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Why I won’t buy a bottle of Laphroaig Lore

Laphroaig has just released a new whisky, Lore. I’m terribly curious to try it. Perhaps it’s an awesome whisky. Perhaps it’s definitely worth the price tag of around £75. Perhaps not. After all, it’s a hefty price tag for a NAS whisky. I won’t buy it, though. Here’s why.

This is an instance where that transparency that Compass Box recently called for becomes pertinent. Transparency would make or break my willingness to buy a bottle. It’s a NAS, but hey, the Laphroaig Quarter cask is a great NAS whisky, so that in and of itself shouldn’t be a deciding factor. The real problem here is the secrecy combined with the price. How can I tell if £75 is a reasonable price for this whisky or not? The answer is: I can’t. It’s impossible.

Let’s pretend we knew the recipe for Lore. Let’s pretend this is the recipe, version A:

60% 21 YO, second-fill oloroso hogsheads
10% 20 YO, first-fill bourbon barrels
10 % 13 YO, second-fill quarter casks
9% 23 YO, first-fill oloroso butts
11% 4 YO first-fill bourbon barrels

The last bit there being really feisty whisky which gives Lore a really peaty punch. If this is the recipe, of course Laphroaig is right in releasing it as a NAS. They’d be stupid to smack an age statement on the bottle and scream over the rooftops “buy the new Laphroaig Lore, it’s a four-year-old”. With that recipe, the price would absolutely be reasonable; I’d go ahead and order myself a couple of them straight away. But let’s say the recipe is this, version B:

60% 8 YO, second-fill oloroso hogsheads
10% 7 YO, first-fill bourbon barrels
10% 5 YO, quarter casks
9% 11 YO, first-fill oloroso butts
10% 4 YO first-fill bourbon barrels
1% 23 YO, seventh-fill bourbon remade hogsheads.

Hm. Makes you think, doesn’t it? If this is the case, then we’re buying whisky that costs at the very least twice as much as it should, and we’re doing it because it’s a new Laphroaig. We’re buying the brand, lured by a story, and feeding the marketing department. In short, we’re being duped.

Please tell me your secrets.

Please tell me your secrets.

What we do know from Laphroaig’s homepage is that some whiskies in the mix are ”as old as vintage 1993”, i.e. 22 or 23 years old. (That’s a breach of regulations right there, by the way, since they are revealing that some of the whisky is from 1993 while other components are younger – quick, somebody call the SWA!) We are also told that ”To create Lore we used both American oak and European oak. The former smaller barrels give the strong rich peaty flavours and a longer maturation for the large European Hogsheads until all the deep complexities are slowly released from the wood. Stored in our old dunnage warehouse beside the Atlantic the briny sea air replaces the ‘Angels share’ in the barrels over the ‘long sleep’.” Or, in plain English, yada yada yada. It really doesn’t say anything.

I have absolutely no clue about the real recipe for Lore, of course; I’m just throwing numbers out there taken from thin air. And it’s not that Laphroaig is being mean in not discosing the recipe of what’s in the bottle – indeed, as the SWA has made abundantly clear, they would most certainly be sued if they did! I am not angry with Laphroaig; I am angry with the whisky business.

Sometimes, outcries for more transparency from whisky enthusiasts like myself are met with a pat on the back and an explanation that people like me constitute about 0.002 percent of whisky consumers. Most consumers simply don’t care about these things. And that is absolutely true. After all, Laphroaig and other distilleries are catering for a mass market. They need to sell bottles, not hand out what their cut points are, detail variations in the gravity or their wort, or explain the exact ppm level specifications for different batches of malt going in to a particular whisky. I do get that. However, I have a hard time seeing why it shouldn’t be possible to cater to both types of customers. You have your main page with the cool story and the yada yada yada, and then you have a link that says ”want to know more?” You click it, and you enter a domain where nerdgasms never end; where each barrel that went into making each batch is precisely catalogued; where you tell your customers absolutely everything. It could look something like this. An absolute majority of people will never be interested in all that information. Indeed, few will even click the link. But some will. Those some people are vociferous, intelligent, knowledgeable people. What they think of certain whiskies does carry some weight, since their voices are heard quite loud and clear. It could be a smart move to cater also to these people’s needs. (OK then, my needs.)

All this being said, I do get the argument that ”it’s all about taste”. So, with Lore, I’ll probably swap or buy a sample. I still think all whiskies – all whiskies, mind you – should be tried with an open mind. Unlike Ralfy, who really crusades against the increasing tide of NAS whiskies, I would never not review a whisky because it’s a NAS. And indeed, there are some great NAS whiskies out there.

Again, the problem here is not Laphroaig, but the regulations and how they are being enforced. There is no way for me to know for sure that the recipe is something like version B above. Tell me what’s in the bottle, and then I’ll decide if it’s worth my money or not.

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18 Kommentarer

  1. Thomas Johansson 9 mars 2016

    Spot on (yet again) Tjeder. Det är alltid lika intressant och givande att läsa dina inlägg. Keep up the good work!

