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Laphroaig 15

Laphroaig 15yo OB

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Laphroaig, Laphroaig… How many time have you heard the phrase ‘love it or loathe it’ applied to this whisky? There is no middle ground with Laphroaig, though the same could possibly be said of it’s two equally famous neighbours. This is cult whisky territory. Case in point: Diageo’s 2013 special releases’ RRPs are telling.

Port Ellen 13th Release. 34yo. RRP £1500

Lagavulin 1976. 37yo. RRP £1950

Port Ellen, another cult whisky with peaty origins, was closed in 1983. There is a finite amount of this malt left and reports are that Diageo’s supplies have dwindled indeed, though noone knows for sure how much there is to go. RRP: 1500 GBP.

Lagavulin is a working distillery churning out 2.2 million litres a year at full capacity – and it is very much working at full capacity to slate the world’s thirst for heavily peated malt whisky. Granted a 37yo bottling would represent the oldest bottling ever released for Lagavulin, but it has an even higher price point than the Port Ellen. By comparison, the 1977 Convalmore 36yo is priced at  £600. So it goes with the gods of demand and supply.

Look further down the Kildalton coast and LVMH-run Ardbeg is head to head in the race to capitalize on the market boom. Laphroaig on the other hand, despite being the best selling Islay distillery, has kept its head about it and maintained a fairer pricing strategy. Just look at the simple distillery labels. This is a down to earth distillery with its feet firmly planted in the peat.

Incidently, Laphroaig is HRH Prince Charles favourite distillery. He once skidded a chartered plane into the soft mud in attempting to visit the island, and the 15yo was reportedly his favourite expression.

But wait before we get to the tasting, it is noteworthy to add that something odd occurs with the stills. Laphroaig has 7 stills, 3 wash and 4 spirit stills. the 4th spirit is double the size of the spirit stills. Each batch of Laphroaig’s fermented wort is enough to fill 5 wash stills, so the 3 wash stills are run first, and fed into the 3 smaller spirit stills, then the remaining 2 wash runs are run in 2 of the wash stills, then fed into the 4th larges spirit still, which is intentionally run fast. This results in 2 different tasting new make that are blended before barrelling.

Apparently it is the large spirit still that adds the heavy, oily elements into Laphroaig’s whisky, I wonder how a 10yo made with only spirit from that still would taste.

Other noteworthy points:

– actively malts some of its own malt on its own floor maltings,

– uses ex-Maker’s Mark barrels, so a sherried Laphroaig is a rare but delicious thing.

But we digress, enough with all that, the discontinued 15 then, now replaced by an 18yo expression. Next to the immense 10yo, the 15 is its matured cousin, the family resemblance cannot be missed of course, but the 15 has grown up a bit and has seen that not everything must be taken to the extreme.

 

Nose  Nose: Tarry, earthy. Medicinal peat. Salt tang. It is the Kildalton coast  on a sunny day. Oak and hints of vanilla, and something candied. 

Taste  Palate: Thick and slightly sweet. Seaweed and menthol. Smoky dry grass. Not overpowering on the palate the way the 10 arrives, but elegant.

Finish  Finish: Long and smoky. Excellent whisky for a peathead on a quiet evening.

 

—- EDIT—-

Score60

 

Just wanted to come back to give it a score. Lappy 15 has got subtlety going for it – where the 10 is a rush of medicine, peat, smoke and sea, the 15 really takes all that back down to polite levels. Yes all those are still there, more coastal on the nose, slightly medicinal on the tongue with a noticeable bright fruit as well. It’s just different from the 10. But I like my Islays at 11 on the dial, so though this is a fine whisky in its own right, I would reach for the 10.

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This entry was posted on December 8, 2013 by in Laphroaig and tagged , , , .
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