...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Laphroaig for my daughter: Laphroaig 30 year old

I doubt that this whisky needs much of an intro.  From what I can piece together, there were a few European releases of Laphroaig's thirty year old around the turn of this century.  Then there was one release in 2002 and one in 2006, during which at least a few bottles officially made it to The States.  In 2008, another 30 year old represented their annual Cairdeas release.  In every instance, it was bottled at 43% ABV.

I obtained my sample of the 2002 release during the expansive Laphroaig vertical I attended a year and a half ago.  Rather than drinking it at the event, I wanted to save it for a special occasion.  And that occasion has arrived.

Distillery: Laphroaig
Release Year: 2002
Distillation Year: 1972 or earlier
Owner: Beam Suntory
Type: Single Malt Report
Region: Islay
Age: minimum 30 years
Maturation: probably American oak
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Probably not
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

The color is dark gold.  The nose is bereft of peat, at first.  There's very ripe honeydew, creme brûlée, and orange oil.  Then there are spearmint leaves, star anise, jasmine flowers, and eucalyptus.  It eventually gets slightly tarry and the brief peat that does reveal itself seems encased in apricot flesh.  The palate starts with intense butterscotch, then toasted oak, toasted barley, and toasted wheat bread.  Then brown butter(!), salt, sautéed greens, and very subtle vanilla.  There's lots of rich unsmoked tobacco along with hints of mango.  After 45 minutes of air, the palate starts eking out peat-infused pineapple, chili powder, and menthol/eucalyptus.  It's very drying.  The finish is mostly very dry cigar tobacco (a mild one, nothing dark or spicy).  Pink and green peppercorns, salt, honeydew, and an herbal bitterness.

This is by far the gentlest of the Laphroaigs I have tried.  There's lots of character in it, but mostly very subtle and quiet.  The fruit and herbs on the nose are my favorite parts of the package.  And the one HUGE note in the whisky is the almost endless cigar tobacco in the finish.  But other than that, the whisky gives out hints of what it could be......if it hadn't been reduced to 43%.  I'm under no illusion that the 30+ year old casks were at strengths higher than 50%.  But every good note, aside from the butterscotch, honeydew, and tobacco, is cut short as soon as it appears.  This makes me wonder what this would have been like at cask strength, even if just a few points higher.

There seems to be two types of older official Laphroaigs, the soft subtle ones like the 18yo and the bold vibrant ones like 25yo cask strength.  The 30yo will appeal to the lovers of the 18yo; those 12 extra years in the barrel have made it more graceful and (yes) oakier.  But if you're looking for expressiveness and power, the 25 year old is the way to go.

On a final note, the 30 year old used to sell for $240.  The same bottles now retail for $1,000 - $1,600.  Congrats to those who got in on the ground floor with this whisky because I can understand its original price as it's still a good (and relatively difficult to find) whisky.  But at its current price......???  I'm assuming it's now to be bought as an "investment" (though who's going to buy it from you for more than $1600?), not to drink.  If you have that kind of money on hand, get three bottles of the 25yo instead!

Availability - A few retailers, mostly in Europe
Pricing - original US price range $240, currently......whatever people will pay for it
Rating - 89


  1. Or for $1,600 you can get a 1960s Springbank.

  2. The only two reasons I can think of for watering this down to 43% would be to keep the bottle cost down or to stretch the supply (i.e. cask strength wouldn't have filled enough bottles). That said, I'd love to know how this tasted at cask strength.

    Speaking of old whisky, where's the Talisker 25 review?

    1. It's a-comin'. It's an event just to get through one review at the moment. And that's if my sleep deprivation hasn't screwed up my senses.

      Re: this 30yo, I'm guessing they were stretching out supply. Even at 46 or 48 percent, this could have been something special.

    2. I don't know how your plans are for the Talisker 25 review, but i'm already preparing a little pack for you. As i promised... there are some gems to be tasted ;)

      Speaking baout the Laphi 30 - yes... those old expressions always tend to be more gentle. Not only of the age i guess, but also that they used less peat back then... or a different type of peat. I recently was able to taste some old IB Laphis which really impressed me. Lot's of Maracuja and horse manure... ;)

    3. Hey Cobo. I'm may two reviews of the Tali 25 (2012). Since I've gotten a handful of requests (that means I have at least five readers!) for a review of a bottle split I did with two other bloggers who've already posted their reviews, I may review it on its own in June. But then, I want to compare and contrast it with other Talisker 25s in order to truly test how it fares. OR, I may match the 2012 version up with that great edition you'd sent to me. Sorry, now I'm rambling and typing my internal monologues.

      Regarding old Laphroaigs, is it possible that without today's high-tech resources the peating levels used to vary a bit from batch to batch? Plus there was less of the sort of oak futzing (as Beam Laphroaig seems to be doing now) so perhaps the spirit sang a little more. As you've probably noticed, peat phenols tend to fade or change as the spirit matures, so that may play a part too. In any case, Maracuja and horse manure sounds like my sorta combo! <<<Not sarcasm!