Age: No age statement
Another No Age Statement from Laphroaig, the Quarter Cask takes its name from a second maturation it has received in much smaller American oak casks. At about a quarter the size of a normal ex-bourbon barrel, the ratio of wood surface to liquid is much higher in a quarter cask. This increased contact allows the whisky to soak up flavour from the oak at a much faster rate. And indeed, this is noticeable in the end result: while the feisty Laphroaig character is most definitely still present, there is also an extra layer of oaky, vanilla creaminess.
Laphroaig claims the use of quarter casks is a long-lost tradition that is just now being revived. If that’s the case, this tradition seems here to stay, as the Quarter Cask now forms the basis for various other Laphroaig expressions. And who can blame them, as the Quarter Cask is a mighty fine dram in its own right.
Colour: Sparkling gold
Nose: Lively, with the aromas of roasted ham and smoked kippers jumping out of the glass. Although not as medicinal as the Laphroaig 10 year old, there is still plenty of brine and seaweed. Yet on top of the typical maritime character, the Quarter Cask adds notes of toffee, heather and vanilla. Scents of sugar-coated barley mingle with a hint of fruit cake.
Palate: Prickly and rather fiery, the increased alcohol content of 48% is definitely noticeable here. Salty and woody, like an oaky ocean crashing peat-infused waves over rocks of dark chocolate.
Finish: Deep and lingering, with notes of aniseed, armagnac and vanilla coming to the fore. Yet these are quickly drowned in a swell of smoke and burnt wood, which ebbs away ever so slowly. Great stuff!
Verdict: Considering it is only slightly more expensive than the 10 year old, Laphroaig Quarter Cask offers amazing value for money. It is a definite step up from the Laphroaig 10 year old in terms of complexity, balance and maturity, as the smaller casks impart their oaky vanilla flavours. Despite this, the Quarter Cask remains a typical young Islay whisky, and as such forms a great bridge between the Laphroaig 10 year old and the PX Cask or Triple Wood. Even so, Laphroaig Quarter Cask is also a hugely enjoyable dram by itself, and comes warmly recommended.