It used to be when you thought ‘peat’ you thought of Islay and likely the mighty Laphroaig…. its thick, tar and rubber quality with seaweed, iodine which stands up to say ‘Hello Islay peat!’ This quality puts it firmly on the favoured ‘hit list’ of true die hard peat lovers.
Whisky lovers will also often share their whisky preference arch… often starting with easy drinkable blends, then graduating to ‘gateway’ commercial single malts and then somewhere along the way while exploring various single malts getting their mind and taste buds absolutely blown away by something completely peaty!
Some remain in their ‘peat phase’ for a long time… others evolve beyond that while still harbouring a special place in their whisky heart for the first peat punch that hit their palate.
After an early flirtation with Laphroaig, I moved on to others quite quickly. However I will never forget the ‘silver seal’ Laphroaig 16 (1987) that I sampled… it was distinctly different than what I’d come to expect with a soft, sweet, almost flowery quality with initially just a curl of smoke before revealing its peatier nature.
So when I saw several newer Laphroaig’s were playing around with different elements was quite excited! Smartly, took advantage of samples available at the Singapore duty free which were promoting their new PX Cask thinking it may reveal some of that sweeter, lighter and almost teasing quality I found with the 1987. They were also freely offering the An Cuan Mor meaning ‘Big Ocean’ for its proximity to the ocean.
Short answer is I passed on the Laphroaigs and surprisingly (to me!) acquired without a pre-tasting a boxed set exploring the underlying single malt elements in Ballantine’s 17 year. The challenge with those split second airport decisions is you know you are not truly giving the whisky a proper chance so I was delighted the PX made a re-appearance in a recent tasting session.
Our host very kindly pulled out the standard Laphroaig 10 year to compare. In a quick nip had the impression of:
- Nose – Tar and rubber sweet
- Palate – Distinctly Laphroaig sweet peat with that edge of seaweed iodine
- Finish – More sweet peat
- Water – Are you kidding? Nooooo!
That was when I realised how spoilt we’ve become in recent years with cask strength whiskies… And if not cask strength, then tending towards higher strength rather than the standard entry level whisky at 40%. Far from the ‘in your face’ peat I remembered, the 10 year seemed a tad weak though clearly peated.
When sampled next to the PX, suddenly discovered the elements in the PX that I had earlier missed… by contrast it has a much sweeter quality and could clearly discern the sherry stamp.
And what do the folks over at Laphroaig have to say about their PX?
- COLOUR: Antique Gold
- NOSE: From the bottle there is a nice sherry aroma of sweet sultanas and raisins with a hint of sweet liquorice and only the slightest tang of peat. Adding a little water brings out the marzipan and almond aroma with a counterpoint of creamy nuts and lots of ripe fruits but again there’s only the slightest tang of peat smoke.
- BODY: An intense and profound deepness
- PALATE: Without water a massive explosion of peat fills the mouth with huge amounts of oakiness only just moderated by the sweeter heavy sherry flavour. Adding a touch of water only slightly moderates the massive peat reek which very slowly fades and just allows a little of the sweeter sherried flavours to come through although there is always that burst of peat smoke that dries the mouth.
- FINISH: Concentrated peat and thick sherried oak with a deep dryness
What did we think in our initial tasting? Read related posts here:
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