Laphroaig 1996 17 y.o. Cask #8519 (Signatory)
Back to the bog. Let’s dig in for a quirky one-off from Signatory. This one is well worth spending a little time with – and sharing the word on – simply due to its ‘against the grain’ nature and contrary personality.
I think I might actually be hard-pressed to say this was a Laphroaig if I had to taste it blindly. There’s a hint or two of its lineage, of course, but it’s almost like Hugo Weaving in ‘V For Vendetta’. You know he’s the voice behind the mask (how could you miss that timbre?), but it’s not a sure thing unless you actually see the actor behind the costume. This Signatory indie is a Laphroaig dressed up like an Ardbeg. Or something like that anyway. That’s about the closest I can come to putting my finger on it.
I knew I had to review this one as soon as I tried it, as this is a perfect example of why independently bottled whiskies are so much fun. Here we end up with a dram that is like nothing the distillery releases in its standard range. It’s bottled at high strength, unfiltered and with all pertinent info front and center. Beautiful. And of course it doesn’t hurt that the spirit is a clean and vibrant little gem in its own inherent right.
I do want to note that this is one naked-ass Laphroaig. 17 years in a hoggy have barely imparted more than a tinge of color, and the phenols seem to have been barely restrained by wood. This is an unbroken stallion of a malt. Wild and unchecked. If I had to guess, this was matured in a tight-grained second or third fill barrel. And I am not disappointed by that in the least. The smoky and peaty spirit shines bright and centerstage. Fans of big peaty whiskies will be in for a real treat here, as this one brings a phenolic edge you usually only find in young Islay malts but rounds it out with some soft mature nuances.
Nose: Predictably Islay and awesome. Lemon and lime. Seashore (wet rock, ocean breeze and salt water). Licorice. Smoke and earthy, medicinal peat. Soft melon notes and chewy candy. A slight BBQ note. Vanilla cream over soft fruits. Reminds just a wee little bit of Ardbeg Auriverdes.
Palate: Big licorice-rich delivery. Into juicy stone fruit, then billows of smoke. Awwww, yeah! Flinty and briny. Cracked pepper. Black ju-jubes. Green apple and mouthfuls of moist dirt. Ginger. Bitter, bitter dark chocolate (like 90+% cacao!) and strong espresso. Some oat or grain at the back end, before it fades right back into apple skins again.
Thoughts: Somewhere in between an Ardbeg and a Laphroaig.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt