The other night, I cracked open a bottle of Laphroaig 10. It was a Christmas present from my mom. Though such a gift would normally be a sipping Scotch after dinner, something inside of me just wanted to have it while I was eating. From the first sip to the last, I was utterly blown away by the strength, smokiness, and boldness of this 10-year-old Scotch.
My go-to’s for Scotch are usually blended, like Johnnie Walker Black Label. I enjoy it for its versatility, affordability, and smokey, peaty features. Because of this, I thought I would enjoy their Double Black even more, which increased the strength of the smoke. I was wrong. I thought it was too harsh and not worth the higher price tag. I’ve had that bottle on my bar now for nearly five years, only halfway drunk. It is merely an afterthought. Such an experience made me rethink what I enjoy in a Scotch. Maybe I don’t like that bold smoke after all? One glass of Laphroaig 10, and I was right back to where I was in my early Scotch days: give me the smoke!
Putting aside the fact that one is blended and the other is single malt, why did I enjoy one so much and loathe the other? There is something about the peat and smoke in Laphroaig that sets it apart. It is a smooth smokiness. There are hints of the barrel, and dare I say it, the salty air from the sea surrounding Islay, where this malt is made. It was an eye-opening experience, or, I should say, palate-opening.
I have older Scotches on my bar including two 12’s, two 18’s, and whatever Blue Label is, which I assume is even older. Yet there is a complexity present in this 10 that the others do not seem to match. This tastes old. It tastes mature. You can taste the environment it was made in. You can taste the tools used. For a Scotch enthusiast (I consider myself more of this than a fanatic like others), such a feeling emanating from a single glass is a goal to aim for. This is a Scotch that paired well with the grilled chicken I was eating, and strangely enough (I’ll catch flack for this) would have enough strength to be drunk on the rocks—a ghastly thought for fanatics.
One online reviewer commented, “Drinking a bottle of Laphroaig 10 is like drinking the inside of an antique store”. I don’t know if the connotation was positive or negative, but I would agree to an extent. A glass, rather than a building, taking on all the flavors and notes of the environment. The wood, the air, the age; it is all there. Cheers!