Well, Sandy is blowing pretty hard outside, which means it is the perfect time to drink some big whisky. In my idea of a perfect autumn liquor cabinet (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/10/03/the-ideal-value-liquor-cabinet-autumn-edition/), I said that when the money hit me, I would usually try to keep a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask around. I am reviewing today because it is a great whisky for a rainy day and a great whisky period. However, it is also a very good deal compared with other single malt Scotches. It isn’t a great price point compared with most American whiskeys, but it is still a great buy around $60 a bottle.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask takes its name from the maturing process shown on the front of the bottle. The whisky is aged in a traditional (500 liter) American oak barrel for most of its maturing process, but it is finished in small (125 liter) casks. The smaller cask creates more interaction with the wood, helping the whisky to “mature” quicker. So, the Quarter Cask is only about 8-10 years old, but it drinks like a 12-14 year-old whisky.
Originally, quarter casks were created for two reasons. First, they were smaller, which made them a lot easier to transport, especially on horseback. Second, a quarter casked whisky allows a distillery to age whiskies faster, helping a distillery produce better products more quickly.
In the case of Laphroaig, the quarter cask is used as a finishing technique, and it comes off brilliantly. I have reviewed Laphroaig base offering, the 10 year (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/25/laphroaig-10-year-review/) . It is a good whisky, but it is really a one-tricked pony. It is smoke and peat, peat and smoke throughout. Laphroaig Quarter Cask takes that formula, and rounds it out beautifully. It is bottled at 96 proof and non-chill filtered.
On the nose, it is clear you are drinking Laphroaig whisky. Peat and smoke explode out of the glass, but upon further nasal exploration, there are notes of nutmeg, black pepper, vanilla, almond butter, and the heartwarming smell of the sea. The palate is full-bodied and brilliant. It opens with a heavy sweetness of honey, vanilla, sherry, and fresh berries. The back of the palate reveals the peat and smoke you would expect, but it is complimented with dense, sweet oak and roasted nuts. The finish is long and delicious, with a wonderful balance of peat, smoke, sea spray, sherry, and oak.
Overall, Laphroaig Quarter Cask is a fantastic whisky. It is full-bodied, everything you would want from an Islay, but it is also complex and rich. In my opinion, it is the best whisky in Laphroaig’s range, even better than the 18 yr. expression and the Cairdeas bottling. The only Laphroaig whisky that comes close to the beauty of the Quarter Cask is the 10 yr. Cask Strength. At the price point, Laphroaig Quarter Cask is my favorite Islay whisky, perfect for waiting out a hurricane. My grade: A-. Price: $60-70/750ml. This is a great special occasion whisky, but it is not cheap.