...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)


  1. 50% really does seem to be the sweet spot. Though, as I've noted, adding a bit of madeira to the full proof stuff also works out pretty well.

    1. Do you know if batch 006 had this same issue? It would be unfortunate if 005 was a sign of things to come.

    2. If I am remembering correctly, I have heard that 006 was more of a return to form, but some still think it's over-oaked:


    3. That's good news. I'm past collecting all editions - even for my favorites, such as Laphroaig CS and Springbank CS -, so I can wait a year or five.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. I wonder what's going on with the over-oaking problem. Perhaps they made some changes to their cask program (w/ Beam) 12 years ago? Or else these two batches were specifically tailored to try to broaden the brand's appeal? Like Florin, I'll wait.

    6. I would guess broader appeal. Given how popular QC has been, the oak & smoke combo appears to be a seller.