Thursday, May 29, 2014

New release - Laphroaig 'Select'

The Select is the latest addition to the famous Islay distillery of Laphroaig's core range.  Laphroaig is well known for its very peaty and smoky style of single malts and the Select will sit alongside the classic 10 years old, Quarter Cask, Triple Wood and 18 years old expressions. The whiskies used to create the Select have been selected by Laphroaig's Master Distiller John Campbell and come from a number of different American and European oak cask typesHowever, the main difference in this release is the use of new American oak casks in the final maturation.

Laphroaig is one of the most highly renowned whisky brands in the world and its 10 years old expression is the biggest selling single malt in the smoky/peaty style. The name is derived from the Gaelic for 'beautiful hollow by the broad bay' and the distillery is located on the southern coast of the whisky island of Islay. The distillery was founded in 1810 by two brothers, Alexander and Donald Johnson, although production did not officially begin until 1815 (this date is marked on all labels).  The distillery has just been taken over by the Japanese drinks giant Suntory.  The previous owners were Beam Global. It has an annual production capacity of 2.9 million litres.

The Select will be available worldwide shortly and has been bottled at 40% ABV. The recommended price will be £35.  For further information about Laphroaig and its whiskies, please visit

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has an immediate hit of acrid peat smoke.  The smoke has a phenolic edge that catches in the nostrils and is reminiscent of coal tar soap and damp moss.  This is complimented by an underlying sugary sweetness, including notes of icing sugar and honey.  With time further aromas of vanilla, malty cereals and lemon zest develop.

On the palate this whisky follows a similar path to that of the nose.  The whisky feels slightly oily and viscous, but the initial notes are of bitter, slightly acrid peat smoke and a sugary, almost sharp sweetness.  It is an interesting combination and one where the two elements threaten to clash.  The smoke again has a note of coal tar soap, along with a hint of molten tarmac and damp moss.  The sugary notes develop from initial icing sugar to become more like honey and vanilla.  Underneath is an increasing cereal note that is most reminiscent of slightly burnt oat cookies - this can be detected in the glass a long time after the whisky has gone.  There is also some warm, earthy spices that add depth - think of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.

The finish seems long, but it is only the smouldering peat smoke that really lingers.  The other elements including the sweetness and the cereals disappear quite quickly, leaving the smoke to leave an increasing dryness in the mouth.  A late hint of returning lemon zest is a pleasant addition.

What's the verdict?
This is a big, brash whisky that is not for the faint hearted.  There is clearly some youthful whisky included and this makes it hot, feisty and punchy.  The pungent and acrid peat smoke threatens to overpower everything but the other elements, in particular the sugary sweeter ones, fight back to try and redress the balance.

The Select seems to make the classic 10 years old expression of Laphroaig feel a bit tame.  Fans of powerful über smoky single malts will like this but others may struggle.  It offers a vibrant, almost over exaggerated version of Laphroaig to the consumer and for that reason we can see it proving very popular, especially at the price point it will appear at.

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