Tuesday, 16 August 2011

What whisky turns your head? Laphroaig Quarter Cask and Arran Amarone Cask Finish

We all get that subconscious desire to turn our heads when we catch something out of the corner of our eye when we are shopping. For some it is the cut of a dress, for others it is the tabloid red of a 'sale' sign, and for others it is a shop in the midst of a riot. There is always something we have a material weakness for. A weakness that operates from our peripheral vision and forces our eyes to turn and our wallets to shed weight like a celebrity on Strictly. I have a few myself: Winegums, HMV sales, coleslaw and of course... Whisky!

So what is it that turns our heads when we are staring at a shelf of whiskies? This is a question I always ask myself, often the answer is fairly simple. For example, when I discovered cask strength whiskies it was the ABV that pulled my eyes to the bottle like a liquid magnet, likewise the old sherry finish whisky has turned my head a few times, but for me, it is something original that makes me look at a bottle and think, 'I need to drink that', and believe something is missing from my life until I do. The thing is, finding something original, or to be more precise, original and worth investing time and money in, can be quite difficult. Two whiskies jump to mind that have done this for me since I started taking the nectar of life. One is very well known the other perhaps less so, but it isn't ambiguity that attracts me to whisky, its weirdness. The first is the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Aged in smaller casks, the whisky inside gets much more contact with the wood and hence ages faster (in a way). This simple idea really appealed to me when I first started drinking whisky and to this day I still think it is the best jump in quality for the smallest price gain you can get in the whisky world. The other whisky is the Arran Amarone finish. I did a vertical tasting of the Arran range and it was the Amarone that made me think, 'this is different', and that is no criticism of Arran's other malts that I also enjoy immensely. So the question is what whiskies turn your head?

Laphroaig Quarter Cask
48% - No Age Statement
Nose: All that medicinality and seaweed you'd usually associate with Laphroaig but with a fantastic scent of rum truffle, nuts and a slight flame of sulphur.
Palate: This is a strong mix of flavours: chili, seaweed, salt and tar. Not for the faint hearted!
Finish: Cigar smoke creates a fug here with a gentle, sweet miasma of cola floating behind, and such a long finish for such a well priced whisky.
Overall: Powerful flavours here, everything a Laphroaig should be: mean, unrelenting and uninterested in your opinion. A great whisky at amazing value.

Arran Amarone Cask Finish
50% - No Age Statement
Nose: This is incredibly potent and quite literal. It smells like chocolate and raisins with a slight afterthought of cherries. Very intriguing.
Palate: Fairly sweet with those notes from the nose carrying through, in particular that chocolatey flavour.
Finish: Smooth unsurprisingly with its sweetness, with a fruitiness adding complexity.
Overall: A cask finish that really works with the whisky, creating strong obvious flavours. A match made in heaven.

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