Bought: Master of Malt, 4th September 2017
82.7/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)
Bladnoch distillery celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2017 and the new owner (David Prior) decided to release 3 commemorative bottles, the Samsara (NAS), Adela 15yo and Talia 25yo. Unfortunately they weren’t new because they’d already been released in 2016. The only clear difference I can see is that the re-release in 2017 now had “Celebrating 200 years” at the bottom of the bottle label. I gave my wife a food blender for our 24th wedding anniversary last year and I gave her the same blender this year with “happy 25th anniversary!” on it. I’m now single. I jest of course. 🙂
It was mostly this lazy attempt to celebrate Bladnoch’s 200th birthday that caused me to delay getting the Samsara. Not that it was likely to sell out because demand for the distillery seems quite low. Although the Samsara is NAS (non-age statement) it’s said to be over 8-years-old as the last spirit distilled at the distillery was in 2008. The 2016 release scored 79/100 on Whiskybase from 30 member votes so 82.7/100 for the 2017 is a clear improvement. Although both are 46.7% (a good strength) the 2017 version is matured in Californian red wine and bourbon casks. Maturation isn’t mentioned for the 2016 edition, so perhaps there’s a difference there. If nothing else the Samsara 2017 could have 9-year-old whisky as a base instead of the 8-year-old for the 2016 release.
So why did I get the Samsara? Having bought bottles to celebrate 200 years of Lagavulin and Laphroaig it didn’t seem right not to support Bladnoch and its ‘rebirth’ (the meaning of the word ‘Samsara’). Not only that but reviews have improved for the Samsara and for just over £60 this 8yo+ comes in a beautiful decanter-style bottle and sturdy display box. Both reviews left on Master of Malt consider the Samsara to be good value for money although I notice the price has increased to over £70. Tut tut!
Tasting notes from Bladnoch:
Nose: Quite concentrated, fruit compote, with plums, vanilla and orange blossom.
Palate: A sweet winey start, then drying slightly before more plums and vanilla flavours, some citrus and a malty core. Nicely structured.
Finish: Mellow and winey with a spicy, lingering tail.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on YouTube (July 2017):
Bought: The Whisky Shop, 13th April 2016
86.59/100 – Whiskybase (average from 216 member votes)
89/100 – Ralfy (his YouTube video below)
I don’t know much German but one thing whisky has taught me is that “mit farbstoff” means “with colorant”. Quite why Lagavulin continue to feel the need to add colour is beyond me. It’s not as if they use clear bottles so you can instantly see how light the whisky would be if it were free of E150. You’d think after 200 years of experience they’d trust their casks to do the natural dye job. But Lagavulin is owned by Diageo where ‘consistency’ is more important than ‘craft’.
The Lagavulin 8yo has been balanced off at 48%, which is suspiciously the same as the Laphroaig Quarter Cask (recently available on Amazon for £25 and free postage, half the price of the Lagavulin). You have to wonder if the folk at Lagavulin tried the QC and thought it had a good level of strength and flavour, which it does. With 20,000 bottles of the Lagavulin 8yo, it’s a ‘limited edition’ but only just in my opinion.
86.59/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark and almost 1.5 points ahead of the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Does that really mean anything? Probably not, other than they’re both good and if you already like each distillery’s offerings you’ll enjoy the QC or the 8yo. Comments for the Lagavulin include “great malt and all the respect for it having an age statement”, “a real belter despite its young age” and “it’s clean and crisp, basically the essence of what Lagavulin’s distillate in capable of. Closing my eyes I feel taken back to my 2014 warehouse tour.”
Here’s Ralfy’s review on You Tube (May 2016):
Bought: Master of Malt, 11th June 2015
86.08/100 – Whiskybase (average from 194 member votes)
I bought this Laphroaig 15yo followed quickly by the 18yo. Both are very collectable. The 15yo is a limited edition of 72,000 bottles and the 18yo has been discontinued. It was after I bought the 18yo that I had my first direct dealings with Laphroaig and their website shop. As a ‘Friend of Laphroaig’ I got sent an email by the distillery on my birthday offering me a discount. How kind! I went and had a look and a cask-strength Laphroaig for £40 caught my eye. I went shopping for other things such as a Glencairn glass before going back to the cask-strength bottle and clicking through to its dedicated page. It was only then that it said “out of stock”. The bottle was given special place on the Home page and appeared on the list of shop whiskies without a word about being out-of-stock. I was annoyed then I remembered it was my birthday so I became angry that Laphroaig had tainted the start of my special day. I then became angry that I was angry! I sent them an email only to be fobbed off with a reply saying they were busy dealing with orders for their 21-year-old bottling and my issue had been sent to their website team.
With so many whisky distilleries out there it helps to be able to rule a few out from time to time. Thank you Laphroaig for removing yourself from my list by ruining the start of my birthday! I had a look on their website for cancelling my “friendship” but there wasn’t any option. If someone would like to start a group called “Enemies of Laphroaig” then count me in! Their whisky is lovely but their website and customer service is seriously lacking. No more Laphroaig for me!
Here is an insightful and interesting review of the Laphroaig 15yo by the German expert Horst Luening: