Laphroaig Quarter Cask (48% ABV / 96 proof, $54.99 non-chill filtered) is double cask aged, first in the traditional second fill (or used) bourbon barrel and then again in a smaller quarter-sized cask. The second barrel run gives the Laphroaig malt much more surface area contact with the wood barrel and therefore retains more of that barrel impact in the final whisky. Laphroaig has always been a hallmark Islay style whisky, but it was Quarter Cask which really helped blow the doors off the brand. The release was so successful, in just a few years it has grown to represent a whopping represents 25% of all Laphroaig’s case sales. The demand for Quarter Cask was so strong and unexpected that Laphroaig struggled to keep up with the demand, leading to some shortages with the product. Gold in color, the nose of Laphroaig’s Quarter Cask has the signature peat smokiness that Laphroaig is known for (often referred to as a “campfire in a glass”), but here it’s different from Laphroaig’s classic 10 year old whisky. With Quarter Cask, the smokiness is less ashy and slightly more diesel-y. There’s even a subtle rubbery note that’s reminiscent of the rubbery smoke you get with some mezcal. In addition to the smoke there’s oak, some salinity, and a vanilla/caramel note. The nose is very dry and slightly sharp, partly due to the higher alcohol levels with Quarter Cask than Laphroaig 10.
The entry of Laphroaig Quarter Cask is a lot softer and sweeter than the nose would suggest, and a lot less strong than we expected from the proof. Laphroaig’s signature flavor notes are there right at the start with peat smoke, iodine, and salt, but it’s balanced out with sweet vanilla, caramel, a slight nuttiness, and a little oak. The smoke here is a little less campfire and, although strong, is a lot less ashy than the traditional Laphroaig 10. The flavors from the entry carry through pretty solidly in the midpalate where the smoky elements intensify and the sweeter notes from the opening begin to really dry out as the spice and tannin from the oak intensify. The finish is fairly long and extremely dry, leaving a subtle exhale of slightly ashy smoke at the end.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask presents a clearly different take on Laphroaig’s legendary flavor profile with a whisky that is nicely balanced, slightly restrained, and very dry. Laphroaig does a nice job integrating younger malt as an asset to the final product, rather than an element that needs to be worked around. The impact of the extra wood is unmistakeable and serves to make this a more affable whisky. Between the younger malt and the finishing barrel, we do lose a little bit of complexity that we enjoy with Laphroaig 10 year. It’s a sacrifice, but one which many whisky drinkers seem willing to make.
Read our reviews of other Laphroaig Whisky here.