Review: Laphroaig Quarter Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Laphroaig Quarter Cask 1.jpg
Ex-bourbon casks, finished in quarter casks
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Laphroaig (Port Ellen, Scotland)

Laphroaig is a distillery on Islay, a small Scottish island renowned for its whiskies – many of which are heavily peated. It is considerably old (1815), and has used a slightly different technique in the crafting of this particular whisky. The whisky is first matured in bourbon casks (Maker’s Mark), and then matured in small casks (quarter casks) which allow 30% more surface area contact than regular casks. This allows for faster, and different, aging of the spirit. It’s a pretty unique technique in whisky, but I will not go into detail as so much has been written about it elsewhere.

Review (2013)

  • Batch:

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Nose: Tarry smoke here, there, and everywhere. It’s wonderful. Salted caramel, with oak lingering in the background as well. It’s a fascinating nose that most certainly draws you right in. There are notes of sweet barbeque in the background, vanilla, and vegetal, oily aromas present. There’s also a bit of creaminess, like buttercream, an orange zestiness, reminding me of a bourbon-orange bread pudding one of my friends used to make. Sweet pickles. Great smoke that you want to see dominate. There’s quite a bit of earthiness from the peat, too. A bit of the salt comes through, almost as soy as soy sauce.

Taste: Intense smoke, which dominates before some salty-sweetness comes through, with a bit of oak as spices and heat rise up as the whisky moves down the throat, leaving the mouth tingling with oak spices, vanilla, and a bit of tannin. Intense, chewy. There’s a touch of the orange zetiness as well in the taste. The spice at the end is beautiful as it makes its home in your mouth – the peppers. There’s a nice sweet part to the middle. Excellent!

Finish: Very nice and long, the sort which you can taste after you’ve eaten something else. Sweet, oaky, and very smoky. I can’t really say enough. There’s a touch of an off bitter note, but overall it is still quite fabulous. The effect of the tannins on the mouthfeel is very enjoyable afterward as well, and there is also a touch of salt in the finish too.

I have to say, to manage 4 pretty big categories of flavours – salty, sweet, smoky, and spicy, as laphroaig quarter cask does is absolutely tremendous.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high, based on $75.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L410657A 08:10

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Black tea, banana! what peat this is! After tasting quite a few peated whiskies together over the course of a few days this one really stood out in the flight, as usual. Sharply mineral, oily, biscuity and bready too. On the palate, there is lots going on - though that banana might be getting in the way. the peat, and finish - incredible. Less complex, in this bottle, than the 10 year old I just tasted, but a deeper and better finish. The youth is felt a bit. The complexity is astounding – from the mineral to the floral to the marine (dried fish). There is more detailed tasting notes above which this one also holds to – suffice it to say that it’s not hard for this to entertain you well for a long time. The one thing about this dram, though – it is all about the peat. As the bottle loses some of the peat kick as it stays open, the complexity definitely drops also and it would drop below a 90. Drink it young and fresh!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high, based on $75.

Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L83232 2339 10:10

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

I love this bottling. I wanted another go at it, particularly because Serge of Whisky Fun said the distillate was getting less tarry – however, my earliest review of this is from a 2012 bottle and I have a sample from 5 years ago to compare to. Maybe not early enough for the tarry notes. Thus, this review is less about tasting notes and more about a comparison to the 2014 review above.

The first thing that I notice is that the 2014 sample is far more briny than the 2019 sample, but otherwise both samples share incredible richness of earth, smoke, and vegetation. Also, the 2014 is more piney and has a little less harshness. The newer bottle is actually more fruity, with apple and pear, slightly more floral and honeyed, and perhaps a bit more woody. They are both very excellent, but I find the earlier bottle quite a bit more intriguing, largely because of increased brininess and savoury notes (like olives) and a bit less harshness – side by side. It’s also a bit more dynamic. Still, by my rating scheme out of 100, I’d only rate the new bottle 1 percent lower. It still has an incredible smokiness, earthiness, richness and finish.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).
Value: High, at $85. Also, perhaps the cheapest really good peater.