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Cigar Spirits: Laphroaig Cairdeas Quarter Cask 2017

28 Aug 2017

Depending on my mood, I find few spirits pair as well with a fine cigar as scotch—especially those scotch whiskeys from Islay that are characterized by a hearty dose of smoky peat. For me, along with bourbon and rye, scotch is a mainstay cigar companion in the colder months (whereas I typically turn to rum in the summer heat).

There’s certainly nothing wrong with scotch in the summer, though, especially when there’s a new release to try that stirs my interest. Case in point: the new Cairdeas Quarter Cask from Laphroaig. Cairdeas (“friendship” in Gaelic) is, according to Laphroaig, a response to market demand for “a cask-strength version of the popular Laphroaig Quarter Cask expression, which offers an irresistible doubling of flavor, due to the double maturation in two American oak barrels.”

The strategy behind the 2017 Cairdeas Quarter Cask includes blending different ages (at least five years old) of Laphroaig in “first-fill bourbon casks” before undergoing a second round of maturation in smaller quarter casks. After another six months, these casks are then bottled at cask-strength without the addition of any coloring agents. The result is a 114.4-proof (57.2% alcohol by volume) spirit that sells for $80 per bottle.

As you can see from the photo above, I received a miniature bottle sample from Laphroaig to make this review possible (a gesture that is much appreciated but, as always, has zero impact on my assessment of the product). In contrast, the photo to the right shows the 2017 Cairdeas Quarter Cask bottle and its decorative sleeve (this photo is courtesy of Laphroaig). Notably, in the promotional photo, the whiskey has a darker, reddish hue, whereas my sample poured a crisp, bright golden color.

The Laphroaig reputation is one of power and peat. This is due to Laphroaig being “one of only a few distilleries that still uses traditional malting floors and dries and infuses its own malt with the thick blue smoke from old peat-fired kilns.” So you would expect a cask-strength Laphroaig to bring a bold, powerful, peaty, smoky nose to the table. And that’s exactly what you get. Even with the addition of a little water to open it up, the nose on this whiskey is absolutely huge with brine, fresh peat, black pepper, minerals, and vanilla.

On the palate, Cairdeas Quarter Cask arrives relatively gently, then slowly builds in strength as the finish lingers. Flavors include peat, ginger spice, smoke, oak, molasses, and white pepper. The intensity of the finish reaches its zenith with a spicy, warm, tingly, crisp sensation that concentrates on the tip of the tongue.

I am a fan of Laphroaig 18 (48% alcohol by volume) and decided to taste some side-by-side with Cairdeas Quarter Cask. Frankly, Cairdeas Quarter Cask renders 18—a hearty, spicy, peat-forward whiskey by any stanard—relatively harmless and approachable.

In my book, the 2017 Laphroaig Cairdeas Quarter Cask is an intense expression that offers solid value for the dollar (it should, after all; quarter casking is, effectively, a strategy to get whiskey in the bottle quicker since the smaller barrels provide a higher ratio of wood surface to liquid volume, thereby requiring less of a distillery’s most precious asset: time). When you try this whiskey, I think you’ll agree that it begs to be enjoyed with a fine cigar. And when you select your stick, I suggest you look for something bold that won’t get drowned out by this spirit’s incredible, powerful flavors. I found the Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection Havana Cazadores, for example, does the trick.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys / Laphroaig

6 Responses to “Cigar Spirits: Laphroaig Cairdeas Quarter Cask 2017”

  1. Cigar Seeker Monday, August 28, 2017 at 7:00 am #

    Great review, as always. But, if you will excuse my ignorance, I don’t think I understand the term “cask.” Does this term relate only to the method of manufacture of the spirit and not to the volume of the bottle? And, speaking of volume, how many ounces are there in the “quarter cask” bottle?

    • Patrick A Monday, August 28, 2017 at 9:18 am #

      Cask refers to the barrel-like container made of wood and metal in which the spirit is aged before bottling.

      Most bottled whiskey is diluted with water to bring its strength down to a level that makes it less expensive to produce and more palatable to most consumers. Cask-strength whiskeys skip this step and are therefore stronger (higher alcohol by volume).

      Neither of these have anything to do with the volume of the liquid in a bottle. A quarter cask whiskey means the spirit was aged in a smaller cask before bottling.

      The $80 price I mentioned above is for a 750 ml. bottle. In my top photo, you see a much smaller bottle; this is the sample I was sent by Laphroaig.

      • Cigar Seeker Monday, August 28, 2017 at 9:37 am #

        Thanks for the detailed reply. But just one thing. After asking the question about volume, I decided to hunt around the web to see if I could find it myself. I landed on a site that said the volume is 70 cl, which is 700 ml. Does the bottle actually say 750 ml?

  2. Patrick A Monday, August 28, 2017 at 9:42 am #

    Promotional photos from Laphroaig clearly show the bottle stating “750 ml.” — which is also industry-standard.

    • Cigar Seeker Monday, August 28, 2017 at 10:24 am #

      Thanks. That means this spirit is very similar in price to Booker’s Bourbon, my current favorite libation, which I also learned about from SG. So with that I can begin my hunt for this scotch, to see if it can rival for my favorite.

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