Laphraoaig is well known for its biting drams (at least when speaking of the younger versions), full of medicinal, iodine, tarry, briny peaty malts, and for a very good reason. Their 10 year old is quite rough, very powerful in terms of sheer phenol power and peat muscle, yet very popular.
Yesterday after sipping the 18 year old expression, it occurred to me that despite the fact that Laphraoaig is one of my favorite Islay distilleries (and distilleries in general, for that matter) I’ve yet to post any Laphraoaig notes whatsoever… weird you say right? (Well, Lagavulin is also missing – so no hard feelings eh? 😉 )
The first Laphraoaigs I’ve sampled were indeed the 10 year old, the Excellent Quarter Cask (which well deserves a post of its own) and the exceptional Cask strength. Only afterwards did I continue with the older and milder Laphraoaigs (16, 18). Most of you probably think that I usually prefer younger peaty malts to older more refined expressions (which is sometimes true) , but after getting a tweet from Jeff last night, who was surprised to see how much I dig this 18 year old expression, I’ve decided it’s time for a wee tasting note for this gem of a dram. Ok, enough said, let’s begin the dramming. Shall we?
Laphraoaig 18 year old , 48% ABV (un-chill filtered)
Color : Golden hue.
Nose: Sweet fruits, mixed with wood smoke, smoked ham, spice (cinnamon) and briny notes. I’d say a soft briny syrup. The brine is there, yet not masking the other odors and counterparts the sweeter notes. peat is definitely there. A gentle phenolic nose. No much tar,rubber etc which we regularly find on the younger siblings. If you are expecting an “in your face” peat phenolic attack, you will be disappointed. it’s so gently yet it encompasses the entire Islay experience.
Palate: The palate is much stronger than the nose suggests, at 48% there is enough OOMPH. it’s like an older lady, which hides a lot of muscle underneath her white dress. It starts sweeter , then comes the smoke and spice attack , mainly pepper but also hints of something sweeter (cinnamon), and some wood ashes and coal. Oaky notes are also there, but not too imposing. all just combines perfectly well in harmony. beautiful.
Finish: the finish is of good length, but not quite very long. wood stays in your mouth for quite a while, along with some bitter notes of pepper wood and wood-ash.
I cant pinpoint what exactly does it for me here, but the entire mix of tastes and smells is greater than it’s parts combined together. It’s well balanced, yet has enough peat,smoke and phenol dosage there to satisfy my palate and my intake of peat. It’s not too powerful, and it has got a lot of finesse. well rounded and again, balance balance balance. I find it hard to have only one dram of this malt. i find myself pouring another each time i start, it’s so addictive. I don’t get this urge for another dram with any malt, but if i do, i think it speaks for itself. The 48% alc. is very welcome and does contibute to the overall experience, but i have to say that it is barely noticable. This dram is smooth and gentle on you that i would have never thought it bottled at that ABV.
Kudus to Laphroaig. They have created an exquisite dram.
‘Shavuot’ Holiday Note:
Today we celebrate the Jewish holiday of “Shavuot”. it’s customary to eat mainly dairy dishes in this holiday (quiches,pizzas,cheese cuts etc). I really enjoy accompanying my Islay malts with cheeses. Personally i find most suitable to combine this malt with a not so strong flavored yellow cheeses such as Israeli made Manchego or “Tom” cheese from the excellent israeli dairy named “The Jacob’s farm” (“Meshek Jaacovs”). Excellent small dairy which makes abolutely amazing goat cheeses.
So, Happy Shavuot to all my jewish and non-jewish whisky mates.