Ahh Laphroaig! Nothing like a kick of iodine to hit you in the face and make your eyes water. Laphroaig is the ultimate love it or hate it dram, so the mere fact I had this tasting will tell you which camp I’m in. While I was previously able to line up a nice selection of Laphroaigs, tonight’s tasting upped the ante with a few more premium bottlings. Over the past years, Laphroaig has released quite a lot of new expressions, all without an age statement. Another noticeable trend has been the use of quarter casks in almost all of their whisky. While this is a testament to the success of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, it’s also an indication that Laphroaig doesn’t shy away from speeding up the maturation process by using casks with a higher surface-to-liquid ratio. Lastly, Laphroaig seems to be marrying more and more different cask types together, culminating in the (rather disappointing) Four Oak. So… what are these recent Laphroaigs like, and how do they stack up against some of the old guns? Let’s find out: below is a short description of each of the whiskies, including a link to the full review.
The entry level bottling in Laphroaig’s range, Select appears like a thinner, watered-down version of the 10 year old. It’s also slightly tart and even more seaweedy. But with so many Laphroaigs still to go, this is a nice dram to whet the appetite. Bottled at 40%.
Laphroaig 10 year old
As the core expression, this whisky perhaps best embodies the Laphroaig house style. Its maritime character comes with a big kick of iodine, smoke and seaweed. Lacking an additional finish, this whisky is drier and less sweet than some of the other Laphroaigs in this tasting. Bottled at 40%.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Finished in smaller ‘quarter casks’ for extra contact with the wood, this Laphroaig provides a noticeably bigger kick in terms of alcohol percentage. The medicinal character of the 10 year old is less pronounced here, but is replaced by an even thicker screen of smoke, with notes of grilled meat. Provides the perfect bridge between the 10 year old and some of the Laphroaigs described below. Bottled at 48%.
Laphroaig Four Oak
The name says it all: this Laphroaig has been aged in four different cask types. Bourbon barrels, quarter casks, sherry butts and virgin oak to be precise. However, this plethora of casks cannot mask the fact that Four Oak is a young whisky full of impurities. And not in a good, bold, Laphroaig-type way either. Showcasing that sometimes less is more, Four Oak is no match for the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Bottled at 40%.
Laphroaig QA Cask
This dram is much softer and sweeter, both on the nose and the palate. The fact it’s been finished in a virgin oak cask means there’s a huge vanilla influence, taking some of the sharp, smoky edges off this Laphroaig. In many ways this is a friendlier version of the 10 year old. Bottled at 40%.
Laphroaig Triple Wood
This whisky has aged in three different cask types, and is essentially an Oloroso sherry finished Quarter Cask. This gives it a mellow, sophisticated character. The nose is expressive, the body velvety and full, while the finish still provides plenty of peat smoke. Excellent stuff, and a great build-up to the last few expressions. Bottled at 48%.
Dubbed the richest Laphroaig ever made by none other than distillery manager John Campbell, Laphroaig Lore comes with some big expectations. It mostly manages to fulfil these through a lavishly spicy flavour profile, while maintaining its maritime Laphroaig character. Not quite the richest Laphroaig in this tasting though; that honour goes to Laphroaig Brodir. Bottled at 48%.
Laphroaig The 1815 Legacy Edition
Having been laid to rest in new European oak hogsheads, Laphroaig 1815 isn’t short on flavour. There are lush notes of red fruit, while a maturation in heavily charred casks ensures that this Laphroaig doesn’t lose its bite. It goes toe to toe with Laphroaig Lore… it’s hard to choose which I prefer. Bottled at 48%.
This Laphroaig is something else entirely. Not your typical youthful Islay whisky, Brodir oozes elegance, maturity and complexity. Finished in port pipes, this dram is much fruitier and richer than other Laphroaigs. The body is amazingly full and the usual peatiness is more subdued. This smooth and sophisticated version of Laphroaig is perhaps my favourite in the range. Bottled at 48%.