Monday, January 23, 2012

The Dram Of Champions – Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Laphroaig Quarter Cask
What can be said about Laphroaig that has not already been said. I am sure I have said that about Ardbeg as well. None the less I need to put my review out there on the Laphroaig Quarter Cask.

It is fare to say Laphroaig is one of my all time favourites. There is a lot of myth and wives tales about Islay whisky and in general it is all about peat smoke. Contrary to this common thought the fact is Islay whisky can be as diverse in flavour as they come and you may not encounter a more complex whisky than a Laphroaig. A champion of the Scotch Whisky World, if you have never had a Laphroaig then it is God damn well time you did!

My personal favourite is the Laphroaig Cask Strength but this is not that readily available so I chose the Laphroaig Quarter Cask (a very close sibling) as the more accessible and affordable choice.

The term Quarter Cask is derived from the first and second maturation that takes place prior to bottling. Once nearly fully matured in the standard larger sized barrels (exclusively coming from Makers Mark), the whisky is then transferred to the smaller traditional 19th century sized casks allowing the contents has more contact with the wood which develops a much more intense flavour profile. From what I recall the during our Laphroaig Master Class in 2011, John Campbell, Distillery Manager of Laphroaig, mentioned that the second maturation is only for 7 months. So intense is the 2nd maturation process anything longer, even 8 months is way too much time.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Alcohol: 48%
Location / Region: Islay, Scotland

On pouring the colour is bright and golden with only the slightest tendency toward a green hue around the edges (probably just a play of the glass but I always do notice it). Viscus in the glass, a slight swirl gives you legs to die for.

The nose is extraordinary! Vegetive salts, brines and peat smoke ash. There is a true element of the sea in here.

Smooth on the pallet before bursting with salts and peat smoke. Only the minor metallic banding across the top of the mid pallet typical of any Laphroaig, while gentle sweetness laps on the shores of the lips (how's that for poetry). Spicy, mouth filling, with an almost sensory overload. The pallet also becomes quite textured with a strong ashy texture.

Finish is long, warm and expresses a medium dryness. The lips and tongue tingle for some time after.

Overall a very exciting whisky with great balance and the peating is never too heavy handed. Certainly a whisky to finish the night on and not a starter. Great for a cold night under the stars or having with a warm meaty stew.

If I was to give a dram this is a solid 6 1/4 out of 7.

The Baron

A good note to point out is when we were at Laphroaig Live Sydney 2011 we had the rare opportunity to try a bottle of Laphroaig 10yo bottled well over 60 years ago. John Campbell had mentioned that Laphroaig managed to get its whisky into the US during the prohibition by utilising it's flavour profile to sell it as a medicinal product. Well I can honestly say if the 60 year old bottle's contents are anything to go by the Laphroaig of today is a crazed alchamist in comparison the whimsical facies of the Laphraoig from yesteryear.

Also Laphroaig have created a new website dedicated to the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Check it out.