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laphroaig mellowed?

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laphroaig mellowed?

Postby patrick dicaprio » Tue Jun 14, 2005 1:48 pm

this may be old news to some of you, but i recently opened a bottle of laphroaig 10yo and was surprised at how mellow it was, not at all as i remember it. is this just faulty memory on my part or is it really mellower, and if so is it a conscious decision on the distillery's part?
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Tue Jun 14, 2005 4:12 pm

Hi Patrick!
This has been a topic in the past too.

http://www.whiskymag.com/forum/viewtopi ... ght=dumbed

Skål!
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jun 14, 2005 5:13 pm

My recollection of the late 1980s was that Laphraoig tasted of TCP. It was highly medicinal. My friends (and I) ascribed this to peat and we thought that Laphroaig was the peatiest whisky of all. Because this was an extreme taste, it was one we all affected to like.

I suspect that the "extreme" Laphroaig drinkers didn't all like the medicinality of the whisky, so the iodiney flavours were taken out at roughly that time. This would account for the dramatic change in flavour of the whisky in the mid to late 1990s. The whisky is now peaty - although not terribly so - but certainly not iodiney. I think it is in danger of being bland.

As I grew up, I discovered that the peaty/iodiney whiskies were OK (I do adore Bowmore), but that real elegance came in Highland whiskies (Ben Nevis, Glen Lochy, Glenugie, Glenmorangie, etc.). Sadly, others don't share my tastes, so some of my fave distilleries are closed or under constant threat.

I worry that some distilleries are now playing with peat to create cartoon whiskies. Examples include Jura and Bruich a'chladdaich. Not whiskies that I have ever particularly liked, but trying to out-peat one another (especially such waxy whiskies that take peat so badly) just seems rather childish to me. It reminds me of myself too many years ago.

I say bring back the iodine in Laphraoig, leave waxy whiskies as they should be, and drink Highland for complexity!
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Tue Jun 14, 2005 6:37 pm

Interesting reading Nick - but I have to say I find Laphroaig quite medicinal - at least the 10yo CS.

Skål!
Christian
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Postby Lawrence » Tue Jun 14, 2005 6:45 pm

It's curious but I remember Laphroaig of old is more like the current Laphroaig Cask Strength and much of the speculation about the decline of Laphroaig is centered on chill filtering. Having said all that Laphroaig 10 remains one of my favourite drams and I score it quite highly.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Tue Jun 14, 2005 7:28 pm

I'm afraid I haven't tasted any "old" Laphroaigs but the CS isn't chill filtered so that could very well proove your point Lawrence?

Skål!
Christian
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Postby Admiral » Wed Jun 15, 2005 4:25 am

I have no doubt Laphroaig has mellowed in recent times, and yes, we did discuss this at length in a previous discussion as linked to above.

However, I'd like to stir the pot a bit.......

It just occurred to me that the perceived mellowing of Laphroaig coincided with the period that Lagavulin suddenly disappeared from the shelves.

Coincidence, or clever marketing? With their major competitor struggling to meet demand, it would be shrewd of Laphroaig to make their malt more accessible.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Aidan » Wed Jun 15, 2005 6:28 am

That would take very carefull planning and insight as it takes so long to make the stuff. How long was Lagavulin off the shelves?

Laphroaig doesn't make many different kinds of malt until now.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Jun 15, 2005 9:10 am

Conspiracy theory - could Laphroaig make two types of whisky - a medicinal one for single malts and a mellow one for blending? If so, then an upsurge in demand for the single malt could me addressed by mixing it with an ever increasing proportion of the mellow stuff originally destined for blending. The mellowing did seem to coincide with a general upturn in sales of single malt...

Please tell me I'm wrong.
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Postby Aidan » Wed Jun 15, 2005 9:20 am

That would mean they would have extra stocks of the medicinal malt. What are they doing with this? Are their new offerings more medicinal than the standard 10 yr old?

I doubt it had anything to do with Lagavulin, anyway.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Jun 15, 2005 9:31 am

The theory is - say the distillery makes 10 casks a year of medicinal and 90 a year of mellow. Demand has always been for 10 casks worth of medicinal as a single malt. If demand for single malt halved, they would pour the five unsold casks of medicinal into the mellow and pack it off for blending. It would be so diluted, few would notice. However, if demand for single malt doubled, then they'd have to mix the 10 casks of medicinal with 10 casks of mellow, creating a 50:50 vatting. The flavour would be noticably mellowed.

This is just a theory, but I would have thought that the full on medicinal whisky would be so hard to blend that it would pay them to makethe two kinds and strike the balance by mixing.

