Monday, March 8, 2010

Have just tried ... Laphroaig 16 years old 'Old Malt Cask' from Douglas Laing & Co

A best selling distillery
Laphroaig is one of the best known whisky distilleries in the world. The name is derived from the Gaelic for 'beautiful hollow by the broad bay' and is also one of the hardest distillery names to pronounce correctly! (all together now - la-froyg) The distillery is located on the island of Islay, which lies off the west coast of Scotland. Laphroaig and Islay are renowned for producing very smoky, peaty flavoured whisky and Laphroaig's 10 years old is the best selling smoky whisky in the world. The distillery was founded in 1810 by two brothers, Alexander and Donald Johnson, and is currently owned by drinks corporation Beam Global. It has an annual production capacity of 2.9 million litres and they produce some of the smokiest whiskies in the world there.

Who are Douglas Laing & Co?
This Laphroaig whisky is bottled by Douglas Laing and Co - a Glasgow based independent bottling company that was set up by Frederick Douglas Laing in 1948. They are one of the largest independent bottlers in Scotland and is currently run by Frederick's two sons, Stewart and Fred Junior. The distilleries fill directly to Douglas Laing’s own casks and these are then matured and released or blended at the appropriate time. Douglas Laing have three main ranges of whisky which contain over 200 different bottlings at any one time. These are named Provenance, Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare. This Laphroaig is part of the current Old Malt Cask range (these are bottled from single casks and at 50% ABV) and has been matured in a sherry cask for 16 years, is one of only 691 bottles and should cost around £75 a bottle.

Our tasting notes
This whisky has a golden colour with a hint of amber and the nose is vibrant, expressive and very enticing. An initial sweet caramel note is joined by dried fruits (sultanas especially), toasted nuts (imagine almonds) and some earthy smokiness (think of damp moss). This smokiness increases and becomes more phenolic and bitter (imagine tar or creosote - that's the stuff that you paint your garden fence with) and this counteracts the sweeter elements well. On the palate, this again starts sweetly before gaining a more bitter edge. There are plenty of notes present - caramel, cereals, honey and dried fruits (think of sultanas and raisins) on the sweeter side and burnt sugar, iodine, tar, peat smoke and spices (imagine nutmeg, peppercorns and chilli) on the more bitter side. The balance is completed by a distinct salty, briny note. The finish is very long, sweet and smoky. The smokiness is again reminiscent of tar and this is joined by woody oak and some spicy chilli heat. Sweeter notes include the caramel and mossy peat. With the addition of water, more grassiness and toffee-like sweetness comes out but the peaty smoke and spiciness are flattened.

What's the verdict?
This Laphroaig is very good. Having said that, the nose is fantastic, complex and expressive but while the palate and finish are lovely, they don't quite live up to that nose. This is being picky and it is one to add to your shopping list if you love your peaty, smoky whiskies. Single cask and higher strength Laphroaig's are rare and mainly the domain of the independent bottling companies such as Douglas Laing, so this feels like a real treat. If you don't like smoky whiskies then you should probably avoid it - however, if curiosity gets the better of you then you could try this in order to sample a good example of the smoky style.

1 comment:

Greg A. said...

Glad you liked the Laphroaig 16 year. We import the Laphroaig 15 year from Douglas under the realtively new "Douglas of Drumlanrig" label and find it to be one of the best. Please visit our website: for more details.