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Monday, 23 April 2012

Laphroaig PX Cask and Brodir Whisky: Brothers With Different Mothers

Back in March I looked at the Glenfiddich Release (Age Of Discovery 19 Year Old Madeira Cask Finish) which has made its way from the hallowed shelves of Travel Retail (Duty Free for those of us old enough to remember when that existed) in to our local supermarket / whisky retail outlet.

I described bottlings like this, along with other whiskies such as the Johnnie Walker Double Black, which have ‘graduated’ from Global Travel Retail (GTR) on to our local retailers shelves as being like the England Youth Team; you’d hope there was a natural progression from the Under 21’s side to the Senior Squad, but that is not always the case.
GTR is fast becoming the proving ground for whisky of all background and lineage so it is nice to see some distilleries really pushing their creativity when it comes to satisfying the needs of the traveller. Everywhere I turn at the moment there seems to be some new release into GTR.
In our next post, we’ll be looking at two new Auchentoshan releases which are part of FOUR new whiskies released by the distillery in to this arena. Their sister distillery, Bowmore, have released a few too and there are new offerings from the likes of the aforementioned Glenfiddich with their 19 YO Age of Discovery Bourbon Cask and a new series of Ballantines blends highlighting an individual whisky within its makeup. I’m sure there will be more to come before long, too.

However, when passing through Gatwick Airport recently on the way to Scotland, I was very excited to see a new expression of Laphroaig on the shelf. The ‘PX Cask’, as it is billed, replaces the Triple Wood and professes to have been made up from whisky matured in three different barrels.

“The first maturation, as for our 10 Year old, is in ex-bourbon barrels. We then transfer to Quarter Casks... The final maturation is in large ‘PX’ casks... [which] originally contained Pedro Ximenez sherry. The length of the final maturation is dependent on the decision of our Distillery Manager and Master Blender. ”

Differing here from the outgoing Triple Wood (now available in the shops), which was similarly matured in ex-bourbon, then QC's but finally in a Oloroso sherry barrels. Well... we like the 10 year old. We also love the Quarter Cask. And boy, do we love peated whisky matured in PX casks (see the Lagavulin Distillers Edition if you don’t believe us- one of the finest whiskies on the planet). So this is EXCITING. And 1 Litre for around £55? Erm.... go on then!
NB: The wording on the back of the tube is very clever, as it makes it sound like the hooch has been matured for 10 years + additional maturation in QC’s and then again in PX casks. But this is a No Age Statement. Doesn’t bother us, but I just hope people buying this in GTR won’t think this is a whisky of 10 Years +. Which of course, it might well be. Who knows...
Laphroaig – PX Cask – Global Travel Retail Only - NAS – 48% abv – 1 Litre

Nose: Smoke, obvs, but it backed with black cherry juice, strawberry laces, some salted liquorice and delicate earth. Not as medicinal as the 10 and far richer than the Quarter Cask, this has a wonderful balance to the nose giving enough of the PX tones to create the rich textures, but not forgetting this is an Islay malt, or indeed a Laphroaig. Really, really lovely.

Palate: The mouthfeel is nice and oily, showing off its gap year travelling in European sherry oak. The peat is present right at the front, with all the rich black cherry tones from the nose transferring to the palate, but this time with the addition of stewed prunes, raisins and very ripe figs. Slightly bitter towards the back.

Finish: Bruised red fruits give way to bitter lime peel.

Overall: A really great example of a well sherried Laphroaig. Is better than the one in the last review? It is much more drinkable which is a good thing, but I don’t think it has the powerful complexity that the SMWS single cask has. However, that means that by its very nature the SMWS bottling is extremely limited. This is two-thirds of the price and much more available meaning that, especially at this price, it’ll become a must-have in my cabinet.

So, a corker from Laphroaig to bolster the shelves at World of Whiskies and take up some of your holiday spending money even before you’ve boarded the plane. But they haven’t stopped there, this year. Oh, no.
In February, the good people at the distillery’s owners, Beam Global decided that the hearty folk of the Nordic regions, who traverse between rugged islands and different Scandinavian countries on rolling ferries, needed something just that wee bit more exclusive. And so the Laphroaig Brodir was born.
Available only on Viking Line during their annual Whisky Fair 2012, this 2000-only bottling sold out pretty much straight away.
Laphroaig – Brodir – 13 Years Old – 2000 bottles only – 50.5% abv

Nose: A totally different beast from the PX Cask, this is peat smoke, honey, heather, tinned pineapples and dried apple slices. Juicy Fruit chewing gum pops up at the end but aside from that, this is pure tinned fruit salad and peat smoke.

Palate: At this big strength, the pineapple sits on the tongue well, but this is less the fruit and more the juice. Then the peat smoke wafts in soon followed by icing sugar dusted vanilla doughnuts. With Water, the cream soda elements are enhanced, the smoke reduced and overall it become much more drinkable.

Finish: Peat, honey and mangos and a hint of ‘swimming pool’. Very nice.

Overall: A really lovely Laphroaig which shows off the more ‘traditional’ elements of the brand: higher in medicinal notes and that tinned fruit salad element you get in a good whisky from Islay.

In a bout, which would win? It is impossible to say, as these two are such different whiskies; brothers with different mothers.
Which would I rather have in my hand? Again, for a big, rich, sherry monster to slug back while eating pulled pork or after dinner on a cold winters night, the PX Cask would be my choice. The Broidir is light, delicate and tastes of Upside Down Pudding. It’s a different malt for a different time. But if you push me... oh, go on then, I’ll take the PX Cask. No! Wait... Erm... ARGH!