135
Bottled at 46% and not chill-filtered. Smart move! It really helps this whisky. This is a soft — almost elegant — Laphroaig (if that’s not an oxymoron). Very clean, with honeyed malt, ripe barley, brine, seaweed, and peat smoke, with just a teasing of the medicinal, band-aid notes that Laphroaig is known for. The owner-bottled 18 year old, which I rated a 90, is darker and drier, with more oak on the finish. I like this Hart Brothers expression just a little better.
Very smooth for Laphroaig -- the extra aging has mellowed this whisky. Soothing honeyed malt, creamy vanilla, and toffee provide a bed for peat smoke, charcoal, and tar; along with more subtle brine, smoked seaweed, anise, ginger, and citrus. A gentler, creamier, more tactile, less medicinal Laphroaig when compared to some of its siblings. Will you prefer the new 18 year old to the 15 year old it is replacing? That depends. I enjoy the balance and subtle complexity of flavors with the 15 year old, but I also like the enhanced richness and mouth-coating creaminess of the 18. The higher strength (and no chill-filtering) of the 18 is certainly a bonus. (Side note: I know this is a moot point now, but I would like to have seen the 15 year old bottled at 48%, rather than 43%.)
Similar to Laphroaig Quarter Cask, but also finished in oloroso sherry casks. Fruit and smoke: fleshy red berries, red licorice, toffee, ripe barley, coal tar, sun-baked seaweed, peat smoke, and a hint of coffee grounds. Tarry finish. I rated the Quarter Cask a 91, and I think this whisky is similar in quality. If you like sherry-influenced whiskies, then go for the Triple Wood. If not, then consider the Quarter Cask. (Travel Retail and European exclusive)
A (very) special anniversary bottling, this is old-style, brooding Laphroaig. Fully mature and rich, it shows that classic roiling mass of kelp, oil, and brine, always balanced by sweetness: in this case autumn berry fruits. Malt adds a crunchiness. The palate is gentle and slow with the characteristic camphoraceous lift of bog myrtle on the back palate, which is all that remains of the smoke. Pricey, yes, but rare. Get saving!
The Exclusive Malts 8 year old (distilled at Laphroaig) 2005 vintage (Cask #484), 55.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $85
This whisky shows no signs of immaturity considering its age. Indeed, enjoying Laphroaig young and at a higher strength is the best way to appreciate the distillery’s true character. Very medicinal and “closed up” neat, but comes alive with a splash of water. Powerful notes of tar, charcoal, smoked seaweed, and licorice root, mercifully tamed by ripe barley and honeyed malt laced with vanilla. Warm, smoky, charred oak finish. (U.S. only)
Lp4 Elements of Islay (distilled at Laphroaig), 54.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $108
A very tarry start, like fence posts which have just been treated with creosote. Add in some smoked fish alongside dried grass, and you have all the requisite elements for a classic Laphroaig. The palate is massively smoky to start, a real peat bomb, but that eruption recedes, allowing barley and sweetness to come through. This is a serious dram which needs water to coat the tongue. Very good. £65/500 ml
Douglas Laing Queen of the Hebrides (distilled at Laphroaig) 18 year old, 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $181
The first expression in Douglas Laing’s new Old Particular Consortium of Cards Single Cask Scotch Whisky Collection was sourced from a single refill butt. The nose offers sweet peat, toffee bonbons, brine, beach tide lines, and antiseptic. Finally, a sooty chimney. The palate is zesty, with ashy peat, asphalt, chili, and citrus fruit. Dark chocolate, more soot, and extra chili in the very long finish. Quintessential Laphroaig! (665 bottles) £140
Lp5 Elements of Islay (distilled at Laphroaig), 52.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $118
Bold, with smoked fish (Arbroath smokies), dried fruits. Has requisite density of character with classic notes of freshly-laid tarmac and medicine. A lemon edge adds some lift. The complexity continues on the tongue, which is very juicy; vanilla-accented but with plenty of seaweed-like smoke that shifts into licorice. Long, balanced, and thick in the center, with some (smoked) dried thyme on the finish. £70/500 ml
Laphroaig Original Cask Strength 10 year old, 57.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $60
Pungent and medicinal in personality, with gobs of peat, tar, iodine, brine, and seaweed. These are all good things.in case you were wondering. A gentle vanilla sweetness tries to tame this savage beast, but it is no match. One of the most challenging-yet rewarding-whiskies in the entire world. What Cantillion Lambic is to beer, Laphroaig Original Cask Strength is to whisky.
Blackadder 12 year old (distilled at Laphroaig) 1988, 45%
Single Malt Scotch | $60
Pale gold color. Bold aromas of sweet wort, seaweed, and peat bonfires. Medium bodied and slightly oily in texture. Malty sweet flavors up front, followed by peat and seaweed, then taken over by a huge rush of peat smoke that never seems to end. A sweetness stays with the whisky throughout to help balance the peat smoke.
Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Laphroaig) 14 year old, 48.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $142
Big smoke. Smoked fish, in fact, with some linked oily elegance, along with touches of hot tar and a cooked agave quality, adding a slightly sour/sweet element; then come poached pear and pepper. The palate is rootier, but always with this deep, clinging texture. As it moves it sweetens briefly, then comes creosote. Water gives the sweetness more space before the big phenols come powering back. It’s a barbecue in your mouth. Classic Laphroaig, in fact. £91
Amber copper color. Very mature aroma of oak, damp earth, peat smoke, licorice, soft citrus, and seaweed. Full-bodied and somewhat oily. A gently sweet vanilla note up front-albeit very briefly-then a quick flash of citrus fruit and seaweed. After that it's a battle between peat smoke and oak, with the oak ultimately winning. Very long, dry, smoky finish.
Douglas Laing Provenance (distilled at Laphroaig) 8 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $92
What would you expect from an 8 year old Laphroaig? Iodine, massive peat, aggression? Not here. Rather, there’s a soft marine sweetness akin to lobster thermidor, with hints of salinity and tarragon. It builds in heft, and smoke, but there is real balance. Complex already. The palate initially shows muted smoke, and is slightly medicinal, with balancing creaminess. Water shatters this idyll somewhat, as the phenols come out in full force. It depends what side you want. I’d grab some. £60
Another NAS Laphroaig made from a blend of different cask types. The nose is dry and lightly tarry—a note that continues to the dried glass. There are medicinal phenols, a biscuity note, then an aroma of fuel, like being on a trawler deck. The palate shows integration between the oaks, lending a smokehouse aroma. Water lightens, but you still get that smoky smear of phenol at the end that tells you this is Laphroaig. Like it.
The Exclusive Malts 10 year old (distilled at Laphroaig) 2005 (Cask #468), 54.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
Extreme peat smoke explodes out of the glass. It’s diesely, burnt tire smoke more than campfire. Past the peat, there's salt, paste, and honey. On the palate it's another blast of smoke. This nearly chokingly strong smoke dissipates slightly to reveal oyster shells, malt, paste, and honey. Make no mistake, the smoke is the star and will remind you of that fact hours after you finish your last sip. An uber-peated whisky that hardcore peatheads will surely adore. (U.S. only)
Signatory 13 year old (distilled at Laphroaig) 1993 vintage, 53.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $60
A nicely balanced Laphroaig, with a soothing malty sweetness layered in between the smoke, peat, tarry rope, and iodine. Underlying notes of vanilla bean, caramel custard, grist, anise, coconut, blueberry, and a dusting of cocoa add subtle complexity.
Now you see it, now you don’t. Brought back like Frank Sinatra for last year’s 200th anniversary celebrations, here’s Laphroaig in gentle Islay sunset mode, all soft fruits and oils. There’s typical marine-like smokiness of course—particularly on the palate. I’d go neat with this to observe what is rather excellent balance. And snap it up, who knows when there will be another?
Distinctively pale in color. (A hint of its age?) This annual limited edition release is finally available in the U.S. Youthful, vibrant, and thumping, with the sea flowing through its veins. Coal tar, peat smoke, brine, seaweed, bright fruit (pear, tangerine), and soft vanilla all compete for attention. The only thing holding me back from scoring it higher is that it comes across as a bit too youthful.
Brought back as a celebration of the distillery’s 200th anniversary and, in the vein of other 15 year old expressions, is somewhat restrained. Rather than big phenols there’s an aroma of lanolin, sautéed scallop, fleshy fruit, and real sweetness. The palate shoes some oozing oils and a whiff of creosote, but this is a tea party rather than a wild ceilidh. Maybe bottling at 46% would have given the drive that’s missing.
Signatory 7 year old (distilled at Laphroaig) 1999 vintage, 58.0%
Single Malt Scotch | $45
Tastes more mature than its age would suggest. It’s packed with ripe, sweet barley (especially at the palate entry). There are some high citrus fruit notes and anise that emerge before the signature Laphroaig peat smoke and tar wallops you. Very vibrant and youthful, but without being too green. A steal for $45. (A Binny’s Beverage Depot exclusive)
A new, no age statement addition to the Laphroaig family that blends together Quarter Cask, PX, Triple Wood, and 10 year old. The nose is reminiscent of freshly-treated decking, before some classic iodine creeps in. Water brings out geranium, pollen, and damp leather. The palate is simple, clean, and mild (and smoky), with bay leaf, light dried fruit, and that oily wood. Undoubtedly there's a lot going on, but it’s not married, and 40% means it lacks the necessary wallop. £35
A mix of bourbon and quarter casks finished in Pedro Ximenez, this new release is, initially, only for Travel Retail. The problem with finishing peaty whiskies is that all you can do is reduce the smoke, but here it’s done with as much subtlety as you can when dealing with PX. Think treacle scones, raisins, and tarry tobacco. A thick mid-palate gives an effect like an old-fashioned medicine. A sweet-hearted dragon smoldering in its seashore cave. (Travel Retail exclusive) £60
The annual Cairdeas release aims to show Laphroaig in a new light. Initially I thought this too sweet and cask dominated, with the distillery battling against the wine—fresh red fruit and seaweed is a test, even for the best chef. Add water and give it time though, and there is this lightly exotic, herbal, hazelnut-like element. It lacks depth and the tarry thump beloved by many Laphroaig lovers, but is an interesting departure.