Laphroaig Scotch Whisky is a single malt brand that has been around the whisky market for more than 200 years. With peat in its core, this is a brand that every whisky lover should taste at least once in their lifetime.
There’s little doubt that you’ve arrived in peat country when you drive into the courtyard at Laphroaig and the kilns are on. If it is an uncompromising belt of pitch, peat oil, tarry ropes and iodine you want, this is the place to come.
Of course, being Laphroaig such an iconic brand with fire drams, we had to send some expressions to our customers in the past. If you want to know our subscription, go for the page of our Whisky Tasting Box Subscription.
If you want to know more about what makes Laphroaig single malt scotch so distinct from all the other peated scotch whisky, keep reading this article!
Table of Contents – Sip this article!
- More Than 200 Years of Laphroaig
- What’s so special about Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky?
- Why is Laphroaig So Peaty? – The Brand’s Flavour Profile
- How To Drink Laphroaig
- The Laphroaig Scotch Whisky Range
More than 200 Years of Laphroaig
This world has been blessed for more than 200 years of amazing peaty scotch whisky and one of the brands responsible for that is Laphroaig, for sure.
It all started in 1815, when Donald and Alexander Johnston founded their distillery on Islay’s south coast. Before growing barley to make whisky, the brother’s grew barley to feed cattle. As any good scotch, they used the surplus barley to distil whisky. However, their whisky was too good to keep it for themselves, and, as soon as distilling whisky became more profitable, they found the distillery we know today.
Initially, the distillery only sold its single malt to other distilleries so they could make blended whisky. It was only in 1877 that Laphroaig started to become independent and, a few years after, the brand was selling to the public as their Peaty Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
During these 200+ years, Laphroaig Scotch Whisky went through judicial battles with other distilleries and two world wars (in which the distillery was made a military depot), have seen its management go from one person to another (including one of the first woman running a whisky distillery ever). It was only in 1967 that the distillery was completely bought from Seagar Evans that is now known as Long John International.
Nowadays, the Laphroaig distillery is owned by Beam Suntory.
Where is Laphroaig Made?
The Laphroaig distillery is located in the island of Islay, on Scotland’s West Coast. The south coast of this Scottish island is home for several whisky distilleries, including Laphroaig, which was named after the loch by which it stands.
This location is the perfect site for this brand’s whisky production, since it enables the distillery to collect water from the Kilbride Stream. The reason why whisky is made here is because the water stream is just right. It has no minerals and flows over peat, picking up some phenolics from the start.
This peated source of water contributes for Laphoraig Scotch Whisky’s unique flavour.
How is Laphroaig Pronounced? And What Does It Mean in English?
Laphroaig is pronounced La-Froyg. The first ‘a’ is a closed vowel, mimicking the sound of ‘uh’, and the ‘g’ is pronounced strongly. Phonetically the brand’s name is written luh·proyg.
As it happens with many other Scotch Whisky brands, their name derives from Celtic words as they adopt the name of the area in which they stand. Laphroaig Scotch Whisky is no different and was named after Loch Laphroaig, that means ‘broad hollow by the bay’.
Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky – What’s so special about it?
When talking about a whisky brand that is as ancient as Laphroaig, there will be a lot of factors that contribute for making it famous. Either the strong flavours or the overall brand’s reputation, Laphroaig has conquered its name on the market fair and square. It has won several awards throughout the years, including the first International Spirit Challenge Trophy (in 1999).
Producing Laphroaig Single Malt Whisky
If we ask ourselves “What is so Special about Laphroaig Whisky?”, we can hardly come up with a straight answer. This whisky is so unique that other brands tried to mimic it in the past, and failed!
Truth is, there are many factors that contribute for Laphroaig Scotch Whisky uniqueness: the water source, the hand-cutted peat, the floor malted barley, cold-smoking kilns and the casks the brand uses for ageing their whisky.
Let’s shortly go through them all.
Don’t know what Scotch Whisky is made of? Check out our guide: https://www.whiskyflavour.com/blog/what-is-scotch-whisky-made-of/
The Kilbride Stream – Peated Water for Peated Whisky
As said previously in this article, there is a reason why Laphroaig Scotch Whisky distillery is located by Loch Laphroaig: there runs the Kilbride Stream. The course of this stream runs over peat, causing it to become peated itself. It shares the responsible of giving this whisky its phenolic, heavily peated flavour so characteristic of this brand.
Besides, this water is soft and non-mineralised. It is just perfect to be used during the whole whisky production process: from mashing the barley to reducing the whisky before bottling.
The Ancient Art of Hand-Cutting Peat
Once considered the primary residential fuel in Scotland, peat is a fossil fuel that is formed in water bogs. But these bogs are not the same throughout the country. In Islay, the ratio of ‘peat moss’ (a brown fibrous matter) is higher and that’s the reason it gets a more medicinal taste.
