Scotland: Islay

When you read some of the adjectives applied to Laphroaig (pronounced La-froyg) whisky, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were reading about medicine: it has been described as pharmaceutical and phenolic, as smelling like iodine or gauze.

But, if you can get over these descriptors to actually get some of this powerful whisky down your gullet, the odds are that you’ll become a lifelong devotee. Dare I even go so far as to say that it’s a brand that has inspired a cult-like devotion amongst its fans, roughly 250 000 of whom have joined the Friends of Laphroaig and now have access to the secret password, handshake and a square foot of land.

Okay, so I’m kidding about the secret password and handshake, but I wasn’t kidding about that square footage. When you join the Friends, the distillery gives you some of their land, which they lease back from you each year, paying rent in whisky, which they will give you upon visitation and inspection of your land. Technically, I think this makes all the Friends official Scottish lairds, although a square foot is probably not the basis for a country estate that one can pass down to one’s descendants.

Laphroaig means “the beautiful hollow by the broad bay”. The distillery lies on the south-east coast of Islay, and the sea and sea air play a large role in defining the distinctive taste of the whiskies produced here. The peat burned by the distillery to dry the barley during the production process is made from ancient mosses, heather and seaweed, and these give a unique character to the smoky taste of Laphroaig’s malts.

Laphroaig is distinctive in many ways, including the fact that it is the only distillery to have been owned and run by a woman. In 1954, Miss Bessie Williamson, one of the managers, inherited the distillery from her boss, Ian Hunter, when he died without any children to inherit his estate. Go Bessie!

General Tasting Notes

Laphroaig Whisky Distillery Tasting Notes

Bottlings

  • 10 Year Old: This is the standard Laphroaig bottling, no less pungent for being the most commonly available. This is a good introduction to this distillery’s offerings – it already has the wow-factor, and this only increases as you sample the distillery’s further more specialised bottlings.
  • 15 Year Old: A bit richer than the 10 year old, the 15 year old is reputedly Prince Charles’ favourite tipple, and Laphroaig is therefore the only distillery to carry the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales, awarded to the distillery in 1995, upon an official royal visit.
  • Cask Strength: The best of the best single malt whisky. That’s not my opinion, that’s an official judging! This is a full-bodied strong whisky, matured in charred oak barrels to give it a nutty vanilla taste.
  • Quarter Cask: This particular bottling is the result of an experiment into recreating the taste of whisky produced in the 19th century, commonly in small casks. Not having been around so long ago, I can’t tell you if they got it right. But what I can tell you, is that they got it great! The whisky has more contact with the smaller oak barrels, and this gives this bottling an extra sweetness in addition to the powerful peatiness so distinctive to Laphroaig in general.

Distillery Contact Information

Address: Port Ellen, Islay, PA42 7DU
Website: www.laphroaig.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1496 30 2418
Opening Hours & Tours Please contact the distillery directly for up-to-date opening hours and tour times/prices

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