There is nothing more surreal than the sight of whisky twirling in the tumbler and the waft of smoke and brine tingling the nose, tempting the salivary gland as it goes into overdrive. As you press the glass onto your lips and tilt it towards you, every sip of whisky that gushes onto the palate and trickles down the throat brings with it a spectrum of flavours and aromas. That final exhalation reinforces these senses, which then slowly tapers down leaving you with a sense of completion.
I love my peated whiskies and the dramatic introduction to the review goes without saying my adoration for the Islays. The Laphroaig Four Oak was an acquisition during a recent visit to Singapore and an opportunity to have it pitted against its sibling, the TEN! The Four Oak as the name suggests is a blend of malts matured in ex-bourbon, virgin american oak, European sherry and quarter casks – an overload perhaps with not a lot of creativity going into this NAS whisky, considering the distillery did come up with a similar expression, the Triple Wood – a one minus on the maturation count. The Four Oak too was introduced to travel retail outlets and thus providing the avenue to give it a shot – pop, pour, plop!
Laphroaig Four Oak :
ABV : 40%
Eye: Yellow gold | Artificially coloured, chill filtered
Nose: Sweet caramel with creamy coconut and sherried influences. Cutting through the buttery nuances is the seaweed and moist wood, only to be followed by salty olives and char with the ends revealing white pepper and cardamom tea.
Taste: Sweet and mildly creamy with hints of vanilla, caramel and almonds. The sweetness is complimented with a smooth, yet dry wine that is soon enveloped by cigarette ash, brine and spices like cloves, cardamom and white pepper.
Finish : Short to Medium – Ash, char and sherry.
Laphroaig Ten :
Eye : Yellow Gold – artificially coloured and chill filtered.
Nose: Luscious caramel and coconut shavings drizzled over a traditional rum n’ raisin cake, floral undertones with a mild zest slowly tapers to expose sundried tomatoes, barley and brine, bits of spices and green pepper.
Taste: Sweet caramel that is soon overpowered by cigarette buds, moist leather and seaweed. Earthy with a fusion of spices – crushed cinnamon, cloves and cardamom with green pepper that bounces in and around the palate.
Finish: Medium | Cigarette, peat and seaweed
The TEN does not lose its charm; potent and quite oily on the palate with bounds of oomph, making the overall experience pleasant. Well balanced with a sweetness that is politely bullied by the characteristic peaty character; the TEN is a bit heavier than the Four Oak. The European sherry oak maturation introduces an extra layer of sweetness in the Four Oak but this addition comes at the expense of a lowered breadth of flavours, with a less heightened peaty punch.
Having said that the Four Oak isn’t as bad as the internet plots it out to be.. It does not come in at higher strengths but so doesn’t many of the other Laphys in the same class. It does however not speak of creativity or ingenuity, seeming more like a half baked attempt at just releasing another expression. An average Laphroaig that is enjoyable with a lot of the other traditional flavours but nothing that makes it quite standout.