Laphroaig collects its peat in an exclusive peat bog called Glenmachrie and the reason why the brand chooses to hand-cut it is quite simple. This way, they can make sure the peat is not too wet to burn right away and they take care of the peat beds, replenishing them whenever necessary.
The Peat Kilns – Burning the Midnight Oil
Having peat kilns that are “almost as old as the distillery”, Laphroaig uses an unusual process: they peat the barley before drying it. This step allows the barley to absorb the oils present in the vapor created by peat burning.
Besides, the peat is burned at low temperatures. This “slow cooking” part of the process is essential to give a tarry flavour to the whisky.
After 17 hours of peating the barley, the grains are then dried with air that comes directly from the still house.
Mashing and Fermenting
Ever wondered about where do the fruity flavours come from? It’s all about the mashing and fermentation process.
In the mashing part, Laphroaig Scotch Whisky produces a clear wort (the water used to dissolve the sugar of the grains), instead of the usual cloudy wort. Besides, the time of fermentation enables fruity flavours to appear in the ‘distiller’s beer’.
Double distillation and pioneer cuts
As other scotch whisky brands, the Laphroaig stills are made of copper, which eliminate any sulphuric compounds. In addition, the brand distils its spirit twice.
The first distillation is made in the wash still. The second happens in the spirit still, as the stillman are responsible for the tricky part of the operation. Laphroaig’s first cut on the spirit when it gets out of the second distillation is made only after 45minutes, which is unusually late for this stage. The second cut, alike the first, is also made late, only after the alcohol content drops to 60%.
These two cuts influence the whisky’s flavour, making it less sweet as peaty and medicinal notes are preserved.
The Maturation in Bourbon Casks
The aging of a whisky is where it gets the most of its flavour. The Laphroaig’s whisky is matured, at least partially, in ex-bourbon casks collected from Maker’s Mark Distillery. It is these casks that give Laphroaig Scotch whisky its notes of vanilla and light spices.
Although all its whisky matures in ex-bourbon casks, the brand still uses ex-sherry casks for double or triple maturation. The maturation in ex-sherry casks allows the whisky to get orange, cinnamon and clove flavour notes.
Why is Laphroaig So Peaty? – The Flavours and Overall Profile of this Scotch Whisky
After reading about the production process of Laphroaig Scotch Whisky, you already have an pretty big idea about this brand’s flavour profile. It is heavily-peated, with a medicinal and iodine-like flavour. But why is Laphroaig so peaty?
The answer is quite simple. It all comes from the peated water that goes along all the production process of this scotch whisky. That and, of course, the fact that this brand peats the barley in the malting part of the process.
But there’s more to say about Laphroaig’s flavours than “just peated”, especially because a peated flavour profile can come with many other flavours associated.
The Laphroaig’s flavour profile is a must-taste for Scotch Whisky enthusiasts! And that is why we have included the Laphroaig 10 Year Old in previously sent Whisky Tasting Boxes
What does Laphroaig Taste Like?
Laphroaig Scotch Whisky has a rich profile with peat smoke in its core.
Regarding peat flavours, most of this brand’s expressions have a smoky and “medicinal” flavour, characteristic of the peat used in this part of Islay. It is also possible to taste an iodine-like flavour, as well as some sea salt, given the distillery’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.
Regarding the flavours given by maturation, it is possible to taste the oak spiciness and a light sweetness showing in the background; Dark chocolate and red fruits are notes that you might taste in several whiskies in Laphroaig’s range.
What does Laphroaig smell like?
As it happens with flavours, some aromas are transversal to most of the brand’s expression. The peat smoke is there, obviously, but one can also smell seaweed and iodine. Besides these aromas, the dark-chocolate and smoky bacon are also pointed in several of Laphroaig whisky’s expressions.
How to Drink Laphroaig
Truth is, there is no rule that tells you to drink Laphroaig this or that way, since you are the only expert on what you enjoy the most.
However, if you only have a whisky miniature for tasting, we recommend you to drink Laphroaig Scotch a certain way, it would be neat. In this way, no flavour or aroma gets lost in translation.
If you have a whole bottle, we say for you go get a bit crazy and taste Laphroaig differently from time to time. What flavours come up if you join ice? Or just a splash of water? What if you just chill it with whisky stones? This is one of the best part of whisky tasting: to discover what hidden flavours and aromas come to brightness when you change a just a little of the composition of the whisky.
Not sure if you should add water or ice to whisky? Check out what science says about it: https://www.whiskyflavour.com/blog/whisky-on-the-rocks-science-behind-it/
The Laphroaig Scotch Whisky Range
The core expression of this brand, Laphroaig 10 Years is a whisky that every whisky lover should taste at least once. And that is why we’ve included it in some of the Whisky Tasting Boxes we sent to our customers in the past.
