Margy McCoy (@MargyMcCoy), a Friends of Laphroaig employee, sent out a request on Twitter earlier today asking others to tweet about their first experience with Laphroaig. She’s offering up a bottle of Feis Ile Cardais scotch to the best tweet. I was immediately taken back to my first sip of Laphroaig 10 and responded with this tweet: “My first @LaphroaigWhisky (10) shocked my system. Is that tar?! smoke? Palate intrigued, left brain wary. My palate won out.”
Obviously, I’m not going to win that little contest. However, that’s honestly how I felt. I was totally confused by what I was experiencing on the palate, and my brain was telling me that I shouldn’t be liking what I was tasting. Margy’s tweet made me want to look up my original notes, and I decided to go ahead and post them here for laughs. I need to try Laphroaig 10 again, now that I’ve had quite a bit more experience with Islay malts (including Laph. 15 and QC, which I love). I’m sure my notes will differ quite a bit.
How about you? If you like drinking Islay single malts, was it love at first taste? Did you “get it” the first time, or was it something you had to work your way into?
Original Tasting Notes
Here are the notes I jotted down after drinking Laphroaig 10 (my first Islay malt) for the first time. This was on January 9th, 2009, and I had only tried a few whiskies prior to this. I was familiar with light, earthy peat from Talisker, but this was a whole new ball game:
- Smell of some smoke, but not overwhelming
- Sweet peat smell
- A little bit of “tar”
- Holy crap! This completely shocked my system. If I were to imagine what it would taste like to run out and lick the street right after it’s been paved, this is it.
- I taste nothing but tar. My mouth is overwhelmed.
- Not bitter, though. I have no problem swishing it around in my mouth, and it goes down easily enough.
- There’s a bit of a viscous, oily quality not present in the other scotches I’ve had.
- Still tar, tar, tar
- Wait…finally something else. Oily exhaust fumes, like sitting on a bumper boat, surrounded by other bumper boats in an enclosed area, with some oil burning off and dripping into the water. Or maybe that’s just more tar.
Ok, so I wasn’t ready for this. I don’t think I made any “bitter beer” faces, though, and I kept drinking it. If there’s more to the taste, I never recovered from my first impressions of “I can’t believe I’m drinking tar” to discover it. I enjoyed the nose, actually. I still can’t believe how different the taste was from the nose. My mind is saying that I shouldn’t enjoy this, and that it belongs in a blended or vatted scotch. However, I remain curious about what I’m tasting. I think i’ll try again sometime, being more prepared going in. Maybe I’ll have a different experience and pick out more flavors.
Four and a half months later (5/29/09), I just had Laphroaig 10 again, at the same bar as the first time. Since that first taste, I’ve had many other Islay expressions, including Laphroaig QC and 15, and Islay malts have become my whisky of choice (Lagavulin and Caol Ila at the top). I went to the bar tonight with some friends from work, assuming that I would have a significantly different take on this scotch. I was surprised to discover that my reaction hasn’t changed all that much. It’s still an extremely tarry, medicinal dram, and not all that complex. I can’t believe how different the 10 year is from the 15 year, or even the Quarter Cask. The biggest differences this time around were that 1) it didn’t shock my system, and 2) I was comfortable with the fact that I like it.
I have Laphroaig 10 cs Batch 1 (Feb 2009) and Laphroaig 12 Cardais samples on the way. Maybe I’ll get a 50ml of Laphroaig 10 as well, so that I can compare the range in a controlled environment and take better notes on the 10. In the mean time, I’ll sum up my feelings on the 10 year by saying that I could drink Laphroaig 15 or QC every day, while the 10 year would be an every now and then change-up. Relative to other core Islay expressions, I find both the Ardbeg 10 and the Caol Ila 12 more interesting and pleasing to my palate.