If I had to rank various 15 year olds according to my opinions on them, it would look something like this:
1. Laphroaig 15
2. Glenfarclas 15
3. Bowmore Mariner
4. Macallan 15yo (Hard to find these days)
5. Longmorn 15
6. Dalwhinnie 15
7. Aberlour 15
8. Glendronach 15
9. Glenfiddich 15 (Solera Reserve)
Dalwhinnie is a great dram, and I do enjoy it, so just because it appears towards the bottom doesn't mean it's not worth purchasing. However, the others above it - to my tastebuds at least - are superior.
The Laphroaig 15 is, quite simply, an absolutely sensational dram. It doesn't have the same bonfire burning away that the 10yo has, but it has a beautiful, rich, sweetness to it. I assumed previously that this was due to sherry, although Tom has advised on another thread recently that it apparently has no sherry in the vatting.
My most recent tasting notes for the 15yo Laphroaig were as follows:
Tasted: 15th November, 2004
Colour: Rich, old gold.
Nose: Buring leaves again. (I was evaluating this having just finished on the Laphroaig 10yo) Burnt creme-brulee. Cherry ripe chocolate.
Palate: Marshmallows & chocolate. A tiny hint of ginger. Sherry is evident, and deliciously so. Cereal flavours also prevail. (Boy, that sherry comment looks silly now, doesn't it? Still, I was on a tasting panel with four other very experienced palates, and we all thought the sherry was there!)
Finish: The sweetness lingers like a spicy port.
Comments: More refined, gentle, and better behaved than its younger brother, and certainly sweeter.
Score: 8.2 (I had scored the Laphroaig 10 at 7.8 about 10 minutes earlier!)
The Caol Ila 12 year old is a more straight-up-the-middle-of-the-road affair. Not nearly as sweet, but a nice peaty dram with adequate smoke, and a good malty base. Not quite as complex either, but - by the same token - it's not disappointing.
The Aberlour A'bunadh is an absolutely delicious whisky. If you like heavily sherried, rich sweet malts, then this will fit the bill very nicely. It goes deliciously with desserts too. It does cost a bit more, but it has a higher alcohol concentration (up around the high 50's, or even 60%?) so the cost is justified, IMHO. Actually, forget the proof, the taste alone justifies the extra cost.