Posts Tagged ‘Laphroaig’

John Campbell of Laphroaig – In 140 Or Less

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Author - Caroline DewarAnother in our occasional series of Tweet-style interviews. As always, it’s 140 characters or less (we don’t count the spaces) in the answers from Laphroaig distillery manager John Campbell. (This was a special one for me, as the brand’s former marketing manager from some years ago.)  

What’s the view from your office window?
I have a great view, looking out over Laphroaig bay and it’s a beautiful day today on Islay.

Lucky you. We know you can get all 4 seasons in one day! Did you always want to be a distiller?
Yes, we can have variable weather, and nope:  I wanted to be a mechanical engineer first!!

Really! What was your career path to becoming Laphroaig’s manager?
Well, I started off on that path when I was 16 but it was too soon, became a lobster fisherman on Islay, then a distiller.

So did you ever expect to be Laphroaig’s manager, then?
No, not a chance.  I started off stenciling the numbers on the barrels, but have just kept sticking my hand up as time passed.

A serial volunteer, then.  Islay distillery managers seem to be more involved with consumers/visitors than the mainland ones? Would you say that’s right? If so, why?  
I am not sure, we probably are and it’s because we have much more charisma.  Oh, and we are nosy!

John Campbell and his son Murray.

John Campbell and his son Murray.


Very honest! You seem a very quiet person. Do you enjoy all the public facing part?
Ileachs [Islay natives] are very open too…I am quiet and understated, just like Laphroaig….but I enjoy meeting people and having fun. Who doesn’t?

True. Under Beam there were more new expressions of Laphroaig. Will this continue under Beam Suntory?
Not sure if the strategy will change under new ownership, we will be integrating shortly, then we will know.

Of which expressions, from your tenure as manager, are you most proud? Do you get involved much in the creation process?
Yes, sometimes involved.. so Triple Wood, PX or An Cuan Mor are the best. Had to choose all 3!!

What have been trade and consumer reactions to Laphroaig Select and An Cuan Mor (I prefer the latter)?
We generally get positive reviews. These 2 are for different types of consumers. Select is for novices, not purists.  An Cuan Mor gives fantastic European oak effects.

And it goes well with food too. Friends of Laphroaig now has over 600,000 members and is quite an online community too. Are you aiming for world domination here?!
Yeah, whisky does work well with food. FOL has given us world domination in peaty whiskies, yes… Ha ha – you guessed!!

I was just thinking you might take over and run the world from Islay. What about John Campbell off duty. I hear you play golf – much time for that?
Islay is the center of the universe, right? I used to play a lot of golf, not so much now…run a little and muck about with my kids.

The running: just for fitness or marathons?
Just fitness right now, but I will see where it goes, never know… if my knees last.

I’ve just spent a week walking round Paris; no knees left. I’ve noted family and travel as other interests. What do you like to do as a family?
Well, I like to take my boys and do fun stuff, so live sport is always good, football, rugby, American football, and generally just have wee adventures.

Sounds magic. I have little nieces but they live overseas so we don’t see them often to do stuff. Favorite place to travel for a) work and b) leisure?
So, fave place I have been to for work is hard! I like the U.S. a lot and I will say Seattle and for leisure I love Portugal – food and weather are great.

I liked Seattle too. Lovely relaxed feel to the place. Where will the next Laphroaig Live online broadcast come from (if there is to be one)?
There is and I am not sure if I can say yet. It will be in Sweden tho!!! Whoops ☺

The frozen north! Any plans yet for the distillery’s bicentenary in 2015 or are those a secret?
Not secret, just not fully completed yet, but we’ll have stuff throughout the year to celebrate with.

So we’ll look forward to hearing more before 2015 and for next year’s Islay Whisky Fest. Social media – friend or foe?
Social media is instant, so can be both… but mainly positive I feel.

Lastly, what would be your ideal desert island dram? It can either be one of your own or from somewhere else.
Bit boring and maybe predictable with desert island dram, but it has to be 10 year old Laphroaig. It has a depth of flavor that you get in only 3 or 4 other single malts.

More whiskies (and whiskeys) heading our way

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

The new and seasonal releases are still picking up with autumn just around the bend. (This post is from a U.S. perspective.)

There’s yet another 10 year old, 100% rye whiskey from an undisclosed Canadian source coming out called Masterson’s. I have a bottle and tried it last night. It definitely displays the same flavor profile as WhistlePig and Jefferson’s Rye whiskeys. So, if you missed out on your chance to get those, you have another opportunity with Masterson’s. It’s 90 proof and will be priced at around $80.

