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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Single Malt Report: Laphroaig 10yr

Age: 10 years
Maturation: bourbon barrels
Region: Islay
Alcohol by Volume: 43% (US)

Ah, Le-Froyg.  I had no intention of reporting on you.  Hell, I had no intention of ever drinking you again.  But I am because I did.

I'd tried Laphroaig twice about four years ago with two different sets of friends.  Both times I wanted to wash my face after sipping this Islay.  The first sensation that came to my mind was "it's like drinking piss out of an ashtray. With iodine."  Never again.  Never ever ever again.

So there I was, sitting at the Belmont Brewing Company bar last night, watching a few innings of the World Series.  I glanced at their whisky shelf......not bad considering that it's a beer place.  I didn't want the two usual Glens.  Lagavulin 16, splendid though it may be, was a little rich for my wallet.  Strathisla, interesting.  Laphroaig.  Hmmm, I'll be here for a while...maybe I could add a little water?

The bartender brought me the BIGGEST WHISKY POUR that I have ever received at a bar.  Thank you, Melissa.  I looked at the drink.

Now I'm really in for it.

I took a sip.

Hmm.  I took another sip.

Here are the tasting notes that I typed furiously into my Blackberry:

Color - Gold
Nose - Wet peat, burning plastic, wood embers, Atlantic Ocean, ash at the end of a fire, an evening in a small town on the British Isles
Palate - Menthol, cinammon, brown sugar, salty peat smoke, less iodine than I remember
Finish - Long, sweet but also dry (is that possible?)
Your burps will taste like cigarettes.

Nose - Sweetness moves to the fore, maybe even maraschino cherries?, much less peat
Palate - Menthol has vanished, iodine gone, fire put out, just wet peat and a bit of sweet, a mite of sourness too (Ed.: How lyrical of me.)
Finish - Hushed

I finished the big drink without a problem.  I'm such a big boy.

The massive nose and palate are very specific to this single malt.  As I'd mentioned in my big Bowmore report, the Laphroaig distillery (similar to its neighbors Ardbeg and Lagavulin) dries their barley out for a long period of time under salty peat smoke.  Through this peating process and the spirit's contact with the American oak of the bourbon barrels this strange chemical miracle plays out.

Laphroaig's flavor is so intense that it can mute anything else you have over the next half hour (which is really unique for a whisky at 40% ABV).  So if you want to follow it with something, don't do another whisky because you might not taste it.  I had the brewery's bitterest ale afterwards.  This big Islay cut through the bitterness revealing everything else that was going on with the ale.

Do I recommend Le-Froyg?  Unless either you've enjoyed other peaty malts or you chew cigarettes for breakfast, the answer is no.  When you do try it for the first time, add about a teaspoon of water (or more, depending on the pour).  But first, try it neat.  Then curse me for suggesting so.

Pricing - Bargain! at $35-45  (Ed. note, 1/1/14: oh, for the days when it was $35)
Rating - 87