Oh, how the wheel turns.
In 2009 Laphroaig discontinued the popular 15 year old, and replaced it with the (quite fabulous) 18 year old, leaving the distillery with an irregular aged lineup comprising of the 10, 18 and 25, which if we think of it, is a lineup with rather large gaps in it (7-8 year gap).
Anyway, the world turns and now we have the exact mirror image, with the 18 being discontinued (yes, my stash is full) and a new version of the 15 year old has been released, commemorating Laphroaig’s 200th anniversary, celebrated this year.
Thus, it’s been six years since the 15 year old hasn’t been on the market, and I wondered what the difference between the two versions, and which one I like better. The 15 was initially created to provide a gentler, less in your face Laphroaig, and the older 15 year old does that really well. The new version is somewhat less gentle, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, both versions are good whiskies, we’d expect nothing less from Laphroaig despite less than stellar releases here and there, but I can’t really say that one is better than the other. The older version is somewhat more complex on the nose, with some sherry notes and an overall softness lacking from the new one. However, if you like more peat and are into bitter flavors, you’ll probably prefer the palate on the new 15.
So how are they?
|Laphroaig 15 Pre 2009 (43% ABV)||Laphroaig 15 2015 (43% ABV)|
|Copper, a shade darker than the new one.||Appearance||Amber, thin legs with a ring, but less clingy to the glass than the older version.|
|Very Laphie, medicinal peat, some nuttiness, wood spices, cherry lollipop, kelp, saline, bonfire on the beach, meat on a BBQ and sweet spices.||Nose||Sharp paint thinner at first, salt in large doses, less iodine, none of the meat on the BBQ, honey with some medicinal notes. With time, a sweet honey note comes through.|
|Gentle at first with the honey coming through, then the peat hits you with very mellow bitter citrus notes and pepper on the tongue||Palate||Far less sweet than the older version with a clear shift towards the bitter flavors. The peat is more pronounced with a lot of grapefruit and a hint of salt.|
|Peat and sweetness on the tongue with an overall sweetness in the mouth. Spice and peat in the back of the throat with some dryness.||Finish||High octane peat in this linger, a hint of sweetness and a lot of grapefruit on the tongue. Peaty spice in throat|
|The nose is much more complex on this version, with sweeter notes and a lovely spiciness. I’d wager this one had some sherry matured whisky, as well as some older whisky in the mixture.||Conclusion||A lot more peat, actually pushing this version back into peat monster status. Far more peat and a lot more of the bitter citrus on the palate, personally more to my taste in a Laphroaig.|
So this is a hard one. The nose is easy, the old 15 wins that contest hands down. However, to my palate (with my clear affinity towards bitter notes), the new one was much more of a Laphroaig than the 15. While the old version was clearly meant to serve as a gentler dram, the new version is definitely not a gentler Laphroaig either on the nose or on the palate, which is to my liking.
Who wins? Overall, the older version wins because the nose is much better and the palate just a little weaker, but the new version is not a bad dram at all.
Is the new 15 year old worth €100 though? Sadly, my answer to that, sadly, is a resounding no!