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 wasn’t overly interested in Glen, I’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 Laphroaig’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. I’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. I’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 Gangemi’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 I’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 don’t have at all any more are Laphroaig’s. Not one. I finished my last bottle a year ago, and always assumed that it was inevitable that I’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 Laphroaig’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 weren’t $625 a bottle I’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 isn’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 I’d enjoyed in earlier Laphroaig’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. I’d planned to pick up a couple bottles, but I think I’ll pass. The peaked Benromach was nicer and I’m still seeking a replacement for my recently deceased Bruichladdich Laddie 10, and there’s a Springbank tasting tomorrow night that could be dangerous for my wallet.
So, while I’m grateful for all of the happiness Laphroaig brought me over the years, for now at least, I’m passing. There’s too much else out there to spend my time on, and modern Laphroaig just isn’t hitting the sweet spot for me anymore. I’ll check in again in a couple of years, maybe, and I might find things have changed. And hey, it might just be me…