I have only begun to pay serious attention to whisky. Were you to go back half a dozen years or so, my worldview of whisky could have been summarised as Laphroaig and some guys whose names all begin with Glen. I wasnâ€™t overly interested in Glen, Iâ€™d not been especially impressed by his stuff, and Laphroaig met all of my whisky needs (I thought).
At this point I was drinking a bottle of whisky or so a year, so picking up a lovely bottle of Laphroaig 15 or Quarter Cask meant that I was well sorted when it came time to sit down late of an evening, put my feet up, and relax with a dram. As recently as three years ago my whisky shelf consisted of three or four Laphroaigâ€™s (and I always had a least one bottle of the 10 to hand).
Slowly, though, that changed. I opened up to other whiskies from Islay. Not too many, though. Mostly Ardbeg, which reliably could be depended on to deliver the peaty kick I craved, but one or two others. I think the biggest agent for change was that I found myself travelling more. Suddenly I was in the position where I had Laphroaig and Ardbeg in the house, but I had the chance to buy more. And I did.
Suddenly there was the occasional Speyside or Highland whisky coming home. Iâ€™d been suspicious that they would probably be weak and watery, but as I began to try them I opened up to more. There was a memorable Bruichladdich event last year that had me falling for unpeated Islay, then I discovered Campbelltown and Springbank. Iâ€™d been given a bottle of the Longrow CV for Christmas and it had sat on the shelf unopened for a year or two. When I did open it I found a revelation: rich, complex, engaging with great mouthfeel and long back palate filled with spice and goodness. That led me to pick up a bottle of the Springbank 10 year old from Gangemiâ€™s and then I fell down a rabbit hole. I began watching whisky review videos, deliberately trying new and different stuff, and then I found Australian whisky, which Iâ€™ve come to love.
My whisky shelf is pretty average – probably 20 or so open bottles and close to the same number unopened – but is growing. I have a batch of Springbanks that sit with some treasured Arrans, Bruichladdichs, Balblairs, Limeburners, Larks, and others. What I donâ€™t have at all any more are Laphroaigâ€™s. Not one. I finished my last bottle a year ago, and always assumed that it was inevitable that Iâ€™d stock up again on this old favourite. I was just trying new stuff, after all, not giving up on an old friend.
Then I went to Flight Club, a small whisky tasting in Perth, last Friday. We tasted two Laphroaigâ€™s: the 10 year old and a 25 year old. The 25 y/o was spectacular, a gorgeous whisky with all sorts of subtleties and nuances. I loved it, and if it werenâ€™t $625 a bottle Iâ€™d drink it all the time. However, as someone pointed out when we discussed it, what I admired most about it were its least Laphroaig-like characteristics. Laphroaig really isnâ€™t usually a very subtle, floral, or delicate whisky, and this one was just that. A tasting of the 10 y/o could only be described as disappointing. It was thin and lacked the richer, oilier mouthfeel Iâ€™d enjoyed in earlier Laphroaigâ€™s. It was also a simple whisky, a bit of a bludgeon to the palate.
Yesterday I was at Whisky Live where I was really impressed with fine whiskies from Starward, Benromach and others, and I did take the time to try the new release Laphroaig 15 y/o. This had been one of my favourite whiskies, a reliable source of peaty joy. It was ok. Nothing special. Iâ€™d planned to pick up a couple bottles, but I think Iâ€™ll pass. The peaked Benromach was nicer and Iâ€™m still seeking a replacement for my recently deceased Bruichladdich Laddie 10, and thereâ€™s a Springbank tasting tomorrow night that could be dangerous for my wallet.
So, while Iâ€™m grateful for all of the happiness Laphroaig brought me over the years, for now at least, Iâ€™m passing. Thereâ€™s too much else out there to spend my time on, and modern Laphroaig just isnâ€™t hitting the sweet spot for me anymore. Iâ€™ll check in again in a couple of years, maybe, and I might find things have changed. And hey, it might just be meâ€¦