By Richard Thomas
This isn’t the first 21 year old release from the esteemed Islay distillery of Laphroaig, and the occasion this time is the distillery’s 200th Anniversary. Founded in 1815 by two scions of Clan Donald, Alexander and Donald Johnston, the distillery stayed in the family until the line died out in 1954. From there it was traded back and forth, as many Scottish distilleries are, ultimately landing in the portfolio of Beam Suntory.
Laphroaig is also the only Scotch distillery to carry the distinction of a royal warrant, granted by Prince Charles in 1994. Reportedly, the Laphroaig 15 Year Old is the personal go-to whisky for the Prince of Wales. This was the same year that Friends of Laphroaig was founded, and this 21 Year Old bottling was intended for them.
This particular Laphroaig 21 Year Old is in 35 cl, half-sized bottles. Although that means more chances to get a crack at it, it also means the price tag (see below) is even dearer than it might seem at first glance.
In the glass, this 48.5% abv single malt has the color of straw. The nose is spicy and oily, with peaches, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger stewing in creosote. The scent has some “oomph” behind it, but not so much that I would call it bold.
The flavor rolls over the tongue in successive waves, starting with apricots and applies. Then it rolls on to the sweet spices found in the nose, and finally coming to a halt on ash. That ashy end extends into a smoky aftertaste, which is washed over by a spicy afterglow. This warmth fades away rapidly, leaving that smoke behind to linger.
In the UK, I have seen this Laphroaig 21 Year Old listed at £99 ($150), but in the United States I have seen it priced as high as $250. The latter price is way, way over the mark, especially for a 35cl bottle.