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According to online sources, Laphroaig Triple Wood is essentially the Quarter Cask expression with some extra maturation in Oloroso sherry butts. I have no reason to doubt this information, but I taste more feisty youth fighting for attention here than in the QC. The Triple Wood was aged for five to ten years in ex-bourbon barrels courtesy of Maker’s Mark, transferred to quarter casks for nine months, then finished in the refill sherry butts for 21 – 24 months. In other words, it’s anywhere from eight to thirteen years old. My taste buds, as well as my skeptical nature, suggest it’s at the young end of that range.
Notes are based on a four-month-old bottle at about the halfway level. I’ve noticed some softening up of the whisky in that time. There’s less harshness and more soft creaminess now, even if it still tastes as if those Maker’s barrels were used at least once too often.
Nose: Surprisingly soft, yet pleasingly complex. Smells like a Laphroaig (medicinal, grassy, salty peat) with some added barbecue fire, lemon, vanilla, and canned fruit cocktail. Reminds me a bit of a good Ardbeg that’s been sitting in a Glencairn for 24 hours with a lid on it, but to which a little too much water has been added. It’s very nice, although not as aggressive at it wants to be.
Palate: I have a slight problem with the woody taste in many Laphroaigs (see my review of the 10 yo Cask Strength), as it tends to be too dominant and uncomplimentary to the surrounding flavors. The wood, unfortunately, is the one element that remains constant throughout the arrival, development, and finish. It also seems a tired wood, as if the natural tannins have been stripped away, with an end result not unlike taking a hearty, open-mouthed inhale in a century-old house.
On the upside, there’s some nice, mildly sweet peat on the tongue and in the finish, along with sherry, salty brine, vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, and maybe a little tobacco. The finish also brings out some good peppery heat. The sherry butts save the day here. They helps tame the young-‘n’-rough stuff as they add some subdued sweetness.
In all, Laphroaig Triple Wood is one of the better examples of a modern concocted single malt. It’s young, and the tired bourbon casks are conspicuous, but the sherry-butt finish helps disguise many flaws. It should impress most whisky drinkers, especially Laphroaig lovers, but some sleight-of-hand is needed to pull off this trick.