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Laphroaig distillery was founded back in 1815 by brothers Alexander & Donald Johnstone on the south coast of Islay. Today it has grown to be one of the most successful single malt brands on the planet and arguably, one of the most characterful.
Laphroaig has long been known as the ‘marmite’ of whisky, in reference to an old marmite advertising campaign with the tagline “you either love it or you hate it”. However, while many can’t stand the stuff, Laphroaig commands a huge and dedicated following of fans from all over the world who regularly make the pilgrimage to the distillery. They even have their own fan club.
Purchase an official bottle of Laphroaig and inside the tube, you will find a small booklet that contains a unique code which can then be used to register as a Friend of Laphroaig. As a member, you will gain access to discounted pricing and special events. You even get your very own piece of land adjoining the distillery – a square foot to be precise! Much of the land surrounding Laphroaig was acquired some time ago in order to end a dispute over the distillery’s water source and while this allowed production to continue uninterrupted, it left the owners with an awful lot of empty land. It may be the ultimate gimmick, but the idea to gift a square foot of land to every Friend of Laphroaig is a great bit of fun and has proved very popular, with visitors to the distillery tracking down their ‘plot’ and planting a small flag!
Away from the distillery, casks of Laphroaig sometimes find their way into the stocks of independent bottlers and while they can sometimes command a hefty price, particularly when at a good age, there are still some bargains to be found. The Good Spirits Company is my local retailer and as well as selling some of the best spirits from around the world, they also dabble in their own line of bottlings. They’ve been on something of a roll recently and I’ve reviewed excellent drams of Glenrothes and Bunnahabhain already this year. Their latest release is a 6-year-old Laphroaig, which more than maintains the run of quality.
Smell: Peat Smoke & Ash, not as medicinal as Laphroaig can be, Vanilla, Lemon Meringue and Wood Spice.
Taste: Wow. An attack of Smoke and Spice. Ash, Lemon and Vanilla, touch of Marmalade. Heavier than most Laphroaig’s with a rather oily texture.
Thoughts: You couldn’t exactly describe this single malt as subtle. I’m not even sure it’s typical of Laphroaig but it is pretty ferocious stuff. There’s a lot of elements here but rather than exist in perfect harmony, they kick, scream, bite and scratch for your attention in an astonishing burst of flavour. It’s young, strong and smoky and it’s not afraid to throw its weight around a bit. It must also be said, £50 for a single cask Laphroaig bottling, even at this young age, is pretty good going. Not for the faint-hearted but fair play to the Good Spirits Co for unearthing it, it’s an absolute gem.