  2. Jan Friström 9 mars 2016

    Mycket bra skrivet, håller med till 100%

  3. Thijs @ WoW 9 mars 2016

    Oh my god, I just fell in love with BOX 😀 Never paid much attention to them, mainly because there’s not much availability in The Netherlands. But the fact that they post those recipes is AWESOME!

    • David Tjeder 10 mars 2016 — Postförfattare

      Thijs: yeah, they really do cater for those who are interested in all the minutest details at BOX; I love it!

  4. Sjaunja 16 mars 2016

    Hello David,
    congratulations, very well written!
    There are a lot of people out there who have the same opinion.

    I would like to add my questions which I sent to Laphroaig yesterday.
    As soon as I have an answer I will let you all know.

    Laphroaig wrote on Facebook (March, 10th 2016 at 22:09):
    ”The Lore has 7 to 21 year old liquids with 3 more ages in between. So the price has been dictated by the price of these liquids as well as the availability. In Lore, John Campbell has highlighted all the flavors that make Laphroaig rich. It’s the richest Laphroaig to ever be released.”

    I asked:
    ” Laphroaig :
    Why are you writing ”liquids” instead of ”Whisky”?
    Have been the contents from the older casks below 40%vol and therefore they can not be whisky anymore?

    Well, how much is the percentage of the older ”liquids”:
    Is it just a teaspoon or more?”

    Har det så bra

  5. Matt 29 mars 2016

    Great article. I would love the info that Box gives on all whisky.

  6. Andrea 30 maj 2016

    Hello there.
    I am writing this comment just because I think it might be of interest for you people to know the experience, if not the personal opinion, of someone who has actually tried it.

    I just came back from the whisky festival in the islay. I bought a bottle at the distillery (after trying it a few times) and among all the affordable whiskies I have sipped in these days (from Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg), including the feast bottlings, this is surely my favourite. In my opinin the different agings give him different layers of complexity. This was also the opinion of experts that I met there. I am a big fan of the quarter cask (which is surely cheaper), but this goes beyond it in my personal taste.

  7. Michael Merritt 9 juni 2016

    An intelligent and lucid analysis. Such clear thinking in this area is most refreshing. Thanks, and keep up the good work,

  8. Tim 12 oktober 2016

    FWIW – I just imported a bottle of LORE direct from Laphroaig. The customs declaration requires a certificate of age. It was marked as ”10”.

    Which makes me wonder why I paid twice the price for LORE over a simple 10yr old.

    By the same token, I could have purchased for the same price a bottle of Laphroaig 18.

  9. Ron Nadel 9 augusti 2017

    I’ve been drinking single malt whisky and Laphroaig for nearly 40 years. I’ve tasted Lore, and irrespective of your personal animus, this is the best Laphroaig to come out in almost 40 years, and one of the best Islay malts I’ve had in ages. And I spent 4 days on Islay where there were hundreds of whiskies to be had, just from that storied island.

    Whatever else you might have on your mind, we should at least let people know what the whisky is like. It is fantastic: complex, smokey, and oily like Laphroaig of yore. The 10 yr Laphroaig is not even close to this.

  10. Deeee 26 december 2017

    thanks for the good commentary – just got a bottle of Lore for Xmas and will crack it open and try it and report back

    I too am suspicious of NAS but have had some great ones as well

    Here is the age break out on Ardbeg rollercoaster (printed on back of bottle!)
    – 12 yr/10%, 11 yr/12%, 10 yr/14%, 9 yr/11% ( and 55% balance younger)
    – bottled in 2009 and graph on bottle shows each % by year
    – it is in my opinion a great combo and I am lucky to have 2 bottles left after drinking quite a few

  11. Soothsayer 6 september 2019

    I think Ralfy’s crusade should be understood for what it is though, it’s not necessarily against NAS ipso facto, it’s that we should be given the information about what is in the bottle. So in this case we should know the proportions of the different ages that go into the Lore, as you tried to guess.

  12. Hans 15 juli 2021

    I support the transparency pledge too, but this rambling about something you don’t know shit about is far-fetched.
    Laphroaig Lore is an amazing whisky. I don’t drink it because is says ”Laphroaig”, I don’t drink it because it costs something in particular, or has components of a certain age. I drink it because it is a damn good whisky and it is good value for money!

    Don’t spit out bile over good whiskies. You named one. And you didn’t even tried it first. That’s just disrespectful.

    I could agree with you full-heartily if you had written the very same post about Macallans expedition into ”colors” a few years back. Those whiskies were not ’entry-level’ and the Ruby was well into the £200-range, 2012-prices. They all tasted like piss. Compared to what Macallan used to be, that is!
    But please, don’t trash something and at the same time brag about not even knowing what you are talking about!

    Whisky is not what you know about it. Whisky is what you experience when you drink it. Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t be a snob about age. Age has nothing to do with it. Seriously. It is just a parameter out of a thousand. Taste the whisky. Then speak.

    • David Tjeder 22 juli 2021 — Postförfattare

      Thanks for the comment Hans. Then again it seems to me it is not a comment about my text, at all. The piece I wrote is not about Laphroaig Lore per se, it is about the whisky business and how it works. It is possible that your critique would have been relevant if I had indeed trashed Laphroaig Lore. That, however, is not the piece I wrote.
      Oh, and age has nothing to with it? Please.

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