The outrageous spectacle of November seems a long time ago, and the Japanese bloodbath in December a distant memory. I’m ready for more. Laphroaig, you say?
SMWS 5.44, Auchentoshan, Fizzling, sizzling lip-smackingness, 14 years old, 59.1% A-
October 11 2000, Refill hogshead, 170 bottles.
Nose - Lovely wood, balanced sweetness, floral lemon curd, plasticene and dandelion. Really interesting, structured and summery. Society Auchentoshan is either beautiful or bland on the nose, and this is beautiful. More musky wood with water, and lovely sweet citrus.
Body - Very spicy, pickled chilli lemon, salt and vinegar crisps. Quite swimming-pool on the nose neat, quite harsh sadly. Water doesn't help much, just a bit more bitter.
Finish - Long, one dimensionally wooded. A little disappointing - quite a shame.
SMWS 55.24, Royal Brackla, Cherry pie moonshine, 20 years old, 52.7% A⊕
February 21 1994, 2nd fill hogshead, 189 bottles.
Body - Very sweet, quite spicy, suddenly bone dry – Oloroso nuttiness, tannins and a touch of sulphur. Wonderful. Hot pastry and more pronounced sulphur with water.
Finish - Quite short, clean, an echo of burnt brown sugar. Lots of tannins. A carnival with candy floss, burnt hot dogs and a touch of danger. With water; biscuity and lovely spirit sulphur. A fascinating, well balanced and typically schizophrenic Royal Brackla. Highly recommended.
SMWS 35.127, Glen Moray, Pineapple upside-down cake, 16 years old, 56.6% A⊕
March 13 1998, 1st fill barrel, 222 bottles.
Nose - Fresh ozone but classic SMWS; menthol tobacco, fresh mint leaves, liquorice torpedoes, curry leaves but with a deeply sweet oak edge to it. Waxy and toffee wood now on the nose. With water; gentler (older) oak, almost moss covered, and more warm curry spices.
Body - Richly sweet, loads of tobacco, pineapple and chilli. With water, more bitter and less balanced.
Finish - Long, sweet and heavily wooded. Coconut. Intense and loads of fun. A surprisingly interesting, complex and challenging GM
SMWS 85.30, Glen Elgin, Tropical Exotical, 15 yo, 56.6% A+
October 6 1999, refill hogshead, 321 bottles.
Nose - Almost an artificial tropical nose, like mango squash and fake fur. Really astringent - lime cordial, and flash floor cleaner. There's also a bar soap quality to it, and a rich toffeed wax that needs acknowledging. It's quite synthetic though. Basically, like the 80s. With a little time though, things start to open up and even out. Brighter and more mineral, almost chalky. Very interesting.
Body - Baby pineapple dipped in chilli and salt in the tropics. Lovely, juicy and very spicy. A touch of gunpowder, and a touch over spiced with water.
Finish - Long and surprisingly tropical right to the end. Pineapple juice and big wood. Pretty epic.
A complex and surprisingly challenging whisky for one so tropically aligned. Not easy drinking but fascinating - I'm not sure how often I'd turn to it though.
BUY but beware.
SMWS 84.16, Glendullan, 'A beaker full of the warm south', 13 years old, 56.6% A⊕
October 4 2001, refill barrel, 184 bottles. Almost completely clear, even slightly green?
Nose - Very faint, slightly sweet, like "drumstick" chews on a stick. Lemon sherbet, blueberry and appletize. And with considerable digging, there's a slight rich, savoury sweetness with MDF and new flat pack furniture. Pretty Ikea. With time, floral and elegant. With water? slightly bandagey (although no TCP), a little modelling clay and wet, like a disappointing tangerine.
Body - Wow. Amazingly intense given the nose. Fruity - peach and musky apricot stone, and highly mineral, like a fist sized, salty rock at the seaside. Very, very good. With water, more coastal - salty, slight reek of shellfish and ozone, and a deep, insistent sweetness.
Finish - Long, sweet and balanced. Extra strong mints retronasally. With water, extremely salty although not unbalanced.
This is a surprise hit, the initial enormous restraint quickly gives way to lots of complexity, minerality, fruit and flowers. Smashing.
SMWS 4.203, Highland Park, Romantic tales, songs and whispers, 15 years old, 55.8% A⊕
October 15 1999, 1st fill barrel, 202 bottles.
Nose - Wood varnish. Marker pens (red), pencil shavings, cut rose stalks, flower stems in water. Liquorice allsorts, astringent like gooseberries, but with loads of red berries. With water, tart tatin.
Body - Extremely sweet, but balanced by that light peat. Deeply toffeed but almost …. Marmalade on slightly burnt toast. Juicier and lovely sulphur with water, beautiful.
Finish - Medium long, lingering wood and more pencils. Apple strudel with raisins and sugar syrup. Complex and almost… mysterious?
Much sweeter and juicier than HP normally is, the peat is very very subtle and structural. Atypical, and excellent.
SMWS 29.159, Laphroaig, Anyone for cricket?, 17yo, 51.7% A⊕+
October 3 1997, refill hogshead, 280 bottles.
Nose - Beautifully, classically Laphroaig. Germolene, bandages, pear, satsumas with a backnote of cereal. Mezcal; massive, bright and mineral. Really summery, and really optimistic. With water, much more musky, dark plums and more smoky. Slightly farmyardy but still bright - hay, but more medicinal - fresher germolene? And ink. An art room - charcoal and oil paints. Welcome back Laphroaig!
Body - Oh yes - a beautiful, mellow, fruit forward, malt heavy Laphroaig. Slightly metallic, pork scratchings, lots of orange juice. Tobacco. With water, juicier, still very sexy - toe curling and massively delicious.
Finish - Salty, slightly sharp, very long and juicy. Very sweet at the end, with grapefruit and orange, and a lingering, toffeed peat.
This is an epic, unmissable Laphroaig. And very Laphroaig.
BUY BUY BUY