Laphroaig stands on Islay’s southern coast, first of three famous distilleries situated along the road which leads from Port Ellen. First comes Laphroaig, second is Lagavulin and finally, Ardbeg. Together, these three giants of the industry embody the traditional character of the heavily peated Islay spirit.
Laphroaig was founded in 1815 by brothers Alexander and Donald Johnston. Originally McCabes and members of Clan Donald, the Johnston family changed their name following the bloody conclusion of the Jacobite Uprising at Culloden in 1745. Clan Donald’s support of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s ill-fated campaign saw many of those that survived the repercussions take measures to distance themselves from the entire affair. Thus, this branch of McCabes became Johnston and two of their sons would create Laphroaig with the help of the local laird, a Campbell, no less.
Donald Johnston ran the distillery until his tragic death in 1847 when a gruesome accident at the distillery saw him plunge into a vat of boiling pot ale. The company continued to carry the name of D. Johnston & Co. until the distilleries sale in the 1960’s. A fitting tribute to the man that helped to start it all.
Today, Laphroaig is owned by Beam Suntory and unlike many of it’s counterparts, continues to operate it’s own malting floor. The staff believe that the Laphroaig kiln imparts a unique character to the barley that carries through into the finished whisky and although only 20% of requirements are met onsite, any change to this process could drastically change the Laphroaig spirit known and loved the world over. Though there are a few expressions currently on the market, the standard 10 year old serves as the flag bearer and is currently the best selling of all the Islay single malts.
Smell: The Laphroaig ten year old has probably the most recognisable nose of any dram. Smoke, Ash, Iodine, Tar, Vanilla Cream, Honey and a little touch of Citrus combine to attack your senses in a way few other drams can.
Taste: A wave of Smoke & Barbecue with Lemon & Biscuit, a touch of White Pepper and Ash right at the back. Big flavour but light bodied and surprisingly easy drinking.
Value for Money: No complaints at a very reasonable £35 per bottle.
Score: 43.5 / 50.
Possibly the most divisive dram in the world with many finding the medicinal, smokey character off-putting. For those that can brave the fire and brimstone though, there is a massively tasty dram to be enjoyed here. It is, in fact, amongst the finest ten year old’s on the market. I can’t help but wish it was bottled at a slightly higher strength but regardless, there is no denying it’s outstanding quality.
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