It is almost the Midsummer and the Summer Solstice. It is the time when in the old days people celebrated the light and performed many rituals to multiple gods and nature spirits to ensure the good fortune, crops and fertility for the summer and autumn. In Finland it also included lots of spirits of different nature, distilled at the moonlight usually. This is also the time, when you can relax and enjoy a good dram or few, to honor the ancient culture and habits. Some people are very pedant about this, but I would not recommend passing out to a summer night. This year you might freeze to the beyond, but at least you will serve your flying friends – mosquitoes - their best feeding plate for that night. Let’s take it easy and venture to the world of this OMC bottle.
Laphroaig, the iconic distillery at Islay, has been on and off for me. On, for the taste, smoke and experiences. Off, for being too popular. In a last few weeks I’ve been trying a few different Laphroaigs and they have reminded me about it’s diversities. What is the basic Laphroaig made of? Peat. Fire. Smoke. Salt. Iodine. Medical taste. It is the most often found smoky whisky in Finnish taverns. It is not a bad choice.
I got my hands onto this Old Malt Cask 17YO Laphroaig (distilled 1996 October , bottled 2013 October, Refill Hogshead ref 1025, 347 bottles, 50%) recently. On my first try, this was the most woody dram I’ve had for a long time. Oak. Oak. Wood. Oak. The box claims that there is oak in the finish, so at least I am on the same track here.
The nose is elegant, a bit sweet and contains peat and oak. Smoke is present, but I could not guess that his is Laphroaig. At least not immediately. The oils form up nicely in the glass. This has a lots of style and fun in it already!
Palate opens up with the peatsmoke and soon turns into a big oak. A really big trunk of oak. It is like licking at the fresh barrel for me. Some vanilla, iodine and other Laphroaig characters are there but mostly cowering behind that oak. Iodine grows more present and identifies this more to this distillery.
The finish leaves lots of oak chips into the mouth. They are present, alive, with the peatsmoke and last for a long time. The result is really dry and different from many Laphroaigs. I don’t even remember Triple wood being this oak consumed.
So is this good or bad? I think I go on with the different-card here. I do like this, a lot, for being so extraordinary and yet containing that marvellous peat and smoke that fondle my taste receptors pleasantly. However, this is not a easy dram. This is not soft nor a yellow magazines winner. This is for the moments, when you ponder about the birth of the universe, discuss about Tolkien mythology or organize your stamp collection… Perhaps not the last one, for most of us anyway.
Even after writing the article, the oak still remains in my mouth. Oak and iodine. This is one quality dram, that is appreciated by those who enjoy this world!