...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Laphroaig 10 year old Cask Strength Batch 005, again, but served four ways

I reviewed Laphroaig 10yo CS batch 005 around this time last year.  Then, after a year of the bottle sitting two-thirds full on the opposite coast, I did another set of notes without looking at the last one.  Last time, I found it to be good, though with an aggressive oak influence that kept it from competing with any of the previous batches.  And this time?

I had two winters to take a picture of my damn bottle
but apparently I was too dippy to do so.
Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Type: Single Malt
Region: Islay
Maturation: ex-bourbon barrels
Age: minimum 10 years
Batch: 005, Feb 2013
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Probably not
Alcohol by Volume: 57.2%

This time, inspired by Chemistry of the Cocktail, I added to water in different amounts in order to reduce the ABV and compare each version with the other.  The tasting glasses were lined up as such:

#1 - 1.0oz + no water = 57.2%abv
#2 - 0.5oz + 1/2 tsp water = 49%abv (between 50% and the 48% of their Quarter Cask)
#3 - 0.5oz + 1 tsp water = 43%abv
#4 - 0.5oz + 1-1/4 tsp water = 40%

Again, for some reason I didn't any pictures of the comparison.
Here's a picture of breakfast, instead.
#1, Full strength
Nose - Lots of American oak: pulp, char, and sap. Sugary malt meets a peat that is almost floral.  No grunge, no medicine, no maritime.  Some green herbal stuff, caramel, roasted nuts, and oats.
Palate - Dirtier here (thankfully).  Still, there's lots of vanilla and sugar.  A tiny bit of bitter herbs is overwhelmed by the sweetness.  Some salt and lemon peel sneak in, and a cassia cinnamon note that grows with time.
Finish - Medium length. Big on the vanilla, caramel, and sugar. Mild on the bitter and smoke. Afrin nasal spray. A green peat note develops but that's also smothered by the sweetness.

Comments - I'm getting tired of it in this state. While the oak isn't as odd as I'd remembered it, it is incredibly heavy.  And that hurts the Laphroaig style.

#2, Reduced to 49%abv
Nose - Less oak, more green herbs, more peat moss, and a bit wilder overall.  More earth, slightly inky.  Ground cardamom and burnt oregano.  Subtler vanillin and floral notes.
Palate - A creamier, oilier texture.  A nice bitterness.  Peat!  Salt, anise, and manure.  It's like a high-strength Underberg.
Finish - Medium length.  Big peaty phenols stomp down the sweetness.  Bitter and spicy.  Tart lime candy and hay.

Comments - This bitter, spicy, herbal style is my favorite of the four.  Reducing the sweetness is the key.  Man, do I want me some Underberg right now.

#3, Reduced to 43%abv
Nose - A buttery, vanilla-y version of the regular official 10 year old.  There's the seaweed and moss.  Salty air, manure, bitter lettuces, and cardamom.
Palate - Texture is still good.  The bitterness lightens up.  A little more sweetness arrives, as does caramel.  Some lemons and limes.  A farmy note appears after a while.
Finish - Salty, citric, and spicy.  Mild peat.  Both sweetness and bitterness build with time (that note sounds like some cheap poetry's about to break out).

Comments - Not bad, though it's lighter, of course.  Comma, comma, comma.  I might like this better than the full strength version, too.

#4, Reduced to 40%abv
Nose - The peat begins to fade now.  The sugar returns.  Odd gooey oak note develops.  Moss on a log.  Grass and bitter lettuce.  A random Nutella note.
Palate - Watery, thin.  Mostly neutered.  Hints of peat and bitter stuff.  Sugar and lime register strongest.  Maybe some fresh grass?
Finish - Short.  Lemony, slightly peppery.  Peat lingers a little.

Comments - The gap between the 43% and the 40% is incredible.  The palate and the finish are broken, gone.  It's Laphroaig to ignore.

While it's not terrible at full strength, the Laphroaig style is barely there.  It's masked by oak and a significant sweetness that I've never found in a 'Phroaig.  But, when reduced to the 48-50%abv range, the whisky's wildcat heart is uncaged (more cheap poetry for yous!).  In fact, I re-bottled the final quarter of this bottle at that strength and enjoyed it thusly.

Overall, I still think this was the strangest and weakest of Laphroaig's 10yo CSes by some measure.  The joy of their Cask Strength releases is/was the full powered dosage of Laphroaig's unique style.  Batch 005 covers up that style with too much sweetness and oak, though the charms can still be found when adding a little water.

Availability - I'm still seeing this batch everywhere
Pricing - a broad range that depends on the state you're in: $55-$85
Rating - 85 (with water added only; served neat this barely makes an 80)