Laphroaig Quarter Cask at Corks Restaurant

Last week, my wife and I met some college friends at Corks, a restaurant in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, MD. It had been quite some time since we’d been to Corks, the last time was for Baltimore’s 2007 Restaurant Week, because it’s not very often that we go into Baltimore for dinner. Back then, I hadn’t developed a liking for Scotch so I didn’t really keep an eye out for what they had available.

This time, armed with a little more experience, I spied several well known bottles on the shelf. They had your basic bar standards, Glenlivet 12 and a Glenfiddich, as well as a Macallan Fine Oak 17 that looked appealing. However, tonight I was in the mood for something with a little more punch and noticed they had a fairly healthy bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask.

Laphroaig is an Islay, which is generally characterized by a peatiness and smokiness completely absent from Speyside scotches like Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Macallan. What’s special about the quarter cask? The story they tell is that when whisky was transported by mules or packhorses, a barrel was too heavy so they used quarter casks. In those smaller casks, the whisky would continue to mature and be in greater contact with the oak – imparting more of the wood’s flavor into the dram.

How much more? It’s 30% more contact, by their calculations. To help maximize the flavor, they decided to bottle the quarter cask at 48 percent alcohol by volume, up from the standard 40 percent. Besides the additional maturation, higher alcohol by volume, the whisky is not chill filtered because it hadn’t been invented back when pack animals were used to transport the whisky!

Here are Laphroaig’s tasting notes:

  • Colour: Autumn gold
  • Nose: Slight peatyness, smooth, velvety, coconut, creamy aroma with water.
  • Taste: Soft velvet moderates peatyness
  • Finish: Creamy, zesty orange

When I enjoyed it, the peatyness and smoke were very evident. I think this has more to do with my own whisky experience, I enjoy mostly Speysides at home (a problem I must remedy in my next trip to the store), and less an indication of how strong those flavors are in Laphroaig. Also, there was a slight medicinal nose that persisted the entire dram. On the palate, it wasn’t as sweet and dry fruity as Speysides, those flavors likely dominated by the peat. I didn’t get any coconut, as the notes say, but the finish did hint of oranges once the heat of the higher ABV subsided.

I’d love to get this and the 10 year old Laphroaig side by side for a real comparison.

Ardbeg 10 Tasting Notes

Ardbeg 10

Ardbeg 10

I spent the last week in Nags Head, North Carolina, with a few of my friends renting a vacation home and we took advantage of the numbers to buy a few bottles of whisky. One of the prime choices was Ardbeg 10, a bottle I’ve wanted to try for a while but hadn’t gotten around to it.

As a fan of Lagavulin and Laphroaig, I wanted to try what is billed at the peatiest of whisky. When I poured it from the bottle, I was struck at how light it was. It’s a pale yellow, very pale, and the peat and smoke is very evident. I added a few drops in and it opened up a little, with a little fruit sweetness hiding behind the smoke and warmth of the whisky.

Overall, it was pleasant but nothing shouted “peaty!” like the billing leads you to believe. In the future, I think I’d like to try one of the more mature bottlings to get a more complete picture. Or… I just need to try it some more. 🙂

(Photo: ppz)

My Lifetime Lease on a Square Foot of Islay


Wow that was fast, less than two weeks ago I signed up to be a Friend of Laphroaig and this week a large letter arrived in the mail from Laphroaig Distillery, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Argyll PA42 7DU. Yep, I was officially a Friend of Laphroaig! The cardboard-backed hard envelope contained two documents, the first was a letter welcoming me to the Friend of Laphroaig group and the second was an official lease. I was the proud new lessee of Plot No. 373951.

The certificate said:


This is the certify that Jim Wang is a Friend of LAPHROAIG and, accordingly, has become the lifetime leaseholder of an unregistered plot recorded at LAPHROAIG DISTILLER.

As condition of this award, we agree to pay a yearly ground rent in the sum of one dram of Laphroaig, to be claimed in person at the distiller. You understand we’re not offering heritable ownership or any right to cut peat, farm sheep or extract minerals from the plot – far better to take up your right to a warming measure of Laphroaig.

