All the better for not being great?
I know, sounds stupid but bear with me. The thing is, it’s very easy to get causing up chasing the next best dram, searching for illusive smells and tastes and decrying this rare bottle or that limited edition release to be mana from heaven, peated or sherried ambrosia but a lot of the time, at least for me, the real moments of joy are when you can switch off, pour a few fat fingers of a decent scotch and just enjoy the moment.
You see, it’s like being an art critic, or any other critic. The joy is always being tempered with a multitude of other things, expectations, biases, intellectual or distillery snobbery, even peer pressure and the pressure to conform to the latest take from online influencers. It’s easily done once you start going down the whisky rabbit hole things change, you can lose your way and in the dark, just like that funny looking little chap with his precious ring, you change. Maybe not to such a degree though.
So going back to basics or finding your centre or just getting your head out your arse is important to do once in a while and, for me, it’s good whisky (note note great) that does it for me. It takes away the pressure to be endlessly impressed by this or that and let me just drink and enjoy the drink. No strings attached. It’s liberating.
And here we are with this bottle. On the nose and it’s recognisably Laphroaig. There’s a medicinal peat, seashore, a little camphor, some smoked seaweed and brine. A bit of preserved lemons but only a drop and then a little pine sap, old leather and then is dunked in sherry. Nutty, brown and a little backbone of orange oil, balsamic and a little menthol note. It’s not a massive nose. There better. But it’s very cosy and easy. Not too much of this or that.
In the mouth and the arrival of good, sweet sherry slides quickly into peat and iodine and salt and liquorice and ash. A little citrus note and more salt and peat smote. A toffee note, Everton mints spring to mind. It get progressively more salty and medicinal but the sherry holds its hand all the way down the lane with a sticky toffee thrown in for good measure, but it is the salinity and the medicinal sticking plasters that dominate in the end. It’s all just right.
This is the kind of whisky that you can put on a table between friends and just use it to lubricate an evening and it will. It will pass you by and you’ll have a great time. In the same way you could drink it in a pub and have a great night because the whisky would not be the star and sometimes that’s what good whisky needs to be. Just good. Because good means it’s not the centre of attention and that can be rather marvellous in itself.