An unusually categorised Laphroaig that’s spent 16 years in an American oak oloroso butt before being re-racked into a 1st fill Spanish oak oloroso butt. Clearly sometimes there’s never enough sherry.
Nose: Expressive and aromatic. The wood is quite dominant – furniture shops, attics and old garden sheds – joined by deep earthy liquorice, espresso beans and leather armchairs. Heady. There’s a good amount of smoke here – it’s dirty, but lacking the powerful medical qualities one might expect from this distillery – smoked kippers, engine oils and axle grease. Resting is helpful – unlocking brighter aromas of orange zest, jammy hedgerow berries and a roast ham joint studded with cloves. Dilution adds yet more diversity – langoustine bisque, Cinnabon pastries and a coating of wood varnish.
Taste: An incredible ashy and bitumous arrival – burnt loads, spent hearth fires and bitumous dust. Spent coffee grounds, chocolate sponge cake, brown sugars, maple bacon and balsamic firmly fix this in the heavily sherried category – they’re supported by burnt cinnamon dusted pastry, smoked red berries, and macerated cherries. In the back-palate maltiness – like a solid brown ale. Water tames the smoke quickly making things more soft, malty and pastry-led – baked loaves and buns, choux pastry and soft malt loaf alongside reduced apples and pears baked in an upside down cake.
Finish: Quite long, lingering on a gathering medicinalness with mentholated chocolate, balsamic and wood preservative.
A fascinatingly aberrant Laphroaig that I can’t help but feel is woefully mis-categorised. Sure, there is (unsurprisingly given the maturation), plenty of deep sherried fruits and sugars – but, at its heart this is still quite the peated whisky. There might not be TCP and iodine, but there sure is ash and smouldering materials. Nevertheless, this is captivating stuff with plenty of impactful flavours from a very vigorous sherry maturation. Just the over-abundance of cask influence keeps it from the upper echelons of my scoring.