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