Laphroaig (pronounced la-froyg) is one of the most famous distilleries in the world. Located on the western island of Islay, the distillery was founded in 1815 and produces the world's best selling smoky single malt whisky (the hugely popular 10 years old). Laphroaig is currently owned by Beam Global, who are one of the world's largest spirits companies, and the distillery has a capacity of around 2.5 million litres a year.
Macallan is another famous distillery and they also produce some of the biggest selling whiskies in the world. They consistently lie in third place for total world sales, behind only Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. The distillery is located in the heart of the Speyside region and is one of Scotland's largest, with a production capacity of 6 million litres a year. It has a lot of stills (21 to be precise!) but each one is small, fat and stands at less than 4 metres tall.
The colour of this Double Barrel is light gold and the nose is light, fresh and vibrant. There is a lot of pungent smoke (think of burning ash and bonfires), although there is also an astringent bitter element to this as well (think of hot tar and antiseptic). There is also some vanilla, malty cereal grains and a fruity sweetness (imagine dried fruits, apricots especially, and honey), although these struggle through the smoky elements and you have to work hard to get them. On the palate, the smokiness is the predominant feature (it is sweeter and more peaty and earthy this time, although the ashy/tarry notes are definately still present). There is some saltiness (think of sea water) and something bitter (imagine iodine and also damp wood). Other elements are present but again they are subtle and have to battle through the smokiness - vanilla, honey, something buttery and baked (reminded me of a biscuit or shortbread) and a hint of dried fruit. Add to this some raw spirit (this indicates that at least one of the two whiskies present is on the young side) and you have an interesting but ultimately unbalanced and zingy palate. The finish is sharp and spirity with a lot of alcohol burn - this is surprising as it is bottled at 46% ABV. It starts with some sweetness (that vanilla and honey again) before turning dry and a touch bitter at the end (that woodiness and iodine again).
This Double Barrel is a difficult whisky to get to grips with. The two iconic distilleries involved are not natural partners in many people's eyes and this can be seen in the final whisky. Laphroaig and Macallan are like chalk and cheese in the whisky world, having their own distinctive styles and fans. Here,the Laphroaig totally dominates and overpowers the more subtle Macallan, which struggles to show its own quality. This leaves me wondering who would buy this for £50? Fans of Laphroaig? Maybe. Fans of Macallan? No. Fans of both? Maybe. The Double Barrel is an definately an interesting whisky and an interesting experiment.