To start off 2023 I’m going to review some old Islay whiskies. Some of them are from my own collection, others are from samples I got sent in December and didn’t get around to because I had a cold for the last few weeks before Christmas.
I am one of those guys that really likes older Islay whiskies because of how well integrated and subtle to smoky notes get. I sometimes like young Islay stuff as well, but I often find them to be a bit clunky and off balance. There is a time and place for those, but they’re not my go-to.
Of course, with prices that keep going up, older Islay whisky is a rarity nowadays. I believe that even now, 25/30 year old whisky from the Queen of the Hebrides has gone up from about € 350 to about € 450/500 in the last year alone. And those are the independent ‘undisclosed’ bottlings, not the official bottlings.
So, after all this complaining, let’s dive in. I bought this Laphroaig 25 about two years ago on the secondary market for about € 250. Currently it sits at € 450. Of course, an older bottling is not overly representative, but the current official cask strength bottling (2022 release) clocks in at € 400 too. In The Netherlands it’s over € 550. Just to prove my previous paragraph.
Gentle smoke, lots of brine, band-aids. Soft oak, salinity, marram grass. Very smooth on the nose. Iodine too, after a while.
A whiff of black peppery heat on the arrival, but with a syrupy texture. Salty, coastal and quite old fashioned. Slightly medicinal, slightly smoky, some barley and dry pastry.
The finish is very similar to the palate. A bit more smooth, a bit more gentle. More the flavor of black pepper than the heat.
There is something magnificent about old Islay whisky… The complexity that gets added by the tamed layer of smoke on top of all the old style distillate and coastal notes is just insanely good. This one is no different. I think the two years it’s been open didn’t hurt it and gave it some time to mellow further, which is exactly what gives more room for complexity and more subtle nuances to pop up.