SMWS 29.290 (Laphroaig) & Williamson 2015 Cask #182 Berry Bros (RMW Exclusive)


We're back on the Isle of Islay looking at two independently bottled Laphroaigs to end the week.

SMWS 29.290 (Laphroaig)

Region: Islay

ABV: 61.4%

Price: £95.00

Distilled on the 27th of October 2011, this release spent 11 years in a 2nd fill bourbon barrel before being bottled. There were just 134 bottles released.

Nose

Initially on the nose there’s lashings of peat reek, iodine and tar. Sitting behind these notes is a backbone of citrus sweetness. As the whisky sits in the glass we start notice some sweetness from the cask in the form of custard, and honey. There’s also notes of leather, ash, brine, smoked wood, and Roses lime cordial. It’s just what we want from Laphroaig.

Palate

Initially we’re getting wet soil, saline solution, tar, ginger, cloves and aniseed. Going back to it we can can pick out some caramel and vanilla sweetness from the cask. There’s raw chilli ginger spice on the finish, but it’s balanced by a nice brown sugar sweeteness. It has a good mouthfeel that’s not oily, but has some texture to it.

Nose (with water)

It’s opened up a little with more sweetness coming through, a little chocolate and nutmeg. It’s easier to nose now with a few drops of water. We’re also finding shaved wood and maple syrup as we leave our noses in the glass.

Palate (with water)

The texture to the mouthfeel remains even after reduction. There’s now a slight coffee like bitterness, and we’re now getting more synthetic sweetness like icing sugar. The peat is coming through mostly as ash and honesty it tastes like we’re chewing on an ashtray. Not that we’re complaining.

Conclusion

We get the name (Love it/Hate it) as this is a great example of Laphroaig that some will find too spirit forward. Personally we love it and think it holds up well to a few drops of water, but also drinks great neat. The only downside is it’s a touch pricey, but we like it so much we’re going to go with an 8.5/10.

Score: 8.5/10


Williamson 2015 Cask #182 Berry Bros (RMW Exclusive)

Region: Islay

ABV: 62.4%

Price: £79.95

Distilled 2015 this release was matured in a hogshead and bottled in 2023 without an age statement. There were 326 bottles released exclusively for Royal Mile Whiskies.

Nose

Initially we’re getting burnt buttered crumpets, red kola, and charred oak. There’s much more cask influence on this than the SMWS release, and we’re finding it sweeter, but the trade off is the peat is less prominent. Time in the glass reveals pistachios, orange, a little more iodine and mangoes.

Palate

It’s a little hotter than the SMWS release, but still well balanced. We’re getting charcoal (like drinking coal), aniseed, antiseptic, and crème brûlée. The finish is a good length, but is a touch spicy with the sweetness from the mid palate disappearing quickly leaving some spice that reminds us of cinnamon sticks or Big Red chewing gum.

Nose (with water)

Reduction opens up the nose a little and we can detect notes of butterscotch, petrol, and a hint of parma violets. There’s more sweetness now, but again the trade off is less peat.

Palate (with water)

A few drops of water has increased some of the alcohol bite on the palate and there’s now more cloves, cardamom and aniseed. It’s also little more bitter, and we’re getting a note that reminds us of liquorice all sorts. The mouthfeel is still good, but the sweetness has transitioned into sugar syrup.

Conclusion

We’d skip the water on this one. Another solid young Islay that’s an interesting counterpoint to the 29.290. This will be preferred by those who enjoy a little more cask influence in their whisky. For us we’re fans, but given the choice we would rather have the society release. Saying that this gets an easy 8/10.

Score: 8/10

  • 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
  • 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
  • 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
  • 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
  • 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
  • 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
  • 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
  • 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
  • 2 - Pour it out
  • 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.

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