The other option would be a conscious decision to mellow the malt to increase sales whilst still promoting it as the most pungent whisky of all. Most of the whisky's drinkers would never notice - might even prefer it - and if anyone complained, they would just say that the drinker's palate must have changed.

Either way, Laphroaig clearly have problems with keeping supply up with demand, hence the Quarter Cask - a way of maturing the whisky faster and selling it younger.
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Postby Admiral » Wed Jun 15, 2005 10:52 am

I'm not sure the quarter casks are a long-term solution to demand problems.....after all, they're selling the whisky off early, which means they'll have less stock around in a few years to bottle at 10 years old! :wink:

Nick's theory of producing two different peating levels for single malt and blending purposes respectively sounds feasible, but something tells me they're unlikely to be ordering in two different malt-bills - unless, the ratio really is 90/10, and they only make the more heavily peated stuff for a small fraction of the year. However, I've not read anywhere that this is Laphroaig's practice.
Besides which, they'll have needed to have been doing this 10-12 years ago for them to have the stocks available to mellow down as people have observed.

What other tricks would they have at their disposal to produce a less pungent whisky?

1. Add older whisky into the vatting.
2. Add caramel or something to mask the peat.
3. Vat first-fill casks where the wood has been more active during maturation to mask some of the peat.

Just ideas of course.

Despite Aidan's disagreeance, I still feel it was no accident that the mellowing occurred at a time when Lagavulin all but disappeared from the market.

I'm currently reading "Worts, Worms, and Washbacks", profiling the career of a former Laphroaig manager, and he does state that Laphroaig have previously introduced measures that mellowed the whisky in order to increase its market appeal.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Aidan » Wed Jun 15, 2005 11:10 am

Admiral wrote:Despite Aidan's disagreeance, I still feel it was no accident that the mellowing occurred at a time when Lagavulin all but disappeared from the market.

I'm currently reading "Worts, Worms, and Washbacks", profiling the career of a former Laphroaig manager, and he does state that Laphroaig have previously introduced measures that mellowed the whisky in order to increase its market appeal.

Cheers,
Admiral


Just my guess, Admiral. Of course, I could be very wrong, which is not unheard of...

Has the distillery always sourced the peat from the same place?
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Postby Admiral » Wed Jun 15, 2005 1:12 pm

Hey, I meant nothing untoward, and besides, I could just as easily be very wrong. Certainly wouldn't be the first time! :)

I'm only surmising (guessing) as well. But I think the distilleries are far more cunning and calculating than we give them credit for sometimes.

Has the distillery always sourced the peat from the same place?


I presume so, but it's worth mentioning that they source their malt from two different places. Most is sourced from Port Ellen, but I think I'm right in saying they malt a small portion of their barley at the distillery. It's highly probable that the malt they produce on site will have different characteristics to that which is purchased from Port Ellen.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Aidan » Wed Jun 15, 2005 1:17 pm

Hi Admiral - I know you meant nothing untoward...

Could they have used any of the Ardbeg distillate from when they had a hand there?
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Postby Lawrence » Thu Jun 16, 2005 1:37 am

I suspect Laphroaig is suffering from chill filtration however more and more of the line up is unchill filtered, I think our constant complaining is getting through.

As I understood it the 1/4 cask was simply playing catch up since they've not had an new product introduced in a long long time.

But who knows?
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Postby bond » Thu Jun 16, 2005 12:47 pm

[/quote]

I presume so, but it's worth mentioning that they source their malt from two different places. Most is sourced from Port Ellen, but I think I'm right in saying they malt a small portion of their barley at the distillery. It's highly probable that the malt they produce on site will have different characteristics to that which is purchased from Port Ellen.

Cheers,
Admiral[/quote]

I thought (basis other discussions on the forum) that Port Ellen maltings are less peated in general and by virtue of being the predominant supplier of maltings to all distilleries, Port Ellen has contributed to the mellowing of Islay malts at large??
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Jun 16, 2005 6:05 pm

bond wrote:


I presume so, but it's worth mentioning that they source their malt from two different places. Most is sourced from Port Ellen, but I think I'm right in saying they malt a small portion of their barley at the distillery. It's highly probable that the malt they produce on site will have different characteristics to that which is purchased from Port Ellen.

Cheers,
Admiral[/quote]

I thought (basis other discussions on the forum) that Port Ellen maltings are less peated in general and by virtue of being the predominant supplier of maltings to all distilleries, Port Ellen has contributed to the mellowing of Islay malts at large??[/quote]

Presumably Port Ellen malts to its customers' specifications.
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Postby Admiral » Fri Jun 17, 2005 4:44 am

Presumably Port Ellen malts to its customers' specifications.


