Yes, I’m still talking Feis Ile 2018, trying to get my reflections posted before the 2019 festival starts in just a few weeks.
In contrast to Caol Ila [blog], on arriving at Laphroaig, all visitors received a glass with lanyard, a non-plastic water bottle [excusing the frustrating cap], and a sample of the festival bottling – spot on!
Whilst waxing lyrical about this particular event, a guy who had attended Feis Ile year after year tells me that Ardbeg showed Laphroaig everything they now know with regards to running a whisky festival. There were indeed similar themes and Laphroaig didn’t disappoint. We even got a tour of the distillery and got to try the wash.
Laphroaig Wash  8-9%
- C: The smoke follows through the cloudy sweetish >sour beer. Also, there’s an illusion of copper contact or could that be coming from the mash tun?
This Feis Ile bottling is around 7-11 years old.
C: I’ve tried this since and really liked it. I was rather less impressed with it on the Open Day, finding it very Laphroaig Select-like in a modern & hollow kind of way. The 10yo CS batch 010 was £60.30. This, £77.
Scores 80 points
For £15 we received a card that gave us four dram tokens & four games tokens. In the humid Filling Store, the traditional festive games were easy fun and generously rewarded players with extra gifts. Pretty much everyone came away with a coaster or two as well as extra single cask drams, old & rare drams and even a pair of socks.
In addition to the liquid surprises, many won a charity bung to put into one of three charity bins of our choosing. I was encouraged to vote for the Three Distilleries Pathway, a charity project that now links Port Ellen with Laphroaig, Lagavulin & Ardbeg distilleries. This new path is vital to improving the experience of & insure the safety of festival goers, distillery visitors, cyclists and hikers for example, all year round. Apparently the project has [so far] cost around £800,000, with Beam Suntory [Laphroaig] contributing only £25000. Apparently Ardbeg contributed the most with an undisclosed amount.
Laphroaig 2005-2013-2018 Un-Ob. re VAT Quarter cask #107 55%
I don’t remember exactly what this one was all about. It might have been a 7-8yo bourbon barrel Laphroaig, vatted with Laphroaig Quarter Cask juice from 2013 [until 2018 I’m guessing]. Probably got that all wrong but here’s how it tasted:
- N: Youthful bourbon cask action and something of a metal yard, a coal yard & a timber yard is all I managed to note.
- T: A beefy, bourbon-y, dirty, char-y quarter cask-character malt. The balance is right though it’s a sweet one.
- F: Becomes ashy, soon fading.
- C: Did Laphroaig generally get sweeter over the last decade or more? Notably, Jim Beam ownership was realised in 2005 [SW].
Scores 84 points
Laphroaig 2002/2014 12yo Ob. Hand-filled bourbon cask #6930 57% [25cl] WB88.57
- N: Fruity dirty smokey character, a floral mechanics yards, delicate violet,…
- T: Char-y cask action, violets again, Polytar.
- F: Honeyed/floral bourbon smoke and burned corn.
- C: Solid,… and if there’s any juice still swishing around in that cask, another 5-6 years in there could make things interesting.
Scores 88 points
We make our way to the old & rare stall.
This Highgrove bottling is around 12 years of age.
- N: We have a very accessible, fruity, winey & malty nose with big promise.
- T: Sugary soon weakening, settling into a milky sugary direction with Farley’s rusks, un-brewed sugary tea,.. that kind of thing. The only major issue here is either that this is from a fairly faded old cask or a tired individual bottle.
- F: Finishes like an old vintage, creaking at the seams with its bitter wood and dusty sugars.
- C: We’ve struck ‘old & rare’ certainly. I reckon on another day from a different bottle, this could be a 90 pointer.
[Today, whisky from this bottle] scores 87 points.
And to think, I’ve only tried any Laphroaig 25yo only once before.
- N: Sweet consolidated thick sweet creamy juice, [more] very subtle violets, plum jam and other fruit compotes,… but in a nutshell we’ve a dunnage wonder with minimal smoke, softened, combined & entwined by those years in oak.
- T: There you go! Put decent juice into decent [bourbon] casks and wait! The world only needs so many bells n whistles PX/oloroso syrup-matured/finished [Feis Ile] bottlings. More of these dunnage-y one’s with grassy green Earl Grey/Darjeeling tea notes please!
- F: Sweet ashtray. nuff said. Permeating smoke wafts whispers, from refills I’d imagine.
- C: Really good, though I don’t desire a full bottle at current price levels.
Scores 87 points
Serge: “Did you know that a typical batch at Laphroaig gathers 250 barrels.”
- N: Malty oaky tropical sugars, light consolidated smoke, herbal action,…. oh this could be a cracker!
- T: The nose comes through on the palate too with papaya, melon, [Bowmore-esque] violets [again] and a touch of totally integrated oily TCP, all topped off with some OBE magic. Wow!
- F: Fruity & oaky with only hints of smoke in comparison to today’s other Laphroaig’s. Long witch hazel plaster finish, sloe gin, ashy at the death.
- C: I’m told batch 001 is even better! We shall try that next. This is up there with the best Laphroaig I’ve had. The kind of whisky I could drown myself in.
Scores 92 points
At the bar we were able to acquire [at some expense], batches 1 & 2 for comparison against the Red Stripe. This is one fine Open Day.
- N: “Hello, is there anything there?” From the original batch to batch 001, we have skipped a generation and entered a more mechanised & standardised world. Here the cask talks as does its previous contents. I note fruity, mineral & curried notes, leather and beeswax. The peat smoke is very discrete, no big bonfire action here.
- T: A dunnage-ish honeyed & malty whisky with some fruity action. It’s slightly more medicinal neat and with more complexity.
- F: Drying, but this isn’t hollow. There’s body & chew, balance with varied complexity.
- C: Resolute, firm and tasty if a tad predictable after the original Red Stripe. A more modern-classic Laphroaig then.
Scores 88 points
- N: Clearly more ‘modern’ than the original batch, being a more mineral, herbal & sherry-ish nose with sweet dry fruity shoe polish and sweet putty. Becomes pretty decent when given the time.
- T: The abv strength hits as does the smoke. Soon the medicinal<malty fruits begin to sing. Develops fresh & natural, becoming fruity & malty medicinal with water. And then the barley sings,.. turning more milky.
- F: Stays peat fresh.
- C: Better than batch #001 by a whisker.
Scores 89 points
A very good day indeed. Where next? Bowmore!