Laphroaig – Lp9 – Elements of Islay

Thanks to /u/throzen  for sharing this whisky.

What was the occasion: Still at the end of year tasting, but this is the final end of year whisky, as I know when I’m beat. That would be after this whisky.

I know when I’m losing my ability to review, either due to inebriation, pain (my leg was broken and I wanted pain drugs), or blasting my taste buds to the maximum. Does that mean this review shouldn’t be read as perfect? Which review are you reading as perfect?

Look, the average person isn’t eating a bland diet and never swallowing whisky to enjoy it. That’s for crazy cat-eyed perverts. I have cut whisky reviews I felt weren’t up to my standards, and this is up to my standards.

This blurb at the start is added in to give you context, to judge how the score should change, giving nuance. What you do with it is up to you (like life, really).

What whisky did we review? Laphroaig – Lp9 – Elements of Islay, the third Elixir Distiller’s offering of the tasting, the second from Elements of Islay, and the third Islay of the tasting. So to avoid re-reading too much, I’ll keep this brief:

The whisky is a 20-year-old Laphroaig single cask that was aged in an ex-PX sherry butt. It was picked out by Elixir Distillers, put under their Elements of Islay brand (500ml bottles that only come from Islay distilleries and look like the periodic table of elements). It’s cask strength.

What’s the distillery? Laphroaig is owned by Beam Suntory and is located on the south coast of Islay. It’s been around a long, long time, and is similar to Caol Ila in that the releases do hit IBs quite a bit, they are in demand, and they can run from inexpensive releases like Quarter Cask to high-end releases with massive age statements, Cairdeas special releases and all in between.

Where the difference pops up from Caol Ila is the price has gone right to the moon and it’s now a distillery that I enjoy, but my requirement to feed and house myself gets in the way of drinking too much. Yes, the Cairdeas and cask strength releases are still nice and can be affordable for what they are. I and my whisky group were used to an old Laphroaig being part of a tasting alongside GlenDronach. Now it’s a fun treat.

It’s like beef was a year ago, or eggs are now, what with the system rat fucking our ability to live.

What’s my bias? I’m pretty unhappy with the state of capitalism, but maybe that’s not what you were asking.

I used to buy Cairdeas every year (1 year behind because I live in baby land for booze), I have bought older cask strength Laphroaig in the past and loved them, and it was a staple at our tastings for a long time. It still shows up, though less so with the price going to what economists call “bonkers town”.

So while I’m not happy I can have releases like this as regularly, I can put that aside, because I’ve had other Laphroaig of this age in this type of cask and loved them.

How does it hold up to it’s cheaper, easier to get brethren? Let’s see, shall we?

Price: €255

Region: Islay

Vintage: 1998

Bottled: 2018

Cask type ex-Pedro Ximénez Butt

Number of bottles 714

Abv: 54.3%

Colour: 7.5YR 4/8

Nose: Cherry, hazelnut, brine, farm

Yeah, that’s a sherry cask. Nutty and cherry heavy. Good richness to it that reminds you that it’s a PX cask. If it was Oloroso I’d expect peanuts and strawberries, or rather less rich notes.

Also the sherry cask doesn’t suplex the Laphroaig flavour out of it, as you still get that salty and farm/manure notes.

That said, I’m not getting much beyond those four notes. I don’t mind them, I’m not angry, but we’re talking 20-year-old Laphroaig here. A whisky that has a premium on it, and it’s not as complex as I’d expect given that pedigree.

Taste: Brine, raisin, blueberry, peanut, fennel sausage, cocoa

Ok, now we’re getting more going on. Earthy, spices, meaty, very, very salty, and some richness. This is more like it. None of this closed off, introvert since high school dances at the wall aspects going on here; the taste went to college and totally Gatsbyed themselves.

If you don’t understand what that means, I’d recommend taking some time to read the Great Gatsby.

Good balance here between the dram and the sherry cask, which is similar to what we expect from Laphroaig. The whisky really blends well with sherry and doesn’t disappear into the wine.

Finish: Salty pork, strawberry chilli jam, earth, smoke

Salt and I don’t always get along; for instance I have trouble swimming in the ocean as I can taste the salt. I don’t get it either. So while this is a nice finish that trails off a tiny bit, the salt is throwing me off. I do like the heat and sweet elements though, and feel that brings some unique aspects to the finish.

Just so I’m clear, I still add salt to my food. I understand what salt does with flavour. I’m just saying the overt flavour of iodized salt by itself isn’t my favourite.

Conclusion: Very salty and meaty. Honestly I think it’s a nice Laphroaig, and I recommend finding a bottle and grabbing it if you are a Laphroaig fan.

I feel the nose being too light and the finish trailing off out of complexity means I’d have a hard time recommending it over other Islay scotch whiskies you can buy if you aren’t gaga for Laphroaig. The success of Laphroaig means that when a whisky like this is just “almost” great, it’s hard to recommend it.

That all said, it was very salty, and my issue with salt stands, so if you are a huge Laphroaig fan, you want the whiskies of old, you don’t mind salt flavour, and you love sherry casked Islays, then it’s a no brainer to buy.


Scotch review #1621, Islay review #425, Whisky Network review #2349

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