Following all steps of the production process by the book, the Laphroaig 10 has 40% alcohol volume and it’s a dram that you will not forget.
Being heavily peated, this expression has a lot of smoky and “medicinal” aromas, as well as seaweed and light sweetness in the nose.
Being matured in ex-bourbon casks, the flavour of this whisky is sweeter, with hints of vanilla and honey, but there is a lot of peat smokiness and sea salt as well.
Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Sherry Oak Finish
The Laphroaig 10-Year-Old has a gentle twin. This Laphroaig whisky has it all: the medicinal peat smoke strength (and so characteristic of the 10-Year-Old expression), with the aromatic and sweet flavours given by the sherry casks.
This Laphroaig Scotch Whisky expression is aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon casks and Oloroso sherry casks and finishes its maturation in European Oak Oloroso Sherry casks. The combination ends up creating a full-body whisky with sweet notes that go along with the smoky, seaweed and salty flavours.
The 10-Year-Old Sherry Oak Finish has peaty aromas, such as smoke, iodine and pine tar; It also has honey and cloves aromas. Regarding its flavours, it is much more aromatic than its twin expression: one can taste toffee and maple syrup. It is also very peaty and herbal, with notes of dark chocolate, peat smoke, seaweed, pine needle and cedar. The finish is long and spicy with hints of sweet honey.
The combination of 5 different casks culminates in a distinct, full body expression that deserves every award it got until today.
To mature Laphroaig Select, it is used First-fill Bourbon casks, Oloroso Sherry butts, Quarter casks, and PX seasoned casks. It is then finished in new American oak casks.
This expression has a smoky profile and a complex character, combined with some oaky spiciness. In the nose, one can smell peat and red fruits. On the mouth, it is possible to taste fruit and fresh flavour notes, as well as the “medicinal” taste of this whisky.
The Laphroaig Select has won several prizes, such as Silver in the International Spirits Challenge 2019 and Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Awards 2019.
This Laphroaig Scotch Whisky expression is a true story teller. Combining techniques that went from generation to generation, the Lore is a blend of 5 small batch whiskies that age in the distillery and matured in 5 different casks.
In this expression, there are whiskies from Oloroso sherry butts, from ex-bourbon barrels, 19th Century quarter casks, European Oak and even a 21 Year expression. The Laphroaig Lore ends up being as complex as its blending process: full body, peated, spicy and sweet.
The aromas are smoky with sea minerals and chocolate. On the mouth, it has a velvety texture that blends itself with peaty and spice flavours. It also has sweeter notes of vanilla, especially in its long finish.
This expression won Silver in the International Wine and Spirit Competition 2019 and was named the Best No Age Statement Scotch in the Whisky Bible by Jim Murray in 2019.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Being aged twice in different kinds of casks, the Quarter Cask expression from Laphroaig has a lot of fruity flavours, without letting go of its characteristic peated strength.
This Laphroaig Scotch Whisky expression is matured, firstly, in ex-bourbon barrels and, secondly, in Quarter Casks. Quarter casks are much smaller than the regular barrels (one quarter of the size), making the whisky have a lot more contact with the wood. The flavours are imparted in the spirit and the result is a peated Scotch with sweet fruit flavours.
In the nose, it is possible to smell coconut and banana, while peat smoke is still on the background. The palate is rich, with the sweetness and smokiness lingering in the end, as hints of spice appear.
The Laphroaig Quarter Cask has won the gold medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Awards, in 2019.
Laphroaig 25-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky
Bottled at cask strength, this peated single malt scotch has everything that is great about Laphroaig and more. This 25-Year-Old Scotch is matured in Oloroso sherry ex-bourbon casks for a sweeter and creamier character with a long and warming finish. And, being it cask strength, it is as powerful as it seems.
On the nose, the whisky is spicy and smoky with notes of smoked bacon and dried fruit. It has a creamy mouthfeel, with flavour notes of smoke, salt and iodine, as well as pepper. It is also possible to taste vanilla and apples. The finish is long, smoky and peppery.
Laphroaig Càirdeas 2020
A whisky to celebrate friendship. The Laphroaig Càirdeas (Gaelic for friendship) is a limited edition that is crafted by John Campbell (the Distillery Manager) every year to celebrate the Friends of Laphroaig.
The 2020 batch of this expression (the one that still has bottles left) was divided in two and, while one half was matured in ex-bourbon casks, the other half matured in second fill Ruby Port barriques. Both parts were finished aging in Red Wine Casks. Because of this combination, this expression ended up being rich and complex with a full body and lots of distinct aromas and flavours.
Regarding its aromas, it is possible to smell pink peppercorns with dark chocolate, menthol and iodine-like peat smoke. It also has a lot of sweet and fruity aromas like peaches, plums, jam and marshmallows. On the mouth, this Laphroaig Scotch Whisky is warm and full of sweet honey notes with smoky and medicinal flavours.