*Thanks to the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.
Founded in 1964 by, you guessed it…a couple of brothers named Hart, Iain & Donald, Glasgow-based Hart Brothers began life as booze wholesalers and whisky blenders. A third Hart brother, Alistair, joined the company in 1975 as the master blender and the master selector of casks for independent bottling. Today, their blends and single cask bottlings are sold mainly online and through select distributors. As far as I know these Hart brothers are in no way related to either Mr. or Mrs. Hart (she’s gorgeous).
The Nose: I think of Laphroaig as having a rather brooding, stormy winter’s eve flavor profile, but this is a sunny afternoon Laphroaig, much lighter and less medicinal, but still very Islay. Initially, lots of nice floral honey and lemon(both sweet curd and bitter peel) with a little baked pear. The peat is neither as medicinal or as smoky as I expect from Laphroaig, instead it’s very clean, almost thin, and just faintly antiseptic with the smoke off in the distance. Lots of sunny day sea-breeze influence, brine, fresh seaweed, and wet wood.
The Palate: The palate picks up right where the nose leaves off with soft honey and lemon curd and elegantly slides into more of the peat and smoke I’d been expecting. Medicinal and ashy, but not overpoweringly so, there’s a good dose of salty brine (is that redundant?) and some nice vanilla and anise notes keeping things in check. The smoke turns more dry-woodish as subtle clove and cardamom help to show its age.
The Finish: Wow, that nice swell of smoke grows on the finish and evolves into an even richer dry wood smoke while still holding on to salty, peaty end of things…long and satisfying.
Thoughts: This Hart Brothers Laphroaig is what I hope for in an independent bottling; a nicely balanced and developing whisky, different from the distillery expressions but still showing the traits of where it came from. Elegant is not usually the first word I think of when describing smoky, peaty Islay malts, yet this one is just that. A clean, light nose transitions gracefully into the richer, impressively evolving palate which gives way to a terrific finish. At around $140, this is $40 more than the distillery bottled 18 year old, so it is a steep price to pay, but if you’re a Islay fan in general (and not just a peat-freak) and a Laphroaig fan in particular, I don’t think you’d be disappointed at all with this one, definitely recommended.
Hart Brothers 1990 Laphroaig 18 Year Old, Islay