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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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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Laphroaig Four Oak

Laphroaig Four OakDistillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

Over the past years, Laphroaig has been happily experimenting with different types of maturation. Quarter casks, bourbon barrels, sherry casks and virgin oak are just some of the casks used in Laphroaig’s recent NAS expressions. But why choose when you can actually use all of them? This is exactly what Laphroaig has done for their new expression, aptly called Four Oak. Given this name, it may not come as a surprise that the Four Oak one-ups the Triple Wood by adding an extra layer of maturation. While the Triple Wood is essentially a sherry finished version of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Four Oak adds the virgin oak character that’s also found in Laphroaig QA Cask, meaning it really has a wealth of influences to draw upon. The QA Cask and Triple wood are both excellent Laphroaig expressions, albeit quite different in terms of character. Do the two styles mix? Let’s find out!

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Laphroaig Distillery

Laphroaig Water to Whisky Experience

I’ve visited quite some distilleries over the years, and at most you will be warmly received with a short tour of the premises, followed by a generous helping of the local liquid. While I love these distillery visits, there is no denying that by and large, they mostly show the same thing. This is why it’s so refreshing that Laphroaig has put on something more extensive for the die-hard whisky fan. The tour is called the Water to Whisky Experience, it takes around 4,5 hours and will currently set you back £100 (it was much cheaper when I went in 2011, but did admittedly not involve taking home your own bottle). A trip to Islay is always something special, but this distillery experience really is the icing on the proverbial cake.

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Islay Tasting

islay-tasting-01

For a long time now I had been intending to organise a tasting that includes each of Islay’s eight distilleries, and tonight the time had finally come. Known for its distinctively peaty, smoky whiskies, the island of Islay is often considered a whisky region in its own right. This is no wonder, as the island lives and breathes whisky, providing the lifeblood for a population of just over 3000 people. Peat bogs are ubiquitous, the salty sea breeze can be felt anywhere and the sight of a distillery’s chimney is never far away.

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Laphroaig Tasting

laphroaig-finishes-tasting-02Tonight I was lucky enough to get together a fantastic line-up of different Laphroaigs for a comparison. While each of these whiskies is made of identical spirit flowing from Laphroaig’s stills, the end result is vastly different. As such, this tasting gives a great insight in the effect that maturation has on a whisky. Although Laphroaig is secretive about the age of their whiskies, clearly some of these expressions have matured longer than others. With no actual ages at hand, we are limited to looking at the effects that the different casks have had on the Laphroaig spirit. And indeed, this choice of cask makes a world of difference, producing a spectacular range of diverse drams. Below is a short description of each of the whiskies, including a link to the full review.

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Laphroaig Brodir

laphroaig-brodir-01Distillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 48%

You don’t need to be a linguist to guess the meaning of Laphroaig’s latest expression. Brodir means Brother in Norse, a nod to the close historical connections between Islay and the Vikings that once roamed the island. Keeping in line with the latest Laphroaig expressions, Brodir was initially meant as a travel retail exclusive, but can now be bought pretty much anywhere. After an initial maturation in ex-bourbon barrels, this whisky was transferred to European oak casks that previously held ruby port. This finish has provided an extra layer of sweetness and sophistication, resulting in a softer Laphroaig than we are used to. In this sense, Brodir is very much in tune with its siblings, Laphroaig QA Cask and PX Cask. Brodir does come with quite a hefty price tag, which may raise some eyebrows for what is another NAS bottling. However, a lack of age statement certainly does not translate into a lack of flavour, as Brodir brims with depth, complexity and elegance. And of course, as may be expected from a Laphroaig, a healthy measure of peat smoke. Very tasty stuff!

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Laphroaig 10 year old

Laphroaig 10 year oldDistillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: 10 year old
abv: 40%

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.

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Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Laphroaig Quarter Cask ReviewDistillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 48%

Another No Age Statement from Laphroaig, the Quarter Cask takes its name from a second maturation it has received in much smaller American oak casks. At about a quarter the size of a normal ex-bourbon barrel, the ratio of wood surface to liquid is much higher in a quarter cask. This increased contact allows the whisky to soak up flavour from the oak at a much faster rate. And indeed, this is noticeable in the end result: while the feisty Laphroaig character is most definitely still present, there is also an extra layer of oaky, vanilla creaminess.

Laphroaig claims the use of quarter casks is a long-lost tradition that is just now being revived. If that’s the case, this tradition seems here to stay, as the Quarter Cask now forms the basis for various other Laphroaig expressions. And who can blame them, as the Quarter Cask is a mighty fine dram in its own right.

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Laphroaig PX Cask

Laphroaig PX Cask ReviewDistillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 48%

The latest member to join Laphroaig’s travel retail exclusive family, PX Cask has received a triple maturation. After an initial ageing period in American ex-bourbon barrels, this whisky was then transferred to much smaller quarter casks. Because of their high surface to liquid ratio, these small barrels manage to impart a lot of oaky vanilla flavours  in a relatively short time. To top it off, this Laphroaig was then transferred to European oak that previously held  Pedro Ximénez sherry, from which the PX Cask gets its name. As such, it is essentially a sherry-finished version of the Laphroaig Quarter Cask, also bottled at 48%. Yet the difference between the two is striking, with the PX finish adding an additional layer of richness and complexity to an already distinctive whisky. The result is a great dram, a peat monster with something extra. Although Laphroaig PX cask is now available in most online shops, there is one great advantage to its travel retail status: the bottle is a full litre. You’re going to need it, this whisky is very drinkable!

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