I often feel a little cowardly when browsing the scotch section at the local liquor store, and quickly shuffle past the Islay section. Everything about whisky from Islay can seem daunting. The billows of smoke, the oil slick iodine, the gold plated price tags. Getting into Islay feels like getting into an exclusive club, where there is a splash of hazing prior to full membership. One Islay which delivers the full peated experience, but at a slightly gentler flavour and price point is Laphroaig’s Quarter Cask. Battled at 96 proof and non-chill filtered (unlike the 10 year) the distiguishing character of this malt comes from its finishing, done in smaller first fill barrels. According to Laphroaig, this represents a return to tradition, which is more than just a marketing ploy in my opinion.
Take one whiff of this delicious malt and it is obvious that it is related to its 10 year sibling. A deep oil and iodine fire smell is heavy and stings your nostrils. Instead of having wet campfire overtones, however, there is a sweet, spicy smell, reminiscent of a strong highland scotch whisky. This is the first indication that the effect from the new small oak casks is very real. The flavours are a similar 50/50 mix of briny sea salt notes and tangy fruit. A sweet smoky overtone lingers on the smooth finish. The blenders at Laphroaig really nailed the balance between the Jekyll and Hyde characteristics and have created a pretty compelling beverage. Laphroaig Quarter Cask can be found at many retailers for around $50.