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Laphroaig PX Cask Review

Laphroaig PX Cask – Distiller: Laphroaig. Region: Islay. ABV: 48%. No age statement. Price: $70-80 (1L).

Remember, whisky fans, the thrill of traveling abroad 7-10 years ago, ducking into a duty free and knowing you’d find at least a few stunning deals and special releases?

Times have changed. All too often, duty free whisky aisles are divided between run-of-the-mill releases you’ll find anywhere, discounted blends that don’t appeal even with the discount, and gimmicky “travel retail exclusives” that are both overpriced and forgettable.

Though these sad ranks comes the Laphroaig PX Cask like a conquering hero. I’ve seen this in a few airports over the past year, and when it popped up at the Stockholm Duty Free on sale for $70, I couldn’t resist.

This duty free exclusive is a no-age-statement whisky, like most of Laphroaig’s current lineup. It’s matured first in ex-bourbon barrels, then in quarter casks, then finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. It’s bottled at a healthy 48% ABV.

The nose starts with the classic Laphroaig salty-citrusy-maritime profile, but saltier than usual. Bright. Piney. Lime, grapefruit. Gradually warmer: grilled lemon. Toasted almond. Cinnamon late on.

The palate is strong and savory. It’s a dinner dram—not to have with dinner, but to have as dinner. Salted pork. Aged balsamico. But the brightness emerges from underneath, and with it, the fiery peat. A little wild.

The transition to the finish brings blackberry brandy. The peat goes on and on. Cinnamon again, spicy vanilla bean, candied lemon peel.

Liking the Laphroaig Quarter Cask as I do, this dram–essentially the Quarter Cask with a bit of PX on top–was right up my alley.

It was particularly interesting tasting it side-by-side with the Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017, which is a cask strength Quarter Cask. I usually gravitate toward cask strength whiskies, but if I could only choose one, I think I’d take this PX Finish over the latest Cairdeas.

Little wonder that two weeks after purchase, 1L PX Finish is already gone. (I did have a little help.)

Slàinte, friends! – BO

Buy Laphroaig online at Mash + Grape

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 Quarter Cask Review

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 Quarter Cask – Distiller: Laphroaig. Region: Islay. ABV: 57.2%. No age statement (5+ years). Price: $80.

The Laphroaig Quarter Cask is a justly beloved standard release from the Islay distillery. It’s a great next step for fans of the Laphroaig 10: they age their brash, briny malt for 5+ years in ex-Markers Mark casks, then finished for six months in quarter casks.

Quarter casks hold a mere 21 gallons, considerably less than the standard 53-gallon ex-bourbon cask. That translates to  more wood exposure per liter, and theoretically accelerated maturation. In practice, the influence small casks–sometimes overused by microdistillers who are rushing their product to market–can be unpredictable. But Laphroaig knows their stuff, and their quarter cask finish works wonderfully.

Enter the Cairdeas 2017 Quarter Cask. The Cairdeas is an annual limited edition that changes each year. (Last year’s was truly brilliant–see Thane’s review of it here.) This year’s release is a cask strength version of the Laphroaig Quarter Cask, dialing the ABV up from the 48% of the standard release to 57.2%.

The potency does great things to an already fine release. The nose is unmistakably Laphroaig–sweet and peaty–but with a twist. Clementines, canned peaches, an enigmatic floral note. White chocolate—flecked with candied ginger.

The palate is salty and spicy, particularly without water. Red pepper flakes. Salted caramel. Dry smoke. With water, the palate gets a good deal sweeter. The peat tips toward mesquite–as opposed to the iodine of the Laphroaig 10–wrapped in a blanket of vanilla.

Ashiness and sweetness intertwine on the very long finish. There’s a hint of maple syrup, then a trail of white smoke that leads you all the way back to Islay.

The 2016 Cairdeas was a tough act to follow, but the 2017 won’t let Laphroaig fans down. Slàinte, friends! – BO

Buy Laphroaig online at Mash + Grape

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016 Review

Distiller: Laphroaig. Region: Islay. ABV: 51.2%. No age statement. Price: $80.

We’re nearing that time of the year when pumpkins lead to turkeys, which lead to elves on shelves and best-of lists litter the proverbial ground like so much left-over Halloween candy. And since I’ve been sitting on this review for a while, now seemed the appropriate time to let it fly.

I’m not going to bury the lead. With just over two months left in 2016, Laphroaig’s Cairdeas 2016 Madeira Cask is the best new single malt I’ve tasted this year.

I loved Ardbeg’s Dark Cove (and fully plan on buying a bottle or two or three), but the Cairdeas 2016 just hits every one of my happy-happy-joy-joy spots.

There’s a faint scent of raspberry on the nose, which melds beautifully with the expected peat and ash, along with crispy smoked pork and the usual slightly medicinal aromas.

The palate has a delicate layer of brine, which works just wonderfully with the peat. I caught more of that slow-roasted meat around the edges, along with some spice and an ever-so-light citrus.

And, man, the finish is something to rave about all by itself. It’s quite long, which allowed me to linger on the roasted lemons, peat, and red wine that came to the fore.

