The Sherry Oak Finish is a recent addition to the core range of the famous Islay single malt of Laphroaig. It was introduced in mid-2021. The whisky follows the same maturation path as the classic Laphroaig 10 years old, the best seller within the range, for most of its life. This takes place in American oak ex-bourbon casks. For the final 12 to 18 months the whisky is transferred to ex-Oloroso sherry barrels. The Laphroaig 10 years old Sherry Oak Finish is bottled at a higher strength of 48% ABV than the classic 10 years old. It is also a higher price (you should expect to pay around £60 for a bottle) and can be found through specialist retailers worldwide.
Laphroaig (pronounced la-froyg) is one of the best known Scotch whisky distilleries in the world and it is the biggest selling single malt in the smoky/peaty style. The brand was at the forefront of establishing the style in the market place, especially during the late-1980s. Laphroaig translates from the Gaelic as 'beautiful hollow by the broad bay' and the distillery is located on the southern coast of Islay, about two miles east of the village of Port Ellen.
The distillery was founded by two brothers, Alexander and Donald Johnson, in 1815 and is currently under the ownership of Beam Suntory. Laphroaig has an annual production capacity of 3.3 million litres.
Our tasting notes
The colour is a deep coppery amber and the nose is full of rich sherried notes (think of raisins, toasted nuts, caramel and warming wood spices), plus ashy and sooty bonfire smoke. Aromas of damp peat and moss, manuka honey and drying seaweed are also evident.
On the palate this whisky is punchy and peaty with a gripping mouthfeel. Peppery peat smoke leads the way and is again bonfire-like with an ashy and sooty edge. Notes of tidal rockpool follow - think of drying seaweed and rocks as the tide goes out - and this is followed by a distinct mossy and earthy quality.
Then come the sherry cask notes in abundance - imagine caramel, Cognac soaked raisins and fruit cake with good levels of toasted hazelnut, milk chocolate and candied orange peel. The manuka honey appears again and is accentuated by an evolving salty and briney note. A few late drops of iodine just add to the already medicinal edge.
The finish is long and sumptuous. The bonfire peat smoke smoulders away throughout and maintains the acrid and medicinal feel from the nose and palate. The rich and sweet sherried notes slowly fade but add further depth as they do. A late peppery spice rounds things off nicely.
What's the verdict?
Wow. This Laphroaig is a stunner. It is a superb example of how to balance heavy peat smoke and the rich characteristics of good ex-sherry barrels. The depth created by both working together is sublime. This 10 years old Sherry Oak Finish is a great addition to the already excellent Laphroaig range. The higher ABV really makes the whisky punch even harder and the decision to release at this strength should be congratulated. So delicious and well worth a try.