The marriage of sherry and peat can prove to be a challenging equation to balance. Some distilleries manage to figure it out with elegance and style. Others have birthed mutations best forgotten, relegated to the island of misfit bottles. Thankfully this Laphroaig does not fall in the latter category, but sadly neither does it rise to the level of expectation usually associated with the distillery’s name.
The nose has faint traces of the expected: smoke and medicinal notes, but instead of presenting at the forefront, they must claw their way through a downright uncharacteristic tropical sweetness. Water helps to balance things out, and notes of lemon and smoked meat arrive just in time. The palate fares little better with star anise, currants, and gummy candies almost canceling the peated notes out of the equation. There is a bit of campfire soot towards the end, but not enough to make this usual pleasant affair. The finish is rather lengthy and thankfully returns to the familiar: loads of smoke, tar, and phenol throughout, with an extra kick of pepper.
This Laphroaig expression is at least accessible. It is gentle, and though it diverges from its typical flavor profile, the boost in abv is always a welcome attribute. These qualities may work for someone pining away for a different take on the 10-year-old Islay staple. That’s a good thing: There is room for every palate and preference on the Great Big Islay ferry. However, my preference when drinking Laphroaig is to have it as coastal and earthy as possible, stopping just short of having a peat briquette crammed into the dram. This combination is ultimately a bit of a misfire.
C+ / $90 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]