...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Single Malt Report: Laphroaig 16 year old 1997 Signatory for K&L Wine Merchants (cask 3365)

Three years ago, I was mulling around a secret LA-area whisky treasure trove when I noticed a 1998 Laphroaig from Signatory's Unchillfiltered Collection.  It was a from a sherry butt and was priced $10 more than the '96 Laphroaig from the same range ($79.99 versus $69.99).  The shop's whisky buyer had pointed me to many gems in the past, so I asked him why the younger whisky was more expensive than the older one.  He said that was due to it being the new release and he recommended I buy it immediately.  I didn't.  When I returned two months later, that same '98 was $119.99.  The indie Laphroaig price explosion had begun.

(On a related note, during that same visit, the gentleman pointed out a 20+ year old bourbon distilled at Stitzel-Weller and bottled by Willett.  It was $199.99.  He recommended I buy that immediately.  I didn't.  That same bottle now sells for over $1000 on the secondary market.  Clearly he knew something I didn't.)

pic from the K&L site
because I can't find my
danged sample photo
Presently, indie bottlers believe Laphroaig (especially those from the mid to late '90s) commands steep prices.  The quality is usually high and the demand is great, especially as the official bottlings have drifted towards NAS and/or wood wonkery.  The single cask I'm reviewing today was sold exclusively through K&L Wine Merchants, right on the edge of the indie Laphroaig price hike.  K&L's pre-sold it for $99.99.  The following year K&L had another single cask of Laphroaig from Signatory.  That one was 15 years old and sold for $170.  What a difference a year makes.

Though I never got around to buying this whisky my buddy, Tetris, did and he supplied me with a generous sample (Thanks!) to review.

Distillery: Laphroaig
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Independent BottlerSignatory
Age: 16 years (April 28, 1997 - July 9, 2013)
Maturation: Hogshead
Cask: 3365
Alcohol by Volume: 55.2%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

The nose is more floral, mintier, and vanilla-woodier than Monday's 15yo.  Definitely some tree sap.  More of a normal clean cut un-Laphroaig peat going on here.  A citronella candle.  A hint of exotic/tropical fruits.  New cheap sneakers.  After 15 minutes, there are new notes of roasted cashews, grilled pineapple, and dish soap.

The palate is both dingier and sweeter than the nose.  Very sugary.  Peat candy.  Lemon and orange hard candies.  Tart limes.  Gradually the peat gets a little more organic, but then there's also a bit of green wood bitterness.

Mild peat residue in the finish.  Citrus and sugar.  Tart, bitter, and ocean salty.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The nose is a little more Laphroaigy.  It's got some toasty peat, ocean air, and seaweed.  Less fruity, more focused on the phenolics.  Some chocolate maltiness underneath.

The bitterness improves in the palate.  Less sweets, more herbal.  A little bit of pepper heat.  Perkier peat.  Burnt/char notes and menthol.

Extinguished cigarettes, eucalyptus, and sugar cookies in the finish.

When neat, this is a safe Laphroaig for people who are not fans of Laphroaig.  The peat notes seem like they could be from any distillery and the palate is plenty sweet.  I think it improves measurably when water is added, with the sweetness getting brought under control and the burlier distillery character peeking out.  If you're still holding onto this one and haven't opened it yet, I recommend adding water if it disappoints when neat.  You'll find more of what you came for as the ABV drops.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - pre-sold for $99.99, then went for $115.99
Rating - 83 (3-5 points lower when neat)