Neighboring smoky Scotch whisky producing distilleries Ardbeg and Laphroaig both celebrate their 200th anniversaries this year, which means that the commemorative bottlings aren't too far behind. While Ardbeg filed four labels with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to perhaps throw people off their scent or plan on releasing multiple special editions this year, Laphroaig has so far filed only one approved label. It signals the return of the beloved (legendary?) 15-year-old expression.
It's widely reported that the Laphroaig 15-year-old is the favored scotch whisky of Prince Charles. (At press time, Buckingham Palace has not returned a request for comment.) On June 29, 1994, Charles visited the distillery and bestowed upon it the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales, which has been imprinted on every bottle of Laphroaig ever since. It is the only whisky to hold a warrant from the Prince of Wales. Others, like Johnnie Walker, hold a warrant from the Queen or other royals.
To commemorate the visit, the distillery even bottled two casks that were selected by Prince Charles for donation to his favorite charities. One cask, from 1978, was bottled immediately as a 15-year-old. The other, from 1983, matured for another five years before being bottled as—you guessed it—a 15-year-old. Telling.
In 2009, the Laphroaig 15-year-old was replaced with the 18-year-old expression, which was lamented by many fans, mostly because of the higher price point that one has to pay for an 18-year-old.
Don't get too excited about this particular Laphroaig 15-year-old release, however. It's apparently a one-time deal, though it has been reported elsewhere that around 72,000 bottles will hit the market, so it's not exactly a collectors item and should be widely available. It's being reported that the bottles will hit the market in Q1. (Full disclosure: this reporter is buying a case of it because it's one of the best scotch whiskys that he has ever tasted.)
Representatives of Laphroaig Distillery have been reached for additional comment and details.
Update: Representatives from Laphroaig have reached out to confirm that they're "releasing Laphroaig 15 as a commemorative 200 year anniversary special edition in extremely limited quantities globally. Should be out around June."