Micro barreling used to be kind of a thing in the American whiskey industry. More like a craft thing, but a big thing. Without getting into it too much, the idea is that new companies, needing to get a brand to shelf as soon as possible, turn to aging their new make spirit in small “micro” barrels so the spirit to oak surface ratio is maximized in much less time. It doesn’t work very well, but these days micro-barreling is used more as a supplemental aging technique than the only one. I think this is a better way. You’ll notice, however, that the Scotch whisky industry rarely employs, or needs to employ, this small cask technique. At least not until demand exceeds supply.
Take Laphroaig, for example. Faced with a boom in demand but not necessarily the stock to feed the monster, John Campbell found a way to bottle some very young Laphroaig with a twist: finish the young, fiery spirit in small “quarter casks” so as to maximize the spirit’s contact with the oak (about 30% more), intensifying flavor and making up for time not available to age the spirit another five or so years. What you get is standard Laphroaig but this time with more accentuated flavor, and somehow, make an already big Islay even bigger. The inspiration for Quarter Cask? Scotch whisky was commonly transported via small casks on horseback in the 19th century, as the bottle states, but what the bottle doesn’t say is that the transporters most likely included smugglers transporting illicitly distilled whisky. Nice. No matter, on to some particulars…
Quarter Cask is rumoured to be about 5-6 years old in standard ex-bourbon casks and is then finished at most another year in the quarter casks. Bottled at 48% ABV and $30.00 more expensive than the standard 10yr, expectations are high for this NAS delight. On to it.
Nose- Fisherman’s wharf, but on fire. Tar boards, oily and briny. Iodine and creosote. Honey and pepper, vegetal, toasted barley. Tough, but a nice vanilla sweetness with lemon is there.
Taste- Peppery, smoked game. Mouth coating. Punchy sourness. Savory spice.
Finish- Huge peat and smoke. Charred oak. Light vanilla. Long, drying. Lingering.
Comments- Very well composed. A great whisky. Fantastic taste. A well built Islay. Recommended.
SWC Rating – 90/100
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