Laphroaig’s 10 yo cask strength bottling has been a very important cornerstone in the distillery portfolio for a long time. Only rather recently, the trusty old 55.7% bottling was replaced by a succession of numbered batches with individual bottling strengths, just like it has been done with the Aberlour a’Bunadh for many years.
On the reasons for this move one can only speculate. My guess is that it would have been a very unlikely coincidence, if every bottled batch of the CS had turned out to have an ABV of exactly 55.7% So this would have been basically a pseudo cask strength bottling with a little added water to normalize the alcohol content. The fact that the new batches have a noticeably higher ABV does underline this assumption as well.
I was lucky enough to secure samples of batches 001 and 002 of the new bottlings. And on an even more fortunate note, I happen to have an open bottle of the now obsolete 55.7% red stripe CS on my shelf.
Time to pour three wee drams and hunt down the differences.
Let me quote my orignal tasting note for the old CS for your convenience:
Colour: Bright amber
Nose: Very intense, a mixture of smoke shack and hospital hallway with added seaweed.
Palate: Strong peat, liquorish, salt, cloves, lemon and a faint hint of pineapple candy.
Finish: Very long, smoke, salt and aromatic spices.
Overall: The true essence of Islay. This uncompromising malt does not take prisoners. Extremely complex and much better than the regular 10 yo for an unbeatable price.
Revisiting the 55.7% Version
I found all of my original impressions still present in this dram, and I will also stand to my rating of 91. Its general character I would describe as fresh and maritime. I particularily like the balance of maritime, medicinal, and sweet fruity components.
Batch 001 – 57.8%
Nose: Even stronger than the old version but a little less fresh, smoky bacon notes are rather dominant.
Palate: Less salty but more of the aromatic spices, strangely no bacon on the palate.
Finish: Very long, liquorish and spices.
Overall: This batch puts an emphasis on the medicinal and spicy notes and cuts down on the maritime touch. I would hesitate to give it a different rating, it might also be mood dependent.
Batch 002 – 58.3%
Nose: More subdued compared to the other two. Less smoke, more vanilla and citrus fruit.
Palate: Drier and fruitier than both the others, the vanilla is quite present here as well.
Finish: Very long, dry smoky fruits.
Overall: I find this version to lack a little of the richness and complexity that the other bottlings exhibit. That’s just complaining on a very high level, for sure, but the difference is quite noticeable.
Batch 002 is currently available at the Whisky Exchange
Overall, I like the new concept. I doubt that Laphroaig will ever bottle really disappointing batches, so I think the constant anticipation of the coming batch will keep things interesting for the time being. Some batches will certainly be not too overwhelming when compared to others, but without a doubt there will be some true gems as well.