Well, this is awkward. Kinda feels like having to fire your wife. Being hard on something you love is never fun. Unfortunately there is a bit of an axe to grind here, so let’s do it and do it quick. Like ripping off a Band-aid. Maybe it will hurt less.
I’ve always held Port Ellen on a pedestal. Right beneath my beloved PE is the stylized ‘A’ in the Celtic ring (yes, Ardbeg, of course). Ardbeg likely ties with Bruichladdich, though not necessarily because their whiskies are on par. I love both for different reasons. So, let’s call the number two position a tie. And number three with a bullet…Laphroaig. This one has been creeping on Ardbeg lately. It’s arguable Ardbeg produces great malts more consistently, but it’s also arguable that Laphroaig produced greater malts from time to time. I’m sure mature stock and expressions with some older constituent casks contributes to that.
I tell you this so you understand how biased I am toward Laphroaig of late. Imagine, then, my bewilderment at a malt like this: Laphroaig Select. At its essence it really boils down to ‘why?’. The brand has a flagship 10 year old (one of the best out there, I might add, in spite of its low abv) and a young fiery NAS expression that is beloved by most and, aside from the lack of age statement, ticks most other boxes for whisky lovers (non-chill-filtered, natural colored – I think?, and high strength). So why…why then would they release a watered down, inferior, just-clearing-the-hurdles 40% NAS monstrosity like this? It’s incomprehensible to me and most I’ve spoken to).
Over the last couple of months we’ve witnessed Quarter Cask jump from about $50 (as low as $40 in some places) up to $85. The 10 y.o. is still creeping, but is still lower than the new QC pricing. The ‘high end’ Laphroaig Lore crashed our shores at an even $200. And now there are a handful of new Laphroaig NAS releases hitting the market (Four Oak, 1815 and I think there may be one or two more, though I could be mistaken). At this point I’m left head-scratching. Maybe I’m falling out of love here.
I’d love to see others weigh in on this one, though I’m pretty certain I have an idea what the comments section below will look like.
Nose: Peat, of course. Faint smoke (but everything is faint at this anemic abv). Leather. Wet dog. Brown paper bags or slightly damp cardboard. Vaguely farmy. A touch of salt or brine. Lime. A little bit of dill. Earthy notes, as we’d expect. Everything muted.
Palate: Thin and watery. Dry smoke. Lacking a lot of flavour. Slightly weedy. Earthy. Olive brine. Not a lot more. Hello…finish…are you there?
Thoughts: This…this is not the Laphroaig I love.
– Images & Words: Curt