I'll get back to Bessie shortly - there's another little nugget of history I'd like to share
with you first. The Johnston family provides a link between Laphroaig and another
distillery on Islay: Tallant. It is long gone now (according to the 'Moss & Hume' bible it
was closed in 1852), but it was owned by another branch of the Johnston family. In
those days, people still married their nephews & nieces (if they liked them enough), so
after a marriage Laphroaig & Tallant were owned by the same family for a while. Unlike
the name suggests, Ian William Hunter was a member of the Johnston family as well.
He started working at Laphroaig in 1908 and remained there until his death in 1954.
Ian Hunter had no descendants, so he left the distillery to his secretary, Elisabeth
('Bessie') Williamson. Bessie was the first female distillery manager on Islay (and
quite probably in all Scotland); she managed Laphroaig until her retirement in 1972.
Laphroaig (Pronounced: La-froigk)
55°37'47.5896 N, 6°9'13.0716 W
Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Port Ellen
3 wash stills, 4 spirit stills
Port Ellen, Islay PA42 7DU
Yes - especially for members of 'Friends of Laphroaig'
Below, on Whiskyfun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
1) Most distilleries have an even number of stills; x sets of one wash still and one spirit still.
However, Laphroaig has an uneven number of stills - seven to be exact. In 1968 the number of stills was expanded from four to six and when Bessie Williamson retired in 1972 a seventh still was added - an extra spirit still.
2) Laphroaig stands on the 'grave' of another distillery in the Kildalton area of Islay.
Unlike the aforementioned Tallant distillery, the Ardenistle distillery (a.k.a. Ardenestiel or Aredenistiel) was located right next to Laphroaig. It was founded in 1837 by Andrew & James Stein - but it was discontinued again just a decade later, around 1848. The remains are now part of the Laphroaig distillery.
3) You should be able to find most of the 'regular' expressions of Laphroaig at most well-stocked liquorists.
Some stores that are found among the sponsored links on the home page are bound to have recent batches of these in stock. Please check out the Hot List and the Hit List in the mAlmanac for more recent releases.
4) Although Laphroaig isn't allowed to put the prefix "Royal" in its name (yet), rumour has it that his royal princeness Charles of Wales is a fan of the whisky. And locals on Islay will gladly tell the tale of Prince Charles confidently trying to land a government plane on the "airport" of Islay during a visit. It did not go quite as planned...
5) Laphroaig has been the best selling Islay malt whisky during the first decade of the third millennium.
Laphroaig 1998/2010 (46%, Berry Brothers Boisdale, Hogshead, C#700217, 380 Bts.)
Nose: Clean, sweet and peaty. Chloride and a little dusty. Faint organics but not a lot of development...
It started out around 83/84 points and gradually rose to the border of 'silver medal' territory.
Taste: Relatively soft start with smoke popping up after a second. Fairly dry finish. Quite balanced.
Score: 85 points - surprisingly fruity; none of the heavy chemical fragrances I've come to expect.
Laphroaig 12yo 1998/2010 (59,4%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Rossi Import, C#700295)
Nose: Clean, light and peaty. A hint of sulphur. Slightly chalky. With water some meaty organics emerge.
Taste: Sweat and peaty, like some others in this flight. Sweet & salt liquorice. Brilliant mouth feel at C/S.
Diluted to +/- 50%. the mouth feel became a little grittier, but it reaches a new balance eventually.
Score: 86 points - the sweaty & meaty organics that appear in the nose lift it above 85 points for me.
Laphroaig 13yo 1997/2010 Sherry Finish (58%, A. D. Rattray, c#3329, 307 Bts.)
Nose: A hint of oil before more phenolic elements emerge. Grows peatier and sweeter over time.
Taste: Round, sweet and smoky. The fruity component grows more prominent after time and some water.
Score: 85 points - a lovely peaty malt whisky, and they did a very subtle finishing job with this one.
Laphroaig 1998/2009 (55.5%, Malts of Scotland, Sherry Butt #MoS15, 201 Bts.)
Nose: Heavy, woody and fruity. Christmas cake. Smoke and cough syrup. Sweet dough. Diesel. Gunpowder.
Taste: Heavy wood and smoke, softening up in the centre. Hot but quite excellent. Powerful tannins.
Liquorice. Tar. The smoke grows more dominant after some breathing. Quite extreme, but right up my alley.
Score: 87 points - official bottlings may have dropped off a little lately, but there are still fantastic IB's.
Laphroaig 12yo 1996/2009 (46%, Milroy's, bourbon hogshead #7289, 337 Bts.)
Nose: Leathery and quite sweet. Light and oily start. This whisky grows a little peatier over time. Smoke.
Melon and a hint of liquorice. Quite a lot of development over time, but the wonderful balance remains.
