Laphroaig Tasting 2.0

Lahproaig Tasting 01Ahh 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.

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Laphroaig Select

Laphroaig Select 01Distillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

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.

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Laphroaig Lore

Laphroaig Lore Review 01Distillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 48%

Lore
Noun. a body of traditions and knowledge on a subject held by a particular group, typically passed from person to person by word of mouth.

Laphroaig is no stranger to a bit of Gaelic here and there, but today’s bottling is in plain good old English. Which means it’s possible to look up a definition, and as always the folks at Oxford Dictionary were happy to oblige. So if you consider that the particular group are distillers, blenders and craftsmen, and that the subject is distilling Laphroaig, then the name Lore is really quite fitting. For indeed this bottling is meant as a celebration of the knowledge passed on through the ages, all the way from 1815 until the present day. Somewhere along the line someone must’ve passed some knowledge on the virtues of NAS whiskies, because Laphroaig has very much followed this trend. But enough has been said about this, for it’s quality that counts, not age statements. And on this front Laphroaig Lore is certainly not holding back. Current distillery manager John Campbell claims that Lore is the richest Laphroaig ever made, and given that it’s composed of 7 to 21 year old whisky, including some aged in sherry butts and quarter casks, there may be some truth to this statement. Certainly Lore has picked up plenty of awards, and was named as best NAS Scotch in Jim Murray’s 2019 Whisky Bible. While I far from always agree with Jim Murray, I certainly did enjoy this luxuriously spicy Laphroaig!

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Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Distillery: Ardbeg
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 57.1%

When it was announced that the 1990 release of Airigh Nam Beist would be the last in the series, a collective sigh went through the Ardbeg fanbase. But of course every end leaves room for new beginnings, and fortunately Ardbeg chose to release Corryvreckan as a replacement. It’s safe to say the new bottling has been a great success, enjoying huge popularity and squarely earning its place in Ardbeg’s Ultimate Range.

Corryvreckan displays all of Ardbeg’s usual peaty, coastal characteristics, but with an amped up alcohol content. Aged primarily in bourbon barrels, there’s also some virgin French oak thrown into the mix (and even Burgundy casks it is rumoured), lending a spicy freshness to Corryvreckan. The result is an intense, eye-watering dram that’s a real feast for the senses.

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Kilchoman Loch Gorm (2018 Release)

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2018Distillery: Kilchoman
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

As usual, the 2018 edition of Kilchoman Loch Gorm is a vatting of whiskies that were aged exclusively in sherry casks. This makes Loch Gorm a much richer, sweeter proposition than other Kilchomans, and that’s never been more true than for the 2018 version. This year’s release comprises 15.000 bottles, made up of 19 ex-Oloroso sherry butts that were filled in 2007, 2008 and 2011. These are some of the oldest sherry casks ever filled at the distillery, and it shows: Loch Gorm 2018 is a stunner, a real sherry bomb of a Kilchoman. Of course, Kilchoman would not be Kilchoman without a generous helping of peat (50 ppm), so while this Loch Gorm is sweet and rounded, it’s also still a very lively Islay dram. All of this is right up my alley, so I can’t wait to dive straight into the review 🙂

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Lagavulin Distillers Edition

Lagavulin Distillers Edition 01Distillery: Lagavulin
Region: Islay
Age: Distilled in 2000, bottled in 2016
abv: 43%

Lagavulin is part of Diageo’s Classic Malts range. This of course means that its standard expression is treated to a finish in something sweet and juicy, and bottled as a Distillers Edition. For other Diageo stalwarts such as Oban (Montilla Fino) and Cragganmore (Port), these periods of extra maturation have been hugely successful. To me Lagavulin is undeniably the best whisky in the Classic Malts series, and the Distillers Edition does not disappoint. Finished in casks that previously held Pedro Ximénez sherry, this Lagavulin is both mellower and richer than its 16 year old sibling, which already provides a complexity rarely seen in other Islay distilleries.

This particular release was distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2016, the year in which Lagavulin celebrated its 200th anniversary. The Distillers Edition was not the official anniversary bottling though, with that honour being shared by Lagavulin’s 8 and 25 year old limited editions. Even so, this year’s Distillers Edition is as good as any the distillery has produced, so be sure to give it a try.

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Ardbeg An Oa

Ardbeg An Oa whisky review 01Distillery: Ardbeg
Region
: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.6%

With LVMH’s PR machine grinding at full gear, much has already been written about Ardbeg An Oa since its unveiling in August 2017. This new whisky is named after the Mull of Oa, a rocky peninsula in the southwest of Islay that shelters Ardbeg distillery from the Atlantic Ocean’s often stormy conditions. An Oa is meant to reflect these calmer waters by offering a mellower version of Ardbeg, in what amounts to a nice bit of meteorological marketing. The whisky comes in some stylish packaging, and is a vatting of several different casks, including new charred oak, PX sherry casks and first-fill bourbon barrels. I have been eagerly awaiting this release, but have also taken care to manage my expectations. The other members of the Ultimate Range are an extremely hard act to follow, so let’s hope Ardbeg An Oa doesn’t disappoint.

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Caol Ila Moch

Caol Ila Moch 01Distillery: Caol Ila
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Gaelic for ‘dawn’, Moch is supposedly Caol Ila’s first ever whisky selected purely on the basis of taste, rather than age, bottling strength or cask type. Arguably this is just marketing fluff, since Caol Ila’s master distiller will have evaluated the taste of each of the distillery’s whiskies prior to bottling. Even so, there’s no denying that Caol Ila Moch is a very tasty dram. It provides a bit of a lighter version of Caol Ila, without compromising on flavour and complexity. The result is a dram that juggles a softer side with the bold profile we’ve come to expect from Caol Ila. Enjoy the balance of this elegant Islay whisky!

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Laphroaig Triple Wood

Laphroaig Triple Wood 01Distillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 48%

Laphroaig Triple Wood’s name is a bit of a giveaway. As you might expect, this whisky has aged in three different types of cask, making it essentially an Oloroso sherry finished Quarter Cask. What the name does not tell you though, is that this is a fantastic drop of whisky, a Laphroaig with a twist. Compared to some of the distillery’s more youthful offerings, Triple Wood is a mellower, more sophisticated dram. The nose is expressive, the body velvety and rich, while the finish still provides plenty of peat smoke.

Although Triple Wood was formerly a travel retail exclusive, its popularity has earned it a place among Laphroaig’s core range. It is a distinction well earned, as this is one of the distillery’s very finest whiskies.

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Ardbeg Uigeadail

Ardbeg Uigeadail ReviewDistillery: Ardbeg
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 54.2%

Named after the loch that forms the distillery’s water source, Ardbeg Uigeadail is a vatting that marries younger, traditional Ardbeg spirit with older whiskies from casks that previously held sherry. Launched in 2003 at a time when no age statement bottlings were still a relative rarity, Uigeadail has certainly set a shining example for all NAS whiskies that have followed since. Although so far nothing comes close to the otherworldly Ardbeg Galileo, Uigeadail is definitely my favourite of the core range. And the 120.000+ members of the Ardbeg Committee agree: they have chosen Uigeadail as their most beloved Ardbeg. For me, Uigeadail has long been the go-to dram for finishing off a flight of smoky whiskies (be they Ardbegs or not). Having said that, it’s of course also great on its own, and I consider it to be the ultimate nightcap. However you drink it, Ardbeg Uigeadail is a phenomenal whisky and it’s well worth keeping a bottle in your collection.

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