Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Laphroaig 10 Year

Laphroaig 10 year
Laphroaig is called by some the most flavorful scotch in the world. I received two or three bottles of Laphroaig 10 as Christmas gifts from relatives a few years ago and that was my second introduction to the brand. This is an Islay scotch and like most of its kin has a strong peaty taste. This taste is not for everyone. Those that like it seem to really love it and those that don’t care for it avoid it. For most folks the whole world of scotch is an acquired taste and I am still trying to acquire the taste for Laphroaig. I am not saying it’s bad whisky I am just saying that most smoky tasting scotches are not high on my “to buy” list as I am a sherry or other wine finish and/or oak finish fan in a huge way.
Laphroaig tasters have reported an iodine taste with the smell of fresh new band-aids mixed with smoke, sea air, and occasionally some oak flavors. As I taste it I certainly smell the often reported medicinal smell and of course the whisky’s overwhelming smokiness comes through like a freight train. Actually my very first contact with smoky scotches was in October of 1997 when I was snowed in at a Double Tree Inn in Colorado Springs. A blizzard had interrupted my business trip and I barely made it to the hotel before several feet of snow struck in a hellatious blizzard that raged all night. The power kept going out and the fire alarms kept going off throughout the night but no fire, just lots of wind. 8 people lost their lives that night in that blizzard so it was not a fun thing. The next day there were 15 foot snow drifts and I was to spend the next three days at the hotel before the airport could be plowed and flights could resume. I had hit the snack bar/ souvenir shop right after I arrived as I suspected I would be stuck a few days. I bought up chips, crackers, sodas, and an armload of cookies and such.
Well the good news was that some of the great staff at that hotel made it in or never left so I got a hot breakfast the first morning and the bar was opened later that day with huge TV screens showing the World Series. This bar had a huge selection of scotch and I got to try probably 20 different ones over the three days I was there as well, there wasn’t anything else to do. Laphroaig was one of the memorable ones and I tried hard to wrap my mind around the smoky flavor. I wanted very badly to enjoy it and embrace the smoke but in the end I went back to my sherry based favorites. It is an interesting flavor and I think after a big meal would be the best time to enjoy a smoky scotch. I have a hard time trying to understand why anyone would purposely make a scotch that tasted or smelled like band-aids and smoke and I guess that just shows my lack of sophistication. I am still learning and trying new whisky whenever possible. I will even go back and try Laphroaig again as I still have a bottle at home. People’s tastes change over the years and I know my tastes definitely change as some whiskies that I thought I did not like 5 years ago when tried today I find I greatly enjoy. Love of whisky is a journey down a long and winding road that is well worth taking and sometimes determination and the refusal to give up on that journey are greatly rewarded in the end.
So if you have tried something and did not like it try it again at some later date and see if your tastes have changed as well. I should mention that Laphroaig has several other varieties including its “new” quarter cask in which at some point the whisky is transferred from its old Maker’s Mark Bourbon barrels into ¼ sized oaken casks. This process is supposed to speed up the later part of the maturation as more of the whisky is in more contact with the oak. I will take their word for it. I have not tried the quarter cask yet, only the 10 year version but if I get the chance I will try the quarter cask soon.
As a side note I do enjoy Talisker which is an Island of Skye scotch that has a smoky flavor. If you find Laphroaig too smoky but still enjoy the smokiness then try Talisker as a less smoky but full flavored alternative.
If you love a smoky scotch then Laphroaig is definitely for you. If not then try it by all means but buy it by the glass before you go buy a whole bottle.

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