Saturday, September 13, 2014

Laphroaig Quarter Cask 48%

It's been a while between posts.

A ridiculously relentless and stubborn cold (my espresso tasted like soil and my malts like metal - something ferrous, bizarrely enough), a (seemingly) increasingly energetic and demanding son (and another on the way very soon - what was I thinking? I blame the booze), together with an ailing relative have conspired to make time both at once scarce and seem to fly past at a blistering rate.

Anyway, at one of my visits to said relative's house I saw a bottle of this turn up one day, a Duty Free  gift from a recently returned traveller. I haven't had it for a long time so I promptly poured a measure or two into a clean empty jar (I was driving) and took it home.

Like many people, I cut my single malt teeth on peated Islay whisky and that meant - particularly in this part of the world - that I drank a lot of Laphroaig and Lagavulin (this was in the period prior to the re-birth of Ardbeg and Bruichladdich, kids, and the subsequent arms race (both in peat and marketing) that ensued). I say "a lot" in relative terms of course, as whisky at the time was still more of an 'occasion drink' for my friends and I - teenagers and young men/women that we were - as opposed to a regular session one. Regardless, the profile of Laphroaig remained the one that I associated with quality single malts, and the yardstick by which others would be measured.

Subsequent years would, of course, see an expansion in both the range of malts available here as well as in those that I myself tried and enjoyed (travel would also help broaden some of these new horizons too, of course). And thus taste, palate and expectations change and whisky exploration proper begins, meaning more whiskies from further afield (and more whisky in general, if truth be told). So much so, in fact, that I note with some bemusement that this is the first Islay whisky I've reviewed here.

It's not that I don't drink them anymore - I always have at least one open - I probably just don't drink that much of them proportionate to other malts. I'm not sure why this is. Certainly marketing bullshit - an epidemic taking on Ebola-like proportions on Islay, but prevalent on the mainland and elsewhere too of course - plays a part in this. There's only so much of this soul-destroying, brain-shrinking stuff one can take.

And then, that most Quixotic of whisky quests, the search for the perfect dram, also plays a part in this, I suspect. Whether it be the Perfect Dram Ever, or simply the perfect dram right at this moment, this tilting at whisky windmills has sent many a whisky drinker down often dead-end detours in a search for both the Ideal and, I guess, for Difference.

But then there is also simply the aforementioned taste and palate. These change, indeed are constantly changing, so that any definitive answers to questions such as "What do I like?" are necessarily shifting, elusive and, most likely, unanswerable.

In any case, I found myself contemplating this Laphroaig Quarter Cask with some interest and expectation, not having tried it since its initial release (which I think is about four or five years ago, but I may be wrong here). Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask 48% (circa 2014 release)

Nose: First up it smells immediately, irresistibly, like a recently used bong. Moist ash, smoke, and plant matter. Brings back some vague memories. Rubber and TCP lie underneath. After a while some sweet malt wheezes its way in too. The rubber emerges further after a while.

Palate: Soot, peat, sweet honeyed malt, and earth. A touch of spice develops too, keeping the palate - not huge by any measure, and almost, perhaps, a little dilute - nice and lively.

Finish: Sweet, spiced honey continues from the mid-palate before smoke and ash develop and continue, keeping the finish essentially dry. It remains largely on the forepalate and tongue, and is not massively long, but it is still tasty and moreish.

A well crafted young malt that delivers everything you'd expect. I just feel that it's a little thin and lacking in depth.

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