Sholto McNeilage | 15 December 2015

ABOUT THE WRITER: Sholto McNeilage loves the gentlemanly things in life, from shoes to manbags and whisk(e)y.

Whisky is a magnificent way to see through time using the craftsmanship of ageing fine spirits in oak for decades, one which Laphroaig has mastered since their founding in 1815. As Laphroaig celebrates 200-years of outstanding flavours, the distillery has released a number of special releases this year. The latest is the 100% sherry oak 32-year-old, showcased from The Gresham. The Gresham’s heritage-listed surrounds is one of the perfect places in Brisbane to sit and experience such a fine dram. Self-confessed Laphroaig enthusiast and whisky Ambassador Dan Woolley enraptures with the distilleries history as well as the methodology and reasoning behind every expression.

Exploring the family of spirits goes all the way from by far the most well-behaved and subtle Laphroaig The Select Cask through to the punchy 10-year-old Quarter Cask and to the elder brother, the 18-year-old. Before introducing the star of the evening that is the 200th Anniversary 100% Sherry Oak 32-year-old, sherry wood is brought into the equation with the Triple Wood. The Select Cask is so named due to its ageing process involving five separate types of oak including oloroso sherry, straight American white oak (non-filled with bourbon), Pedro Ximénez seasoned hogsheads, Quarter Casks and first fill Bourbon Casks. Affectionately known as a breakfast Laphroaig due to its subtle nature, it is a step away from the peat punch that the distillery is known for. The nose still presents with typical medicinal peat with sweeter sharp citrus and chocolate, while on the palate it is far softer with lighter notes of fresh fruit and mint as the front. Some traditional deeper and darker spiced notes are present on the finish along with the peat. This is a great little dram to pair with the dried fruits on sparing plates can be a great starting point for introducing someone to the special world of Laphroaig.

200 Years of Laphroaig At The Gresham
The tried and trusted 10-year-old is the punchy, loud and loveable youngster of the family. With a huge peat smoke nose mixed with spices, iodine, salt and liquorice, this dram really stands up and demands attention with the palate not holding any punches. Vanilla from the predominantly ex Maker's Mark bourbon casks is present with classic seaside seaweed and salt, along with almost Band-Aid mecidic notes. This is followed by earthy spice with a long and complex finish, which mix tremendously well when eating brazil nuts and almonds.

The Quarter Cask are select barrels from 5-11-years-of age which are finished for nine months in quarter casks. These smaller barrels greatly enhance the speed of maturation and provide a more complex nose, presenting a thicker oil-filled smoke and dried fruit powered peat hit. The initial palate note can be rather sweet in comparison to the ten-year-old giving way to a strong heat. This segues into a sweeter vanilla and toffee body with a smooth smoky finish.

The refined older brother comes to the table next as the 18-year-old. It holds the same big bold hit of the 10-year-old yet more refined with dark chocolate, fresh baking, wheat and super ripe banana. The mouth feel is super thick, being deeper and darker with stewed fruits, spices and vanilla from the wood alongside the ever-present salt and peat. The finish is outstanding, with a long peat and potted orange marmalade rolling adventure.

The Triple Wood introduces the first of the sherry influences to the evening. Using bourbon barrels then quarter casks and a third maturation in European oloroso sherry oak, gives an amazing combination of peat, nut oils and dried fruits mixed with the toffee vanilla. This gives way to musty autumn leaves and smoke with the finish wood driven with peat, smoke and spiced fruits.

The 32-year-old is an extremely different whisky to Laphroaig’s normal offerings, being aged for 100% of its 32-years in second fill sherry casks. The process gives this dram its amazing hue. The reason for the second fill sherry casks is so they don’t impart an overpowering amount of tannin, which would ruin the complexity of the spirit. A candied sugar nose similar to a crème brulee encapsulates the glass while a spike of ethanol on the palate settles into a super complex medley of preserved spiced fruit. The oak age imparts a bitter dark chocolate, wood spices and smoke layer with subtle peat throughout. The finish is incredible with fruit, wood and spice notes lingering and maturing into sweeter vanilla toffee and honey all the while delivering a hint of peat. With only 6,000 bottles worldwide, there aren’t many of these around but there is one behind the bar at The Gresham.

The Gresham 
308 Queen Street, Brisbane City
Opening hours: Mon - Wed 7am-2pm, 3pm-late, Thur - Fri 7am-12noon, 1pm-late, Sat 4pm-late

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