Thursday, December 17, 2009

Laphroaig Quarter Cask Single Malt Scotch

Distillery: Laphroaig Distillery
Location: Islay, Scotland
Proof: 48% (96 Proof)
Distiller Homepage
Rating: B+

Laphroaig Quarter Cask is a scotch whisky that has been moved into smaller quarter-casks partway through the maturation process to finish aging. By maturing in smaller barrels, there is greater surface area for the whisky to be in contact with the wood. This is intended to amplify the characteristics that wood typically imparts on the aging whisky, such as smoothness and sweetness.

Laphroiag Quarter Cask has a golden color reminiscent of an oak-aged Chardonnay. As it is not chill-filtered, it becomes hazy with the addition of cold water or a few ice cubes. (Side note - While many prefer to taste their scotches neat with a splash of water, I prefer mine undiluted over a couple of ice cubes. I enjoy the evolution as the scotch travels through a range of dilution and temperature levels.) The nose is dominated by the typical peat smoke aroma of an Islay malt, with a healthy dose of oak mixed in. Also detectable is a hint of the salt-air seashore aroma that the coastal Islay distilleries frequently exhibit.

At first taste, there is quite a fiery sensation on the tongue owing to the high proof. This sensation softens up quite nicely for me as my ice melts. All the typical Laphroaig flavor is here in spades, with strong smoky peatiness leading the way. The other strong note is the oak flavor, which is unusually distinct compared to most Islay scotches. Other notable bit players are a seaweed saltiness and a hint of sweet vanilla. The Laphroaig Quarter Cask has a very long finish where the saltiness and sweetness really start to shine through.

By way of comparison, the Quarter Cask is definitely smoother than a young 10-12 year old malt. No doubt the extra contact with the oak barrel makes a notable difference. Still, extra surface area is not an alternative to extra time in the barrel (I know; I've had the great pleasure of sampling the 30-year old Laphroaig - best scotch I've ever had by a mile). I find that some of the more subtle tones of the whisky can be a bit buried behind the strong oakiness in this malt.

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