On the Laphroaig engima and a review of Laphroaig Quarter Cask

The Laphroaig enigma, the marmite of whisky: Some people love it, some hate it, and, to be honest, for years I was in the latter camp.

I am quite sensitive to TCP and, when I first got into whisky and tasted Laphroaig 10 year old, I couldn’t get past that note. It completely dominated so that I didn’t know whether to bathe my cut finger in it or drink it (and I wasn’t enjoying drinking it).

I’ve since learnt to appreciate the sticking plasters/TCP note, yet I can’t help agreeing with a certain distillery worker whose theory was that the first two drams of Laphroaig 10 are to numb the tongue so that you can enjoy the third!

However, Laphroiag 10 is the standard expression and an admirable introduction to the medicinal style. It’s all about the coastal, medicinal peat, right up in your face, and that’s it’s selling point. Once you move past the 10 year old, you can discover the sorts of things Laphroaig can deliver through that medicinal style and that’s what has sparked my interest in Laphroaig.

There are some excellent SMWS bottlings, the “Lime and Leather in a Smokey room” I tasted recently being an excellent example, but there are also some very interesting standard expressions. Laphroaig 18 is very much worth trying if you can find it and this dram, Laphroaig Quarter cask, is a total bargain…

It’s matured as normal in bourbon barrels then, transferred into quarter casks (quarter the size) for a final period. This allows it to mature faster (as there is greater contact with the wood) and introduces a number of interesting notes compared to the standard 10 year old.

Here are the dramstats:


  • Price £32 (from the distillery in 2012)
  • ABV 48%
  • NAS

Nose: Rich, earthy peat, sticking plasters, with grilled kippers and seaweed. Loving the kippers!

Palate: Definite vanilla sweetness right before the peat crashes in with sticking plasters and brine.

Finish: Sweet TCP and rock pools with wet seaweed.

Verdict: Certainly this is a mood dram, but a total bargain and, for me, much more interesting than the 10 year old. I filled a hip flask with this and went for a cliff top walk near Portnahaven on a windy winter day on the south coast of Islay. This is how Laphroaig was meant to be enjoyed and now, every time I pour of dram of this, I’m back there on that Islay cliff top. Freezing but happy!


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