Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In the whisky cupboard ... Laphroaig 15 years old

laphroaig 15 years oldLaphroaig is one of Scotland's most famous and iconic distilleries. It produces the best selling smoky whiskies in the world and is located on the western island of Islay. The distillery is currently owned by Jim Beam Global, who are the fourth largest spirits company in the world, and has a capacity of 2.5 million litres a year. Laphroaig is one of the few distilleries left that have their own floor maltings (this is a traditional room where the barley is left to shoot, releasing the natural sugars that later get turned to alcohol). The malted barley is then dried by a peat fuelled fire for 18 hours and the thick blue smoke gives Laphroaig it's intense and smoky flavours. Laphroaig is one of Prince Charles' favourite whiskies and he issued a Royal warrant to the distillery in 1993. As a result, they can display the Prince of Wales crest on their bottles. The core range consists of two 10 year olds (one of which is cask strength), this 15 years old, a 25 years old and the Quarter Cask (which is matured in smaller casks). Other limited bottlings are released occasionally but are normally pricy. Independent bottlings are readily available and represent good value.

The 15 years old is not as readily available as the famous 10 years old and should cost £40-45 per bottle. The colour is a dark golden amber and the nose is full of character. The smokiness is milder than the 10 years old (in smoky whisky the smokiness tends to soften with increased age) but is still loaded with earthy peat (think of a bonfire). There is some fruitiness (imagine dried fruit like sultanas), some sweet vanilla and something antiseptic (this is a classic Laphroaig characteristic). On the palate, this whisky comes alive. The fruitiness, vanilla and peaty smoke are joined by some toffee (or caramel, I can't decide), something slightly salty (think of brine), a nutty element (imagine roasted nuts though) and some warm spice (like nutmeg). There is also a touch of bitterness (reminiscent of iodine - another classic Laphroaig character). The finish is long, warming and dry with the peatiness dying away to nothing. This is a truly excellent and rounded whisky. The 10 years old is a superb smoky whisky but the extra maturation time here has given the 15 years old extra complexity and smoothness. It is certainly one of my current favourites in our whisky cupboard and a great example of the smoky whisky genre.

1 comment:

Karl Winkler said...

I just tried the Laphroig 15 for the first time recently. It is already one of my favorites and I think your description is spot on. Unfortunately, word has it that it is being replaced by an 18 - I guess that's OK but of course 18 YO scotches are pricey! IMO the Laphroig 15 is the best thing next to Macallan 18 for that deep, smoky but smooth single-malt flavor.