If you’re a Scotch drinker, you know Laphroaig for its signature smokey “peat” flavour.
Those earthy aromas come courtesy of the terrain on the island of Islay, off Scotland’s West Coast. John Campbell, Laphroaig’s Master Distiller, has two jobs: “The quality of the liquid and keeping it legal.”
Born only a mile and a half from the distillery on the small Scottish island, Campbell has been at Laphroaig for 19 years and at the helm since 2006.
“The purpose of my job is to hold the torch for now, make sure I pass it on the next person,” Campbell told Business Insider. “Laphroaig will be here in 200 years when I’m well gone.”
But it’s not such a bad time to be a Master Distiller. Not since the late 1800s has whiskey seen this much consumer interest, Campbell says. And Laphroaig makes single malts, which have seen an especially pronounced renaissance. “We’ve had a once in a lifetime growth spurt [in the industry].” Laphroaig’s 31 employees ship out 26 million peaty bottles a year.
Campbell sat down with Business Insider to talk whiskey and show us what Laphroaig has been working on. We particularly liked these three bottles.
1. Laphroaig 10
The distillery’s flagship bottle. If you’ve had Laphroaig before, this is the one you likely tried. Expect strong peat, medicinal aromas, white pepper and salt. For Campbell, drinking this classic borders on experiential. Here’s how he describes it:
If you’re standing down the pier at Laphroaig. The kiln fires are burning, the peat smoke is coming out, you’ve got the seaweed in the beach and you’re just standing there and the salt is in the air. That’s the essence of the area.
“The 10 year old is more like a thinking whiskey as you reflect,” Campbell says. “It’s more for your own time. Sometimes I’ll just pour a 10 year and leave it there to smell it.”
Add a few drops of water and it’s a completely different scotch, opening up with creamier salt notes and an oilier feel in the throat.
We were lucky to get a sip of this gem, as Laphroaig only made 25,000 bottles this year. “People who get the bottle feel like they’re getting the golden ticket,” Campbell said.
Cairdeas is double matured and put in a port wood cask for 16 months, giving it a pink hue visible in the clear bottle.
And you can definitely get the fruit and honey flavours. “Visit your store quickly… This will be gone in a heartbeat,” according to Campbell.
3. Triple Wood
A sweeter expression, with fruit right at the beginning. Vanilla and sherry flavours shine through. Almost a buttery, syrupy feeling, and then white pepper turns to black. Very smooth.
The Scotch gets its name from its triple maturation process, with the final step in sherry casks.
Campbell says this Scotch feels right during social occasions — it’s sweeter and there are a lot of flavours to talk about. Triple Wood is also pretty rare, so you’ll have to work to find a bottle of this one too.
Campbell will be hosting a live whiskey tasting stream, Laphroaig Live, on Thursday night at 8 p.m. EST. You can watch here.