FOR ALL THE DAZZLE of the modern digital age, centuries-old products continue to bring delight, comfort and joy. And Scotch, the fabled whisky of Scotland, is one of them. Scotch takes its basic character from barley, its raw material. As a result, where the barley is grown and how it is treated very much determines the whisky’s ultimate taste and character. That individualistic taste is especially strong in single malt Scotch, whisky made solely from the barley of a single distillery. No blends, no additions, simply a pure representation of its origins.
The most distinctive of all single malts are those from Islay, a rocky island off the west coast of Scotland. The first steps in making Scotch include soaking the barley in water to germinate and malt, then drying it with peat fires. The barley picks up the distinctive flavors of the island’s peat, making it a major contributor to a Scotch’s character.
Recently, a friend and I tasted two single malt Scotches from Islay’s Laphroaig, a 200-year-old distillery producing some of the most distinctive of all Scotches.
Laphroaig 10 Years Old Single Malt ($49–55) is a bright golden brown reminiscent of polished amber. And its flavors — dominated by powerful aromas, peaty, smoky and earthy — bring its origins to the fore. Its robust, distinctive and forward characteristics can be found only in a single malt Scotch from Islay. Its flavors are deep, its taste long-lasting. After you swallow, they continue to linger.
Laphroaig Lore ($81–129) presents a lighter golden shade. The bold Islay flavors are there — peat, wood smoke and oak — all well-integrated and slightly softened by a hint of caramel and a whiff of vanilla from a long time in oak barrels. And while it is rich and spicy and deep, Lore is extremely smooth and balanced, with a finish that seems to go on forever.
How to pronounce Laphroaig? Simply “la-FROYG.” And Islay? Call it “AISLE-uh.”
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