Type- Islay Single Malt Whisky, 10 yo, 40% ABV
Appearance- Strong Pale Straw to full Young Sauternes with medium thick slow moving tears.
Aroma- not for the faint hearted. There is a reason this is one of the few whiskys allowed in the United States during prohibition for medicinal purposes. Intense, strong, powerfully delicate, these are some of the things which come to mind when nosing Laphroig. The use of peat in this whisky has produced a very interesting and deep character. If you have ever been on a sea ship and taken in the various “sea smells” you will have some perception of the aromas, then stick your nose in the nearest hospital or medicine cabinet combining some single malt smells and you have Laphroig. This has become one of my favorite whiskys because of the unusual smells and the seer boldness of the experience. I am blasted with iodine followed by Band-Aids. Smoke entangles my senses as sea salt is intertwined in the beach fire. Then back to the hospital with the familiar medicinal smells. Once my nose has succumbed to the wildfire the softer side of things blossom. I am greeted with undefined smoked meats accompanied by the now evident sweet malted barley. With so many strong scents and so many delicate ones as well, I am having a lot of fun exploring this dram.
Taste- to my utter surprise I am not walking into a hospital or on a beach, but am face to face with a sweet, malted barley. This introduction eases my way to the more medicinal with iodine and bandages being present and welcome. The smoke invites me to explore and I have found a new friend. The fire has created smoked meats again drying them almost to the point of a salty jerky. As I dive more into the smoke I discover earth. Peat, grass, and yes earth like when I was a child and I planted my nose into tall grass and explored all the way down to the dirt, so familiar, yet so forgotten and now rediscovered. The smoke also reveals mildly “sea soaked” wood floating just underneath wanting to come out but shy enough to stay almost out of reach. This whisky has an almost velvety silkiness to it as it coats the mouth
With Water- the fire has been dulled just a touch. Smoke has cooled and hovers instead of overpowers (not in a bad way) and takes on an even sweeter character. The peat flavors are slightly more defined as are the medicinal but as with the smoke, they have settled into their place instead of competing to steal the show.
Finish- While the distinctive iodine and bandages have gone away, the medicinal remains to the end. Very rich and fulfilling with smoke and the welcome peaty earth staying. As time passes and the smoke dissipates I am left with touches of wood and hints of nut while the sweet flavors make their last gasps. This is one of the longer finishes I have experienced and it allowed me to reflect happily on all I was able to explore.
Verdict- Must Have
I need to start by saying, you will either like this or not. I have recommended Laphroig to friends and offered it at tastings and “I loved it or I hated it” always seems to be the reaction. I remember my first experience with Laphroig, I had just finished a very delicate Speyside single malt and then had this and was blown away. I went from delicate and heavily sweet to medicinal and smokey, and at that point I was mesmerized with Islay and all it has to offer. With all of the competing flavors and aromas I was happy to find they balance and work with each other instead of one being stronger than another. This whisky has made its way up on my list of favorites and for me is a must have/must try, but please, if you can, sample it before you buy it because while I love it, you may find it unapproachable and come to the realization you just wasted money.