First of all you have to get a bottle of whisky. Sounds easy, but it is definitely not. When I wanted to taste a better whisky, I asked my parents for some advice in order to benefit from their experience. So I started by selecting a region I would like to taste a whisky from. Of course there is more than the bourbon you know from American movies, or the scotch drunk by characters in more sophisticated movies. There is American, Canadian, Irish, Scottish and even Japanese and Swedish whisky. Do you prefer a smooth Speyside, a Highland or a Lowland, or a heavy peated one from the Scottish islands of Islay, Jura or Skye? A Single Malt or a blended whisky? Too much? I could go on and write about the size and kind of casks and years they have lived in – yes lived! Whisky is the called ‘the water of life’.
Back at home I started my first professional tasting – at least in my eyes it was – and was astonished about how strong but smooth a whisky could taste and how different one whisky could taste in different regions of my mouth or when mixed with a few drops of water and at different temperatures.
The first sip blew me away. Such a complex array of different tastes, ranging from heavy peat to subtlety sublime banana undertones – yes banana in whisky! I was really surprised. With each sip I tasted even more: hints of coconut, a sweet but salty taste on my lips and contrasts of burned oak wood and peat smoke emerging from my throat with every breath I exhaled. I have to admit that my taste buds are not as developed as they could or should be, and so I apologize that I can’t name every spice I tasted. It’s was whole array and I recognised many. With each sip, I discover more and more I have yet to discover.
While enjoying my first “real” whisky, I inspected the paper tube the whisky came in, and out fell a small booklet. My new passport to Islay and the Laphroig distillery.
Founded in 1815 by the Johnston brothers, the distillery stayed in family hands until 1954. Since then owners have changed numerous times and now it is owned by Beam&Suntory, the world’s third largest producer of hard alcohol. In 1993 the Prince of Wales chose Laphroaig as royal distributor for Single Malt Whisky. Starting in 1994 Laphroaig honoured friends and fans with a square foot of land in their peat fields. Being a landlord and becoming a part of the distillery with the most complex tasting whisky is killing two birds with one stone. First, the customer feels appreciated, and second it keeps investment firms away from buying and monopolising peat fields and endanger the tradition of whisky making.
The Laphroaig Quarter Cask is, even though it’s massively complex, the least complex one the Laphroaig Distillery offers. Although one might argue that the ten year old Laproaig’s complexity is far behind the complexity of the Quarter Cask. But being stored and matured in small quarter casks gives this rather young whisky (about seven years) a strong taste. It matures faster due to the high cask-surface-to-whisky-ratio and can easily compete with similar ten or twenty-year-old whiskies.
I don’t consider myself a beginner in the art (or science?) of whisky anymore and I have tasted way more than 60 different whiskies from all over the world and almost all price ranges, but still: I have always a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask at home that I happily open after a stressful day or if I want to brighten my day or just want to taste something good. It’s the whisky I fell