LAPHROAIG 10 Cask Strength
Well balanced & ridiculously delicious
Laphroaig is a polarizing brand, regardless of whether you are talking about new scotch drinkers or lovers of Islay peated malts. Even my own experience has been mixed. I initially hated the standard Laphroaig 10 year, but before the bottle was finished, I fell in love with Islay. The Quarter Cask offering is just ok, while the Cairdeas series, and specifically the Fino Cask finish from 2018, are always fantastic. I recently had the 16 year limited release which was quite good as well. I also found the standard Triple Wood, not the Cairdeas offering, and that was a solid pour.
However, the Cask Strength 10 year has always eluded me. It had been recommended many times by people who know my taste in Scotch, so I was eager to find it. I was also worried about the hype. My ratings have ranged from a 72 (Quarter Cask) to a 90 (Cairdeas Fino Cask) and everything in between. I know cask strength bottlings are different than their standard proof brothers, but I do not love the standard 10 year. In any case, I got lucky as the state-run stores of PA decided to carry the Cask Strength 10 year for a short while. So, I quickly picked one up and hoped for the best.
Age: Aged 10 years, bottled at 58.6% ABV (117.2 proof)
Honeyed hay greets you immediately. There is a smoky barbecue foundation, but the heavy BBQ sauce is replaced by a smoky, salty pork aroma. Vanilla and walnuts join the show, giving you a hint of baklava. Interestingly, there is a complete absence of ethanol.
Rich and oily, it's like a salty, honey-baked ham exploded in your mouth. The vanilla and walnuts make a fleeting appearance. It does get a touch warm as the smoke creeps in, and there is an ashy foundation, but nothing takes away from how good this is.
Rich and smoky, lasting what seems like forever. The salt, honey and ham are just mouthwatering, with a bit of vanilla rounding out the sweetness. The smoke does have an ashy undercurrent, but it just reinforces the amazing barbecue you clearly just finished.
Buy it now! Yes, I am recommending you buy a peated Scotch. This Islay dram falls more on the barbecue side of things, while the earthy and medicinal notes are basically non-existent, or I've just gotten too used to peated Scotch. Peat haters will probably still complain, but this is a barbecue of honey-baked ham and baklava for dessert. It is extremely well balanced and just ridiculously delicious. Although different than Laphroaig 10, you would be surprised at how easy it is to recognize the Laphroaig profile. This is just a more refined and balanced pour, while still being bold and unmistakably Islay. One final note about this Scotch, at $75 you probably will not find a better whisk(e)y.