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Sunday, 5 November 2017

Laphroaig 30 Year Old Whisky Review!

Now that's not something you hear (or read) every day! A 30-year old Laphroaig? Yes please! This is the first of a few special reviews that will honour the favourite distilleries from my pilgrimage to Scotland, and what better to start with than my beloved Laphroaig!

Following on from the excellent 32-year old limited release that hit the shelves in 2015, this 30-year old bottling was released in 2016. Both were bottled at natural cask strength without added colouring or chill filtration, and were presented in very pretty white wooden boxes and clear bottles. While the 32 was fully matured in Oloroso sherry casks and sold out very quickly considering the investment required, this one was fully matured in ex-bourbon casks, and seems to be mostly sold out. It was also more expensive than it's older predecessor, around $500 AUD more expensive in fact, but then it is also significantly higher in strength at 53.5% compared to 46.6% in the sherry cask bottling, and it was released a year sooner. There has since been a 27-year old bottling released earlier in 2017, and that one was down to 41.7% (still bottled at cask strength), but it is almost half the price of the 30 year old we're looking at here. I wonder what they're going to come up with next year!

This 30-year old bottling was distilled in October 1985 (wow!) and bottled in May 2016, and was "double matured" in all ex-bourbon barrels, both refill and first fill. Given the age of this whisky I'm assuming it was mostly matured in refill ex-bourbon casks, and then finished or double matured in first fill ex-bourbon casks, but it could have been the other way around. Although it doesn't say so on the packaging, I think we can safely assume that it is naturally coloured and non-chill filtered, and the texture of this beautiful stuff reinforces that assumption for me. I love the packaging too, a nice simple clear bottle and white label, and that wooden box is very pretty. They could have easily put this whisky in some ridiculous and over-compensating packaging and tripled the price, but there's no crystal decanters and fancy hand-crafted lacquered boxes here, just an understated label and box, and a relatively reasonable price considering what you're getting. Great stuff!

Older Laphroaigs tend to be quite refined, sweet and gentle. But the aforementioned 32-year old was surprisingly peaty considering its age and the sherry casks that were involved, since both age and assertive casks tend to reduce peating levels, so this one will be very interesting, particularly with the significantly higher strength. I wasn't even one year old when this whisky was distilled, so let's see if it's aged better than I have!
Laphroaig 30-year old, 53.5%, 2016 bottling. Islay, Scotland.
Distilled 10/1985, bottled 5/2016. "Double matured" in both first-fill and refill ex-bourbon casks. Natural colour, non-chill filtered. 

Colour: Deep gold. 

Nose: Super soft and gentle, no sign of any alcohol at all. Sweet, juicy oranges & apples, dusty light honey and toasted oak. Some salted licorice, and marzipan (sweetened almond paste)! Dried herbs - sage, a little rosemary, and sweet dried flowers. Surprisingly fresh and bright for the age, this is already a winner!

Texture: Very nice. Medium weight, and well balanced. No sign of any heat at all.

Taste: Sweet and light on entry, builds slowly to a lovely dry, ashy peat that quickly fades again leaving salted licorice and fruit. Dried fruit now though, apples & oranges again. More of those dried herbs too, and an almost grape soft drink / soda-like sweetness. 

Finish: Long, and comes & goes in waves. Typical Laphroaig grapefruit here, but it's less sweet and less intense here, more of a dried grapefruit. Lots of dried tropical fruit in fact, papaya too. A little cigarette ash, strong aniseed, wood spices and powdered ginger. Then cinnamon sugar on a flaky sweet pastry, and a little warm oak.   

Score: 4 out of 5. 

Notes: A delicious whisky of course, as can be expected from Laphroaig! It's certainly far less peaty and more subtle & refined than I remember the 32 year old being, but there's still a lot going on here, and there are still traces of that Laphroaig DNA that we all love. I really like the flavours that are on offer here, it's like a gentleman Laphroaig in a three-piece suit. Very refined and gentle, softly spoken but also very expressive and confident. Very, very impressive, as always. And yes, I'd have to say it's aged better than I have...

Like I've said in the past about the 25-year old and 32-year old, if you're a Laphroaig fan and you have the disposable income necessary to buy in to one of these much older expressions, you can't go wrong. If I was in the market myself for a whisky of this age, Laphroaig would absolutely be my first port of call. And what an honour to be able to taste these drams!   

Speaking of which, a big thanks to Beam Suntory & The Exchange's Australian national brand ambassador, the legendary Dan Woolley, for the sample. Lots of love mate!