The ubiquitous Laphroaig 10 year old edition is a real love-it-or-hate-it litmus test for scotch aficionados. The "Islay character" of smoke and peatiness is on full-throated display in that malt (if you love it), or it reeks of medicinal iodine (if you hate it). I tend to favor Speyside malts and am not a huge Islay fan except for a warmup on a cold and rainy winter evening, so I alternate between the two poles.
That said, the 15 year old version is entirely different. If you have steered away from Islay peat monsters in the past, this is worth a second look. The nose has just a whiff of smokiness, and sherry comes across as the predominant aroma after a few minutes in the glass (Glencairn glasses accentuate this even further in my samplings). No iodine and no medicinal notes in this one - that's a good thing in my book ...!
The thing I really noticed about this scotch was how balanced it felt in relation to many others from Islay. Rather than screaming PEAT!!! at the top of its lungs like its younger sibling, the 15 year old instead presents a little fruit, a little spice, a handful of peat, and some sweeter honey-like sherry wood to round it out. It really comes together nicely if you can bear to let it sit in your glass for a few minutes, and a sprinkling of water of course helped to open it up as well.
Grade: A- (a great Islay malt for those who normally don't like Islay malts).
Note that the 15 year old has been discontinued and replaced by the 18 year old edition, so buy up what you can now.