Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Some pub trivia to kick things off. The little island of Islay is home to several distilleries (many of which are eco-friendly). Islay’s soil is composed largely of peat. During whisky production, peat, when burned at the barley-drying stage, gives an immense amount of smokey flavour to the barley. It is ultimately what makes the whisky taste of campfires and cigars, and most, if not all, distilleries on Islay use large amounts of peat in their production, which is why bottles of whisky from Islay possess such a unique taste.

Laphroaig is one of the more well-known distilleries on the island, and the Laphroaig Quarter Cask is an attempt to distill a whisky that tastes like it would have done 200 years ago – it does this by using smaller barrels as per the 18th century (when whisky was transported by packhorse). The theory is that with smaller barrels there is more contact between the wood and the whisky during the maturation process, which very quickly gives the whisky its flavour.

If you’re still reading now, thank you for sticking with me.

So then, on to the whisky itself. It smells, as you would expect, like a fireplace. A gently roaring wood-burning stove, to be precise. Damp earth. Charred wood. Something sweeter, fruitier. On the tongue the sweetness hits you and it’s not as smoky as you might first fear; you can really taste the malted barley now. The second sip and that sweetness takes a grip: there’s a burnt caramel edge to it. A smokey, blood-orange marmalade, and with less of a medicinal, iodine note than the Laphroaig 10. This is young and isn’t too complex. It’s got a decent weight in the mouth, though doesn’t linger too long afterwards – you’re just left with taste of smoke and spice. If this isn’t escapism, I don’t know what is.

Drink this, close your eyes. I challenge you not to dream of the rugged coast of Islay.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

11 replies on “Laphroaig Quarter Cask”

Is that the one we sent you? Anyway, if you like that one – you should really try the Jura Superstition. I discovered it last weekend and was actually rather impressed. It’s a strange one as it’s a blend of two other Juras. I know, I know – I didn’t think it could work either. But it’s sweet on the tongue with honeyed-tones to start with, then an aftertaste of smoke and peat. But it’s really very smooth and far too drinkabale at 43%.

It is indeed! I didn’t want to mention it in case it wasn’t the done thing…

Which was the Jura you brought to the Weekender? Was that the 10? Shall investigate that – but feel free to review it here if you want. 🙂

Hi Mark –
I wouldnt call Islay small compared to some Scottish islands – you can drive for miles on a trip there – though may be not with fuel at their high prices.
Laphroaig – a most interesting taste, for the more sensitive pallate perhaps a Bowmore! But interesting to read about the QC
But yes have a dram in the evening and imagine in the winter dusk the skeins of honking geese crossing the sky, pink with the setting sun!
A lovely place.

Hi Andrew – thanks for stopping by.

Well, I suppose not. Small in the general sense, not in the Scottish!

What a lovely description. I’ve been to Argyll and Bute (also beautiful places), but never made it across all the way to Islay. I intend to head up there within the next couple of years though, where Ardbeg will be my first port of call.

Ardbeg – in actual fact on land belonging to the house at nearby Callumkill – was where myself and 3 friends camped in 1974. The house was owned by a retired doctor (McGowan?), and his wife, who had worked in China as a missionary and had various chinese momentoes in the house – at the end of the first week he took pity on us spotty youths and gave us a shower and venison to eat! Tremendous generosity. There was a picture of a race – the Derby I think – in which he was one of the jockeys. They dont make people like that these days!
One of the things I remember was reading Dune for the first time and being blown away by it. Not my first SF book – but close!
So, many memories with 3 further trips there over the years. Dont forget to look out the Celtic crosses!

Those little stories really make me smile – what a generous character. And camping, whisky and SF sounds a like a good way to spend a week or two! You’ve just convinced me to aim to get there by the end of the year (money permitting).

I love the QC.
I agree with all the above descriptions.
Another thing I enjoy doing is when you swallow the 1st sip, breath in and it is like fresh air at a sea side. I immagine myself with a heavy wool sweater overlooking the isle it came from. It is an intense flavour, however I find it to be a wonderful scotch to finish with.


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