My first Islay was Laphroaig 10 year (43%). It was also the most expensive bottle I'd ever purchased at the time, around $45. I was so excited to drink it that I ran to my car at the Specs parking lot, tore open the bottle, and excitedly took a big swig.
It was horrible. "This is poison!" I thought. Crestfallen, I lamented wasting good money on such awful whisky. How could the message boards have been so wrong? But damn it, I'd spent the dough already, so I was going to choke the stuff down if I had to. It was alcohol, after all. Over the next week, I kept drinking it. For the first third of the bottle, it was misery. Then, slowly, acceptance.
And by the last third of the bottle, I thought it was the best damned spirit I had ever tasted. And when it was finished, I rushed back to buy more. Thus began my love affair with Laphroaig and Islays generally, which has continued to this day. I buy Laphroaig 10 Year Cask Strength by the case and it's my "house malt" along with Springbank 10 Year. I wear Laphroaig t-shirts and hats. I even own a Laphroaig bowtie.
While I'll mess around with some first-fill sherry Speysides, some funky Highlands and the occasional Lowlander, I remain an Islay man: I need my flavor big and offensive, and only high PPM peat can deliver.
Laphroaig Cask Strength has some serious batch variation. The first editions ("red strip" and "green stripe") were mind-blowing. And batches #2 and #3 were damned good as well, if a bit less special. Batch #4 dropped a bit more. Then #5 and #6, while still very good, slid into the "B" range. Things turned up with batch #7, which was a B+, and now we have batch #8. Is the trend upwards continuing? Yes, emphatically.
This is just a perfect mix of sherry and bourbon casks, without suffering from the overly sweet/overly woody notes that dragged down batches #5 and #6. It's a clean spirit with a huge finish: medicinal, smoky as hell, with a balance of fruit and vanilla, and that nutty, signature note that only Laphroaig has. Even the nose is wonderful, far out-punching its price-point. 120 proof, world-class Islay for $55+tax? It's a total steal and arguably the best damned deal in any liquor store.
Best of all, this is my favorite batch since the red strip edition! A total knock-out! Hoard it by the case, because Laphroaig is probably going full NAS after batch #9 and we'll miss these days when it was plentiful, cheap, and delicious.
90 pts/A-. If you can't understand and love this malt, we shouldn't be friends. This is the red pill for whisky drinkers. You either get Laphroaig or you don't, and if you don't? You can go back to your bourbon with soda and Johnnie Walker on the rocks, you cretin.