Age: 10 year old
As Laphroaig’s core expression, the 10 year old embodies the distillery character in its purest form, unburdened by the process of extensive maturation or additional finishes. While many whisky makers boast of their maritime influences, no other whisky reflects this in the final product more than Laphroaig. Pungent, peaty and powerful, in many ways it is the quintessential Islay malt. As such Laphroaig is the ultimate ‘love it or hate it’ dram, a term the distillery itself once used as an advertising slogan. In fact, Laphroaig is so medicinal in flavour and aroma that it could legally be sold as a medical spirit during Prohibition in the Unites States.
I distinctly remember disliking that big rush of iodine the first time I tried Laphroaig 10 year old. Like olives, beer, or indeed whisky itself, Laphroaig is an acquired taste that I’ve come to love over the years. To quote another bit of Laphroaig marketing: “Laphroaig may seem a little aloof at first, but make the effort, broach acquaintance and we can guarantee you’ll have a warm and genuine friend for life.” If whisky bottles can indeed be counted as friends, you could certainly do worse than having Laphroaig 10 year old for a companion.
Nose: Salty sea air immediately bursts from the glass in gale force. Notes of iodine and seaweed give this whisky the briny, phenolic character that’s so classically Laphroaig. Underneath the tempest of salt and smoke it is hard to discover much else, but the aromas of white chocolate, honey and fresh barley eventually break through.
Palate: Warming and intensely smoky, like a campfire of driftwood and dried seaweed helping to protect against the Islay elements. Roasting over the fire are some freshly caught oysters, seasoned with a splash of lemon. Add to this a healthy measure of peat reek, as well as a very pleasant oaky sweetness and this makes for a great dram.
Finish: Long and intense. Waves of smoke continue tumbling over one another until only a dry, lingering, peaty sensation remains.
Verdict: What’s there to say? We all know what to expect from Laphroaig, and this 10 year old duly delivers. If this is in fact a whisky that you either love or hate, I am now firmly in the ‘love it’ camp. Having said that, for just a few Euros/Dollars/Pounds extra you can buy yourself the Laphroaig Quarter Cask, which is definitely worth the upgrade.