We’re plugging some gaps in the Malt coverage and this maintenance brings us to the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. I expect it’s a release that almost everyone on the team has had and possibly appreciated over the years, without feeling the need to write about it. And that I feel speaks volumes not just about the whisky, but the distillery itself.

The Quarter Cask is a staple for many and a step up from the widely available and often cheaply priced 10 year old expression. And given my experiences alongside the Batch cask strength editions, the Quarter Cask is one of the core range options that many talk fondly of, whilst at the same time, expressing some concerns about Laphroaig in general.

I’m often told that I don’t like peat, sherry or even Bimber, Jura, Balvenie, Glenfiddich etc. It’s heartening to think that people actually read my articles and then come to some form of preconception. Such fanciful images are dangerous things. In all cases, I do like a good whisky, or at least what I believe is a good whisky. Bimber for instance has received very good scores even though I’ve resisted the urge to jump up and down like a crazed fan at a Duran Duran concert and throw my knickers at the stage. Jura as well, given some of the frankly excellent matured casks we’re now seeing come to market. This includes the recent release from Chapter 7 and Lady of the Glen – that’s despite Gregor failing to comprehend our scoring system. A 5 is average and from there it becomes good, very good, excellent, superb and reaching the legendary 10: Tormore. Talk about fantastic whiskies from Glenfiddich? Then, I’ll say, please read the 2017 Speyside incarnation. As for Balvenie, the Tuns are great if increasingly expensive.

So, never presume a distillery won’t have its day here or moment in the upper echelons of our fair scoring system. That’s part of the appeal of Malt I believe. Just because we get something for free, doesn’t guarantee a positive score or a deliberate attempt to avoid the issue of pricing.

Meanwhile back on Islay, Laphroaig keeps on going. Under the ownership of Beam, Suntory or combined nowadays, you cannot say that it has been a steady ride. Going back a relatively short period of time highlights the shortcomings of several core range editions. This is magnified if you’re fortunate enough jump back even further. Such an ability is the privilege of a chosen few or those who were able to squirrel away bottles for future enjoyment. For you the mere reader, and the majority others, we have to plough the independent scene for our Laphroaig fix.

Such a venture confirms the spirit is still in good condition and able to delight at times – where other bottlings fall short. It’s that age-old problem of what happens between the warehouse and the retail space. Laphroaig is far from alone in this respect as just up the road, Bowmore is a repeat offender. But for these giants of Islay and Scotch, criticism isn’t welcome. I suppose it is very much like pouring scorn on an old masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci. Art like whisky has a timeless quality. It doesn’t have a sell-by date or best-before label. That timeless quality ensures our appreciation throughout time, regardless of the year. Except, whisky is meant to be consumed and in doing so, you begin to compare and contrast. Notice things have slipped, or even improved.

Competition is fierce and especially within the domain of Islay peat. Mere names don’t matter as much as they once did. They may tug at the heartstrings, but nowadays we vote with our wallet more than ever before. I wouldn’t have even given this Laphroaig a second glance if it wasn’t for a recent Amazon discount that allowed me to purchase it for £24. In reality, this Laphroaig release is available everywhere including Master of Malt for £38.25, The Whisky Exchange will request £40.95 and Amazon currently demand £38.25. This is also available via SharedPour for $89.99. As always, other retailers might offer better value subject to any special offers.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask – Jason’s review

Colour: caramel.

On the nose: a familiar opening with wet rope, pencil shavings, stewed black tea and just that decaying autumnal vibe from a brisk woodland walk. Coastal elements with driftwood, grilled shiitake mushrooms, burnt liquorice and brown sugar. Haggis-like in parts with spices and cardamon, mace and toffee. The iodine note seems to be missing from the equation, we’ll try water… oak spice, a muted blood orange.

In the mouth: earthy peat, some sea salt laced driftwood and damp moss. Tumeric, bacon fat and more cardamon and liquorice. Fairly standard stuff. Adding a splash of waters turns the experience into an unpleasant boggy water, lacking definition.

Conclusions

Even at 48%, this feels underpowered on the palate. The promise of the nose is lost at sea when the liquid is sampled. There’s a disconnect. Almost a taming of the Islay beast as it becomes more domesticated for the bar scene and the latest hipster speakeasy. I don’t dislike this at all, especially for under £25, but that isn’t its normal price so I cannot award a value point here.

The Islay-ness as been somewhat eroded and accessibility has moved in for a permanent residency. My memory, suggests that it is a slight step up from the variable 10 you’ll find under every rock. That might be a future comparison, but for now, circa £40, this just doesn’t move me in the way you’d expect from a Laphroaig.

Score: 5/10

Laphroaig Quarter Cask – Rose’s review

Colour: Harvest Moon.

On the nose: Crunchy sourdough toast smeared with apple butter. Sage growing on a mulchy coast side, an old mildewing woodpile, white plaster walls moist with sea salted rain, the iodine of pungent seaweed washed ashore. Some notes of brown sugar mingle with Indian spices, brown whole grain mustard and pecans in browned butter. Then some scents I had scan to identify, reminiscent of my mom’s patchouli, amber, and sandalwood hippy stuff. Maybe even that red square bottle of Ralph Lauren, Lauren that she rarely wore but sat on her dresser my whole childhood, ahh mom scents.

