Heavy Spirits: Laphroaig 10-year Cask Strength

Continuing themes of Heaviness, I’m introducing a column called (hee) Heavy Spirits. Any drink I truly love and would strongly recommend you investigate I’ll post a bit about.

Laphroaig (pronounced /ləˈfrɔɪɡ/ lə-FROYG) is a single malt Scotch whisky (not whiskey, the preferred spelling for any whiskey not from Scotland) from the distillery at the south coast of the isle of Islay, south west of Scotland.

I’m specifically endorsing of the 10-year-old “cask strength” version. Strong even for a Laphroaig (allegedly the most richly flavored of all Scotch whisky, per their ad copy and most tasters’ testimony), at cask strength (i.e., undilluted with spring water) of 57.8% abv, it isn’t the sheer strength of the liquid that makes its mark– if that were all that were necessary, I suppose I’d be posting about Everclear, or just rubbing alcohol– it’s the raw potent flavor. Charles Maclean, in his book Malt Whisky, described Laphroaig thus:

The nose is powerfully phenolic– peat-smoke, fishing nets, medicine cupboards, diesel oil–and the flavour translates the aroma faithfully, with seaweed, iodine and salt all being discernible. An old tar: the ancient mariner or salty sea dog of malt whiskys.

By now you know if this is for you or not. A bottle, if you can find it (most stores don’t stock it without a special order, though the state liquor stores in New Hampshire do for some reason), runs between $50 and $80 (depending the state in which you’re buying it), but it will last forever (I had my last bottle for three years). There’s also a 25-year-old version, but it starts around $500, so I will never be able to comment on that one. If you’ve had it, let me know in the comments.

There’s an apocryphal tale that during prohibition in the US Laphroaig was one of the few Scotch Whiskys able to be imported into America– the casks were labelled “disinfectant” and so smelled unlike normal alcohol that the ruse worked.

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