Laphroaig 15 yr: Memories in a Bottle

Most people vividly recall and cherish their memories of firsts in their life. Their first bicycle, first day of school, first kiss, first date, first dance, first love, even their first car. Naturally I remember fondly all those things, but my first taste of single malt scotch is one of my most favorite memories of all. It was Laphroaig 15 yr, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting the 200th anniversary limited release, as it’s been several years since they replaced it with the 18 yr old expression.  Well, tonight on my regular weekly visit to Lock & Key Whiskey Bar, I got the opportunity to get re-acquainted with a few warm, and happy, 15  yr old memories in a bottle.

It’s remarkable, and oddly funny how certain smells trigger events, people, places long past. Usually it is food smells, the aroma of baking bread, cookies, frying bacon, barbecue, coffee brewing, that evoke mental images long stored in our memory archive, but the aroma of single malt whisky, Laphroaig in particular,  doesn’t just recall, it refreshes certain memories.

The sharp crisp tang of ocean air, the richness of smoke blended with earthy peat, that melds into a soft, sweetness, not quite fruity, more dark and creamy like the butterscotch pies mama made every Christmas. Each inhalation of Laphroaig 15 carried me farther down memory lane, adding color to mental images blossoming in my mind’s eye.  Knowing how good it once was, my expectation of the palate was pretty high, but I had to savor my first taste in years, and it exceeded my expectations.  Smooth, warm, the smoke and peat purling together in a flavor harmony of perfection. I can’t describe the palate with specific, precise flavors, so I’m just going to share what Laphroaig 15 yr brings to mind with each sip.

Memories of chilly autumn evenings doing chores in the barn, cleaning stalls, the sweet smell of fresh cedar shavings mingling with saddle leather, manure, and horse-flesh, the only sounds that of rustling hooves, and the munching of hay.  Sitting around a bonfire, laughing with life long friends, the crackle of flames, and popping of pine pitch punctuating the retelling of past adventures. The boom of thunder, crashing of waves, as a storm breaks over a Gulf of Mexico beach, the emerald water glowing against the indigo bank of thunderheads boiling on the horizon, as lightning hisses and strikes at the whitecaps, ozone thick in the air.  Cushy leather furniture, curled under a cozy knitted afghan with a favorite book, the pages dog-eared, and musty.

It might sound silly, and overly romantic, perhaps maudlin and trite to some, but I don’t care. Go sit in the corner and slurp your dram with your dead imagination, and lifeless taste buds. Part of enjoying whisky is the joy of what it reminds you of, how it soothes the spirit, and warms the soul. Good whisky, especially the Islay single malts, taste of old and new, wild and fierce, yet friendly and comfortable.  Laphroaig doesn’t just remind of my past, it takes me to a place I’ve never been, but I know is my true, original home.  It tells me of my Highland ancestors, of heather cloaked hills, murky lochs,  and craggy peaks, where peat brown water rushes through the burns.  The land where my  family roots first took hold. Why do I love this whisky so much? Because for now I can only imagine, but if Scotland had a flavor, it would be Laphroaig.

Remember to designate a driver. Drink responsibly! Slàinte mhath!

Nancy McGehee Guillory

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