In the mouth: Initially just a muddle of the above, earthy, sweet, peaty, salty but all less distinct. It leaves me wanting more of what I found on the nose. After some more searching I get some dirt covered peated caramels, ashy extinguished coals, and old damp newspaper. Followed by Sharpie permanent marker, I’ve found this in another Laphroaig expression, a Cairdeas I think. Indian spice flavors come back to me, nigella seeds, turmeric and black pepper. Sadly a loss of the fruity and perfumy elements I was enjoying. On the finish maybe some dried rose petals with some vetiver.

Conclusions

It has been some time since I’ve sipped this Laphroaig expression or any of their OB’s really. I had previously owned the Quarter Cask, but presently couldn’t remember any details, well besides the Laphroaiginess. So, when Rover asked me if I wanted to join in on notes, I thought it could be interesting to dive in again without any real preconceptions. It’s readily available here locally, and the price isn’t terrible at $59.99.

While this whisky is one that I wouldn’t mind having around as a filler dram, I think where it lost me was the cohesiveness between the nose and palate. The nose was enlivening in some ways. I might have gotten a little too excited too soon, which as we know the higher the hopes, the harder they come crashing down, right? But then again, I’m a glass half empty sort of person, and as this glass sits before me half empty there’s a sense of disconcertment settling in. My bad getting all giddy about scents and nostalgia, I’ll learn that lesson someday! Anyhow, the palate just fell flat for me and I think that’s a damn shame. So it leaves me questioning, if this was bottled at cask strength, or even not been given the uncool filtering treatment, maybe, just maybe it wouldn’t be lacking here?

Score: 5/10

We’re featuring convenient commission links in this review if you want to utilise and make a purchase. These don’t affect our opinion and only help our running costs and keep Malt great. Photographs provided by Rose who is worth a follow on Instagram.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Roy
    Roy says:

    Funnily enough Jules got me one when it popped up on Amazon for £25. It’s really not worth any more, and I’ve enjoyed it before. Do wonder though if the annual release 10 cask strength is genuinely 3x better? Suppose its all trade off’s when you are trying to hit that price/value sweet spot?

    1. Avatar
      Jason says:

      Hi Roy

      The cask strength is much better as are these Williamsons. Certainly the latter do benefit from a more natural presentation. This one feels bogged down in wood, caramel, whatever…

      Cheers, Jason.

  2. Avatar
    Greg B. says:

    The pricing comments are quite interesting. In my part of Canada this sells (possibly, maybe in tiny volumes) For $88 Cdn. Needless to say I bought it once, and never since.

    1. Avatar
      Jason says:

      Hi Greg

      Yeah, that’s too much but I suppose we can say that about many whiskies in Canada. This one is average, nothing more, nothing less. It’s inoffensive and somewhat pedestrian. Possibly one for those who want that bit of peat and fancy an official bottling.

      Cheers, Jason.

  3. Avatar
    Christian says:

    Hi Jason,

    can’t unsee the Duran Duran bit 😉

    I still have two older QC bottles and I do quite like it – it’s a nice winter dram, I reckon

    I’m kinda happy I managed to get some nice bottles over the yrs and I guess I won’t buy new ones, esp. considering the prices…

    reading your site might help since I don’t to Insta so my self-esteem is still somewhat higher 🙂

    1. Avatar
      Jason says:

      Hi Christian

      Yes, I was wondering what’s happened to Simon and the boys. Guess COVID stops everything right now.

      At their current full-price, I think that’s the way to go. Sadly, the Lidl bottle that goes up later today isn’t something we can all find or is always in stock.

      Stay away from Instagram. It is a cesspool and best avoided!

      Cheers, Jason.

      1. Avatar
        BigShing says:

        IMO the power of the QC is that it’s quite approachable for a Laph for Islay newcomers, and Amazon love to discount it to around £28 (dropped to £25 this Black Friday), so it’s a good gateway dram.

  4. Avatar
    Mark says:

    Totally agree with much of what is said here. I’ve been a Laphroaig fan in the UK since the age of eighteen when my father introduced me to the strange stuff. Over the years I’ve tried many different expressions but I always go back to the plain old 10yr at 40%.
    Laphroaig has a marketing problem. The staple 10yr simply can’t really be beaten.
    Ok, the 18yr olds and some of the cairdeas are superb, but they don’t actually improve on the basic Laphroaig experience. And they’re pretty expensive for the average consumer too.

    1. Avatar
      Jason says:

      Hi Mark

      Yes, they do have a marketing problem. Suggesting that very little has changed at the distillery and with their whisky. As you rightly suggest, you try it and its totally obvious.

      I’m the same with Talisker. Happy with the 10 and the 18. The rest is pretty ropey. There seems a need to tick every box by offering a certain cask type or flavour. Just concentrate on a good whisky please. We know the distillate remains good, just in between the warehouse and the bottling hall, things go to hell.

      Cheers, Jason.

