Personally, I like Islays because they’re different.
I have friends who absolutely love Islays and hate other regions (“Speysides are too sweet and floral, it’s like eating a flower”). Other friends hate Islays because of the smoke and iodine (“It’s like chewing on charcoal wrapped in a band-aid”).
Hey, to each their own right? You like what you like, so let’s find more of it.
I think it’s an acquired taste and while Laphroaig isn’t as smoky and peaty as Ardbeg (peatiness is measured in parts per million of phenols and Ardbeg is king), but it has enough punch that you couldn’t mistake it for anything else.
I recently picked up a bottle in order to taste it side by side next to the Laphroaig Cairdeas (2013), which quickly became a favorite of mine. The difference between the two is significant. The Cairdeas, having matured about 14 months in port casks, is much sweeter and masks much of the medicinal flavors of the 10. The smoke is still there along with the seaweed and salt but the medicinal nature is almost completely gone.
As Paul commented, “The only thing I would definitely say is that the port wood edition is not the way to have someone tell if they like Laphroaig because it is so out of step with literally every other scotch they produce.”
Onto my notes:
- Color: Light yellow
- Nose: Smoke, iodine and some more smoke. Some grass and seaweed mixed in. Or it’s just my shirt because I just started a fire in the fireplace, but I’m pretty sure it’s the whisky.
- Palate: Again the smoke and iodine plus the unmistakable “band-aid” from the phenolics, which I like and I’m not entirely sure why. There’s big oak notes, which I love, and ash. There’s some sweetness in there, and a maltiness/cereals, but I can’t pick out anything specific.
- Finish: Long and drawn out, heavily of smoke.
One thing I didn’t do last time was add some water, which is said to open it up immensely and release the sweetness and maltiness. At 40% abv, I didn’t think to do it (not that % of alcohol is any indicator), so next time I’ll give it a try.
Locally, it’s available for $50, which is pricey for a 10 year old scotch but about par for an Islay. Ardbeg 10 goes for ~$56 and Lagavulin’s youngest standard bottling is a 16 YO for $68. (while there are other Islays, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg are the three most widely available in the United States).
I must say I got addicted to Laphroaig first time I tasted it.
I live in Turkey and unfortunately it is not sold locally.
I used to buy it from Duty Free stores during my travels but recenty it is less and less available.
I am nursing my stock and enjoying every drop.
I hope I will not run out.
First of all, great blog! I’m a new reader and have really enjoyed sifting through your posts. I had my first Laphroaig a couple months ago. I’m sort of the opposite of you in that I come from the world of bourbon and am only now venturing into the world of scotch. I’ve had several scotches before, but none of them have blown me away. Then Laphroaig came along. The bottle I tasted is, from what I understand, discontinued. It was a Laphroaig 15. The nose was a campfire, and the palate matched with a great peaty finish. I’ve gotten the band-aid note from so many other scotches, but while it was there in the Laphroaig, I didn’t find it to be dominant. I found the whisky to be mostly smoke and earth, like sucking the charred forest soil after a wildfire. And the weirdest part is I mean that in a very very good way. Anyway, I’m a Laphroaig enthusiast at this point. I’ve been meaning to pick up a bottle. The 10 seems to be the entry bottle, but I’ve heard great things about the Triple Wood and also the Cask Strength 10. Coming from the bourbon world, I’m fairly accustomed to cask strength spirits, so I don’t think the ABV would be jarring. But do you have a recommendation between those bottles?
Thanks for the blog and keep it up!
Laphroaig is very much the opposite of the world of sweet sweet bourbon – that smoke is something you really don’t find in many other places. History is fun right? Here’s a fun little trick, smell your glass the next day and it’ll smell like a campfire or a fireplace. It’s just wonderful.
I’ve actually never had either, I’ve had the 10yo, Quarter Cask, and the limited edition Cairdeas from 2013 but never the Triple Wood or the Cask Strength. Coming from bourbon, you’ll be used to a higher cask strength but Laphroaig’s Cask Strength is bottled at a whopping 55.7%, which is still higher than most bourbons. Just fair warning there. 🙂
Got it. Thanks for the guidance! How was the Quarter Cask? I’ve been eyeing that too. Between that and the 10 do you have a preference?
Go with the quarter cask, and you will love it. I’ve had most of the laphroiags, and quarter cask is the peatiest, smoothest, medicinal peat blast of them all. It sets the bar high, and the only laphroaig i would say compares is the cairdeas 2012.
I’d say that some of the Bruichladdich expressions are king in terms of phenols. Grab yourself a bottle of Octomore. It’s like being smacked in the face by a charred log wrapped in band-aids and covered in sausage grease.