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Friday 2 October 2009

Fit For A (wannabe) King

Sometimes you hear rumours. Sometimes you hear rumours of rumours. And sometimes you hear facts. Cold, hard facts. I remember the first time I saw a bottle of Highgrove Laphroaig. It was on a shelf at the Whisky Exchange and came with a suitably royal price tag. I had heard of the legend of these bottlings, only available from HRH The Prince Of Wales' countryside accommodation, but never seen one before. It was beautiful. The bottle was not unlike the old 30 year olds, but with a green box that had a lift off lid and string to carry it by! And at the price on the tag; well I'm glad it was behind a glass door! Wouldn't want to knock one of those badboys off the shelf...!

So it was with much glee that I was recently able to get hold of one of the new Highgrove bottling that Laphroaig released in August 2009. The bumph with it reads:

The whisky is matured for a minimum of 12yrs and, at timely intervals, the Distillery Manager selects a single barrel of matured malt whisky to be set aside and bottled exclusively for Highgrove. A barrel of whisky will fill approximately 280 bottles and each bottle is individually numbered and comes in its own presentation box.

Sounds like a winner so far. But the real bonus of the new bottlings is the packaging. Amazing! The bottles now comes with it's very own, gold embossed label design and a separate label sticker detailing the cask information. All of this is housed in an enormous shoe-box-like container that could happily house a pair of Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks. In fact, if you have a special lady in your life then buy her one of these bottles for Christmas, wrap it up and she'll think she's getting shoes! Then you can snaffle a dram when she's not looking...

Now, packaging is all very good, but how does the damn stuff taste? Let's find out:

Laphroaig - Highgrove House Bottling - Bottled August 2009 - 12 Years Old - Distilled 15.01.1997 - Cask No. 136 - Bottle No. 160 of ~280 - 46% - 70cl

Nose: This is
odd. Not what I would expect from a Laphroaig. Very subtle, almost like the nose on the Ardbeg 1977. Plenty of butter popcorn, a hint of cream, some red flowers (carnations, roses). In fact it really is very delicate and floral for a Laphroaig. Of course there is peat smoke, but it's right at the back where it sits with hints of green tea and liquorice. Very, very lovely.

Palate: It's got what you would expect from a Laphroaig; the kiss of peat, the medicinal heat but it is the most subtle I've ever had from this Islay distillery. The malt takes the driving seat with sea salt and a real sweetness, the like of which I've not come across before in a 'froaig. If it wasn't for the peat and TCP, this could be a Springbank. Very unusual, but gooood.

Finish: Medium with red chillies and smoke (as usual) but right at the back of the tounge there is a little coppery taste which adds a zest to proceedings. After that dies down there is a hit of lime that leaves you gasping for more. In a good way! :-)

Overall: I like. I like a lot. This Laphroaig is disturbingly easy to drink. Okay, it's a single cask but it has been paired down to 46%. Usually something I shake my head at. But this works wonders. So, so, so drinkable. Slainte!