Another month, another SMWS Laphroaig. This one was distilled in November 1998 and spent 18 years maturing in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead. Peated profile.
Nose: Fairly restrained initially, this opens in the glass to present gentle subtleties – earthy smoke, burnt wood, brine and lemon juice are all reinforced by a strong underlying minerality – wet slate, rock pools and gravel beaches. There’s certainly iodine and TCP here, but they’re very controlled and supporting rather than leading. Water brings out more coastal nuance with aromas of oil, tarred ropes and a firm sea breeze.
Taste: Here’s the peat. A rather excellent delivery brings meats, biscuits and medicine. Initially, beef stock and soy sauce meet crumbly buttery digestives. These then develop into particularly juicy fruits – lemons and grapefruits. The characteristic Laphroaig peat reek follows – TCP, Dettol surface cleaner, hospital wards. Minerality remains on the palate with a quite flinty mid-palate that reinforces the coastalness of this whisky. Dilution with water adds to the juicy fruits and introduces red apples. It also transforms the weight of the smoke element, from overtly medicinal into something slightly more ashy and chalky. Complex stuff.
Finish: Long and full of salt, brine, fireside smoke and zingy lemons.
Whilst the nose is quite subtle (and nonetheless pleasant for that), the palate on this Laphroaig really delivers. Don’t expect a wild, untamed peat attack, but do expect waves of balanced flavour that really take you on a journey through flavour. SMWS obviously have a lot of casks of 29, with at least one being released every month lately – this to my mind is one of the better ones. Recommended.