Distilleries don’t just repeat what has brought them success and money over the years. They renew themselves now and then. Labels get updated. The taste and process updates. It is a very well known situation, that the whisky was much better during 80s and 90s, especially if you ask people who were drinking drams during those legendary decades. The No-Age-Statement (NAS) is almost a forced way where distilleries must aim at, if they have any hopes of bringing out new products to market in a rapid pace. And then there are renewals of old classics, like the Laphroaig 18YO.
The most prominent note first: the labels are different and I must say I do enjoy more the older one. The green and “kinda clover like” approach is about a luck of the selected few who can enjoy it. It is classic (for me). The new design on the bottle and box are in line with everything else coming from Laphroaig these days, so I can see there is a need to do this. But since this is just the box and the label, I can skip it easy and concentrate on the bottle’s contents.
The color is very close to the same as before. Both are colored, so this is not a big surprise. Perhaps the old one had a slightly more matte surface, but it might be just me eyes wandering.
The nose and palate different. The nose of the old one is more tamed and broad, than the more eager newcomer’s nose. The young 18YO has energy, smoke and sharpness .. and less complexity. The smokiness of the classic version runs over the new label with a experience and steady surface. The newcomer has more phenols present.
The old version’s palate is strong and stylish. There is a pleasant smoke and Laphroaig taste that has improved with years. The recent version’s palate has more Laphroaig gings at the end, but the start is smooth. However, it does not feel as complex as the previous version. It missed the big smoke of the old version, but it is easier (=less experience) to drink. The finish however, feels more fresh and lasts longer.
Both of these drams are great. There is no doubt of that. Spice and smoke, phenols and peat. They are strong, like brothers, but they have slight differences and they don’t always agree. The newcomer seems to be more hasty, perhaps suffering a bit from the modern day pace and challenges, but it does it job. However, if you have a chance to get your hands on the old version of 18YO Laphroaig – I suggest you use the opportunity.
I am sure, that in 5-10 years when the next update of Laphroaig 18YO emerges, it will provide similar feelings – that the current new one feels classic. And yes, in my opinion, they did Laphroaig 18YO better than these days. Of perhaps I was used to it’s taste… And I must point out, the new one’s bottle was just opened 30 minutes before writing this article. So it was naturally a bit necky and cocky. I will get onto this later, and do a short re-comparison.