I had been looking forward to trying Laphroaig’s Quarter Cask for some time. To say it did not disappoint would be as unjust a diminution as saying that Charles Dickens had a way with words.
Laphroaig have taken spirits of varying ages and married them together for a few months in a cask a quarter the size of those normally used. These quarter casks were allegedly used by smugglers in days of yore, since they were the largest they could conveniently carry. Romantically marketable stories aside, they allow for more rapid maturation, because more wood is in contact with the liquid, proportionally.
What does all this mean? In practice, a dram that is sophisticated beyond its years. Laphroaig’s ten-year-old expression is a real favourite of mine (despite what our score might lead you to think); the Quarter Cask improves on it in every aspect. That would be an admirably apt succinct review: take a look at the review of the ten-year-old, then imagine every pleasurable dimension amplified.
On the nose, yes, it’s Laphroaig, and yes, it’s peaty, but it has an intricate and subtle beauty to it that the standard expression lacks. It’s saltier, and the smokiness is somehow even drier. John Campbell and his team have condensed and imprisoned the impression of wood embers and glowing charcoal on a soggy autumn evening, and it’s something to behold. Sweeter and more herbal notes sit softly behind – perhaps lemongrass and coriander.
The muscular body of the whisky is, at 48% ABV, like being slapped firmly around the face with kippers marinated in a viscous lemon and herb dressing. In case you mistake my meaning, that’s good (whatever floats your boat, right?). It’s dense and complex, with straw and peat competing to dominate a lively mouthful. A fringe of lemon zest further enlivens proceedings. As you swallow it, you think you’ve enjoyed a superb whisky. But just you wait.
As the liquid itself recedes, you are suddenly hit by a forceful fusillade of a finish. What a sensation. Everything that the Quarter Cask is about returns in force, reverberating around your mouth. Even without the dram physically present you sense the oily salinity; as you digest the sensation, the finish reverberates again. It comes in waves: a powerful first, a stronger second, then receding in a uniformly enjoyable retreat, leaving a long, long, grassy, salty, smoky signature. This really is something special.
Enjoy it. Then go and pour yourself another. You deserve it.
Nose 22 Taste 23 Finish 25 Balance 21