Laphroaig 15 y.o. 200th Anniversary
While the old Laphroaig 15 always seemed to take such a drubbing in its day, it’s quite interesting to see the esteem in which it is held today. Be it a rose-colored glasses scenario or a don’t-know-what-you’ve-got-’til-it’s-gone sort of thing, either way, we’ve seen quite an about face in terms of how that malt is revered.
When it was revealed that Laphroaig would ring in its 200th anniversary with a re-release of the 15 year old a collective cheer resonated throughout the whisky world. Unfortunately that news was sort of shackled to the revelation that we’d be waving goodbye to the beloved 18 year old. To make matters worse it came to light that the 15 too would only be available for a short while and in limited quantity (72,000, I believe). It would seem we’re destined to have nothing consistent in the Laphroaig age-stated range beyond a 10 year old. Truly an unfortunate situation, as Laphroaig is a malt that tends to mature very well.
I haven’t been able to try the two 15s (older and newer) side by side as yet, but I can say that the differences are both unquestionably perceptible and not at all a bad thing. Both malts are surprisingly gentle and subtle, but the newer expression bears bigger smoke and less soft fruit. While certainly no new school phenol bomb, this 200th anniversary edition is rather reminiscent of older Laphroaig expressions (read: pre-market explosion releases arguably harbouring older casks in the vattings). And while less fruity than the earlier runs, this one does bring a wealth of sweetness not seen in contemporary Laphroaig (excepting the stunning 2015 Cairdeas).
Personally, I think I prefer the earlier editions for their subtleties and complexities, but this one really is a beauty. Glad I grabbed a couple when the opportunity was available.
Nose: Very vibrant; moreso than I’d expected from this low of an abv. Soft fruits, earthy peat and a clean breath of eucalyptus. Green mint leaf candies. Lime and melon. Maybe a little grapefruit. Smells like rain on the beach. Medicinal and notes of damp paper. Definitely more assertive than the old 15.
Palate: Much bigger here. Bombastic smoke. Tar. Charred seafood. Lime juice. Toasted marshmallow. More citrus zest. A touch of fennel. Mineral and medicinal notes. Drinks a little bigger than the rather anemic 43% would suggest, fortunately. Some candy sweet notes. Vanilla and peat.
Thoughts: Great whisky. Laphroaig killed it this year with their two bicentennial releases, though the Cairdeas definitely pips this one. Would have been a knockout at cask strength.
– Images & Words: Curt
Good to have you back in the saddle, Curt. Hope all went well and you are on the road to recovery.
As for the 15, I’d give it a try but for the stupid price of $201 at BC Liquor Stores. I’m glad I picked off 2 of the 2015 Cairdeas at under $100 each. If I run across the 15 at a decent price somewhere in my travels I’ll give it a try, but generally that would mean the 18 is also a decent price and I am loath to ever pass up the 18 when I find it well priced. Got the last couple in Oregon at $100 US ($218 here in LaLa land).
Take the journey South a ways to the Bellingham Costco. WA state tax is still a killer, but they have had the 15 in stock for a while, though I’d bet not much longer
Thanks for the tip. If they don’t have the 15 I’m sure I could find some other goodies to bring home. Cheers.
I’ve seen some very confident but not authoritative people saying the 15 is actually the same stock at the 18, so it’s older stuff just labeled as 15 for this celebratory bottling. (These people are on the Reddit scotch board.)
Anyone know if that’s true? Seems unlikely, but it comes up all the time over there.
Regardless, it wouldn’t be identical because of the ABV.
I keep thinking this is 48%, as it really seems a lot stronger than 43%, like you said. Very good scotch and a 90 score seems very reasonable. Also feel it is worth the price here ($70 b/tax), but not like the 2015 Cairdeas, which is slightly better (maybe 1-1.5 points) and is only $1 more. If I had lots of money, I’d buy a case of both.
If I could them at that cost, I would be making room in my budget!
Curt good to have you back, always enjoy your reviews, I hope your recovery is going well.
Laphroaig really hit it out of the park last year with their 200th anniversary bottles and I believe it was a wise move to produce large enough numbers for them to be somewhat affordably priced (not in all markets I know) and widely available. They provided things people we’re longing for in a sense, the return of the 15 and an older style higher proof version of Laphroaig in the Cairdeas’ case.
Ardbeg on the other hand provided more of the same BS…
I have seen the 15 go for 59-79$ on some US online retailers, not bad even with our terrible exchange rate and certainly better than what the KGBO was charging for it.
Thanks, Franck. Appreciate the kind words.
And yeah…Laphroaig nailed it this year. Ardbeg is consistently good, but hasn’t wowed me in a while. Laphroaig, on the other hand, is pulling ahead day by day.