November 27, 2010
Laphroaig is about as classic Islay as you can get. Very heavily peated, light bodied, a powerhouse of maritime flavors and smoke, smoke, and more smoke. Sometimes after a glass of Laphroaig, my mouth tastes like I’ve just finished smoking a pair of cigars. It really sticks with you, but in a good way.
Pale straw in color, slightly oily in the texture and with almost no thickness of body, this malt really lets you focus on the peat. Earthy, smoky, a tinge of sea flavors (seaweed, brine, iodine from the seaweed that grows profusely along the island’s coastline), and did I mention smoky?
I personally only buy the 10 year-old expression, because I feel that aging any further dampens the purity of the peat flavors. Also, at approximately $35, it’s probably the best deal in Single-Malt Scotch anywhere. I keep a bottle on hand at all times.
With Laphroaig’s Friends of Laphroaig program, the purchase of a bottle grants you the “lease” on one square foot of the distillery’s own peat bog. Yes, you can even show up at the distillery in person and they’ll give you a map to your “plot” and a dram of their whisky “against the chill sea breeze.” You can also register each bottle you buy and redeem points for merchandise in their online store.
Here are my tasting notes from my most recent glass of the 10 year-old Laphroaig:
Nose: A pile of burning hay and grass. Campfire. Scorched wood. Seaweed or sea air. Hickory smoked meat. Black pepper.
Palate: Thin body, ethereal. The peat is foremost, with notes of ash, freshly-dug earth, hardwood coals, and smoked fish. As it develops, sweeter flavors emerge. Rosewater, saltwater taffy, buttery croissants, malty beer, oatmeal.
Finish: Lingering, with hearty smoke and yet more peat. Also some oiliness on the tongue. The smoke will last all evening – I’ve even woken in the morning with my mouth tasting like a cigar.
A dash of water rounds the flavors out – you get more cereal sweetness up front, and the aromatic qualities are more noticable. This dram is somewhat improved by the addition of a minute amount of water.