Thursday, May 7, 2009
Two More Old Scotches
The single malt scotches of advanced years keep advancing, looking to seize that luxury market. The latest through the mail slot are the Laphroaig 25-year-old and the Ardmore 30-year-old. Both run $500 a bottle.
The Laphroaig 25 Year Old was aged in Oloroso Sherry and American Oak casks. It was bottled in 2008 at cask strength (51.2% ABV). As you might expect from this Islay scotch, it's got flavor a-plenty. The nose in particular is powerfully multifarious. I almost ran out of paper making notes on it. The mellow, medium amber-gold liquid gave me buttered toast, burnt brown sugar, butter toffee, green buds, saline, brine, smoke and iodine. You could smell it all the live-long day and keep coming up with things.
The palate breaks off in two distinct sections. It has a creamy feel at first. Smooth caramel leads to coffee which then leads to sharper flavors such as burnt sugar, green branches (the kind that bend, but won't break) and a kind of greenness I associate with young red wines. The last thing you're left with is an intense flavor of tangy rock salt. This stays with you and builds up after a number of sips, leading to a not altogether pleasant finish. However, it's very possibly I may became accustomed to it.
The Highlands Ardmore 30 Year Old is aged in former bourbon barrels and handmade quarter casks. Only 1,428 bottles are available. I liked it less (though it's hard to turn up your nose at any scotch of such a high water as these). It is light in color, sunny yellow. The nose is light, too. Compared to the Laphroaig, in fact, it's almost nonexistent. But it's pleasant, a gentle Highland breeze with clover honey, brush, wildflower and heather notes. The taste is mild at first, lightly candied and creamy. It then quickly takes a hairpin turn to flavors of crackling spice, cocoa, pepper, brine and grass, broadening and broadening as it goes. Boy, does it get broad. It's an interesting journey. It's a light, but sharp whiskey.