43% ABV? Bzzzt…wrong answer! Non-chill filtering? Bzzzt…not here. This Laphroaig 15 year is obviously not with it, as all of the cool kids these days are bottled at 46% abv or higher, and non-chill filtering is all the rage. It’s only fitting that the Laphroaig [la-froyg] 15 is being replaced by a non-chill filtered 18 year old at 48% abv. Good riddance, right? Not so fast…this expression still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Last night I spent considerable time with a large dram of the Laphroaig 15, and will share my experience here, as well as link to some other resources on the internet.
A note on price: Laphroaig 15 is very reasonably priced here in Arizona. The two main big box liquor stores here are charging $55 and $64 for a 750ml bottle. I understand that the 18 is going to be priced somewhere closer to $100. Certainly something to consider if you run into a bottle of the 15 and are debating whether to pick one up.
On the nose, the first impression is tarry peat smoke sweet fruit (cinammon apples [and pears]). A little longer on the nose and I’m getting vanilla. The peat is there, but it’s not a strong tar and phenol experience like I got when I tried the 10 year (which I need to revisit now that I have more Islay experience). The peat is also very integrated with the other scents. [Update] Bananas! I hadn’t noticed it before, but having just done comparisons between Laph 15 and the 10 CS and 2009 Cairdeas, I’m definitely getting bananas on the 15 year.
On the palate, the sweetness fades quickly, replaced by spices and peat. It’s fairly oily and full bodied as well. I don’t think the 43% abv is a problem here. It’s not until the finish that the tar smoke comes through, rising up through the nostrils with some oak. There is also a drying sensation on the tongue. There is lots of stuff going on here, providing a rich sensory experience.
Conclusion: I mentioned in the Whisky Mag. forums that I like this scotch better each time I try it. This continues to be true, and I now rank it right up there close to Lagavulin 16 (I said “close”, not equal) in terms of the full cycle of nose to palate to finish. I can nose it all night long and it doesn’t get old. There’s also no alcohol roughness getting in the way at any stage of the experience. To maximize your enjoyment of this particular expression, I recommend leaving your preconceptions of a “proper Laphroaig” at the door, and considering the 15 on its own merits. Don’t compare it to the Laph. 10 CS on the same evening (well, not every time, anyway), as I’m sure this one will suddenly seem too light-bodied, or lacking in phenols.
If you like Islay malts, and you haven’t tried this yet, I’m begging you to grab a bottle if you can find one. Even if it turns out to be your least favorite Laphroaig, I can’t imagine that you’ll actually dislike it, and you might love it. Get it while you still can…
Here are some links to other reviews and notes on Laphroaig 15:
- Whisky Magazine: Tasting notes and ratings from none other than Michael Jackson and Jim Murray. MJ rated it very highly, while JM found some faults. Scroll down for links to a number of discussions on Laphroaig 15, including comparisons to other Laphroaig expressions.
- WhiskyFun.com: Notes and ratings on a number of Laphroaigs circa 2006. The 15 did very well here as well, scoring 90 along with the 30 year expression.
- Whisky For Everyone: Another whisky blog that I enjoy reading…some good information about Laphroaig in general, plus notes on the 15 year.
- Whisky Party: A comparison of the 15 year to Quarter Cask. They also recommend grabbing some 15 year while you can, finding it a bit more complex than the QC. [Update 6/5/09]
- Laphroaig 15 on YouTube: Check out the PeatLuvr and IslayScotchWhisky reviews, then watch Ralphy partake of some Laph. 15 from the top of Merrick Summit in Scotland.