Between the loss of the distillery's 18 year old expression and the dearth of casks beyond their mid-teens from independent bottlers, older Laphroaig is becoming a rare commodity and costs the earth when you can find it. So I was quite lucky to be able to try this one.
This was distilled at Laphroaig on May 4th 1993, filled into a refill ex-bourbon hogshead, and bottled 19 years later at 52.1% without coloring or chill filtration.
Thanks to Dave McEldowney of PDXWhisky for letting me sample this whisky.
SMWS 29.130 "A Chimney Sweep Smoking a Cigar"
Nose: initially rather closed, mossy peat smoke, cigarette/wood ash, stones/earth, seashore salinity, fresh malt, violets/lavender in the background, berries, cured meat. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes greener, seaweed, unripe apples and pears, lemon, pine/juniper, and strong nutmeg emerge, plus more cured meat.
Taste: cask strength sweetness up front, sliding through berries, honey, mossy peat smoke, dark chocolate/cacao, toasted/charred oak, and espresso. After dilution, it is sweeter overall, but more mellow, with less peat but more fresh vegetation, and subtle lemon acidity (but not peel).
Finish: cappuccino, oak, mossy peat
This is exactly what I want out of older Laphroaig. While the spirit has mellowed slightly, its inherent character has not been diminished by the cask, but rather accented. The nose is complex and engaging while the flavors evolve over the palate from brighter sweetness towards darker bittersweet flavors of peat and oak. Sadly this expression is long gone and teenage Laphroaigs have gotten wildly expensive, so it's hard to find anything comparable that doesn't cost crazy money. But it is good to see that older Laphroaigs, unlike the OB 18 Year, don't necessarily have to be soft.