A Taste of Laphroaig's 33-Year-Old Scotch Whisky

A Taste of Laphroaig's 33-Year-Old Scotch Whisky
Courtesy of Laphroaig

The Ian Hunter Story Book 3 is reviewed by our whiskey critic.

Almost all of the new single malts that are released these days seem to have one thing in common: They undergo a process known as the barrel finish, a secondary maturation period in barrels that formerly held wine, sherry, or some other spirit during the maturation process. The thing about this is that it isn't just a gimmick; on the contrary, it is a tried and true process that is present not only in scotch but also in other categories of whiskey such as American, Irish, and more.

It is all very well and good for this type of release, but sometimes the best ultra-aged releases are the ones that are merely aged in bourbon barrels for a few decades, with no cuvee, cognac, or French wine finishes. One of Laphroaig's Ian Hunter Series books is Book 3, which features the story of Ian Hunter. In this third of five releases that are to comprise this collection, the whisky has been aged for 33 years in ex-bourbon barrels, which is a key component of the maturation process at this Islay distillery.

There is no doubt that most whiskey drinkers know that the single malts made at Laphroaig are known for being quite smoky, and that is why most whiskey drinkers are aware that. There is more to it than just a campfire, as the distillery boasts that it has iodine, seaweed, and medicinal notes that define whiskey, and that is why it is so good. It doesn't matter what you feel about it or how you dislike it, peat is an integral part of all the liquid that comes out of Laphroaig, but it plays a different role based on the expression you are trying to taste. My general opinion of smokiness in whiskies is that it can be softened with a long sherry cask maturation, while it can also be softened with a long bourbon maturation, but it is less pronounced than with a long sherry cask maturation.

There is little peat on the nose of this new whisky, which was distilled back in 1987, and notes of vanilla, citrus and spiced pear dominate. With a softened but still predominant layer of smoke, the palate opens with papaya, clementine, vanilla custard, burnt toffee, as well as touches of iodine and menthol. A whiskey this old usually has tropical fruit notes, but those notes remain in the background, which is a welcome change. There is a little bit of heat in this whiskey because it has a little bit less than 50 percent alcohol by volume. The whiskey has been non-chill filtered to preserve maximum flavor.

This new edition of the Ian Hunter Series is subtitled “Source Protector.” The name refers to the Kilbride Stream, which is the source of the water for Laphroaig that Hunter valued so much as the last member of the founding family to manage the distillery. While that is an important part of the distillery's history, it is also important to note that, above all else, an expensive whiskey like this must be characterized by its flavor, not by its historical background.

There are many similarities between Book 3 and Book 1, which was a 30-year-old single malt that also spent its entire maturation period in bourbon barrels. Book 3 is very good in that regard, but it is also very similar to Book 1. If you are lucky enough to have the chance to taste this whiskey back to back, it would be very interesting to see how it compares, especially since it is three years old and a completely different vintage.

There is no denying that this new luxury release from Laphroaig is a delectable dram that is both elegant and superbly peated, with nothing gimmick about it, just a lustily peated single malt that has been aged in bourbon barrels for over a third of a century.

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