A few days ago, after a hard day’s work, I had the sudden desire to pour myself a dram of Laphroaig Cask Strength. There was just a tiny little problem. I had no Laphroaig Cask Strength. So I poured myself a dram of PX Cask instead, sat down in front of my computer with a sigh and started to look around the online whisky retailers for a bottle of said whisky.
But lo and behold, there was none to be found – for regular prices at least. Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange, Royal Mile Whiskies, Loch Fyne Whiskies, Whisky.de and others do not currently have it in stock. Apart from a few older bottlings for collectors’ prices, everyone was sold out. Heck, not even Laphroaig’s own website has it.
There used to be a time not long ago when the lineup of Laphroaig’s core products was as unspectcular as the whisky itself was spectacular. 10 year old, 10 year old cask strength, 15 year old. Add to that the 25 and 30 year old high end bottles and the occasional one-offs like for Feis Ile, and then you had it.
Then came the Quarter Cask. Laphroaig’s first venture into experimental wood craft proved to be highly successful and it became a regular addition to the range. Now that they have tasted blood, Laphroaig have begun to churn out wood “enhanced” expressions as if there was no tomorrow. Triple wood, PX Cask, QA Cask, An Cuan More; and I am sure the next one is already lurking behind the corner. While the Quarter Cask has been highly lauded by many, reviews for the successors have been pretty mixed. and I am probably not the only one seeing this procession of expressions as Laphroaig’s answer to Ardbeg’s Flavour of the Year approach.
Unfortunately, the Cask Strength – the quintessential Laphroaig – appears to have been stomped by this cavalcade of bottlings. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the change to numbered batches for the CS went more or less along with the introduction of the No Age Statement philosophy which is likely to bring in more profit than a cask strength 10 year old. And probably the switch from the 15 to the 18 year old has put some pressure on the stock as well.
When a batch is sold out, it is sold out. This is easier to explain than supply problems for a regular core range bottling. So the batch numbering for Laphroaig Cask Strength has effectively turned it into a limited release that many are willing to pay high prices for on the secondary market. But not me.