...where distraction is the main attraction.

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


  1. aforementioned friendOctober 20, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    Laphroaig is like that one friend of a friend you just don't know about. Your paths have crossed before but something didn't add up, so you kept a cautious distance. Then one night your mutual friend cuts out early and you're stuck with him. That's when Laphroaig surprise the shit out of you. Turns out he likes strip clubs, craps, over boozing and even the illicit substance here and there. At the end of the night you pause and ponder to youself, "this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship ".

  2. @aforementioned friend, That description of Laphroaig sounds familiar. Very very familiar.

    1. Indeed, that description sounds like Charlie Sheen. Now I'm wondering if he's a Scotch whisky fan...

    2. I wouldn't be surprised if Charlie is a fan of EVERYTHING!

  3. BTW, there's also a Cask Strength (dear G-d) bottling and a Quarter Cask (19th century recipe) bottling. I'll try to find a way to sample those. After that, one of these three will find its way to The Whisky Closet.

    1. I've seen the cask strength on the shelves at K&L and it's shocking how affordable a bottle is ($65). Then I remind myself that drinking it neat would be akin to getting beaten up in the smoking room of a gentleman's club from the early 20th Century.

      By the way, Laphroaig 10 should be 43% around here.

    2. Nice! Then sign my ass up for Old Timey Fight Club!

      K&L has a (relatively) super price on it. Most folks have it for $75-$80 now. It was $55 most places last year. And, I think, they'd stopped selling it in the UK for much of this year. My guess is Beam may be salvaging what they can in order to meet the demand for the regular 10yr.

      And, yup, it's 43%. Fixing it, thanks!

  4. aforementioned friendOctober 20, 2011 at 8:13 PM

    I recently saw the Laphroaig 18. Gotta try that very soon.

  5. That would probably be good. Do let me know when you try it...

  6. I'll be honest. I decided to finally buy a bottle now that I've had some experience with single malts. Now I've had Lagavulin so I was fully prepared for that band-aid smell of peat. But whereas Lagavulin has this nice smoked meat nose, Laproaig has a much stronger peat nose and less sweetness. I'm guessing this is likely due to a higher peating level and the fact that Laphroaig is aged primarily in ex-bourbon casks (Lagavulin definitely has some sherry in there that brings out the sweetness).

    All in all, Laphroaig is a rough whisky but I think I like it.

    1. I think that the Diageo folks told the Malt Maniacs, during their visit last year, that they use only refill bourbon casks for their single malts......but I agree with you, there are absolutely some sherry casks utilized in Lagavulin 16. The 12 year cask strength might not have sherry, but 16 does. Diageo not being completely forthright? Shocker.

      I'm glad you're liking Laphroaig. They make damn good stuff. And that 10 year gets better and better the more I try it. Don't know if you've sampled the Cask Strength yet, but it's enormous.