• Richard Murff

Winter is Here. So is Laphroaig



There is a reason the Scots of old called their distillation “the water of life.”

Still, if you live in the South, it’s hard to reach for that bottle of Laphroaig during the sweltering summer. Or spring. Or fall. While there is precious little of what we’d call heat to it, there is a lot of peat smoke to this whisky. If you pick up Laphroaig’s “Triple Wood” you’ll add an addition dimension to what ought to be one of your go-to winter whiskies.

Those cold nights are the best time of the year to grab a good, peaty scotch whisky. If you’ve got a fireplace, build one; if you have a leather chair, sit in it, if you have a dog, let her curl up at your feet. Read a book; an old one. Obviously, you don’t have to do all that to enjoy a glass, but you get the picture. And with the slightest bit of imagination, that’s where you’ll go when you put a nose into a dram.

“Triple Wood” is an extension of Laphroaig’s Quarter Cask expression. First the peat-smoke liquor is matured in former Kentucky bourbon barrels. Then the whisky is transferred to quarter-sized casks (also of American oak) to increase the contact between liquid and wood, creating a softer edge. The extra contact with the wood oil creates a dryness that is off-set by the next phase of the maturation. The whisky is then transferred to full-sized casks, formerly used for sherry, which adds a little sherry sweetness.

One of the factors of the recent bourbon boom was it taking a page from the Scotch playbook and heading back to its roots. Scotch might need that page back. Some of these scotches trying to splash their way back into trendiness with rum and tequila barrels are too clever by half and only ending up with what tastes like an interesting misfire. Laphroaig Triple Wood manages to avoid this. It is still a Laphroaig product with its peaty profile, but with a creamy nuttiness at the back of it that really comes through on the palette.

In truth, you don’t need a castle or a claymore to make it work. You wouldn’t want it on the beach, granted, but it is a great cold weather whisky: Intriguing and something to look forward to year after year.

Last year I brought in a doe on Christmas eve and butchered the thing myself. I chose a Laphroaig to sip for the task. For a number of reasons involving PETA and good taste, I’m not showing that picture.