The Whisky Tasting Club

Laphroaig tasting at Purl


You’d be hard pressed to find a nicer, more cosy or more intimate place to drink malt whisky than Purl. It’s a cool cellar bar not far from Baker Street station, oozing in retro charm.

Here they study the science of drinks, glancing to London’s gin palace

history and bringing to its recipes science and technology; gases, foams and smoke, to take your cocktail experience in to an altogether new and exciting place. It should come as no surprise to discover that they know and indulge Heston Blumenthal’s people. This is the future, firmly rooted in the past, and as far from the garish horror that is the modern style bar as you can get. It’s a bar for those who prefer shadows and shade rather than the spot and the limelight. I loved it.

And it was here that Laphroaig master distiller John Campbell was to entertain select journalists and new media folk, ostensibly to mark the imminent launch of Triple Wood but in reality to celebrate all things Laphroaig in 2011.

Seeing the current range of Laphroaig lined up is a bit like having your dream five a side team in front of you, with substitutes. In fact it’s better than that, because one or two of the star performers in the Laphroaig team may look familiar but are new and improved.

The Triple Wood first, though. It’s been in Travel Retail for a while.  I fell in love with this on the way to the Islay festival 10 months ago, and it’s not been out of my cupboard or out of my core repertoire ever since – though I’ve had to restock twice.

If I were to get all elitist on you I’d say 27 year old Laphroaig is one of my all time favourite drams – but at £500 a bottle it’s not on my radar (though please note that I have a 50th birthday coming up, oh generous friends!). But you could brand this the poor man’s alternative, a stunningly good value for money whisky, taking the exquisite Quarter Cask and putting bells in it by finishing it in sherry.

Peat and sherry is a hard trick to pull off but this does it brilliantly. It’s currently in Travel Retail for about £65 a litre, so expect it to be around £45 for a standard bottle when it hits the United Kingdom market in September – around my birthday and the start of the rugby world cup.

What we weren’t expecting were three other treats.

The first is batch 3 of Laphroaig 10 year old Cask Strength, bottled in January and available later this month or April.

It’s another belter – 55.3% ABV, still rich in peat, fruit, aniseed and liquorice, but with some oak and spice and more of a rapier thrust than the last batch. Not as comfortable but definitely just as challenging, this is a welcome and impressive addition to the Laphroaig portfolio.

And then there is the new 25 year old.

You may recall that the original 25 year old disappointed many because it was creamy – almost milky – and balanced, and the peat hit arrived very late. Perhaps too late, like an acoustic Motorhead set with a full blooded version of Ace of Spades held for the encore. The second version was much more like it: full, loud, fruity and peaty.

But this one is a revelation. It’s at cask strength at 48.6% and it pokes and prods,  snarls and thrusts, its initial flavours all berry compote, with red currants, black currants and blueberries. But it’s never a soft and easy ride and the threat of a peaty tidal wave is never far away. When it comes it does so with trademark liquorice and an aggressive citrusy spice.

It’s unmistakably Laphroaig but it taunts and teases and when it pounces it doesn’t let go. But why would you want it to? It’s stunning and special.

But then again, the Triple Wood and the new Cask Strength 10 are, too. More worthy additions to an ever growing amazing repertoire.

To top the whole event off – and as if we hadn’t been spoiled enough – we were given a shot or Cairdeas 30 year old, a remarkably energetic and energetic slice of fruit and peat wrapped in oak.a stunning end to a great tasting.

Laphroaig is spoiling us. Happy times.

Ed: The Whisky Tasting Club have a Laphroaig Special tasting, 6 different Laphroaig expressions for £30, including the Triple Wood and the 18 year old, which we also tried … but Dom seems to have fogotten :)

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