Upon the Leaseholder’s arrival at Laphroaig we undertake to provide a map, with adequate directions for locating the PLOT, and suitable protective clothing against Islay’s rugged weather and eccentric wildlife.

The LEASEHOLDERS’ Cupboard will contain at all times essential equipment, including: For ascertaining the boundaries of the plot, one tape measure; a pair of wellingtons, size 12, approximately one foot in length.

For the journey to the plot, protective headgear against low-flying GEESE; a thick overcoat to repel the inclement Scottish mist; a lifebelt and anchor to safeguard against being blown out to sea; one ball of string for securing trouser legs from inquisitive stoats; and a towel for the Leaseholder to dry-off in the event of unwelcome attention from affectionate otters.

No moment is more special than savouring our rugged single malt at its source to the sound of the sea. To do so is to understand why Laphroaig is the most rewarding and individual of all malt wiskies.


Own A Piece of Scotland – Laphroaig

Did you know that when you buy a bottle of Laphroaig, you’re actually buying a lease on a square foot of Islay? Yep! It says so on a tag attached to the bottle. When you buy a bottle you become a “Friend of Laphroaig.”

As a “Friend” you will be given a numbered plot (one square foot) of our land that runs alongside our all important water suppply – the Kilbride stream. If you visit us you can view your plot and of course claim your ground rent of a dram of our finest – though you will probably need to take a few precautions, as you will see later! Today the heart of our community is on the web. There are now over 250,000 Friends from over 150 countries!

To claim the plot, just go to and set yourself up.

My plot is #373951, let me know if you’re nearby!

Scotch Night: Jura, Laphroaig, Glenmorangie, Chivas Regal, Macallan, Highland Park

I mentioned last week that having a Scotch Night was a great way to sample a wide variety of scotches without spending a wide variety of dollars. I must admit, the idea to write the article come from the fact that my friends and I would be having one of these Scotch Nights the very next day! (1/16/09)

So, the roster was:

  • Jura 18
  • Laphroiag 10 & a quarter casks version
  • Glenmorangie 10
  • Chivas Regal 18 (our only blend)
  • Macallan 15
  • Highland Park 12

Jura-18yo-bottle-and-cartonThe Jura 18 was a bottle I picked up coming back from England last Thanksgiving and I was eager to try it because it wasn’t available here in the United States. The Isle of Jura 18 Year Old is a 40% abv scotch and the only scotch from that island. My memory of the Jura is that it’s sweet and very soft, no doubt a product of its age, and it definitely captures the mood Jura tries to invoke, which is a celebration of the island life.

The Isle of Jura itself is 16 miles off the coast of Scotland, near Islay, and measures only 30 miles long by 7 miles wide, a population of only 185. The main settlement on Jura is a village known as Craighouse where they distill Isle of Jura. What’s most interesting is that there is no ferry connection to mainland Scotland, travel must be done through Islay, though that connection, or its heavy peat, doesn’t come through in the whiskey!

chivas_regal_18The Chivas Regal 18 was the only blend of the bunch and headquartered in Speyside. My novice palate had trouble with the Chivas Regal 18 because the spiciness tripped up the fruity flavors, having both really threw me for a loop. I could definitely taste both but I couldn’t get past the spiciness to really enjoy the fruit (I love spicy food) and spiciness isn’t something I typically taste in scotch, further confusing me a little.

A little bit of history, Chivas Regal is produced in the oldest working distillery in the Highlands of Scotland, the Strathisla Distillery.

Those were some notes I had from our Scotch Night. With each night, I’m slowly developing a better palate and a better sense of the scotches that I enjoy. In prior scotch nights, I discovered I enjoyed peatiness and smokiness in moderation (Laphroaig and Lagavulin!) but liked the fruitier and more vanilla-y scotches for longer stretches.

Oh, one other thing we did during scotch night, besides eat and drink, was watch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly… which was a lot longer than we thought it was. 🙂