  5. Avatar
    Arild says:

    It is rather sad that a distillery with it’s natural advances and deep history of great Islay malt’s has become a chill filtrated, caramel added middle of the road experience. Not to forget the 10, presented at the minimum of 40% and a long way from how it was when I started enjoying Islay single malts. What a waste of what could have been exceptional all over. Guess the market talks. Thankfully we have honest reviews like yours, educating interested people in the right direction! Will have a Springbank 10 now, sorry for the rant!

    1. Avatar
      Jason says:

      Hi Arild

      No rant there, just the truth and I hope it stings a little at Laphroaig. They could be doing much better than this.

      Springbank 10? There’s a dram and we should pick up one again soon here.

      Thanks, we try and showcase the honesty factor which seems to be working as people appreciate honesty and a scoring system that is candid.

      Cheers, Jason.

  6. John
    John says:

    Another disheartening review of OB Laphroaig. I guess I should consider myself lucky for having my fill of good OB Laph before the merger. The old labeling of the QC and earlier batches of 10 CS were just marvelous. Having recently tried the new label of QC and contemporary 10s just make me sad. My once favorite distillery has fallen from grace.

  7. Avatar
    Jim Lewis says:

    I had almost the exact same experience as a result of the Amazon offer. I’m not up to speed with ownership history of the distillery, but I became a friend of the distillery at least ten years ago, so must have enjoyed the whisky then. How disappointed I was after sitting down to enjoy this last night. Promising, if a bit incoherent on the nose, then flat in the mouth and quite a harsh after taste. In the interim I had migrated to Caol Ila, so I’ll be going back to that, probably before I finish the Laphroaig, which might be relegated to guests drinks only!

    1. Avatar
      Jason says:

      Hi Jim

      Caol Ila is so reliable right and Laphroaig can be when bottled by indies as Williamson – had a couple recently that highlight the point. I’m sure this bottle will maybe make a good whisky sauce for Burns Night or be a nice dram for guests as you suggest!

      Cheers, Jason.

  8. Avatar
    LKB says:

    Is it definitely chillfiltered? I was under the impression that spirits over 46% couldn’t go cloudy when chilled, which therefore removes the need for chillfiltration?

    1. Avatar
      Jason says:

      Hi

      There’s definitely some degree of filtering going on. It just doesn’t have that mouth feel. I know the science as well. But the bottom line is regardless of filtering and caramel, it’s average.

      Cheers, Jason.

  9. Avatar
    Whiskey Dram says:

    The quarter cask was always a staple Islay given the price point. This is pretty disappointing to read that the quality has gone down so much. Is there another widely available Islay in this price point that’s above a 5 in your ratings?

  10. Avatar
    ACE says:

    The hate on Laphroaig from reviewers of this site is real. Just so you know I’ve actually read through nearly all the reviews of Laphroaig before I commented. Perhaps some of you are privileged to have tasted Laphroaig in its former “glory days” and are so disappointed with the quality of the new bottlings. Can’t argue against that because my Laphroaig journey is not yet 10 years old and I have no way to find an older bottle to compare. I’m not a Laphroaig fanboy but it is truly one of the most unique whiskys and I genuinely enjoy all of its current lineups. Taste is objective but if yesteryears’ Laphroaig was truly that much greater, then I am really disappointed to have missed the boat because if it is true, then Laphroaig would have been the best whisky in the world.

    1. John
      John says:

      Hi ACE, I get what you’re saying about the glory days of Laphroaig. That can really spoil someone. But you also have to consider that most, if not all, of the contributors have had a wide range of whisky and even other spirits. That changes our senses and makes our perception of spirits different from a drinker’s senses who has explored less.

      1. Avatar
        ACE says:

        Thanks John, we are at it again lol. I just find it surprising that many of the reviewers on this site hold such diverged and opposite views to mine. I am sure most contributors are spirit lovers and whisky aficionados. Likewise I also have a really wide range of experience with Scotch, Bourbon, Brandy, Rum, Vodka, Gin and Beer. Whilst personal preference should be celebrated, it is just too often and only on this site I found myself at odds with so many reviews. Coming back to my comments on the other post you had responded, my goal is to encourage more explorers to try as many styles of whisky as possible to build their own whisky map. Without trying the “bad” stuff, malt mates won’t be able to appreciate the “good” stuff because there is no basis for comparison. My concerns is when your reviews are too negative and critical towards a particular whisky, it may discourage viewers to try it for themselves. Whilst most contributors are experienced, I think you’ll find that the majority of your reader are not. Most of your readers are probably enthusiasts looking for guidance online to help with their journeys. Perhaps that’s the reason why I feel compelled to comment on reviews of this site to give your readers a different prospective.

        1. John
          John says:

          The way I see it, one of the functions of Malt is to expose more drinkers to non-brand core range releases. It’s safe to say that brand’s marketing do a really good job of making their consumers come back. But the issue in this is they end up thinking that these are the end all be all of whisky and other spirits. They’re not. If we don’t review these massively produced and widely distributed products honestly, then who will be the other reliable and honest voices that don’t suck up to brands?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *