Laphroaig 25 – 2014 Edition

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 45.1% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 94

Review

I think I will always remember this day. It was my last day on Islay, having gone there for the Islay Festival, and I was just headed back after a fair amount of festivities at the Ardbeg open day.

As me and my friend headed back around 3PM we figured we’d stop by at Laphroaig for a quick tour or a tasting they might have on. In the car park we saw that there was a Premium Tasting scheduled in half an hour.

Quite excited at the prospect we walked into the visitors’ shop only to be told that the tasting was full and there were no more seats available. I almost pleaded and made the saddest face I possibly could. The gentleman behind the counter couldn’t do anything but maybe if we spoke to David, the Tasting Manager, he might be able to do something.

David, while apologetic, said there wasn’t much he could do since the tasting was limited to 11 people and it was all pre-paid and sold out. Once again I made the most pitiful face that I could.

Now let me tell you something about David. He has a heart of gold. It took me about four seconds of pulling that sad face to break him and so he said ‘Fine! I’ll let you two lads in on the tasting.’

And what a tasting it turned out to be! There were a couple of Cairdeas’, the new 15, a single cask from Warehouse No1 and a couple that David let us taste from behind a locked cupboard (though he made us promise not to tell anyone!). But I was extremely happy to see that this 25 year old, bottled in 2014, was also part of the lineup.

I’ve had the previous 2011 bottling which is quite beautiful so I was anxiously waiting to see how this one would taste.

My sample is from an open bottle and bottled at cask strength of 45.1% – it is a mix of Oloroso and ex-Bourbon casks.

Nose: TCP. Iodine. Seaweed. Hint of peat. Soft. Perfectly balanced. Soft lemon citrus. Lychees. Hint of cherries. Quite fruity. Quite dry. This is such a beautifully restrained nose. Has all the glory of Islay and the finesse of perfect ageing. 23/25

Palate: Hint of char. Sweet. Again beautifully balanced. Soft fruits. Lemon citrus. That oak is just perfect. Cinnamon. Touch of dark chocolate. The perfectly layered flavors work seamlessly and the extra years add to the complexity. Love it. 24/25

Finish: Nice and long. Quite drying. Ashy. Cinnamon rub. Could be a touch of something bitter but a pleasant bitter at that. 24/25

Overall Comments: This particular age statement from Laphroaig will always be a favorite of mine. I think the oak and the spirit really come together beautifully here. Of course near flawless cask selection is key. But more importantly I will remember this whisky for the unexpectedly brilliant tasting we had thanks to kindly David.

I owe you one.

Rating: 94

Dalwhinnie 25 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Dalwhinnie | Region: Highland | ABV: 52.1% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
What fascinates me the most about my hobby is that I will routinely stumble across some facts and information that I did not know about before. Some times it is through a learned friend. But mostly it is through complete accident.

And those accidents normally happen when I’m researching facts about a certain whisky I’ve drunk and want to know more of.

Which is what happened when I sat down to taste the Dalwhinnie 25.

My initial thoughts were that this whisky had at some point come in contact with European sherry. I make it a point not to research the whisky before I drink it so as not to be biased.

My notes contained a few references to sherry, however, upon research I discovered that this Dalwhinnie had been matured exclusively in American Bourbon hogsheads.

Strange, I thought.

But as I pressed on I discovered that those were not ordinary American Hogsheads; they had been rejuvenated. Now I didn’t really know what that meant until I dug a little deeper.

Rejuvenating casks is a pretty recent phenomena (not more than 20 years old) and has been put into practise to combat the scarcity of oak casks from around the world. Essentially rejuvenating casks is done by scraping off the tired wood from the existing staves to bring out new wood from the layers underneath, re-racking them and re-toasting them to create a new surface for the spirit to interact with.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Rejuvenated casks are commonly seasoned with Pajarete which is a colouring and sweetening wine consisting of a Pedro Ximenez reduction. This is done using a process called ‘bain marie’ which is basically a fancy way of saying ‘hot bath’.

This seasoning is done to give the wood a certain sherry-cask profile.

Now I don’t know for sure but I’m pretty certain that this whisky’s profile is the result of this particular treatment. I could be wrong since there is no concrete evidence to support this but I would love to be right.

My sample is from a brand new bottle, distilled in 1987 and bottled in 2012 at a cask strength of 52.1%

Nose: Lovely warm sherry. Chocolate milk. Touch of oak. Sweet honey. Wild berries. Mocha frappuccino. Caramel. Touch of limestone. Lime zest. Something green. Gets sweeter over time. Strawberry jam. I like noses like these. 23/25

Palate: Full bodied. Nice texture. Spices. Sweet chocolate. Coffee. Butterscotch. Caramel. Mocha. Cinnamon. Gets woody. Fudge cake. Berries. Hint of tannins. I think the oak had just about started to give up when this was bottled. Might have been different at 24 years of age instead of 25. Just a thought. 22/25

Finish: Long. Lip smacking. Oily. Cinnamon. Woody. 22/25

Overall comments: This is one of my more long-winded posts but I wanted to touch upon my new learning. It’s always nice when things connect. I like this whisky, though, I think it would have been fabulous had it been bottled a touch younger (I don’t know what the infatuation with multiples of five is) but I guess we’ll never know.

But mostly I will remember this whisky for teaching me something new.

Rating: 89

Glenlivet 25 Year old XXV

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet
Region: Speyside
ABV: 43%
Colour: Young Sauternes

Nose: 23
Taste: 21
Finish: 21
Balance: 21

Review
There are some whiskies that entrance you for some reason and for me The Glenlivet XXV was one of them. It was gifted to me by a friend a couple of years ago and, for sentimental reasons, I chose not to open it. Instead two years later I purchased a new one intending to open it with the same friend as a New Years treat.

Big mistake.

Looks like I’m a victim of some serious batch variance and happened to snag a less than stellar bottling. This one was bottled on January 21, 2013 and bears the Batch# 0910A. So have a look before you decide to shell out US$350 for a bottle.

Nose: The nose is extremely promising coming at you with an almost bourbon like quality. Strong citrus layered in dark honey, boiled sweets and butterscotch with some Quality Street chocolates. But then a disconcerting whiff of fresh linen which can only lead me to believe the presence of sulphur. It’s not terribly off-putting but it certainly does not belong there.

Palate: The palate. The disappointing palate. Watery. Mediocre. The same chocolate and citrus but now some nuts, cinnamon and banana. But something a touch off. The sulphur? Maybe

Finish: The finish is goes up in a puff of mild dark pepper leaving me shaking my head in disappointment.

Not the best way to round off the year.

Rating: 86

Dalmore 25 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Dalmore
Region: Highland
ABV: 42%
Colour: Full Gold

Nose: 22
Taste: 22
Finish: 21
Balance: 22

Review
This is the danger we face today as whisky enthusiasts. When drama and flair overtake the fundamentals of quality. That by building a story and dressing it up in tassels becomes the only way to pander a product.

And Mr Richard Paterson is a master of this craft, I must admit. So much so that I think he believes him self too.

Unveiled at a tasting recently amid much fanfare and oohs and aahs this gloriously packaged 600GBP bottle is a sight for sore eyes. But sight is the only sense it stimulates.

Nose: The expected nose of chocolate gravy and rum cake, black peppercorns, orange peel and grated ginger greet you in one massive THUD! No complexity. No layers. Just a square blow to your face.

Palate: The equally one dimensional and medium bodied palate is chocolate sweet and peppercorn spicy but does introduce a fig in a cigar box quality to it.

Finish: The medium finish is spicy and retains that cigar box touch.

Look, I don’t mind this whisky but if you’re going to set it up so high you better deliver. But the ultimate victory belongs to the marketeers who know there’s enough people out there who will gladly shell out this kind of money just to parade this in front of formal company.

And that’s the danger.

Rating: 87

Glenrothes 25

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Distillery/Brand: Glenrothes
Region: Speyside
ABV: 43%
Colour: Deep Gold

Nose: 23
Taste: 22
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

Review
This 25 Year Old was part of the Glenrothes tasting I attended recently and after the 1988 vintage was my No 2 pick for the evening. Though some of my colleagues preferred this over the ’88 – well, to each his own.

It has quite a distinct sherry influenced nose. There is a strong presence of dark caramel and chocolate in a stew of cooked oranges. Spicy clove sprinkled with sea salt and almonds come next. All on a thin layer of oak shavings.

The palate is a combination of honey, toffee and chocolate with the slightest of cardamom. Could have been a bit more chewy, in my opinion.

The long chocolate finish makes for a rather enjoyable dram.

Rating: 89

Laphroaig 25 – 2011 Cask Strength

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
ABV: 48.6%
Colour: Sunlight

Nose: 23
Taste: 23
Finish: 23
Balance: 23

Review:
I’m generally a fan of anything Laphroaig and the distillery has never let me down in all these years, though, I’ve heard of a miscreant 15 year old that may taint an otherwise perfect track record. But let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

Right. The 25 year old 2011 Cask Strength. Possibly the most un-Laphroaig nose you will ever find. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. The iodine and peat is subdued; it’s there but comes to you in gentle waves riding on a crest of sweet lemon citrus. The citrus is then enveloped in a fine spray of honey and sugarcane. This is possibly the most delicate of Laphroaig noses you will ever come across.

The lemon and honey are dominant on the palate but not before a burst of white pepper greets your tongue. The peat and smoke, as on the nose, play a supporting role as if to nudge you from time to time and let you know this is an Islay.

The finish is long, dry and spicy with a touch of oak and a smattering of nuts.

This is a lovely dram and does all the right things but the question remains; should Laphroaig be producing such delicate whiskies or focus on mouthfuls of iodine, peat and personality?

I’ll let you decide.

Rating: 92

Highland Park 25

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Distillery/Brand: Highland Park
Bottling: 25 Year old
Region: Island
ABV: 48.1%
Colour: Old Sauternes

Nose: 24
Taste: 23
Finish: 23
Balance: 23

Review
I opened this glorious expression last New Year’s Eve which was really my way of telling my friends and family how special they were to me.

A thick syrupy nose, dripping with dark honey, chocolate, char grilled tangerines, breakfast marmalade and that scrumptious layer of burnt sugar found on top of a perfectly cooked caramel pudding. I was so glad I chose to go with this expression to impress my friends! Cuddle with it a little more and you will experience a sprinkle of aniseeds atop a rum fruit cake. All of this is then perfectly balanced against the backdrop of mature oak. Perfect!

The velvet delivery first comes with black pepper and then quite expertly balances out with a spread of maple syrup, orange zest followed by a sprinkling of dark chocolate flakes.

At nearly cask strength the finish is satisfyingly long, dry and oaky. There are cloves with the minutest touch of tobacco and leather and, just as you’re about to bid adieu, there is that delicious burnt sugar on top of the caramel pudding.

Even though there is a slightly bitter aftertaste I don’t think it will affect my popularity with my friends!

Rating: 93