Monday, May 19, 2014

Veiling a whisky - Laphroaig Select Cask

Laphroaig Select Cask
A few evenings ago I attended a Laphroaig tasting at the Shirt Bar in Sydney City. A very good event as per usual with a fine selection whiskies on show, finished off with a casual atmosphere and enjoyable tasting platters afterwards. If you have not attended a Shirt Bar Scotch Club Tasting Session then I recommend you go to at least one.

On show this time round was a line up of Laphroaig I have not seen since attending Laphroaig Live Sydney back in 2011. On show at the Shirt Bar was: Laphroaig 10yo, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Laphroaig 18yo, Laphroaig Select Cask, Laphroaig Triple Wood, Laphroaig 25yo. A presentation delivered by the lively Paul Daley we traveled through each dram exploring the virtues of what makes these whiskies tick.

Though there was a excellent array of Laphroaig's I think we have well and truly covered most expressions this excellent distillery has to offer so let us skip the tasting notes for all but the Laphroaig Select Cask, a newbie to the Australian scene. There is no 2 ways about this whisky in my opinion. It is a entry level Laphroaig. A close cousin to the 10yo less the medical characteristics. Currently note appearing to be unavailable at the major retail chains such as Dan Murphy's Paul had quoted it should be priced around the same as the 10yo. Searching online independents are pricing in the $100AU which I think is well and truly over the top and not worth it. The Laphroaig Select Cask is effectively a marriage of just about everything Laphroaig have done to date in maturation. In this expression you will find maturation in Olorosso Sherry Butts, American White Oak (non-filled with bourbon), PX Hogs Heads, Quarter Casks, and First Filled Bourbon Casks. Below is the official tasting notes by John Campbell, Distillery Manager.

Now you have had a chance to see what the official line is we better get on with how I found it.

Laphroaig Select Cask
Distiller: Laphroaig
Location/Region: Islay, Scotland
Colour: Liquid Gold
Alcohol:/ ABV: 40%

Nose: Mild peat and salt, raw red beef, and sweet green corn husks freshly peeled.

Taste: Super light and thin making it extremely smooth but veiled. Mainly vanilla, honeys, and ripe fruits that goes a little dry in the back before dissipating ever so quickly. Lacking the metallic banding so common of a Laphroaig.

Finish: Short and evaporative leaving very little to remember.

Overall I found it excitable to try but disappointing. This is not a whisky to be dramming on a cold night by the fire place. Maybe if the ABV was a little higher things might change but word from fellow drammers around me all seemed to have the same view point that it was a bit like drinking water from a glass that previous held a dram of Laphroaig. The smell and taste was present but the whisky was long gone.

Note on the Laphroaig website this expression was chosen by the FOL (Friends Of Laphroaig) tasting panel. According to the Laphroaig website 6 new expressions were created, tested, and voted on culminating in this final selection. I was not impressed after tasting this the first time so tried again a few days later at The Whisky Show getting the same results. Now also knowing this detail about the selection process just glazes my thoughts crowd sourcing has no place in whisky. For most part when you personally taste this I really think your just going think "This is no Laphroaig".

If I was to give a dram then it is a 3 out of 7. A well made whisky but the flavours are veiled and expressionless. Yes if the price is right this would be a great entry for someone a little afraid of the peat smoke and medicinal iodine Laphroaig offers but then is that not what makes Laphroaig famous?

It is worth dwelling on the point of why more and more distilleries watering down their own brands this way? My current thoughts for established distilleries is to be focus more on impact and less on profit. Rather naive advice considering I know nothing of the distilleries motives but I am sure to a degree market grab is playing a big part in these crowd sourced expression. My last word on this issue is don't ask an accountant to fix your plumbing. Crowd sourcing and whisky is risky at best.

Looking forward to Laphroaig stepping up to the task as we have seen some exceptional releases through travel retail in recent past. I just wish it filtered down more to the average consumer.

The Baron