So what do you do when you want to beat a competitor’s vast success with Double Wood? Simple. Triple Wood! (Although Auchentoshan beat them to it). In this case, a reasonable vatting of standard ex-bourbon Laphroaig, Laphroaig Quarter-Cask (does that really count as a separate ‘wood’?), and ex-oloroso sherry casks. The whole is bottled at a robust 48% ABV and not chill-filtered.
Nose: Slightly muted (but recognizable) Laphroaig peat, with an immediate wave of fresh red fruits. This marriage creates a distinct ‘saltwater taffy’ vibe, of the red variety. Is ‘red saltwater taffy’ a tasting note? It is now. Deeper in there’s some plum jam, piney campfire smoke, and the usual Laphroaig ‘iodine’ (which I usually read as seaweed), although less than usual.
Palate: The red fruits come to the fore, and are sweeter than I expected – Jolly Rancher style. Red ones. Also, cinnamon red-hots, campfire smoke, seaspray, and wet charcoal.
Finish: Long-ish. The red fruit thing gets a little weird here. Jammy, but smoked. Without the sweet background of malt, it just leaves a taste like burned jam behind. At the tail end, a little bitter oak charcoal and some mint.
With Water: Water sparks up the fruitiness, and adds a little tartness. It does little on the palate besides tame the burn, although it allows some sweet notes to echo into the finish, thus reducing that dissonant burned jam note I mentioned. Water does help here.
Overall: This is not as well integrated as I’d like. When I drink Laphroaig, I want the bitter coastal salt-flecked winds of Islay to batter me. I want smoke and fire and salt. I don’t really want smoky jam… but that’s me. I usually have this reaction with sherry-aged peated malt (except Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition, where it works really well, and Kilchoman Machir Bay, where it only plays a supporting role). I mean – do you personally like strawberry jam with your smoked salmon, or grape preserves with your maki sushi? Through personal bias alone, I wouldn’t buy a bottle of this, saving my money instead for the essential Laphroaig 10 year – or two! That said, die-hard Laphroaig fans will need to buy a bottle to feed the obsession, and anyone who likes smokey jam – this is your moment.