Review (Plus Live Tasting): Laphroaig 10 Years Old and Quarter Cask Scotch
One of the great things about this job is getting to meet the people (like Dan Gordon and Jameson’s Brendan Monks) who actually make the wine, beer, and spirits we so lustily consume. But not every distillery can send their masters on a flight around the world to meet with writers, so classic Scotch bottler Laphroaig is bringing the world to it: Tomorrow (June 18, 2008) at noon PDT/3pm EDT, the company will host a live online tasting of its entire line of products, courtesy of Master Blender Robert Hicks, Distillery Manager John Campbell, and single malt pro Martine Nouet. Tune in here.
Unfortunately you have to provide the whisky. (I guess if you’re at work, you’ll just have to follow along and pretend you’re drinking.) The full portfolio will be presented: Laphroaig 10 Year Old, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Laphroaig Triple Wood, Laphroaig Cáirdeas, and Laphroaig 30 Year Old Cáirdeas.
Laphroaig was good enough to send the first two of these “expressions” my way so I could preview them before the event. Here are some thoughts.
Laphroaig 10 Years Old – This Islay Scotch, at 86 proof, is one of the true classics of single malts. It’s not a Scotch for novices. That smell of Listerine is phenol, a compound of many Islay Scotches that was used in the 1800s by, well, Joseph Lister, as an early antiseptic. Phenol’s a natural by-product of the use of peat in the malting of barley, and in Laphroaig’s signature bottle there’s a ton of it. Laphroaig 10 Year will knock you down but will kill any germs in your mouth, I assure you. Cut it with a bit of water and you can finally start to see some of its other character: Heavy, heavy smoke, sea salt, and banana sweetness. I actually enjoy Listerine as a mouthwash so phenol is pleasant to me, but this is not a Scotch for amateurs, and even I find it challenging if I’m not in the exactly right mood for it. B+ / $33
Laphroaig Quarter Cask – Quarter Cask is basically the same Scotch as 10 Year but after standard barrel aging it is moved to much smaller casks, which let 30 percent more of the spirit to come in contact with the wood in the barrel. It’s darker than the 10 Year, and heavier in alcohol too, at 96 proof. The flavor is quite different, still full of phenol but incredibly spicy, too. Almost peppery, it balances out the smoke with a taste I can only describe as one of hot coal (which I mean in a good way). It’s not a gentle Scotch, but it’s more complicated than 10 Year, finishing with an interesting citrusy sweetness that makes you keep going back. A- / $55
P.S. Don’t miss your opportunity to become a Friend of Laphroaig and claim a lifetime lease on one square foot of land in Islay. Y’all don’t litter on my plot.