Guest reviewer Ripley is back! His latest peaty review is Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength / Batch 001 / Bot. February 2009. I hope you enjoy his contribution to this blog as much as I have! Please read on:
Right on the top of the bottle, in large font, is "Batch 001" on one line, and "Bottled Feb .09" just below. The first thing I want to say is that this kind of labeling on the bottle is super smart. For one thing, my 47 year old eyes can clearly see it! The other thing is you can compare the bottle in your hands with someone else's review. How often have you found the exact bottling of what you read a review about? It may be my 47 year old eyes, but I can't seem to find any indication on most bottles about dates - so how do you know if you are sipping a 2009 or 2010 bottling, or a 2009 or 2010 release, etc? Of course blog reviews are much more up-to-date than books, which is why I read Jason's blog regularly.
Well anyway, in the case of what is currently available for the Laphroaig Cask Strength, this is it, at 57.8% APV. Batch 002 has not been released yet. The reason they started numbering batches is because in the past, when they had multiple bottlings per year, the Distillery found it difficult to match % APV. This way they don't have to try and match alcohol level of the last bottling, and it is easier all around.
This whisky is not processed, just "barrier-filtered". From their website:
"We mature Laphroaig in seasoned oak barrels, charred before filling to impart a slight sweet vanilla nuttiness. Original Cask Strength Laphroaig is barrier-filtered only just, to remove the small char particles present. This means you will enjoy Laphroaig exactly as we made it."
When I first sampled a dram from my 1st bottle, I went into a hallucinogenic fugue...this whisky just blew me away. Next day, when I sampled another dram, I thought "what was I thinking...". I took a whisky vacation for a week and on my third sample I was seriously in love with this Laphroaig Cask Strength. This only goes to show (for me at least) that you need to spend some time with a whisky to get to know it, and that your taste buds will fluctuate from day to day, week to week, etc.... I think we develop tastes over time, so staying with one bottle for a while, without mixing it up with another, makes sense.
I remember reading an article many years ago. It said that children (and adults) need to taste something at least 7 times before they develop a taste for it or can honestly say they don't like it. I find that quite true in my life.
OK - this is an Islay, one of the core whisky makers from that wonderful island in Scotland. This is also some seriously powerful whisky - 57.8%! The bottle says to mix it with water in a 2 to 1 ratio, on the website it says "Adding a little water releases a rich aroma of peat smoke with some sweetness and strong hints of the sea.". I find that more than 1/3 water is too much. I haven't tried it with ice, but I will try that next time and add a comment on it. I like starting with 1/3 water and then working backwards to no water, to give you a nice spread on what this whisky is all about and not blow the taste buds on the first few sips. In some ways this is similar to the Quarter Cask, but not as richly sweet, it has more a whiff of elegant sweetness with definitely more peat and spiciness.
A thick, dark golden.
Swirl and sniff, swirl and sniff, swirl and ...wait a minute here...where's my big wallop of peat? I get hints of rich sweet cake with a distant slight whiff of smoke but I'm expecting CASK STRENGTH PEAT here... Oh, but add a little water, swirl, let it sit for a few minutes and voila: The sweet cake comes closer and the peat smoke starts drifting past your face. Still a little sweet, but not too rich.
Take a little sip and oh my, there is it, what Laphroaig is all about: Big peat smoke with beautiful Cuban coffee burnt banana sweetness while sitting on a beach chair near the ocean - can the balance get any better - I don't know, but I am in love. And oh this is chewy and grand, and then it knocks you out with spicy pepper.
There is the recent finish and then the finish finish - for which this whisky has none - it stays with forever...This has got to have the most staying and longest finish of any yet I have tried - big finish with nice after-effects. The peat is the longest sustainer, in fact you feel in in your pores and when you breathe, you taste the peat in your breath. It lingers with you like you are inhaling a distant campfire.
As I mentioned in a blog response to Jason, "There is something VERY special about this one. I can't nail it on the head but it it is big, beautiful, and complex". There is no other whisky that I thought was worth more money then I paid. I got this one on sale for $50 and then paid $52 for a second bottle. It's about $60 US where I live, and that is definitely OK. I'm on my 2nd bottle, and I still agree with myself!