What was the occasion: It took months, I had hurt myself, been sick, been long-sick, delayed due to other tastings, and a host of other things… but it’s done. I’m slowly getting back to where I should be in one of my hobbies, thus fighting off the constant nihilistic atmosphere called “adulthood”.
Oh, sorry, that makes no sense out of context. I bought a sample set, it took me a long time to finish it, and this is the last of that set. I bought it because I wondered if this very, very expensive set was worth it. Which I’ll conclude below. If you’ve read the other five reviews you already know how this is all ending.
What whisky did we review? Laphroaig 30 1990 The Kinship Collection 2020 Hunter Laing, a 30-year-old Laphroaig from 1990 that was bottled by Hunter Laing under the Kinship Collection for Feis Ile 2020.
Kinship Collection is a separate line of whiskies that are released for Feis Ile each year. This particular set included a different named distillery with an age statement and was bottled at cask strength, with the youngest being 28-years-old. Got a good idea of the whole picture now, right? Great.
What’s the distillery? Laphroaig, a distillery on Islay that consistently has brought out peated whisky since 1815 and now run by Beam Suntory. Fun fact: The 15-year-old offering is supposed to be King Chuck’s favourite Scotch, meaning the man hasn’t done what I’d do as a billionaire and drink rarer releases. But that’s nice for Chuck, I guess.
I’d go through the various companies that have owned Laphroaig over the years, as it was everyone from Bessie Williamson (aka The GOAT) to Allied Domecq to Fortune Brands, but now it’s Beam Suntory. At the time when this particular whisky was distilled it was owned by Allied Domecq, which other than having a roommate who worked there in the early aughts, I have no thoughts about.
What’s my bias? I’m lucky that people around me are smart. See, I took Laphroaig for granted when I started in whisky. I loved Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Caol Ila more, and took having Laphroaig around as the standard for granted. In the time since, I’ve lost love for the direction Ardbeg is taking, found out Lagavulin is hard to find samples of, and still love Caol Ila, potentially too much or not enough.
Laphroaig used to be the roughly 20 something Islay at every tasting. One or two single cask GlenDronach, a new Laphroaig, and then the variable whiskies: Now? The price has jumped, in the same way that Superman jumps, and we have less Laphroaig to enjoy.
So on the one hand my bias for Laphroaig is that it’s awesome and I find it tasty. On the other hand I’ve had friends who have poured so many that I’m starting to get picky.
Which means my comment about being a billionaire has aged poorly before the review has even started… Let’s get to the whisky, shall we?
Price: $8K for all 6 bottles (CAD)
Number of bottles 344
Colour: 2.5Y 7/8
Nose: Saltwater taffy, anise, campfire, cinnamon
Huh. Was expecting more smoke up front, but that was based on my bias about the previous Kinship Collection 2020 whiskies, I was expecting smoke first. That’s a red flag, or as they call it in writing, foreshadowing.
Instead you have this strong taffy and salt note, a bit of anise, and then you get to the strong campfire note. The taffy is impressive, the campfire is always welcome (though kinda standard for a Laphroaig), and the spices aren’t a surprise.
So let’s take a step back: I like the nose. It’s nice. In a vacuum, I’m great. In a “had a bunch of Laphroaig whiskies with age on them” world, aka where I live, I have to say it’s kinda standard with a bit more taffy going on.
Taste: Cinnamon toast, cocoa, anise, nectarine, brown sugar
Bit more complexity here, with cereal, cocoa, and fruity notes popping up. The peat notes have changes to cocoa and anise, there’s a good amount of brown sugar, and all the flavours get along. Hell they could easily be a DnD group that makes its way through the whole campaign and not just play three times and then no one can make a weekend.
Sorry, that came from a place of pain, let’s move on:
Does this fix the issue I had before? It’s a step in the right direction, that’s for certain. No raw peat or raw smoke note, more cocoa and anise, a big well developed flavour, and some other flavours. That said, I use the term “step” as, again, I’ve had other Laphroaig releases that took various steps. Full hikes in some cases. Long walkabouts, if you will, where as this is making the same distance I am walking as of writing (I am in physio for a broken leg).
Finish: Grilled peach, cinnamon, dry apple, wood, cloves, brine
Lovely finish. Big fruit hit, some constant heat/smoke notes of the cinnamon, a dry flavour that ends well, and then some extra flavours.
It’s at the end of the whole thing that you get it, or rather, why bottle this? The finish is quite complex in that “kitchen sink” type of way. You keep drinking it because you enjoy the finish and it’s impressive.
Conclusion: This is part of the review where I ignore the set, ignore the price, and merely speak to this whisky by itself: It’s a nice Laphroaig. Pretty equal to a lot of 17 to 24-year-old Laphroaig IB cask strength releases. Pour this at a tasting devoid of those and there’s a good chance this is the best at the tasting. It’s fruity, spicy, dry at the right times, well balanced, sweet and salty. It’s a solid whisky. By itself it may not live up to a 30-year-old Laphroaig, as there’s nicer offerings out there, even from Laphroaig itself.
Will you think that if you’re not drinking as many Laphroaig whiskies as I have? Probably not. You’ll like this. Probably more. It’s very, very tasty. If you end up with it, you’ll be happy.
Now for the part where I let the rest in: For the premium you’re paying, this is not worth it. Knock multiple digits off the total and you’re in for a treat. I get it: Prices are up everywhere. But for the same amount of money on this whisky you can have money leftover buying a dusty at an auction. Whisky this good is out there for less.
I’m the target audience for this whisky. I should be eating ramen daily and saving up to have these bottles available. I’m a peat head with disposable cash who doesn’t play Magic: The Gathering or Warhammer 40k or is a furry. Whisky is my version of those things. Full stop I should be in seventh heaven (the TV show, not the part of Heaven where there’s just singing and boredom). And I’m not.
You may be sitting there saying “but you reviewed these quite high”, and I did. That’s the problem: These aren’t bad whiskies. Most people, upon trying them, and assuming they don’t mind peat, will enjoy them. But when compared to other whiskies with similar age statements, cask strength, pedigrees, etc, these fall by the wayside and merely look nice because they used an Art Deco aesthetic.
Quick Aside: I actually really like the aesthetic as it’s eye-catching, but as I’ve said in a previous Macallan review set ultimately isn’t what we’re here for. You can buy artwork that doesn’t have old whisky in it. Also last time I gushed about cool looking bottles too much, someone said I was being a shill, so I don’t anymore. End aside.
So ultimately I’ll have to see if this is a sign of the costs of whisky sold during the “fly in and flip” festival or if Kinship is Scotch-sona-non-grata by reviewing another year. For now, I’d skip the 2020 set (aka what most people would do if they knew Covid was coming and they had a time machine).
Scotch review #1630, Islay review #430, Whisky Network review #2358