Taste: Not as 'organic' as the nose at first sight, and not quite as complex either. Solid with a smoky centre.
Some salt liquorice in the finish - but some fruity sweetness too... Nice finish; dies out relatively quickly.
Score: 85 points - which is an average of 87 or 88 points in the beginning and 81 or 82 points at the end.
Laphroaig NAS 'Cairdeas' (55%, OB, Bottled 2008)
Nose: Relatively restrained with organics in the background. A pleasant & smooth profile. Some vegetal notes.
A spicy prickle in the top of the nose. Not very much definition though. It drops off rather quickly too...
Taste: Solid and peaty with a very dry finish. Quite harsh in the centre, lacking sweetness.
Score: 80 points - hmmm.... were they trying to compose a competitor to the Ardbeg 'Blasda'?
Even at the original price of 45.- GBP this wouldn't have made it to my Bang For Your Buck List...
Laphroaig 1998/2008 (61.2%, Jean Boyer for Whisky Forum, 260 Bts.)
Nose: Quite mellow with some sharp peat in the background. Medicinal notes & organics emerge as well.
Barely made it into the upper 80's at first, but kept climbing as it opened up after breathing.
Taste: Very sweet start, with salty notes coming forward in the centre. Great mouth feel. Long finish.
Score: 87 points - an interesting alternative for the Laproaig 10yo Cask Strength official release.
Laphroaig 10yo 1998/2008 (62.2%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Cask ref 700214, 272 Bts.)
Nose: Loads of organics, but some fruits as well - making it a lovely balanced dram. Some meaty notes.
Surprisingly complex for a peat monster. Some chloride after circa five minutes when it starts to drop off a little.
Some water breaks it up, before releasing more light fruits (water melon). Ah, and the development goes on.
More herbal notes appear after ten minutes. Some pastry sweetness as well. Lovely development over time.
Taste: Peaty, sweet and fruity - just how I like it. More leather and especially smoke in the centre.
Fairly harsh, dry finish - which initially keeps it from reaching the 90's. Fruity tannins soften the rough edges.
The smoke grows more pronounced over time. Very heavy 'legs' - although it feels quite young.
Score: 90 points - this independent bottling has a lot to offer, and at a fairly reasonable price to boot.
Laphroaig 27yo 1980/2007 (57.4%, OB, Vatting of Five Oloroso Casks)
Nose: Oooh.. Wonderful wood. Wet dog. Spices. Tertiary fruits. Celery and other spices after 15 minutes.
Organics too - one of the reasons I prefer the 'dirty' Kildalton malts over cleaner Islay malts. Amazing complexity.
Taste: Brilliant mouth feel; smoke and candy sweetness. Coffee bitterness in the finish - and the smoke.
Score: 94 points - the 'ultra premium' 2007 MM Awards winner. Too bad a bottle will set you back £500...
Laphroaig 17yo 1989/2007 (50.3%, OB, 4000 Bts., Feis Isle 2007)
Nose: Clean peat with fruits and tobacco in the background. Leather and organics. Woohaah!
I almost didn't dare to add water. When I did, the last drops of whisky became minty and gentle. Odd...
Taste: Leather, liquorice, smoke and Lapsang Souchong tea. Wonderful complexity on the palate.
Quite unique - and not as 'clean' as the nose would suggest. Just as well, I like my peat 'dirty'...
Some sweetness as well that brings balance to the peat and smoke. Liquorice in the finish.
Score: 90 points - definitely a worthy bottling for Feis Ile, I'd say. A nice deviation from the 'Phroaig profile.
In fact, drinking this makes me feel like a friend of Laphroaig - although I never officially became a member.
Laphroaig 12yo 1994/2007 (46%, TWE Single Malts of Scotland, C#6380-6589, 705 Bts.)
Nose: Clean, fresh peat with some fruits. Starts off surprisingly complex, but then settles down.
It's fairly young in character in the nose. A good Islay malt, but not good enough for the upper 80's.
Taste: I wasn't overly impressed with the nose, but it works wonders on the palate. Strong peat.
This has everything a peat lover wants, although discerning connoisseurs might look for more.
Score: 82 points - reminds me a bit of the very affordable 'Finlaggan' bottlings of the 1990's.
Laphroaig 12yo 1994/2006 (56%, OB for Feis Ile 2006, 600 Bts.)
Nose: Dry with a fairly sharp start. Water melons and dust. Beautiful, but it drops off after a few minutes.
Taste: A few gentle fruity seconds before salt and smoke join the party. A beautiful balance on the palate!
The perfection only lasts for a few minutes though; it grows a tad too dry. The smoke becomes dominant.
Score: 88 points - this one really shines for a few minutes after pouring, but then it drops off.
