After the pour of Old Grand-Dad on Wednesday night, it was perfectly natural that I would go for the Laphroaig 10 Year Old last night. Why natural, you ask. Well, Laphroaig and Old Grand-Dad are both owned by Jim Beam! Okay, that's a bit misleading. Both are owned by Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Inc., which is the subsidiary of Fortune Brands that owns Fortune's liquor and wine properties. It's not like the people who distill Beam Bourbons have any hand whatsoever in running Laphroaig.
Which is just as well because Laphroaig is completely unlike Bourbon. It's a single-malt Scotch, which means that it's made from a mash composed of 100% barley malt, distilled twice in pot stills (unlike the column stills and doublers or thumpers that are typical for American whiskey), and aged in used oak barrels (typically either Bourbon or sherry barrels). On top of that, Laphroaig is the most well-known of the Islay whiskies. Islay is an island off the west coast of Scotland and is home to a thriving Scotch industry. Traditionally, the malt used in Scotch was dried over peat fires. This practice has largely stopped; but it still is a feature of Islay (well, mostly), which gives most Islay malts their distinctive smoky aroma. It's also part of the Islay propaganda that aging the whisky in warehouses that are within a stone's throw of the sea imparts a certain briny quality to the aged spirits. I don't know if I buy that (how exactly would the salt penetrate the barrels? Besides, more than one Islay isn't actually aged on Islay anymore), but that's their story. Laphroaig calls itself "the most richly flavoured of all Scotch whiskies", and while there are a couple of other Islays that might give it a run for its money, its claim is not without basis.
There isn't much that I can say about this whisky other than that it tastes like beef jerky in a glass -- smoky and salty. It's darker than I would expect for a 10 year old whisky aged in Scotland, which leads me to suspect that the distiller has added caramel coloring (legal in Scotland); but if they have, it doesn't do much to the flavor of the whisky. I like it, in moderation.