Age: No age statement
It’s no longer news that distilleries are replacing their aged standard expressions for no age statement bottlings. Talisker Skye and Bowmore Legend are just two examples. Laphroaig Select is another. Sure, the 10 year old is still around, but we should now view Select as the entry-level whisky for Laphroaig’s range. And as an entry-level, Select is meant to typify the distillery character and provide a teaser of what Laphroaig can do – at much cheaper production costs. But here’s the rub, many continue to view the 10 year old as the distillery’s standard bearer and reference point against which other Laphroaigs are judged. And truth is, that’s not a standard we can expect Laphroaig Select to live up to. To keep the price point attractive, Select consists of rather immature spirit, which was put through a wide variety of different casks. The result is a light, toned down version of Laphroaig. Given the love-it-or-hate-it character of Laphroaig, this does perhaps make for a better entry point, but not necessarily a better whisky.
Colour: Light honey
Nose: With pungent, briny aromas, Select is a quintessential Laphroaig, despite the many different cask influences. There are the usual scents of hemp ropes, fishing nets and smoked kippers. Underneath lingers the light, fruity perfume of bananas and white grapes, with an added dash of white pepper and sawdust.
Palate: Light bodied. This Laphroaig’s tender age is plain to see, but Select is still a fairly smooth drink. Earthy, smoky notes balance with a more spicy character, like a peppered peat bog. Dried shellfish round out this rather straightforward dram.
Finish: Short and not very warming. There’s a rather bitter, earthy aftertaste, like autumn leaves coated in clouds of peat reek.
Verdict: Laphroaig Select could really do with some extra presence. It doesn’t quite deliver the usual Laphroaig punch. That’s not because it’s been tamed by maturation (like its siblings QA Cask or Brodir), but because it’s simply a bit… thin. Select is lacking some body and depth, but of course that’s to be expected from an entry level bottling. One upside though is that Select comes with a more than reasonable price tag – unlike Laphroaig Four Oak, which is equally disappointing at twice the price. So does Select provide enough bang for your buck? Maybe… but chip in a bit extra and you can get the excellent Quarter Cask, which is a much, much better deal.