Islay Tasting

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For a long time now I had been intending to organise a tasting that includes each of Islay’s eight distilleries, and tonight the time had finally come. Known for its distinctively peaty, smoky whiskies, the island of Islay is often considered a whisky region in its own right. This is no wonder, as the island lives and breathes whisky, providing the lifeblood for a population of just over 3000 people. Peat bogs are ubiquitous, the salty sea breeze can be felt anywhere and the sight of a distillery’s chimney is never far away.

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Laphroaig Tasting

laphroaig-finishes-tasting-02Tonight I was lucky enough to get together a fantastic line-up of different Laphroaigs for a comparison. While each of these whiskies is made of identical spirit flowing from Laphroaig’s stills, the end result is vastly different. As such, this tasting gives a great insight in the effect that maturation has on a whisky. Although Laphroaig is secretive about the age of their whiskies, clearly some of these expressions have matured longer than others. With no actual ages at hand, we are limited to looking at the effects that the different casks have had on the Laphroaig spirit. And indeed, this choice of cask makes a world of difference, producing a spectacular range of diverse drams. Below is a short description of each of the whiskies, including a link to the full review.

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Laphroaig QA Cask

Laphroaig QA Cask 02Distillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

Although offered as a travel retail exclusive, Laphroaig QA Cask is thankfully becoming more widely available. QA refers to Quercus Alba, the scientific name for American white oak. After an initial period of maturation in the customary ex-bourbon casks, this Laphroaig was transferred to new American oak casks. The result is a much softer, sweeter Laphroaig than usual, as the virgin oak smoothes out a lot of the rough, peaty character. To experiment with a tamed version of their whisky, Laphroaig therefore decided against lowering the peat level in their barley (as was the case for the ill-fated Ardbeg Blasda for example), and instead opted to let the wood do the work. This is a decision that has worked out wonderfully well and this Laphroaig is certainly worth a try!

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