I owe a proper write-up on a recent experience I was fortunate enough to take part in. A full-on top notch, knock your socks off kinda tasting, that is, held by and for a wee somewhat secretive conclave known as the Gang Of Four. That piece will be done in coming days (as soon as I figure out the right angle to attack it from), but a couple of the malts warrant individual reviews. And this is most definitely one of them.
Oh, man. Laphroaig 40 year old. One of the gents involved in the l’il collective for this once in a lifetime tasting referred to it as a bucket list malt. Couldn’t agree more. I recall a couple reviews over the years (Jim Murray and Serge Valentin, I believe) that mentioned the toss up between the 30 and 40 for the crown of ultimate Laphroaig. Let me add my name to that list (albeit miles below, in terms of standing, fame and respectability). It really is hard to choose, even when tasted head to head, as we did this night. The 30 holds a special place in my heart for a few reasons, but this 40…well…words are sometimes elusive with these things.
It’s very possible there are a couple factors at play here that contribute to the stunning majesty and depth of sweet, fruity notes in this one. First…it was made in 1960, a time when consistency was less a benchmark than quality. Many moving pieces would have likely added to the complexity here, not the least of which would have included more old barrels to choose from, direct-fired stills, worm tub condensing, in situ malted barley and maturation in famed Warehouse #1. Second…we’re likely dealing with a bit of Old Bottle Effect here (or OBE, in shorthand). This was bottled more than 15 years ago. No matter what anyone says, I firmly believe that time in the bottle does soften whisky.
Let me just say that in no uncertain terms this is one of life’s greatest whisky experiences. The malt is beyond fantastic and acknowledgement of the moment one gets to drink it and all of the history that led to that is the stuff memories are made of. Breathtaking dram, to say the least.
The full write-up will have more tasting notes (some from the others swedged in with mine), but these are mostly mine below.
Sincere thanks to the kindhearted soul who allowed us to taste this grail malt. Unforgettable. Beyond appreciated.
Nose: An absolutely enormous fruitbomb. Like fruit cocktail. Specifically orange and tangerine. Grilled pineapple, rich in caramelized sugars and syrup. Sweet cherry notes. Very, very dessert-like. Soft and perfectly balanced spices. Old books. The peat is nothing more than a fleeting memory. Smoke…barely. Everything is faint, subtle…and stunning.
Palate: Fruit salad immediately on arrival. Soft and creamy. Almost custard-like. Beautiful spices. Slightly oaky, but hey…this is a forty year old dram. A little more peat and smoke on the palate than the nose would have us believe. Eucalyptus. Just a wee bit of fennel. Again…all are more like echoes of the original resonance.
Thoughts: Up until shaking hands with this stunning old gem I could unequivocally state that the 30 year old was the greatest Laphroaig I’d tried. I think this pips it. Barely, but yeah.
– Images & words: Curt