This one has copped a little flak from some reviewers for it's lack of age statement, and for some reason many were doubting Laphroaig's explanation of it's contents, thinking that it was simply a higher-strength version of the entry-level 'Select'. It's true that there are multiple types of casks and different ages involved, but there are some seriously rare whiskies in here, and the overall flavour profile is far above that of the 'beginners' Laphroaig' Select. Personally I don't see why there was so much negativity towards this one, it's hardly the first & only NAS whisky on the market! One of the main issues seems to be the price, which granted is a little higher than the other NAS Laphroaigs (which are relatively young whiskies), but seems very reasonable considering the component whiskies involved here.
What we're looking at in this expression is a mix of six different Laphroaigs, ranging from 8 to 21 years of age, including some fully-matured in smaller quarter casks (yes, fully-matured, not finished!), some finished in virgin European oak, some matured in refill casks for maximum peaty punch, and some matured in ex-Oloroso sherry casks, and two ages of substantially older whisky that was fully-matured in first-fill bourbon casks. So there is certainly some very serious whisky in here, and it's certainly not over-priced!
The name 'Lore' refers to the passing of knowledge by word-of-mouth, and is distillery manager John Campbell's tribute to the distillery's history and the craftsmen that have made Laphroaig over the last 200+ years. Laphroaig are calling this 'the richest Laphroaig ever', and 'the richest of the rich', which is a little subjective of course, but there is certainly no lack of flavour here. Adding to that is the fact that Lore is bottled at 48%, and like the other Laphroaig expressions bottled at and above that strength, is only barrier filtered, rather than being chill filtered.
We don't know the exact pricing just yet, or exactly where it'll be available, but look at it this way: one of the Australian stores that imported Lore direct from the distillery was selling it for $259, (which is a stretch in my opinion), and they appear to have sold out of their stock. The official retail will be well under $200, probably somewhere in the range of $170-180, which is far more reasonable, and there will also be a decent amount of stock available. Yay!
Laphroaig Lore, NAS, 48%. Islay, Scotland.
Mix of 8-21 year old whisky from 5-6 different cask types (see above for details). Non-chill filtered.
Nose: Takes some time to open up, but it's worth the wait! Quite mineral-y - damp rocks near a beach, or even a wet sharpening stone / whetstone, including the oil. Creamy natural oysters in the shell, definitely, and something a little nutty. Rich floral honey, drying driftwood. Dried herbs & heather, some wood spices, and dried stone fruit. Not getting much peat here, it noses like an older, sweet & fruity Laphroaig.
Texture: Light-medium weight, first soft & gentle, then warming & spicy. No heat at all though.
Taste: Gentle arrival, then a big punch of ashy peat which builds gradually. Warm spicy oak and floral sweetness. Then a good pinch of black pepper and some chilli flakes, more dried fruit (mango now as well) and ground wood spices.
Finish: Medium-length. Spicy, ashy peat, but becomes sweet quite quickly. The mineral / whetstone from the nose comes back, plus the floral sweetness. Some bitter oak now, and dried fruits under the soft, sweet peat. More typical Laphroaig here, once the dust settles.
Score: 3.5 out of 5.
Notes: Quite a different expression from Laphroaig here! A surprising floral sweetness which reminds me a little of the 25-year old, but then the peat in this one reminds me a little of the 2015 Cairdeas! Definitely more mineral-y than usual as well, rather than medicinal. Very dynamic, goes from gentle to powerful and then back again, and then repeats the process. I'm not quite sure about that slight bitterness I'm getting with more time in the glass, but it's not off-putting either.
Personally, I wouldn't call it the richest Laphroaig ever, but it's certainly very engaging and quite complex. There's plenty going on here to keep you busy, and it will have changed again the next time you pick up the glass. There are definitely a good balance of ages and casks in here as well, and these guys certainly know what they're doing. As if there was ever any doubt about that, of course!
So, if the rumours are true and Lore is replacing the 18-year old as a permanent addition to the line-up, it's not the disaster that some might have you believe. In fact this should help convince some of the anti-NAS brigade that all is not always what it seems. Welcome aboard Laphroaig Lore, I hope to see you again soon!
Thanks to Dan Woolley, Beam Suntory Australia and Laphroaig for the sample.