A few days ago, I reviewed Bunnahabhain 12 year Scotch whisky. The strong Sherry influence and delicate smoke of Bunnahabhain is not what most people associate with Islay Scotch. I would be remiss in my exploration of Scotch regions if I did not provide a review of Laphroaig 10 year, a whisky that gives a lot of bang for your buck.
Laphroaig is one of the distilleries known for creating “peat monsters.” The smoky, peaty flavors in these whiskies are achieved by drying the malt over a peat fire. There are many distilleries that do this, but Laphroaig uses fresh peat (and a lot of it) to create a pretty intense flavor profile. The 10 year expression is the standard Laphroaig, bottled at 80 proof. Many of Laphroaig’s other whiskies are bottled at higher percentages (and they are brilliant whiskies), but they are also usually outside my price range. The 10 year is usually around $45 a bottle, making it the most affordable of the “peat monsters” Islay Scotches.
On the nose, Laphroaig is full-bodied. Seriously, it extends beyond the glass and fills the room. It is primarily a nose of peat smoke, but some salty flavors sneak through, like seaweed and iodine. On the palate, Laphroaig is mostly earthy. The primary notes are (sweet) soil, seaweed, peat smoke, sea salt, and smoked fish. The finish lasts quite a while (several hours or so), and it is a resurgence of the nose. The smoke comes in and out with big bursts. There are also some whispering notes of heather and soil. However, the peat and smoke are the biggest flavors after a few minutes, and they will stay for a long time.
Overall, Laphroaig 10 year is a bit one-tricked. It doesn’t have the incredible depth and complexity that some of its older siblings have. However, there is a ton of power and strength in this flavor profile. If you love a strong, peated whisky, look no further than Laphroaig. If you don’t like the way a bonfire smells when you have it in a peat bog, then I would not recommend Laphroaig; it probably isn’t the best whisky for you. If you would like to try an authentic, peated Islay single malt, then Laphroaig is probably up your street. My grade: B-. Price: $45-50/750ml. This is a nice introduction to Islay Scotch, and it would make a nice daily dram for rainy days. However, I usually pay a little more and something for my top shelf from Laphroaig.