...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Single Malt Report: Laphroaig 21 year old Cask Strength (2008)

Until the day before Mathilda's first birthday, I'd decided to select the two Ledaig 1973s as the celebratory samples and to end it there.  But then I realized that my celebratory sample stash was much bigger than it used to be, and how many occasions would be bigger than this?  There needed to be a third sample, and I knew exactly what it would be.

Best club event, ever.  And that gent in the gray label -- sometimes called the Heathrow Laphroaig because 750 bottles were sold exclusively at Terminal 5 -- was the best Laphroaig I'd had, easily one of the best whiskies I'd ever experienced up until that point.  Though everyone I had spoken to at the event had chosen it as their favorite of the bunch, there was inexplicably a quarter of the bottle remaining at the end of the night.  So I made off with my own sample.  And that sample is this sample:

Here's to Mathilda.  Here's to Kristen and I, we two noobs, keeping her alive for an entire year.  Slàinte mhath!

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Type: Single Malt
Region: Islay
Age: minimum 21 years
Release Year: 2008
Distillation Year: 1987 or earlier
Maturation: unknown, but 9 casks were utilized
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? No
Alcohol by Volume: 53.4%
Limited Release: 750 in UK, 1427 in US

Color - Light gold

Nose (neat) - Many smoked things: salmon, ham, mesquite wood, orange peels, and probably peat.  Mango-infused lapsang souchong followed by the plastic siding of my childhood home.  There's lemon marmalade, orange oil, peated cream puffs, and a whole street of Scottish chimneys.  It's also very floral; blossoms, not soap.  Cognac, ocean, and a hint of caramel sauce.

Nose (with water) - Peels the peat back, turning this into a politer whisky.  Malty, creamy, some vanilla, peaches, and oranges.  A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.

Palate (neat) - Somehow both massively fruity and massively smoky.  Deep dark char meets tropical fruit punch.  There are also peaches, plums, cherries, oranges, honey, and key lime pie.  Mint and basil and whipped cream.

Palate (with water) - Even more floral and fruity esters.  Lots of citrus peel, cherries, and rose petals.  Small nibbles of peats and a subtle bitterness.  More sugars and vanilla gradually emerge.  Very graceful from start to finish.

Finish (neat) - Enormous.  And it's the peat that rules the night.  There's everything peat-related: moss, roots, dirt, char, ash, and smoldering coals.  Then brine, seaweed, menthol, and chili oil.

Finish (with water) - Fruitier and more aromatic.  Sweeter as well, with just a peep of good bitterness.

This whisky somehow brings together both categories of official Laphroaigs: the graceful fruiters like the 18 & 30 and the peat behemoths like the old 10CS & 25CS.  When neat it leans more towards the latter, then with water added it tilts towards the former.  But, man, what a finish.  It's that finish that'll make me recommend drinking this one neatly.  Though, it's a stunner no matter how one chooses to drink it.

I'm not going to ruin the glow in the report by talking about its four figure price.  I won't pick nits, it's a pretty close competition between the 25yo CS (2011 edition), the 40yo, and this 21yo CS for my favorite all time Laphroaig.  If you have a bottle of this in your collection, know that it's a treasure, a special occasion whisky, an experience you won't soon forget.

I have no idea how I'm going to celebrate the completion of Mathilda Year Two.

Availability - A few retailers, the occasional auction
Pricing - in 2012 it was $400-$600, today it's $1000-$1500
Rating - 93