Tasting a whisky like this is an exercise in heartbreak. Forgive my overt sentimentality towards anything Islay, but irrespective of any personal biases, this really is a rather simple and beautiful whisky. I’m blown away that the decision was made to remove this from the range. While we did, of course, gain the spectacular 18 year old as a trade-off, I can think of no reason not to continue bottling some of the mature spirit at 15 years. It’s quite evidently a sweet spot for Laphroaig.
First things first…
This whisky went the way of the dodo in mid 2008. That was back when the current whisky bubble was still expanding, but had yet to reach the frightening state of inflation it’s currently at. The importance of noting this lies in understanding that there would have been a lot less demand on mature stocks at the distillery, thereby allowing for more flexibility in selecting casks to marry in order to build a whisky like this. In 2013, I’m 99% certain that a 15 year old malt is exactly that, whereas a few years back I’m betting the distiller had casks of all sorts of vintages at his disposal; the only restriction being that the youngest cask in the mix was not less than 15 years and a day. Put simply…there are casks vatted in this bottling that are older than 15 years.
Laphroaig 15 was a fairly polarizing whisky when it was available. I’m wondering now if that didn’t have more to do with the peat-o-philes out there being underwhelmed with the lack of ferocity in the phenols here. If you’re expected that typical Laphroaig earthy, medicinal smokefest…forget it. This is so much more. But also, so much more restrained.
All in all…a fine whisky I really enjoyed. No wonder Prince Charlie loves this stuff. Said to be his favorite malt, I can only imagine he has more than a few bottles still squirrelled away. Good sir, when one day you read this (and of course you will) perhaps you’d be so kind as to share a bottle with a friendly Canadian. 😉
A subtle and refined Laphroaig. Austere and sublime.
Nose: Very nice fruits. A little peach and pear lingering behind a light gauze of smoke. Vanilla cupcake, dusted with the fairest bit of nutmeg. A touch of orange and maybe sweet pink grapefruit with sugar. A gum-like note. May be a little sherry influence, but I’m not certain. Some salty/briny seawash notes. Creamy vanilla. The smoke is there, of course, but very restrained for a Laphroaig. The toned down elegance here reminds me of the subtleties Ardbeg 17 is built on.
Palate: A little drier now. Some grassy notes and a left turn into some rather surprising white wine notes (Sauvignon blanc). Chocolate. Some smokiness and apple. Generally I’d prefer a little more firepower in terms of abv, but 43% works just fine here. Better nose than palate.
Thanks to our mate, Dan, for sharing this long gone gem with a small crew of the great unwashed at my place.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: The Whisky Exchange