Laphroaig 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Sweet and peaty, not much else at first. Some fruity notes after a minute. A young Kildalton malt?
Oooaah... Yup, I love the nose! A peat monster that takes no prisoners. Definitely a young Kildalton malt.
Oh, what a lovely nose. Meaty and rubbery. Hint of iodine. Hey... Tea. Whiff of urine as well, I'm afraid...
Taste: Sweet and peaty, just like the nose. Lovely! Just my kind of profile, but it seems to lack a little depth.
Score: 85 points - I was initially more inclined to go for the 90's, but it's not quite complex enough for that.
On closer inspection it just lacks some power on the palate. Very nice, but it could use more 'oomph'.
Laphroaig NAS 'Quarter Cask' (48%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Aaaah... Lovely organics in the start. Medicinal elements growing stronger. Rubber. Diesel. Meaty notes.
There's a softer, fruitier side to the bouquet as well, but you have to look for it. Give this one time to breathe.
Taste: Big peat. Smoke, quickly growing dryer and more medicinal. Laphroaig? Dry and quite bitter. Chewy.
The palate didn't seem quite so solid during my second try, but it's still a magnificent talkative peat monster.
Score: 90 points - just my kind of profile. I didn't even dare to add water in fear of breaking up the palate.
Laphroaig 10yo 'Cask Strength' (55.7%, OB, Red Stripe, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Oooaah... Sweetness and peat. Lovely sweetness for a second, then an unpleasant whiff of glue.
The bouquet burns your nose if you inhale too deep. More peat again after a few seconds. Hint of mint?
Softens up and grows more complex with water. Meaty. Uncompromising.
Taste: Just a tad thin in the start. It's sweet and fruity for a second, followed by a flash of peat. Hot.
Solid centre. Whiff of smoke? Yeah, and more and more peat. Nice! Gasoline in the finish.
Stands water VERY well - in fact, it brought out a magnificent and endless peaty finish. Magnifico!
Only after almost a minute it grows smoky and dry. Bigger and better integrated during my 2nd try.
Score: 93 points - Quite a brutal monster at times, but it does have its sweeter moments as well.
Laphroaig 31yo 1974/2005 (49.7%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, Sherry casks, 910 bottles)
Nose: Ooaaah! A serious sherry monster. Tea leaves. Spices. Hint of camphor? A cafe the morning after a party.
Then some strange vegetal notes. A nose to get lost in. It needs some time to reach its zenith, though.
Superb. A MONSTER! So much going on... Dirty and most complex, although it needs a little work.
Taste: Sweet but serious. Then a lovely fruity centre. Black currants. Fabulous tannins. Lovely mouth feel.
Smoke and wood. Good tannins. Hint of Tia Maria. Hey, is that some peat? The score kept climbing and climbing...
Score: 95 points - just what I like... The mouth feel is just SO magnificent! Smoke, peat and fruits on the palate.
This comes very close to perfection. Top dog at the 2005 edition of the Malt Maniacs Awards.
Laphroaig 13yo 1991/2005 (59.1%, SMWS 29.40)
Nose: Light, sweet and fruity - maybe with the faintest hint of perfume. Developing organics. Meaty. Leather.
Interesting development over time - it makes a lot of stops along the way. At times it's almost a 90's malt.
Maybe some water melon in the nose as well during round two. Then the wonderful organics emerge.
Taste: Oy.... Soapy, perfumy and herbal start. But then a big, sweet and solid centre makes amends.
Hmm... In the finish it grows too dry for my tastes. Well, I like the smoke. A very 'stretched' malt.
Dry, peaty and magnificent on the palate during my 2nd try. None of the things that disturbed me earlier.
Score: 90 points - it was very touch to rate this malt, but it eventually manage to reach the 90's.
Laphroaig 15yo (43%, OB, Batch L00994 / L01241, Bottled +/- 2000)
Nose: Not very much as first. Sherry and a whiff of smoke. Then it powers up. Toffee?
Wow. Organics, but the sherry masks most of the peat. Hardly a trace of iodine this time.
It becomes extremely complex, although the nose of this batch seems less peaty than others.
Taste: Yes, this is very nice! A small adventure on your palate. Sardines? Very good. Feels natural.
Wood in the centre. Fruit and sherry followed by a peaty punch and a long salty finish. Hint of lemon?
It actually feels more powerful than 43% with a long, satisfying burn in the finish that lasts forever.
Score: 87 points seems about right - 1 point more than my score for the freshly opened bottle.
Laphroaig 10yo (43%, OB, Hiram Walker, France, Bottled +/- 1990)
Nose: Aaah again... The profile seems quite similar to that of the 'Cinzano' bottling.
Well, it's a little sweeter and there are some more organics. It's 'farmier' too. Dust?
