REVIEW: LAPHROAIG 4 CORE EXPRESSIONS
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of having a lovely Skype date with Simon Brooking, National Scotch Brand Ambassador for Beam Suntory, where he was kind enough to walk me through 4 Laphroaig expressions. Those four included Lore, the 10 Year Old, Quarter Cask and Select, each accompanied by their own John Kelly Chocolate.
Currently Laphroaig's marketing campaign of #OPINIONSWELCOME has proven successful and is truly brilliant in my humble opinion, full of some funny stories. When the package of whiskies arrived to my house, the bold font on the front of the box above had me thinking of the first time I ever had a Laphroaig! It was in 2015 at Chateau La Durantie in Lanouaille, France, and we were celebrating the wedding of my sister in law and her husband! All of the guys were outside smoking cigars and drinking a Laphroaig that was brought as a gift from Scotland. I thought to myself, as I tend to do, "why cant I partake in this too?" So I took my happy self outside and smoked a cigar and took a sip of my first ever Laphroaig, long before I ever got into whisky! I remember thinking, "Wow, this is one strong cigar, I cant even taste the whisky!", thinking that the smokiness was coming solely from the cigar! I would have never guessed I would be reviewing these 3 years later!
Here are some photos from that evening, for good measure, and because I miss that place and that dress!
Now, before we get to the whiskies, I want to share a few fun facts about Laphroaig!
*France is the largest consuming market of Laphroaig
* The incredbile Bessie Williamson had a majority of juice laid down in ex bourbon American Oak by the 50's.
* Almost all of their barrels come from Maker's Mark, and are broken down into hogsheads
* Their water source is the Kilbride Stream
*Peat comes from Glenmachrie Peat Bog
* PPM ranges from 39-41
*When you buy a bottle of Laphroaig, you can use the little leaflet inside to register for your honorary plot of land at the distillery via the Friends of Laphroaig program!
LAPHROAIG 10 YEAR:
* A marriage of 10-13 year casks
* SRP: $49.99
* 40% ABV
NOSE: smells like a quintessential Islay whisky, like smoky sea water, doesnt smell heavy at all, with small tinge of suncream at the end.
PALATE: even at 40% it has a slight glossiness to it that I really appreciate. Vague sweetness followed by an iodine filled farewell.
FINISH: short and sweet and leaves a faint salty hug behind.
OVERALL: this expression is their "rough around the edges" child with a more industrial palate to me. Still though, its mellow and without an overwhelming punch of peat to turn you off.
LAPHROAIG QUARTER CASK:
* Starts off like any other Laphroaig and is aged in ex bourbon barrels. After a few years have gone by, it moves to smaller, and more narrow casks called Quarter Casks to speed up the process and impart a unique flavor profile.
* 12 staves are removed, which makes the barrel more narrow, which allows it to roll on the racks in the warehouses.
*Quarter casks promises that the liquid comes into more contact with the oak.
NOSE: much sweeter on the nose. The peat is hidden beneath waves of bananas and cream, with oil on the tail end. You get that extra 8% in your nostrils too, which I love.
PALATE: as soon as this hits your lips, you can instantly feel that 48%, with a hot welcome of sweet smoked fruits, like pineapple and mango. The peat follows behind and coats every acre of land in your mouth. Its so lovely.
FINISH: Finishes warm and tight in your chest, with waves of those tropical fruits lingering behind.
OVERALL: this is one of my favorite of the NAS core expressions. Its just a beautiful whisky. The peat again, is in that 39-41 PPM range and so its not aggressive, and is rather soft around the edges with a beautiful sweetness about it. Trust me, you'll know as soon as it touches the tip of your tongue.
*Made from Bourbon (first fill and refill) casks, Quarter casks, Oloroso and New European Oak casks, with 15-18 year whisky now going in the batch.
* Age of liquids range from 7-21 years
NOSE: even though this is a NAS whisky, the nose makes you believe it could possibly be a well aged whisky. It has that "matured musk" about it. This falls on the more savory side of the nose, with waves of smoked nuts and cheese. It leads me to believe it would pair well with a nice charcuterie board!
PALATE: it has a nice viscosity about it, oily and rich. The peat and the "punch" are softened a bit to me, with more of those meat and cheese notes. The nose wasn't lying! This would indeed pair well with a charcuterie board! It has a very faint dark bitter chocolate fog that comes in and out. Think brie and prosciutto with jam on a toasty. The peat is more "ash" or "sooty" and lingers a bit more on your tongue.
FINISH: no heat, just that sooty ash that leaves a drying feeling in your mouth.
OVERALL: I wish I could say it hits the price point, but I sadly don't feel like it does, FOR ME. For others, it absolutely may, it just depends on your preferences. I wish it had a bit more punch and depth to it, but overall a lovely whisky that is packed full of those soft meaty notes.
*5 different casks: 2 sherry, both oloroso and PX, 2 American Bourbon and 1 new American Oak.
* SRP: $44.99
* 40% ABV
*Bottled with natural color
NOSE: I really love the nose on this one. Its warm and inviting, like cozying up by the winter's first fire, while an apple pie bakes in the oven. Has a little bitter tinge of apple juice on the end.
PALATE: its 40% , so I expected it to be light in the viscosity field, BUTTTTTTTT.... I dont mind it on this. For some reason this one just stole my heart, which is a little nuts because its so left field of what I normally gravitate towards. It has this beautiful approachability to it, but also a familiar comfort. It honestly reminds me of eating a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats. Its has an oaty undertone but a little icing sweetness, but with soft peat. Its peated Frosted Mini Wheats!!
FINISH: its on the short side, but again, Im okay with it. Leaves a little burst of sweet peat in the center of the roof of your mouth!
OVERALL: I liked this so much I went out and bought a bottle the next day. Its priced perfectly, and makes a mean highball! Thanks for the suggestion, Simon!
Laphroaig, to me is the everlasting gobstopper of Islay, full of surprises with each layer, each whisky. It is typically the one whisky that everyone seems to have an opinion about, and I feel like they are holding true to their roots and putting out true Islay gems. I've been lucky enough to have a few of the 20 year + expressions and they have always been so stellar and truly works of art! If your first Laphroaig experience was anything short of fantastic, I urge you to go back and try it again. And again. And again.
The Small Print:
Huge thanks to the charming and kind Simon Brooking for spending his time with me, to explain these, and fill my whisky knowledge bank. And to Jessica Davis and Laphroaig for sending me these whiskies and allowing me to review them honestly. All reviews, thoughts and photos are my own!