It’s not a secret that I like Laphroaig (despite a few disappointing releases in the last few years) but the annual 10 Year Old Cask Strength is always exciting and almost every single time a fantastic whisky.
2.5 years ago, I went through an epic tasting of all the Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength releases from green stripe all the way up to batch 009 and it was quite a memorable one. But since then we’ve moved into the early teen batches of the series – 010, 011 and the recently released 012 batch.
So, head to head tasting? sure thing! Not as epic and lengthy as the previous tasting, but still a good and satisfying evening going back and forth between them.
Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength Batch 010 (58%)
Nose: Sweet smoke, honey and vanilla, chimney smoke, tarry, after a while also fruits with pears and peaches, a bit of disinfectant and a pack of band-aids, getting more lively. With a few drops of water (but not a lot) more honey and vanilla, more medicinal and with extra TCP.
Palate: Dry smoke, sweet peat, honey, brine, salty, seas shells, pears, vanilla, After some oxidization there’s less smoke and less salt so fruitiness is strengthen and it becomes more balanced.
Finish: Long finish, salty, peat, smoke, tar, dusty, vanilla and pears.
Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength Batch 011 (58.6%, £73.95)
Nose: Fire! Raging bonfire smoke, burning wood and coals, peat, coastal, brine, seaside breeze, shells, TCP and disinfectant, wood smoke wafts in all the time. With a few drops of water, less smoke and more medicinal.
Palate: smoky!, peat, soot, ashes, some TCP and bandages, oak spice, then coastal, grapefruit, honey and a dash of lemon. With water: less smoke, more lively, more fruits with lemon and pears.
Finish: Long finish, smoke, peat, sweetened lemonade with grapefruit.
Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength Batch 012 (60.1%, £73.95)
Nose: Color is a shade or two darker, so more active casks? it’s far more fruity on the nose and almost absent of smoke at first, red fruits, slowly develops some gentle smokiness, dried red fruits – really, it’s all bourbon casks? Soft medicinal side, disinfectant, iodine, chimney smoke, bonfire smoke, but very gentle and overall the nose is quite shy for this ABV. With a few drops of water: a little bit more lively, more red fruits and even cherries.
Palate: Boom! Not shy here at all. Big bomb of medicinal smoke. dry peat, disinfectant, a bit of iodine, red fruits, sour berries, dusty, dunnage warehouse, chimney smoke and vanilla. With water less intense and less medicinal, but there are berries in vanilla sauce.
Finish: Long finish, tar, dry peat, smoke, fresh berries and red fruits.
Thoughts: Lets start with the obvious – they are all rock solid and good. Preference and ranking is very subjective – each to his own taste. But how do I feel about them? for me Batch 011 was the worst of those three. I felt it’s too peaty and not so balanced with the underlying fruitiness. Also, the burnt wood note is a real downer for me – never liked whiskies where this note is too dominating. This leaves us with 010 vs 012. Both are excellent with different profiles. The 010 is more maritime while the 012 is gentler and fruitier (perhaps a tad overreach gentleness after rougher with the extra peat 011?). Right now, at the moment I write this post, I lean towards 012 as the better one due to the subtler smoke and the red fruits. but the winner could be the 010 if I was in the mood for more peat and salt (let’s say during the winter season). Truth is that it’s photo finish and it’s a testament to the on going high quality of this series.