Whisky Review #71: Laphroaig Quarter Cask (Revisited)

This week’s review brings us on the short ferry ride across the Sound of Islay from the isle of Jura to the isle of Islay, where we revisit a distillery which is adored and admonished in equal measure to once again sample one of their core range expressions.

Laphroaig is a distillery which needs no introduction. Having reviewed various expressions from the distillery over the past 21 months, it can safely be said that the distillery is one that I adore.

The focus of this week’s review is the Laphroaig Quarter Cask expression, which is one that is quite well known and well-received by whisky drinkers around the world for its ability to showcase the typical distillery style without the peat blast that one would otherwise expect with the polarising 10 Years Old expression.

As I have previously delved into the history of the distillery and even reviewed this particular expression (all of which can be found at the following link: Laphroaig), I will be focusing only on this updated review of the Quarter Cask expression.

This particular expression was crafted by current distillery manager, John Campbell, who has this to say about it:

“We were one of the first, if not the first distillery to really try NAS with Quarter Cask Laphroaig and it could not have gone better really. The cultural change in people in our socieities recently means that they are looking for taste experiences much more nowadays and that also applies to those who drink single malt. With distilleries experimenting around these principles, it gives the consumer a lot more options, even from within the same distillery. And from my experience, you can have some truly memorable whiskies within this segment.”

While Non-Age Statement (or NAS) whiskies have had their champions and detractors, it can be argued that there are some truly exceptional expressions which do not display a fixed age statement on their labels. If anything, the appreciation for some of these expressions may also lend credence to John Campbell’s theory that people are looking out for more taste experiences these days.

So, let’s jump into the review!

laphroaig-quarter-cask
Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Laphroaig Quarter Cask (48% abv)

Colour: Pale gold

Nose: Initial entry presents the familiar seaweed and brine-backed peat and iodine notes that one would associate with the Laphroaig house style, but not as forthright or brash as that of the Laphroaig 10 Years Old.

Salted butter, kippers, smoked fish and hint of camphor also emerge and there is a slight sweetness to the nose which is reminiscent of honey. Quite rounded and mellow, with whiffs of cinnamon, vanilla and a slight grassiness at the very end. (21/25)

Palate: Initial entry is peat-filled, with the brine, seaweed and iodine notes not far behind. Typical Laphroaig in most aspects, but it is then followed by mellow oak, barley sugar, slight honey and chewy malt. The salted butter and kippers also emerge not long after, giving this a fairly well-rounded mouthfeel.

Camphor, black pepper, a hint of creosote and coal dust also make an appearance and these elements only serve to increase the complexity of the palate. The vanilla sweetness increases slightly as time goes on, but the maritime and peaty notes are still very much in control. (22/25)

Finish: Long, lingering and salty, with the peat and seaweed notes being the most dominant aspects. The sweetness has receded into the background and there is a fair bit of warmth which has been generated from the black pepper and oak. A very faint hint of cinnamon at the very end and it is chased by whisps of smoke and ash. (20/25)

Balance: Quite a well-balanced and well-rounded expression and the complexity is of a good level for a whisky that is definitely on the youthful side. If anything, this is an expression which showcases the good aspects of what a NAS offering can bring to the table. (21/25)

Rating: 84/100

I have been a fan of this expression for quite a few years now and while it took me 3 years to finally learn to appreciate the 10 Years Old expression from Laphroaig, this one was something which I enjoyed from my very first sip.

While there are some truly awful NAS releases out there, it must be said that there are some impressive expressions out there which help to argue the case of NAS whiskies having a place at the table. This would surely be one of them.

The Laphroaig Quarter Cask can be purchased online at Master of Malt for £32.59 ex VAT and The Whisky Exchange for £34.13 ex VAT. It can also be purchased at most bottle shops and is quite readily available at Duty Free.

If you are looking to explore the world of Laphroaig, the Quarter Cask expression would be a good place to start alongside the Laphroaig PX Cask expression as they provide an insight into the distillery’s house style without overwhelming one’s palate or senses.

Until the next review, have a great week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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