Hi there Pandas! Today we have ourselves a peaty expression from Laphroaig- the best-selling brand of Islay single malt in the world.
Laphroaig is also the island’s single biggest distiller, with a capacity of 3.3 million liters of pure alcohol (MPLA). That equates to a potential yearly output of roughly 11 million bottles of whisky. I say “potential” because the distillery might wish to store the whiskies for longer terms of maturation before releasing them!
We thought this expression might be interesting because it is a new take on the distillery’s flagship bourbon-based character: with an added sherry twist. This is one of the few sherry-based expressions released from Laphroaig in more recent years.
Distributor: Original Bottling (OB)
Classification: Scotch Whisky
Style: Single Malt
Cask: Ex-Bourbon Maturation, European Oloroso Sherry Finishing
Age: 10 Year Old
Behind the Label
Quiz time: Who legally owns the lands in Islay?
I’ll give you 3 options:
HM the Queen of the UK
Land owners such as Islay distillers (e.g. Laphroaig Distillery)
Any random person who purchases a bottle of Laphroaig
Take your time. Think of your answer.
Do you have it in mind?
The correct answer is all three of the above. The English Monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) owns all the lands in the UK by virtue of some legal quirk. Actual land owners such as Islay distillers also own their own pieces of land- they are basically “leasing” the land from the Queen. But more incredibly, if you purchase any bottle of Laphroaig, you sub-lease and own a square foot of Laphroaig’s land in Islay:
As seen on Laphroaig’s official website.
It turns out that Laphroaig’s land holdings are so vast that, any random person who purchases a bottle of Laphroaig and signs up for the free “Friends of Laphroaig” program automatically becomes a lifetime owner of a square foot of Islay land.
As an honorary owner of a square foot of Laphroaig’s land, you are entitled to a yearly rent of one measly dram of Laphroaig that you may claim in person at the distillery. Still an interesting promotional stunt.
Based on my calculations, I should already own a hundred-and-fifty square foot plot of land in Islay. Despite my vast landholdings in Islay, I must confess that I have never personally been there to claim my drams of Laphroaig.
In any case, we turn back to the bottle we have today, that is essentially Laphroaig’s classic 10 Year Old with an added sherry finishing touch.
Laphroaig’s classic 10 Year Old is unsherried
Laphroaig’s classic 10 Year Old embodies the quintessential distillery flavour with a full body profile, ashy peat and a bright sweetness that comes from an ex-bourbon cask maturation. This is the distillery’s tried-and-true classic expression that has won many awards and is familiar to many.
More recently, Laphroaig has been venturing out of its bourbon-focused cask styles and began exploring grape wine expressions. This includes several port wine-finished expressions, several Pedro Ximenez sherry expressions and this 10 Year Old Sherry Oak expression.
This expression begins its life the same way as any classic Laphroaig, with about 8 to 9 years in ex-bourbon casks. It is then transferred to ex-oloroso European oak butts where it is finished for an additional 12 to 18 months.
As mentioned earlier, this is one of the very few sherry-based expressions released from Laphroaig.
In the glass, an exquisite shimmery auburn colour.
On the nose, initial notes of sweet honeyed and aromatic smokiness reminiscent of BBQ charsiew pork. As the aromas open up a little, fruits begin showing up: dominant notes of raisins, strawberry jam and cherry jam with some trailing notes of caramelised apples and pear.
Once again, this does not prick your nose at all even if inhaled directly. The rich and heavy aromas of smoke and honeyed sweetness form a protective coat over the sharper notes.
A minute of swirling in your Glencairn glass brings out more smoke and medicinal notes. Smoke increases in intensity and now has more oaky charred wood character with some notes of rosemary, some notes of soy sauce, some iodine and minor notes of seaweed. There is also a bit of leartheriness present in a new Mercedes-Benz. The smokey aroma is overall quite savoury, a cross between BBQ bacon and Brand’s Chicken Essence.
(Image Source: Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)
The distinctive smokiness and medicinal notes that Laphroaig is known for are still here but less assertive. The sherry maturation has added quite a bit of richness and roundness, smoothened the rougher edges and removed the sharpness. Very well integrated sherry notes.
On the palate, very sweet and rich in flavour with a velvety and viscous texture. As soon as this dram touches the tongue, it coats the palate and exerts a honeyed sweetness similar to beeswax. Dominant notes of mossy, salty and ashy smoke mixed with substantial dark Vietnamese coffee and chocolatey notes and some roasted sunflower seeds (瓜子). This is followed by a chewy layer of sweet dried fruits, with raisins, dried cranberries and strawberry jams.
The whisky is defined by leading notes of smoke and dried fruits, but underneath there is some brightness of sweet orchard fruits, with caramelised apples, peaches and a very slight nail varnish note.
With another sip, the nuanced oaky notes become discernible with vanilla, pencil shavings and pistachio.
The sherry finish balances out the sharper and spicier notes, adds some complexity and viscosity and adds a pleasant note of dried fruits.
The finish, is long and sweet with drying smoke, a lingering umami character in soy sauce and Brand’s Chicken Essence, and faint notes of cinnamon spice.
This is great for people who love peated whiskies such as Lagavulins or Ardbegs, and perfect for those who already like the Laphroaig 10.
The whisky has become remarkably smooth and slightly more complex after the sherry maturation. The rich and round flavours of dried fruits also strikes a good balance with the classic smokiness and iodine in a Laphroaig 10.
🍭 + 🧠
One of the most complex Laphroaigs I've tried gets a lollipop and brain. Whether you are a fan of heavily peated whiskies, or new to peaty whiskies, this is enjoyable and well worth a shot.
An outstanding expression well worth a taste. With its richness in flavour, this compliments an equally rich, flavourful and savory dish. The smokiness and dried fruit sweetness of this Laphroaig was sublime with the savory, rich and spicy nyonya beef rendang and blue pea coconut rice.
Rendang with coconut rice infused with butterfly pea flower at Kota Restaurant in George Town, Penang (Image Source: Time Out)