Age: 16 Years Old
To paraphrase the beautiful D. Boon, spending $100 on this bottle made me feel like a dork. A sexy, optimistic dork.
The nose on this Laphroiag is familiar to any adherent of the brand. Opening the bottle unleashes the mingled stenches of tar, smoke, and Band-Aids. What’s missing is the sweetness I associate with the standard 10 year old bottling, and indeed most Laphroiags I can remember. In its absence, the nose is not very welcoming.
The mouthfeel is very watery. It seems ruthlessly filtered of all oiliness and personality, to the point that there’s almost no sensation on the tongue except alcohol burn. The taste is hardly an improvement. As with the nose, there is none of the expected vanilla softness that balances out the dark smoke and brine of a standard Laphroiag.
This whiskey is a disappointment. Period. It’s thin, one-dimensional, and doesn’t offer me a single reason to refill my glass. And I say that as a fan of Islay whiskies, and of Laphroiag, in particular. The issue with this specific bottling is that it packs an abundance of familiar smoke and burnt plastic flavors, but surprisingly little of the peat and welcome sweetness I associate with Laphroiag. It is painfully out of balance, and not in an interesting sort of way. If I try to tease out another, more pleasant flavor, I can get a bit of lemon or indistinct citrus, but this is basically liquid smoke and alcohol. If that’s your thing, hurry to K&L and buy a bottle. Price aside, it’s the most underwhelming Laphroiag I can remember drinking, and at over $100, it’s a major kick in the crotch.
Drinking this reminded me of my first experience with Balcones Brimstone Corn Whiskey. The two don’t taste at all alike, but they’re similarly one-dimensional. Both offer the drinker a punch in the mouth from a well-smoked fist. There’s a blast of alcohol, the taste of an upwind charcoal barbecue, and not much else. I don’t care for either whiskey, but if you’ve tried the Balcones Brimstone and enjoy it, you may like this K&L Laphroiag selection. I emphasize, though, that the Balcones is a much oilier and entertaining whiskey, in spite of its youth and relative lack of pedigree. It’s also massively cheaper.
This K&L-selected bottling illustrates the dark side of retailer picks, the yin to the glorious yang that is the Four Roses OBSV also selected by K&L Wines or the George Dickel offered by the Party Source. It is a reminder that the excitement of nabbing a one-off bottling doesn’t always make up for the actual taste of the whiskey within.