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Laphroaig's ("lah-froig"), most popular bottling is a 10-year-old (43 vol.), and what a whisky it is -- strong, briny, phenolic, and seaweedy. Lagavulin (above) may be a gentle race horse, but this Laphroaig is the wild bronco that refuses to be broken. You already either love it or hate it, nothing I can say will ever change your opinion.

The color is full gold with orange highlights. The nose is unmistakably medicinal, briny, and smoky. Faintly reminiscent of smoked salmon. The palate is surprisingly soft, with a seaweedy, salty character.. Lightly sweet at first, it turns dry and peppery in the finish. 91

The 15-year-old (43 vol.) is another matter. It's the gentrified older brother of the 10-year-old feral child. The added age knocks off many of the rough edges -- age has a way of doing that with people and whisky. If you love the wildness of the 10-year-old you may not care for this older expression, but it's a special pleasure.

It has a gold color, slightly lighter than the 10-year-old, and a nose full of phenols, iodine, brine, salt spray, smoke, and a hint of mustard. The palate has an initial sweetness and creamy richness (in flavor and texture). Then a quick transition to powerful iodine, sulphur, salt, and a peat smoke nuttiness. The finish is long, with echoing salty, iodine notes, combined with an earthy peatiness. Exceptional. 92

Distillery Bottlings: The distillery offering is a 16-year-old (43 vol.) -- surprisingly old considering that Laphroaig, (only a few yards down the road), and Ardbeg, (only a few yards up the road), are released in 10-year-old expressions. The extra six years is worth the wait. Lagavulin (lagga-voolin) is big and strong yet soft and refined, like a powerful race horse gently eating an apple from the hand of a baby.

The color is a full amber. The nose has the Islay intensity (salt, peat, iodine, and smoke), but is softened by a measure of sherry. The palate has an intriguing interplay of smoky dryness and sherry sweetness, combined with a richness of intertwined, subtle flavors (grassy notes and salt water taffy in the foreground). The finish is big, dry, and peaty.

One of the great malts. 95

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