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A Trio of Laphroaig Whiskies for Your Cigar

Jack Bettridge
Posted: November 22, 2013

Each year since 2008, Laphroaig, the Islay maker of archetypal, peat-filled, single-malt Scotch whiskies, has hosted 45-minute live video streams on the Internet with the opportunity for fans to taste along with a group of experts that has included the master distiller John Campbell. This year, viewing it from home, we took the event as a chance not only to sip along, but to smoke in tandem.

The video, recorded on the Hudson River Barge in Brooklyn, New York, in September, can still be viewed at No video record was made of the Cigar Aficionado pairing. Past Laphroaig Live recordings have been made from London, the Scottish island of Islay, Kentucky, Jerez in Spain, Sydney and Nuremberg. As well as Campbell, this year's event included Maker's Mark Bourbon ambassador Adam Harris and mixologist Michael J. Neff, the founder of Ward III, in New York City's Tribeca district.

The whisky choices, which vary from year to year, included Laphroaig Quarter Cask, QA and Cáirdeas Port Wood Edition. Maker's 46, a product of Maker's Mark, which is owned by the same company that imports Laphroaig, was also represented, but did not participate in our cigar pairing. (For more on Maker's 46, click here.)

The Quarter Cask harks to the early days of Laphroaig, when smaller vessels were used for aging. Whisky that has been aged in standard Bourbon barrels is transferred into casks one-fourth the size. The use of diminutive wood is not only getting a resurgence with Laphroaig, but is popular in the craft distilling trend in America as the stronger surface-area-to-wood ratio hurries maturation.

The QA Cask also started in former Bourbon barrels, but was finished in charred American white oak casks, much as Bourbon itself would be. The second maturation is meant to intensify the vanilla flavors found in Bourbon. The Latinized term for white oak is quercus alba, or QA, hence the name.

Cáirdeas, released this summer, is Laphroaig's unique expression for 2013 and uses a finish of 15 months in a half-size Port cask after eight years in a former Bourbon barrel. The name comes from the Gaelic for friendship.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask Double Cask Matured, Non-chill Filtered (96 proof, or 48 percent alcohol by volume; no age statement; $54.99 a 750-milliliter bottle)

APPEARANCE: Deep yellow color with a hint of copper. Slow, medium-width legs.

NOSE: Opens with a sharp puff of peat then shifts in a moment into a toasty confection of honey, lemon and pear.

PALATE: Just as on the nose, the whisky again opens up with smoke before transforming into much more. It's as if the peat splays out the on palate and readies it for the sweetness, spice and tang to come. Through it all there is always toast. Dried fruit supply the sweetness. The spice is that of a rye bread. The tang is the pine flavor of eucalyptus.

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