Laphroaig (pronounced la-froyg) is one of the most famous whisky distilleries and names in the world. The name seems strange and is notoriously one of the hardest to pronounce correctly - it is derived from the Gaelic for 'beautiful hollow by the broad bay'. The distillery is located on the island of Islay, which lies off the western coast of Scotland. Laphroaig and Islay are both renowned for producing very smoky, peaty flavoured whisky. 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 peatiest, smokiest whiskies in the world. The Laphroaig 10 years old is also the best selling smoky whisky in the world.
This Triple Wood is a limited edition whisky which is exclusive to the Duty Free/Travel Retail sector. As a result, it is only available in one litre bottles and should cost approximately £55 (although we got it for the bargain '20% off price' of £44 at Aberdeen airport recently - not sure when that deal runs out ...). The Triple Wood name is derived from the fact that the whisky has been matured in three different types of cask - one standard ex-bourbon cask, one quarter cask (as the name suggests, these are a quarter the size of a regular bourbon cask and hold about 50 litres only) and then ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Essentially, it is similar to the Laphroaig Quarter Cask but finished in a sherry cask. The whisky is bottled at an alcoholic strength of 48% ABV and is only produced in small batches.
Our tasting notes
The colour of this Triple Wood is a rich golden amber and the nose is immediately expressive. There is intense earthy peat (think of damp moss) and a bitter hint of medicinal iodine, before these mellow to allow other notes through to create an intense combination - caramel, dark dried fruits (imagine raisins and prunes), honey, vanilla, oatcake biscuits and something herbal (think of dried grass and fresh bergamot leaves). On the palate, this softer than expected and feels creamy and rich, almost buttery. The rich peat smoke comes first again and is reminiscent of burning straw, damp moss and ashy embers. Then other elements appear and give great balance to the smoke - burnt sugary caramel, toasted almonds, honey, dried fruit, a hint of salty brine and a drop of bitter iodine. The finish is long, with the peat smoke burning away for ages like embers in a bonfire. Distinct iodine adds pleasant bitterness, as does a tang of salt, and these are tempered by some lovely sweet, fruity caramel.
What's the verdict?
Laphroaig Triple Wood is a lovely dram and a very good example of a peaty, smoky whisky. We love the Quarter Cask to which it is closely related and that is one of our favourite whiskies in the smoky style - this is different with the addition of the sherry cask maturation adding obvious sweetness, while softening the normally intense Laphroaig peat smoke. It takes away some of the robustness that some people struggle with. The high ABV level then counteracts this by intensifying some of the other non-peaty characteristics. Triple Wood is a wonderfully crafted, expressive and complex whisky.