Laphroaig Whisky Masterclass with Dan Woolley

During Bar Week, Eau de Vie Bar in Darlinghurst hosted a whisky tasting presented by renowned whisky ambassador, Dan Woolley. Entitled, Little Island, Big Smoke, the two hour masterclass was a vertical tasting of six Laphroaig whisky expressions.

Laphroaig Whisky Masterclass with Dan Woolley
Dan Woolley

Speaking to a full house, Dan Woolley took the eager audience on a taste journey to Islay starting with Laphroaig Select Cask (40% ABV). Introduced as the most ambitious selection designed by master distiller John Campbell, the spirit serves as a good introduction to Laphroaig whiskies.

Laphroaig Select Cask is the first expression released by the Islay distillery since Laphroaig Quarter Cask. The NAS whisky is matured in in Olorosso Sherry Butts, new American white oak, PX Hogs Heads, quarter casks and first-fill bourbon casks.

Bright gold in colour, the nose starts peated then goes onto ripe fruit with a hint of sweetness. The palate matches the nose with a sweet, peated character with vanilla but the short finish makes it less satisfying. Approachable and sessionable, this dram is an entry level to Laphroaig with subdued smoke, brine and iodine characters.

The iconic Laphroaig 10 Year Old (40% ABV) is aged in quercus alba ex bourbon casks which impart sweet vanilla with soft honey as well as lots of smoke and the “medicinal” character that defines it. Described as having a “muscular flavour profile”, the palate abounds with smoke, salt, seaweed, soft honey and a long and satisfying finish.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask (48% ABV) starts as Laphroaig 10 YO aged in ex bourbon casks before 7 staves of its cask are removed and rebuilt which brings the barrel down to half the size. The process gives the whisky more contact with oak and while it retains the smoky character, it injects more vanilla sweetness into the dram. The finish is long with smoke and a hint of spice.

Laphroaig Triple Wood (48%) also starts as Laphroaig 10 YO which is then given a second maturation in quarter casks and final one in oloroso sherry butts. The triple maturation brings more complexity to the dram by adding stone fruit characters along with the smoke and saltiness. On the nose, strong medicinal qualities are evident which are less noticeable on the palate. The dram is more fruity, not as dry as the 10 YO but delicious nonetheless with a smooth and sweet finish.

Laphroaig Whisky Masterclass with Dan Woolley
Laphroaig Whiskies

Laphroaig 18 Year Old (48% ABV) is not as peated on the nose and palate as the time in oak takes over the flavour profile. Notes of toffee, some spice and fruit give way to an oaky nuttiness and a sweeter palate with a long and luxurious finish. This expression is described as a “rum-like Laphroaig with massive vanilla hit”.

Retailing around $600 a bottle, Laphroaig 25 Year Old, aged for 18 years in sherry butts which are then rebuilt into the size of bourbon barrels and given a second maturation for 7 to 8 years. Rich and sweet on the nose with some floral notes, the peat is a little subdued. The palate is creamy and sweet with subtle smoke and a strong sherry influence of raisons and spice which does not dominate the flavour. The finish is long and luxuriant.

The tasting was informative session and highlighted the effects of different barrels and finishes on a whisky brand that is iconic for its peat and smoke, salty and medicinal characters.

Little Island, Big Smoke masterclass was held during Bar Week on Sunday 28 September 2014 at Eau de Vie Bar in Darlinghurst.


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.