Laphroaig’s 15 year old was first introduced in the 1980’s, and quickly became a fan favourite. It was sadly discontinued in 2009. Boo. For the 200th anniversary of the distillery in 2015, a special limited re-release of the 15 year old took place – cue Laphroaig’s famously temperamental website falling over due to a clamour of demand. The bottling sold out quickly, but is still available (with a mark-up of course) in a few places and indeed regularly on auction sites.
Nose: Commencing with medicinal peat (ash, soot, saline and rubber), but in a much more restrained fashion that you’d usually expect from this distillery. Sweetness is perhaps the most discernible aspect of this nose – heathery honey, apples, bananas and barley water. There are hints of minerality here, but they come across as quite metallic – copper and metal polish. A few drops of water softens everything up and adds some light orange into the mix, but also, unsurprisingly reduces the levels of smoke.
Taste: A medicinal arrival, but still quite sweetly peated overall – honey, barley, apples and some tart grapefruit. Minerals - granite and hints of coastal salinity are joined by some bold cask influence – pepper, ginger and slightly astringent oak. Water has a frankly odd effect – bringing in a range of rubbery and molten plastic flavours which sit strangely with the high levels of sweetness.
Finish: Medium to long in length, quite drying, fairly bitter and with pleasantly fading medicinal smoke.
Laphroaig’s 200th Anniversary 15 year old is a bit of a peculiar beast – whilst it has got plenty of expected phenolic distillery character, it’s strangely sweet, almost saccharine in places. This is no terrible thing, just a little unexpected compared to the original 15 year old that was discontinued. It is still a solid whisky packed full of expected peaty Laphroaig flavours, just don’t expect anything revelatory.