Monday, 7 January 2019

Side by side: Laphroaig 10yo 2004 v 2018

Rather than review drams by themselves I'm doing a little series comparing some 'side by side'.
There may be two or more, they may be from the same or different distilleries, similar ages, ABVs and types or not as I decide!

This time we are reviewing @Laphroaig's 10yo, a bottle from 2018 v a bottle from 2004, what's changed in 14 years? Well all they have done is add a few things : more water, some colour and chill filtering - lets see what difference it makes?

OK so there isn't really a '2004' or '2018' edition of these drams as Laphroaig don't label the bottling year, I am identifying them in this review by the year in which they were purchased.

DramLaphroaig 10yo (2004)Laphroaig 10yo (2018)
Characteristics43% ABV, Non-coloured, NCF40% ABV, Coloured, Chillfiltered
Distillery info
(for 2018 version)
Our 10 Year Old is the original Laphroaig, distilled the same way today as when Ian Hunter invented it more than 75 years ago. It is the foundation of all other Laphroaig expressions.
In making Laphroaig, malted barley is dried over a peat fire. The smoke from this peat, found only on Islay, gives Laphroaig its particularly rich flavour.
Those enjoying the 10 Year Old will first notice the bold, smoky taste, followed by a hint of seaweed and a surprising sweetness. This full-bodied variant is the foundation of all Laphroaig expressions and comes with a long finish.

Nose: Huge smoke, seaweedy, "medicinal", with a hint of sweetness.
Body: Full bodied.
Palaste: Surprising sweetness with hints of salt and layers of peatiness.
Finish: Lingering.
My thoughts: 
Pale gold in the glass, swirls lead to slow thin legs.
Pale gold in the glass, swirls lead to slow thin legs.
NoseThe definitive medicinal peat smoke - wet seaweed, salty breeze, TCP, smokey bacon crisps, slight hint of honey.
After a little while in the glass the peat 'fades' a little and the maritime notes come to the fore.
Slightly more earthy than the 2004 but with the same smoke and seaweed notes.
After a little while in the glass the peat notes remain dominant.
No sign of the honey.
PalateOily arrival, coats the mouth with a salty seaweed taste that's immediately blanketed by the peat smoke - lovely!
Some honey and few fruit notes hide in the corner but don't get much of a look-in! A little spice kick rounds this off - yummy!
Similar oily arrival, but some citrus fruit in with the salty seaweed and a little honey? Again the peat smoke blankets everything fairly quickly. A little spice note at the end rounds off a lovely dram.
FinishSmoke chimney effect in my throat after the liquid has gone, warming, slight drying with a nice touch of cumin spice.Again similar finish, but with slightly less of the spice note.
OverallOK, so although the 2018 version is supposed to be coloured I can't see any difference between them. So either my information that the 2004 isn't natural colour is wrong or the added colouring helps maintain the original colour after the additional dilution?

Nose-wise they are very similar, the 2018 has a more earthy note to the peat smoke and lacks the honey note of the 2004.
On the palate there is a small but distinct difference - the 2018 has a citrus fruit note in amongst the salty seaweed and again lacks the honey note of the 2004.
Both have that lovely smoke chimney effect of smoke 'filling' your throat after the liquid has gone down! The 2004 has slightly more spice in the finish making it if anything slightly more complex?

So has it changed? Well as I said at the beginning the ABV has reduced slightly but I don't think anyone would be able to detect that - it's just about maximising profits. Laphroaig have added colouring - again I don't think anyone could taste that change and I couldn't detect any colour difference anyway. Any finally they've chill filtered the 2018 - I couldn't detect any difference but why do it?
Overall I think the slight differences in nose and palate probably come down to a number of factors - different barley, different / less active / poorer quality casks?

At the end of the day don't let this review put you off buying the 2018 (2019) version, you can't get the 2004 anymore anyway! The Laphroaig 10yo is a basic staple of Islay whiskies - you need to have one on your shelf, in my opinion it's only beaten by it's sibling Quarter Cask. 

Thanks to @jwbassman_ for the 2018 sample.

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