I also have a review sample of the 2011 Limited Edition release from the Four Roses distillery. This one combines four different recipes, aged between 11 and 13 years. It’s being released in September.

Buffalo Trace announced the impending release of this year’s Antique Collection. No change in the whiskey line. Just tweaks. I’m looking forward to trying them.

Laphroaig Triple Wood is finally hitting the U.S. shores. Look out for that one.

Finally, Drambuie introduced “Drambuie 15″ in the U.S. It’s a more premium version of the liqueur, supposedly made with Speyside malts (pictured). It’s bottled at 43% and will be around $56.

I’ll try to get some formal reviews done on the American whiskeys and post them up here soon. (You can find my Laphroaig Triple Wood review here. )

Review: Laphroaig Cairdeas

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Here’s another new Islay whisky release. It’s also a NAS whisky (No Age Statement.) This one tastes younger than Ardbeg Alligator, which I reviewed on Monday.

Laphroaig Cairdeas, 50.5%, $60

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. — John Hansell

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84

Review: Hart Brothers (distilled at Laphroaig)

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Hart Brothers (distilled at Laphroaig), 1990 vintage, 18 year old, 46%, $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.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

Review: Laphroaig Triple Wood

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Dominic Roskrow reviewed this whisky already on WDJK here. Some of you have been asking for comparative reviews, so here’s my take on it. (He liked it a little more than I did.)

Laphroaig Triple Wood, 48%, $100
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 in the same ballpark. If you like sherry-influenced whiskies, then go for the Triple Wood. If not, then consider the Quarter Cask. (Currently Exclusive to Travel Retail and European specialist retailers.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 90

Distillery LIVE 2010 – Online Laphroaig Whisky Tasting Today

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I participated in this event last year (at Maker’s Mark Distillery) with Kevin Smith (then Maker’s Mark Distillery Manager) and John Campbell (Laphroaig Distillery Manager). It was  a great time. This one looks like it will be a lot of fun too!

Live Online Whisky Tasting at 2pm Today!

Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Scotch is inviting you and your readers to experience a taste of Scotland with a flavor of Spain for the fourth annual Laphroaig LIVE online tasting event that will be broadcast from the Harveys’ Bodegas in Jerez, Spain. This year’s webcast will delight whisky and sherry lovers from across the world with tastings of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Laphroaig Triple Wood, Laphroaig 25 Year Old, Harveys Fino and Harveys Oloroso. The event will take place on Thursday, September 23, at 2 p.m. EST and will be accessible to all by visiting

Laphroaig Distillery Manager John Campbell, Laphroaig U.S. Brand Ambassador Simon Brooking and Harveys Bristol Cream General Manager Jose Antonio Sauto will come together to celebrate the distinctive taste of Laphroaig expressions that have been matured in Sherry casks. The online tasting and educational seminar will give viewers an inside look into the ‘marriage’ between the Sherried oaky flavors derived from the Oloroso Sherry casks and the sweet flavors from oak bourbon barrels, comparing the flavors of each expression through its maturation process.

For more information on Laphroaig LIVE 2010, including access to the free embed code, please visit

Guest Review: Laphroaig Triple Wood, 48%, $100

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

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.) – Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 94

Malt Advocate Magazine’s “Top Ten New Whiskies” for 2009

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Top Ten New Whiskies of the Year (listed alphabetically)

You will not be happy with the prices of some of these whiskies, but here’s our ten best new whiskies released in 2009 (keeping in mind that whiskies must have been for sale in the U.S. in the 2009 calendar year to be eligible).

The selection process for this list is based primarily on the whisky’s rating. All ten whiskies rated 95 or higher in Malt Advocate  magazine.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan, 57.1%, $85
Powerful, muscular, well-textured, and invigorating. Even within the realm of Ardbeg, this one stands out. There are many relatively young whiskies with no age statement on the market. This is a benchmark. Quite stunning!

Brora 30 year old (2009 Release), 53.2%, $400
This whisky shows all the good aspects of a very mature whisky (depth, complexity) without all the bad ones (excessive oak, one-dimensional). It’s very clean and polished. One of the best releases from this shuttered distillery.

Dalmore 50 year old, $1,500/100ml
Incredibly viscous and chewy, and thick on the tongue. Very complex too, with that classic Dalmore marmalade note as its foundation. The flavors evolve like waves lapping on a beach. It is a whisky you can’t drink slowly enough.