All that’s left to say is that I heartily encourage anyone to discover it, but if you’re an Islay lover like me, this and the Dark Cove are the absolute must-haves of 2016.

There’s still around 65 days left in the year, so I’m not saying it’s my absolute favorite of the year, but there’s little question that it’ll crack my top five.

Here’s to beauty and complexity in our spirits, both those we drink, and those we have within. – TM

Laphroaig Select Review

Distiller: Laphroaig. Region: Islay. ABV: 40%. No age statement. Price: $50-60.

As most Axis readers will know, I’m an Islay malt fanatic. For me, these whiskies are the pinnacle of the craft. Drinks that draw from the land for both inspiration and history. The kind that force contemplation of nature with every sip. And lately, there’s so much great stuff coming from Islay. From Ardbeg’s Dark Cove to the ongoing great work by Bruichladdich to the ever impressive Lagavulin Distiller’s Editions, these distilleries continue to innovate, while also honoring their heritage. And no one’s doing it better these days than Laphroaig.

I reviewed the Laphroaig Lore some months back and adored every sip, although (spoiler alert) I loved the Cairdeas 2016 even more. That’s vaulted into one of my all-time favorites–and a review is forthcoming.

But it would be a shame if the Laphroaig Select got lost in the glories of the Cairdeas and the Lore. It’s not a traditional Laphroaig, to be sure. It’s softer, which you’d expect from a whisky that finishes the standard 10-year-old in new American Oak, then blends in the Quarter Cask, the PX, and the Triple Wood, adding some Oloroso sherry influence. Think of it as the end of a summer beach bonfire. There’s smoke, but it’s easy to digest and it heralds the advent of fall and richness coming from the earth.

Okay, enough with the poetry. On to the review. There’s oh-so subtle peat on the nose, along with ripe plum and a hint of dry oak. The palate, initially, was underwhelming, but as I’ve enjoyed more of the bottle, its beauty has blossomed. There’s the most delicate peat imaginable, along with marzipan, slight citrus, and rich oak. And befitting a Laphroaig, there’s oak and sherry on the beautifully sustained finish.

I know there are reasons that hardcore Islay fans may dismiss this one as “Laphroaig Light,” but to me it’s a wonderfully divergent strain of a whisky that I’ll never tire of trying.

Cheers, friends! – TM

Buy Laphroaig online at Mash + Grape

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Laphroaig Lore Review

Distiller: Laphroaig. Region: Islay. ABV: 48%. No age statement. Price: $100-125.

As many of you know, I’m a sucker for the Islay malts. While Lagavulin remains my desert island whisky, I’ve long and deeply loved the various offerings from Laphroaig. So when I heard about the distillery’s newest release, I was deeply intrigued.

Billed as the richest expression yet, the Laphroaig Lore is the brainchild of Distillery Manager John Campbell, who oversaw the cask selection. The whisky is intended to honor the range of ways that Laphroaig has been made over its 200-year history. It consists of whiskies that have been aged in quarter, sherry, and reused peated casks, and which range in age from 7 to 21 years old. There’s some controversy over the price for what amounts to a 7+ year old whisky, but for me, it’s all about the taste. What would you pay for greatness?

And make no bones about it: for me, this is a great Laphroaig. I caught beach bonfire, peat funk, and sweet lemon on the nose. The palate was an explosion of melding flavors: peat, ash, green apples carmelized, and well-defined citrus. The finish has more sweetness than the rest, but it’s an Islay malt all the way. Peat is sustained throughout against a backdrop of citrus. The smoke lingers and carries you to your next dram.

Is it worth the price? For me, it all comes down to whether you love it, and for how long you’ll be able to find it. I loved it, and though it’s intended as a permanent addition to Laphroaig’s range, I’ll definitely be searching for another bottle.

Sláinte, friends! – TM

Buy Laphroaig online at Mash + Grape

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Laphroaig 15 Review

Distiller: Laphroaig. ABV: 43%. Region: Islay. Price: $80-100.

I found my new favorite Laphroaig.

This year’s 200th Anniversary 15-year-old bottling is something special. That starts with the design work of David Cole, who contributed the lovely picture of the bottle and tube he designed for this release. (See more of his work here.) It elevates and dignifies the classic Laphroaig look, just distinctively enough for a special release, without calling attention to itself unnecessarily. Just right.

What’s in the bottle may be the most balanced Laphroaig I’ve ever had. First released 30 years ago, but discontinued in favor of the 18-year-old until this year’s anniversary release, the 15 is far tamer than the standard 10 or even the milder Triple Wood and Quarter Cask–both great in their own right. Laphroaig itself says that the barrels for the 15 were traditionally chosen for a “particularly rounded and mellow flavor.”

It shows. The nose is a delight. Yes, some peat of course, but so much more: lemon custard, wet hay, candied pecans, a grassy field after a rain. Gorgeous. All of these on the palate, with far less iodine and briny maritime notes than its younger siblings. The finish add a little bitter lemon zest that’s just perfect.

A very worthy release for a very big anniversary. Grab one if you can, and check out the other great spirits branding and design work by David Cole at his website. Sláinte, friends! -BO

Buy Laphroaig 15 online at Mash + Grape