Laphroaig 30 Year The Ian Hunter Story Book 1
Single Malt — Islay, Scotland
Reviewed March 8, 2020 (edited December 20, 2021)
In the last month or so, I've gone to several tasting events that have featured some incredible whiskies -- ones that, quite frankly, I probably couldn't afford otherwise. This expression is one of those. The Ian Hunter Story is the first in a new series from Laphroaig, which promises to honor notable figures from the distillery's legendary history. It's 30 years old and costs around $1,250 for a bottle (or a staggering $50 an ounce!). The irony of older Laphroaig is that the features that first attract us to Islay whisky, like its intensity and smokiness, diminish noticeably with age. Like us, it mellows out and loses its sharp edges with every additional decade. Here, three decades have transformed the ashy bonfires of its heavily peated malt into notes of incense and cedar on the nose, which at times resembles a gin in its herbal and citric fruit nature. Dried, candied pineapple and almonds are more prominent than the peat, which confirms something I've noted in other 20-year-plus Laphroaigs: the medicinal notes in younger expressions matures into potent, slightly funky tropical fruit. The palate is medicinal tea twinned with grilled pineapple and retains that juniper-esque, gin flavor. Some smoke reasserts itself on the finish in wisps of black tea and brine. In my humble view, perhaps driven out of economic necessity, I prefer teenaged Laphroaig to its older siblings and cousins. Laphroaig in the 14- to 18-year-old range is nearly divine whisky perfection. We've had the privilege to try several independent bottlings over 20, and the official 25 and 30; while they reveal some deep undercurrents concealed in younger expressions, they lose as much as they gain. For me, Lore and the 10 Cask Strength are the pinnacle of the current lineup. To paraphrase the bard, "Nothing of it that doth fade/But doth suffer a sea-change/Into something rich and strange."
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