Today’s whisky needs something of an introduction. Technically it is a single cask Laphroaig 11 year old. However, it comes from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, making its legal name SMWS 29.71.
A lot of you probably know about the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. For those who don’t, it’s a whisky club that offers unique, single cask bottlings from just about every distillery in operation, and a few that are silent. The society holds tastings all over the world, with discounted rates for members, and also has a number of formal tasting rooms located in the UK and Switzerland (not so useful for US members).
Individual membership costs $200, the price of which includes your first 750 mL bottle of whisky. Bottlings from the society are not called by the name of their distillery, but rather by two numbers, the first of which signifies the distillery, the second a particular expression. Members are provided with a cheat sheet to help decode this naming convention.
I was given a gift membership by my co-blogger, Strong Like Cask, for my birthday this year, and this Laphroaig 11 was the bottle he selected as part of my initial membership. I’ve been a member since May and I’ve yet to attend a tasting or purchase a bottle. Quite frankly, the prices on both are usually too high for my budget, and I’m still not sure that it’s worth it. But I certainly appreciate the gift, Laphroaig is one of my favorite distilleries, and I did get this bottle out of the deal, so it’s high time I put up some tasting notes. Plus my bottle is almost empty, so it’s now or never!
Laphroaig 11 (SMWS 29.71)
Distilled October 1996. Bottled August 1998
ABV: 58.2% (and feeling every bit of it)
Color: Pale Gold
Nose: Medicinal, peaty. Some fruit with water added (lots of water).
Taste: Peaty and coal smoke, but more phenolic and medicinal than the smoke from, say, a Caol Ila. Lots of heat.
Overall: This is a cask strength and you feel it in every sip. I added water a number of times and there was just no shaking the aggressiveness and the heat of this dram. Otherwise it’s much like the 10 year - lots of smoke and medicinal flavors - but really really aggressive. It will bite you in the ass. It’s like the angry older brother of the regular Laphroaig 10 year.
Official Tasting Note:
One thing the SMWS does is create their own tasting notes for bottles. These get distributed in their quarterly newsletters. Here’s what they had to say about the good 29.71:
From the distillery opposite Texa. The big, manly nose has smoked meats, iodine, harbours, puffer funnels and beach bonfires. The unreduced taste is massive - a tongue-curling, wrestler’s armpit of a dram; behind the smoke curtain lurks sweet vanilla and American cream soda. The reduced nose is less smoky - sea breezes and ‘shrimp and banana’ sweets, while the palate is easier to embrace; still plenty of soot and smoke at the back of the mouth but with sweet lemon, clove rock and cinnamon balls. An end of the night, “wee wee wee, all the way home” kind of dram.