So with fellow malt-mate Brobhai I couldn't not buy this bottle the moment I spotted it. Laphroaig is a favourite malt brand, and so any opportunity to sample more of its versatile range is an opportunity I cannot forgo (I am now actively hunting for a bottle of the Triplewood).
At the very first sip it becomes apparent that the 18 YO is an older, wiser and mature cousin to the standard 10 YO offering. Bottled at 48%, it also offers a 20% more ABV concentration. On the nose, the 18 YO reminds one of earth and moss, with a lot of soggy peat notes coming into the picture. I can easily spend an entire evening just smelling this fine malt. Let it air for quite a while and the nose picks up hints of fruit as well- mostly citrus.
On the palate this malt is a fiery offering, with lots of peppery and smoky notes that easily remind one of the 10 YO. It is not for the malt-novice however. Well rounded, salty and syrupy are other adjectives I would use here. And it is not difficult to imagine that this is how the 10 YO may turn out if left in the cask for another 8 years. To find 2 different expressions of a single brand so well related is a real joy, and it reassures one that the malt being produced at the Laphroaig distillery is consistent and as per standard operating procedures established by their Master Distiller. Only a religious compliance with traditional Laphroaig ways of working can ensure that the 18 YO brings something new and mature to the table without losing any of its Froggy genes.
The 18 YO surprises again in its finish, when notes of fruit and sherry come out strong. It must be noted here that this expression is not aged in sherry casks. The finish is also buttery and smooth, completing a most perfect experience. All in all, the malt is a very fine product from the folks at Laphroaig. While my favourite is still the PX Cask, the 18 YO offers the strongest competition yet and is now slotted at a close second.
My recommendation would be to enjoy this malt straight. If you find that the taste is a little to harsh for you, I would still not recommend adding even a pinch of water. Develop your taste a little more first. Get used to the 'softer' offerings of Highlands or Lowlands and then acquaint yourself with the Laphroaig 10 YO. When that is done and you are familiar with the characteristic peat and smoke of Islay, then you can move on to a neat peg of the 18 YO and enjoy a most commendable production.
Nose: Earth, moss, aged tree bark
Palate: Pepper, fire and smoke
Finish: sweet sherry (though it is not matured in ex-sherry casks), butter and salt