That's certainly my understanding of the situation. Distilleries specify how much they want their malt peated - they don't simply accept whatever the maltings serve up.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Fri Jun 17, 2005 4:59 am

That is also my understanding - and this is something I've read several places, including in Peat, "Smoke & Spirit" . However, I wonder if Bond is suggesting that todays peating level is below what it used to be before Port Ellen became a malting facility? If I remember correctly I think that Port Ellen wasn't able to provide Bruichladdich with as high peating level as they wanted for their Octomore/Port Charlotte? This possible lack in producing high peat levels (relatively) in combination with the lack of kilns exclusively fired by peat may have changed things? Just a thought.

Skål!
Christian
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Postby Admiral » Fri Jun 17, 2005 1:30 pm

I haven't read "Peat, Smoke, & Spirit" yet, so I hope I'm not about to say something that is wrong, but.....

I understand that Laphroaig's malt is currently peated to 35ppm.

This is the same figure that is mentioned by John McDougall in Wort, Worms & Washbacks for Laphroaig's practices in the early/mid 1970's.

Presumably then - regardless of the source of the malt - the peating level has remained unchanged over time.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Lawrence » Fri Jun 17, 2005 3:41 pm

And maybe Laphroaig 10 is suffering from some of the old caramel?
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Postby hpulley » Fri Jun 17, 2005 5:14 pm

My last bottle of Laph 10 was very good. I'm tempted to get another for myself this Father's Day :) -- especially since it is on sale still for the next week at the LCBO and is the cheapest Islay on the shelf there.

With the weather down to 16C/60F I might enjoy some peat smoke today ;)

Harry
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Postby andrewfenton » Fri Jun 17, 2005 6:02 pm

Have to say, I always found the standard Laphroaig 10 a bit anaemic - the Ardbeg10 seems to me vastly superior.

Of course, the Laph 15, quartercask, and particularly the 10 cask-strength are fabulous :-)
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Postby hpulley » Fri Jun 17, 2005 6:44 pm

It used to seem anemic to me too but the last bottle I had was quite good. Still I agree that Ardbeg TEN is superior, though here in Canada it is 50% more expensive too.

Harry
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Postby andrewfenton » Fri Jun 17, 2005 7:13 pm

Interesting how pricing works like that - here they're the same price, except you can often get the Ardbeg discounted even cheaper.
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Postby bernstein » Fri Jun 17, 2005 8:05 pm

Pricing, pricing, pricing...
Laphroaig 10 discounted 25 € = 30USD = 16,60GBP;
Ardbeg 10 discounted 29 € = 35 USD = 19,25 GBP.
I still prefer the Ardie... :wink:
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Postby Admiral » Sat Jun 18, 2005 12:51 am

And maybe Laphroaig 10 is suffering from some of the old caramel?


Well, that was my assumption first time around when we last discussed this, but I seem to recall Tom stating from an authoritative source that Laphroaig are adament there is no caramel in their standard expressions.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Jun 18, 2005 3:59 am

Several odd points:

-Caramel may be, contrary to distillery propaganda, detectable and may even spoil the taste of a malt, but I wouldn't think that it would have any sort of profound effect on the existing flavors.

-Malt may be peated to, say, 35ppm, but the finished whisky will have a much lower ppm count; I'd be willing to bet that 35ppm malts from different maltings will be as like as not to produce differing final results. And almost certainly any of an unimaginable number of possible changes in the distillation process will change the final level, also.

-It has probably been a great many years since there was a malt dried exclusively by peat fire. Today distillers use peat to produce smoke, and then dry the malt with some more easily controlled method of hot air production. Truly traditional methods very often produce unacceptably erratic results.

Idle speculations are subject, as always, to clarification, modification, refutation, addition, subtraction, reeducation, conversation, and outright ridicule.
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Postby Lawrence » Mon Jun 20, 2005 5:12 pm

-Caramel may be, contrary to distillery propaganda, detectable and may even spoil the taste of a malt, but I wouldn't think that it would have any sort of profound effect on the existing flavors.


If you could taste the same whisky side by side, one with caramel and one without, I think you would find the difference amazing.

(If I've understood your statement correctly).

Lawrence
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jun 20, 2005 6:32 pm

If that were possible to do--the exact same whisky--I'd be very interested in doing it. You have far more experience than I, Lawrence, so I'll take your word for it. In any case, it is to be hoped that some of these backward business practices are slowly passing out of existence.
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