Gold Bowmore, 1964 Vintage, 42.4% $6,250
Surprisingly lively for its age. I like this whisky better than White Bowmore but feels that it falls short of Black Bowmore, because it’s a bit softer and less vibrant on the palate. (But, for most of you with limited means, I can understand if you don’t really care.)

Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve, 46% (2009 vintage), $250
I love the pot still character and the lushness that some of the port-wood aging has imparted. If anything,  this 2009 vintage is even richer and lusher than the previous 2007 vintage I reviewed. Another classic Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve.

Laphroaig 25 year old, 51.2%, $500
I love the way the flavors of this whisky evolve on the palate. 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.

Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve (Bottle B1986), 23 year old, 47.8%, $220
My review of this whiskey a few years back indicated this whiskey was too woody and past it’s prime to be a stellar whiskey. This one is much better. (Yes, whiskey bottlings do change over time.) There’s great balance and the oak is in check.

Parkers Heritage Selection Golden Anniversary, 50%, $150
This is a fabulous whiskey: seamless, incredibly complex, with an impeccable marriage of youth and maturity. It’s also very even-keeled throughout. A classic bourbon that’s very complex and yet very drinkable.

Rittenhouse Rye 25 year old (Barrel #1), 50%, $190
Not as vibrant as the 21 year old Rittenhouse Rye released a few years back, but it’s more sophisticated, which more than makes up for it. I can’t speak for the other barrels in this lot, but I think this one is a great example of what a 20-plus year old rye whisky should taste like.

William Larue Weller (2009 release), 67.4%, $65
This whiskey has improved greatly over the past two years. (I thought that the 2007 release was almost too easy-going, as some wheated bourbon can be.) A little more oak spice has added balance, complexity and depth. Very clean on the palate too. Excellent!

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Lifetime Achievement Awards”: John Ramsay and Robert Hicks

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

This year, we honor two master blenders who have greatly impacted the Scotch whisky industry.

John Ramsay

John Ramsay retired in 2009 after 43 years in the whisky industry. He started as a chemist in 1966, and over the years he’s had the combined roles of both master blender and chemist (the last eighteen years being with Edrington).

By the time he retired, he was responsible for both the laboratory and sample rooms (sensory analysis), overseeing employees responsible for the sensory examination of casks, new distillate, and mature whiskies. He’s been on the judging panel for various spirits competitions, and is also a “Keeper of the Quaich.”

John was the master blender for well-known blends like Cutty Sark and The Famous Grouse, and was also one of the “malt masters” of Highland Park and The Macallan. But perhaps his most significant achievement was the selection and creation of The Glenrothes since its release as a single malt in 1994. His signature is proudly stamped on every bottle of it since 2004, when he was involved in the creation of their “vintage” concept, which continues today.

Well done, John.

Robert Hicks

Robert Hicks started his career in whisky back in 1964. Before retiring from Allied Distillers in 2005 as master blender, he was responsible for the quality and flavor of many well-known whisky brands, including Ballantine’s, Teacher’s Highland Cream, and Laphroaig.

Since 2005, he has been a consultant master blender for Beam Global Spirits and Wines, working on Teacher’s Highland Cream, Laphroaig, and Ardmore whiskies.

His expertise covers all parts of the whisky industry, from distilling and maturation to blending, bottling, and marketing. Because of his efforts he has received numerous awards, and so have his whiskies. His most recent effort, and the one he’s most proud of, is the development of Laphroaig Quarter Cask.

As the scotch brand director for Beam Global put it: “To produce this exciting and unique Laphroaig variant is a tribute to the skills of Robert Hicks, who has overseen every step of this unrivaled process.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Here’s the video link of my live webcast with Laphroaig and Maker’s Mark

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

For those of you who missed the live webcast at the Maker’s Mark distillery Friday night, here’s the video link so you can watch it now.

The live webcast featured Distillery Managers John Campbell (Laphroaig) and Kevin Smith (Maker’s Mark) and me at the Maker’s Mark distillery. We tasted some of the Laphroaig single malt scotch line (10, 18, 25) along with Maker’s Mark bourbon. We also taste some cocktails and food made with whiskies from both distilleries.

There’s lots of great stuff in this webcast. I think you’ll enjoy it and maybe even learn a thing or two.

Have a look. Let me know your thoughts. And let me know if you have any questions we didn’t answer.