Info: It’s a well known fact that Laphroaig 10 got milder and is not the same anymore and it used to be as peaty as liking, well, a bar of peat. In a bog. Which also serves as a hospital. For Seals.
We all heard that. Surprisingly enough not from old men with weather-beaten bearded faces full of scars and wrinkles sitting pipe-smoking in their slickers by the fireside but rather from pale young thirty-somethings with a suspiciously hip looking woolen hat and a scrubby looking bunch of facial hairs which seemed to be embarrassed of their lonely existence. Still, we all know that, don’t we? At least I do!
So when the opportunity to prove this matter once and for all, I couldn’t let it pass, could I? Of course not (please, ignore my wife’s snarky comment!). In autumn last year, a user in a German message board offered to share his bottle of Laphroaig 10 which he bought in September 1995 and to test it against a recently bought one. Thanks again for such an opportunity. But like these things go, I had the flue and didn’t review them right away, so I forgot about them. Until the community review, so the first volume of re-reviews of classic community reviews brings not only my first ever whisky review back to my attention but also these two samples from 1995 and 2017. Sweet! Let’s see how they line up against each other! The main difference beside the buying date is that the older version still had 43% which was sadly lowered to 40% here in the ole country. Which definitely has an impact on the taste and should therefore be mentioned!
Situation: Sitting on the sofa, listening to Brain Fallon’s new album (February 2018)
Recent release of Laphroaig 10 – 40%
Nose: Bitter peat, slightly medical smoke, peat bogs, brown sugar, cold ash but more ashtray than campfire, iodine as well as some rubber notes. Buried deep down some tropical fruits. Classic, the longer I nose it, the more I drift away…
Taste: Sweet entry, bitter peat and salt take over just to be tamed by vanilla, caramel and brown sugar, which soon are dominated by slightly bitting medical earthy notes, salt and some oak,
Finish: Brown sugar, dark chocolate, vanilla, smoke, salt, some oak and bitter peat. Yeah, le frog!
Conclusion: A classic for me as this was not only my first review but also the malt which pulled me into this bottomless pit of nice people and friends both virtual and real in this strange hobby. I really want to write something poetic but can’t think of any. Thank you Laphroaig for introducing me to this madhouse. The combination of bourbon cask sweetness and slightly bitter and medical Le frog peat just works for me. If I had to give a non-romanticized score, it would be
Old Bottling – bought 1995!
Nose: Again, I’m surprised just how different the two vintages are! First thing in is a big whiff of pomelo and tropical fruits. Rubber, slighlty bitter peat, cold smoke, caramel, vanilla, salt and wet dark earth. Boggey as well. Bitter oak, quite a bit acutally. Wow, weird. There’s an ever so slight medicinal note but maybe just because I imagine it and want it to be there.
Taste: An almost chocolaty entry is very soon taken over by strong salty iodine bites, wood or rather burning wood, rubber, pomelo, less vanilla and caramel as the newer bottling but still quite noticeable, brine and iodine in an everlasting struggle with caramel-y vanilla notes, cigarette smoke and bitter wood
Finish: Bitter medicinal peat, rubber, dark and bitter coffee, oak, brown sugar and vanilla. Some tropical fruits at the very end of it including – you guessed it – pomelo. It almost feels shorter than the recent release but then it comes back again, which is weird but nice. I expected more from this finish though.
Conclusion: Definitely more intense. Is it the 3%? Is it the older way of making it? Is it my head? Maybe all of the above and much more. This was distilled 1985 and earlier. Different times.The older version has an pomelo note which I have rarely had., which also shows up in the finish. This actually reminds me of the Cask Strength versions, obviously not in terms of intensity but you know? It feels rougher and more intense than the recent release, more powerful and a bit more dirty. I would say it’s a bit more peat-y than the recent one. So maybe all that talk about it being less peaty than years ago is true but than again, the recent one still is quite peaty, maybe it’s not the peat but plain and simply the missing 3% abv?
The older bottling has an unstable and edgy feeling to it though that I would usually associate with younger whisky but due to this being age stated it’s clearly not the case here, which couldn’t be so easily wiped away by abv only The rest, I would say is mostly folklore and the different abv – at least the “was much peatier”-narrative.
So while the older Ardbeg bottling was much better than the recent one, this is nothing to get sleepless nights over.
Score? Similar, I’d say, even though this is more intense, the recent one is more balanced so I’d call it a tie. I should probably do a side by side with a recent 43% release!
Other Ardbeg reviews: here Our visit to the distillery: will be posted some day…soon I hope
Other whiskies with the same score: here