Monday, 16 January 2012

Pre-Whisky Fest Fun: Day 3

In the single malt world, alot of emphasis is put on the proof.  It is very common to hear a whisky expert say something along the lines  of, "This whisky could be greatly improved by being bottled at 43% ABV.", when reviewing a whisky bottled at 40% ABV.

So why not prove if there is any truth to this theory.  I have two near identical bottling.  Both produced by Laphroaig and bottled at 10 Years of age.  The only differences being one is bottled at 40% ABV and the other at 43%AB.

I will review both whiskies based on four attributes: aroma, taste, finish, and complexity in order to determined if a mere 3% alcohol makes any noticeable differences.  Each category will be rated out of 25 for a total score out of 100.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old 40%

Aroma: No too complex on the nose.  Typical Laphroaig notes of peat and seaweed, as well as nuances of red bell pepper, ginger, straw and a touch of sweetness.  The lack complexity and ability to develop in the glass hurts the potential for a higher score.


Taste: Beyond the peat and earthly characteristics are notes of basil, citrus peel, anise, burning rubber, BBQ, dark coffee, and a touch of sweet barley.  The taste is definitely the best feature of this whisky.  A good amount of complexity and balance of flavors gives it a very respectable score.


Finish: Unfortunately the finish is were this Laphroaig falls short.  Considering this is an Islay bomb, the finish is far too short and lacks any depth of complexity.  It's a rush of peat smoke with subtle salty background notes, and then it's gone.


Complexity:  Over all, the complexity of this Laphroaig 10 was fairly reasonable, although the absence of complexity in the nose, and finish really hold this back from being a superb whisky.


Total: 86.5/100

Laphroaig 10 Year Old 43%

Aroma: The peat is much more integrated and balanced on this one.  Lots of subtle notes of green bell pepper, seaweed, new band aids (yes, new band aids), black pepper and sea salt, as well as a aroma reminiscent of fine Mezcal.  More  Complexity on the nose then the predeceasing 40% Laphroaig, as well as a better balance allow for a higher score for this Islay malt.


Taste:  More typical Laphroaig: huge peat smoke, basil, black pepper, smoked fish, anise, dark chocolate, and a blast of fresh espresso; what a refreshing surprise.  Lots of complexity and unique characteristics result in a exceptional score in taste.


Finish: The finish is long and lingering with lots of peat smoke, sea salt, and herbaceous notes.  A predominant anise and burnt rubber lasts well into your next sip.  Very complex and an ever changing finish; possibly the best characteristic of this whisky.


Complexity:  Great complexity through out all characteristics of this malt.  A bit heavy on the peat, but what else would you expect from Laphroaig!


Total: 94.5/100

Conclusion: So did 3% ABV make a difference? Hell yes.  The Laphroaig at 43% ABV had a much broader range of flavours and complexities over the somewhat boring 40% Laphroaig.  The 40% was by no means a bad whisky, but when standing beside the likes of the 43%, it was only a shadow of a spectacular dram.  Luckily, the Laphroaig 10 Year Old at 43% is now a permanent stable in the line up of Islay Malts available in B.C. ; as well as a stable in my liquor collection.

Mmmmmm, Laphroaig

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