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Laphroaig distillery (the name means "the beautiful hollow by the broad bay") was established in 1815, by Alex and Donald Johnston. It was sold to Long John International in the 1960ies and subsequently became part of Allied Domecq. Today the distillery is owned by Beam Suntory, the American subsidiary of Japan's Suntory Holdings. The 18-year old was first released in 2009 to replace the former 15-year old expression. In September 2015, Beam Suntory confirmed that the 18-year old expression would be discontinued once current retail stocks will have been depleted.
The nose is a bit austere to start with: ashy smoke (very delicate), sawdust and cereal flavours are there first. Next, fruity notes develop, such as vanilla, honey and lemons. There is also very subtle brine, together with notes of soot.
The palate is medium-bodied and rather smooth, not to say mellow. Salty and smoky flavours mingle with notes of vanilla and pineapple, black tea and seaweed. Clearly, this is a gentleman’s dram.
The finish is long, warming and dry. There now is a bigger influence from wood spice than before. The salt and seaweed flavours are back, together with soft smoke in the background.
The 18-year old was one of the very first Laphroaig expressions that I tried and for me it has always stood for the more grown-up older brother when compared with its wilder 10-year old sibling. I am still a fan of the combination of mellow fruitiness with those ashy and sooty notes. It will be sad to see this gone and one can only hope that Laphroaig will come up with a suitable replacement.