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In fact, Islay whiskies are very special in their aroma and taste. Comparing them to other single malts would be like comparing apples with pears. Before the tasting I skimmed through a large number of reviews that expressed a wide range of opinions, from open hostility to peat addiction. In some cases it seemed that drinking a peated whisky like Laphroaig is a matter of “virility” and “toughness” or simply hype and fashion (some people say they love it, but they don’t drink it or like it). My only Islay experience was a bottle of Ardbeg from around 10 years ago, so I thought I was prepared to face the smokiness of the dram. However, what I experienced was far stronger than I expected. But let’s get there step-by-step.
My first dram from a freshly opened bottle had a very heavy smell of smoke, tar, rubber, and mothballs (most probably the phenols) – absolutely overwhelming (both in a positive and a negative sense). But don’t think that the whisky tastes like it smells. On the palate, the most medicinal and chemical aromas vanish and give way to a full-bodied smokiness that partially suppresses the sweet notes in the mouth. The peat lingers on (even after brushing my teeth).
I normally drink my whisky neat, but a splash of water helps to “domesticate” the Laphroaig. It gets smoother, and there are some hints of licorice. This whisky needs some time for tasting. The first impression is a little bit harsh, but do it as some other reviewers recommend: Let it settle for some time (I kept nosing for some 15 minutes before I tasted it)… and play with it: Add a splash of water, swirl it in the glass, wait some time (you can read the details on the label if you want)… This whisky is not for those who are in a hurry. It needs your patience. This way, Laphroaig is a very different experience of single malt. Even if you don’t enjoy it and say “this is not my cup of tea” (oops, not my dram of whisky), you will certainly admit its distinctive character.