Rotting hay. Cow stable. Washbacks. Smoked sausages. What a lovely profile.
Taste: Hmmm. Chloride. Sweeter and fruiter in the centre. Then the peat emerges.
Smoke. Oh, this tastes just great - it shows more peat than the Italian bottle.
Score: 88 points - more of a 'peat' monster than the 'unblended' version from +/- 1985.
Laphroaig 10yo 'Unblended' (43%, OB, Cinzano Italy, Bottled +/- 1985)
Nose: Aaaah! Peat, smoke and fruits all emerging at the same time. Tea. Wonderful.
Mango. No, peach! Or perhaps nectarines. Very distinctive - and it overpowers the peat.
Taste: Hmmm... A tad watery in the start, but then it grows more solid and smoky.
Medicinal as well, growing saltier towards the finish - a bit like salted fish. Hot finish.
Still, it doesn't seem to have quite the impact that the 'Phroaig 10 had in the early 90's.
Score: 84 points - it's just a tad thin on the palate but the nose of this Laphroaig is very intriguing.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Laphroaig Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Laphroaig page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Laphroaig expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
These were just a few small tidbits of information
from the rich and diverse history of the Laphroaig
distillery. Dutch writers Marcel van Gils and Hans
Offringa have published a great book about it;
The Legend of Laphroaig. The massive book
(ISBN 9789089100276, published in 2007) is
a must-have for all true Laphroaig fanatics.
If you're interested, you can order it via the
official Laphroaig website (see above) or
through Marcel van Gils' on-line shrine
that's at www.laphroaigcollector.com.
The book is beautifully illustrated!
But I'm getting side-tracked... The topic was Laphroaig distillery.
I visited the distillery with some other maniacs during 'Feis Ile 2005'.
The Islay Festival is great way to know the distilleries, the island
and its inhabitants - which included quite a few swans and seals
when we were there in May 2005. Every distillery on the island
releases one or more ' festival bottlings' each year, and those from
Laphroaig are usually excellent - and relatively affordable too...
As far as I know the book is the first of its kind; a detailed history of
a specific Scotch whisky distillery that was NOT written by their PR people.
Well, those can have their own quirky charm as well I suppose; I still cherish the
autographed copy of 'The Definitive Guide To Buying Vintage Macallan' that Indian maniac
Krishna gave me. I admire the boldness of charging £10,- for what's basically a brochure for expensive
bottlings (keeps the riff-raff from reading it, I suppose), but some of the proudly featured 'antiques' later turned out
to be fakes. A talented faker had convinced the PR people of Macallan to buy these bottles for their own archives...
And that's the 'general information' on
the Laphroaig distillery so far... There's
a lot more to tell about Laphroaig, but
the available space on this page is
limited. So, I kindly refer you to the book
'The Legend of Laphroaig' (by Marcel van
Gils & Hans Offringa) for much more
information about the history of the
Laphroaig distillery. The 'trivia' below
are just a few tips of the iceberg - and
the very top part of the tips at that...
As far as the bottlings are concerned;
you can find my tasting notes on a few
recent expressions at the bottom of
this page. Generally speaking, I like
recent official bottlings slightly less than
I used to, simply because the value has
decreased a little. At the end of the
1990's many young 'antiques' that had
been bottled before, say, 1980 were
more expensive than their siplings that
were distilled in that year and bottled
in their twenties. It's safe to say that
this situation has now changed...
2002 - Ian Henderson (who started his career at Laphroaig in 1989) retires as distillery manager.
2004 - The first edition of the Laphroaig 'Quarter Cask' is launched. The whisky has no age statement, but it's supposedly a vatting of 'quarter casks' that have matured for circa five years. The contents of these casks is a little over 100 litres, so the wood-to-whisky ratio is much higher than in regular casks. This affects maturation.
2005 - The Laphroaig distillery is acquired by Fortune Brands, a subsidiary of Beam Global Spirits & Wine.
2009 - The legendary Laproaig 15yo OB is replaced by an 18 years old official bottling of Laphroaig.
Laphroaig was 'officially' founded in 1815 but rumour has it that the
brothers Alexander and Donald Johnston actually built it around 1810
when they started farming in the area. The first official registration of
the distillery wasn't until 1826. The distillery remained in the Johnston
family until 1954 when Ian Hunter left it to one Bessie Williamson.
distillery is arguably the most famous distillery on Islay.
The island itself is famous for its pungent, peaty malts, so I guess that
sort of makes the Laphroaig single malt the most famous peaty whisky.
Laphroaig wasn't my first peated malt whisky experience, but if I'm not
mistaken it was the first other ' peat monster' I tried after my discovery
of the Lagavulin 16yo in 1991 - and I liked it a lot!
Is the distillery or