A few years ago, when I was but a wee nipper in the whisky world and still unaccustomed to sipping it, I gave Laphroaig a go at a tasting.
I didn’t drink it again for nearly four years.
The smoky, peaty hit of the drink smacked me so hard in the taste buds that I just couldn’t handle it.
But, knowing how my palate has changed since then, I was eager to see what the brand had been up to in recent years and give them another go.
So, at a recent tasting at the newly renovated Archer Street bar, I did just that. I brought along my other half as I was curious to see how he would react – he drinks a lot less whisky than I do (something I am slowly but surely changing!) and I was interested if he would have the same double-take that I did back then.
On show was the full range (outside of the 25-year-old) and included: the Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Cask Strength, 10-year old, Triple Wood and 18-year-old. They were being mixed into some rather delicious looking cocktails, and bottles were also spread around the tables of the cozy basement bar (note: if you’ve not seen the bar’s redesign I’m told it’s a massive stone’s throw away from its old roots and is truly gorgeous).
The bartender, Daniel, was busy doing his best to come out with something unique that would match the powerful flavours of this whisky, which is known for its peatiness and which has been made for nearly 200 years. His first concoction included rosemary, Laphroaig 10-year old and a ginger sugar syrup (definitely a winter warmer) while the next was made with cucumber water, pomegranate juice, hot chili jam, Pete’s bitters and the Laphroaig Quarter Cask – it was by far my favourite with the light cucumbery flavours balancing out the feisty jam and Laphroaig; definitely a treat.
After a couple of cocktails to get the taste buds working we moved on to the good stuff: straight up, neat Laphroaig.
And here’s the surprise: I actually liked it. In fact, I liked it so much, I’m not entirely sure what I disliked about it all those years before. Could my palate have changed that much in a few short years to warrant this development? The Laphroaig Triple Wood was smooth and balanced between the peat, oak and sherry flavours, while the Quarter Cask was smoky at the start but softened right out for a lingering sweetness. The Cask Strength – my personal favourite – was rich, powerful and medicinal but without being off-putting.
So, what did the newbie to Laphroaig think?
He really loved it, and this surprised me even more. I was sure he might take to the cocktails which blended the flavour and softened its direct hit, but he was genuinely impressed by the flavours and intensity of the 10-year old, and took to the Triple Wood immediately (not surprising since Auchentoshan Three-Wood is his favourite at the moment due to its smoothness).
In the end, I was very intrigued by the realisation that I had been ignoring this whisky for years simply because I hadn’t liked it at first sip. Note to self (and new whisky converts out there): keep trying and trying whiskies again and again because you never know where your taste buds might end up! Daniel (the bartender and mixology master) said of Laphroaig (which is his personal favourite): “It’s so workable.” And that is something Miss Whisky agrees with wholeheartedly!