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Whisky Reviews

Laphroaig 1966, 19 Years Old, Gordon & Macphail for Intertrade, 50.2% ABV


Background: unicorn sighting at this year’s Limburg Whisky Festival. Serge Valentin gave it 98 points back in 2008, and there seem to be no other reviews online. This cost 600 euros per 2cl at the festival. A big sum of money no doubt, but likely less than half the going rate of the Samaroli Laphroaig 1967, to name just one other Serge 98-pointer. Will this be the first whisky to go above 95 points in my book?

Nose: extremely resinous; wood perfumes and wood gums and gummy perfumes; all kinds of wax, from candle-wax to hexamine solid fuel tablets to Chinese waxed meats; more meats and starches arrive at the party with the obligatory coastal elements of old Islays; suckling pig; char siew; jamon bellota; baked potato with sour cream and bacon bits; sweet potato fries; olive tapenade; sugar-glazed ikan bilis; rich seafood consomme, full of crustaceans and molluscs; the heart is candied and fruity; apricot, mango, pineapple and kumquat, mostly dried and crystallised; sweet floral candy the likes of Parma Violets and Turkish delight; the flowers segue into greener associations; grass and stems and vines, almost like a pomace brandy; lush vegetation against a backdrop of dirty, decaying forest floor; the base notes are at once fermentary, savoury and industrial; various evocations of salt – salted nuts, salty cheeses, salt-preserved fish guts; kimchi; fermented bean pastes; pork floss; dried cuttlefish; petrol; WD-40; rust and copper; wet rocks.

Palate: big flavour, full body, velvety texture; ultra-waxy candied mandarins are the throughline, forming the stage on which other notes dance in perfect choreography; the mandarins first rub shoulders with some indistinct tropical fruits; a citrus-enhanced tropical fruit punch, if you will; floral candy as on the nose, this time accompanied by floral perfumes and soaps; a touch of fragrant butter and cream to counterbalance the soapiness; the fresh greenness of a forest, a padi field or a tea plantation early in the morning; pungent herbs such as lemongrass, followed by a wave of savouriness; vegetables, raw, grilled, preserved, even rotten; olive brine; sea water; the sweaty, mouldy foulness of a Port Mourant distillate; som tam, basil fried rice; pandan chicken, mango sticky rice – there is a whole Thai meal worth of notes to be found here; dried anchovies and shrimp; sambal belachan; ayam buah keluak; canned tuna; bags and bags of salted groundnuts; the back-palate is redolent of industrial funk – mainly metals and plastics, with brief cameos by kerosene and cooking gas.

Finish: very long; the layers of flavours on the palate fold into one another and subsequently exit the stage, leaving the candied mandarins to shine alone; I mean, the mandarins are literally glowing, crazy energetic and electric; things get progressively less orange with the injection of baking spices and red fruits – dried cherries and overripe strawberries among the latter; the fruits subside to make way for an incredibly unique scent – incense smoke comprising resins and essential oils, floral and herbal and ethereal; this scent is pronounced, long-lasting and so compact it is hard to pick it apart; vaguely, I get as components, myrrh, frankincense, lavender, jasmine, pine, tobacco and some fresh green herbs; clear and defined, the smoke hangs in my nasal-oral cavity, resisting all evolution short of a gradual fade to nothingness.

Conclusion: this is quite a peculiar dram. The nose is an ensemble performance, whereas the palate and the finish are anchored by candied mandarins and incense smoke respectively. While structurally impeccable, the finish lacks a certain intensity and expansiveness required to push this to 95 points and beyond. Still, it might be the best Islay whisky I have ever tasted, just shy of “big cinema malt” status achieved only by some 50s and 60s Clynelishes.

Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 94/100

P.S. What’s up with Intertrade-Turatello and Islays? I realised my top 3 Islays (this Laphroaig, a 1970 Port Ellen, and a 1977 Caol Ila) were all selected by them. Maybe I should give 80s Fiori a blank cheque from now on. Or maybe I should stop spending north of half a thousand dollars on a tiny sample of alcoholic beverage.


Image Courtesy of u/zoorado




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