Time for another whisky showdown! Two similar whiskies go head to head today in the form of Caol Ila 12 and Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Both are whiskies that are on the smoky, peaty side of things and are a natural fit for side by side comparison.
The two Islay whiskies are easily distinguished in the glass. The Caol Ila’s pale gold contrasts with Laphroaig’s deeper shade. Prior to tasting, I added a few drops of water to each.
On the nose, the Caol Ila is sweeter than the Quarter Cask. Both are rich and distinct and both provide an excellent preview as to what’s to come. The richer, peaty, and mostly dry aroma of the Quarter Cask draws me in more than the Caol Ila. It’s bigger and bolder. Yet, those who enjoy a smoother dram could find themselves more interested by the Caol Ila 12.
On the palate, the Caol Ila is the sweeter of the two. It mixes in the smoke and peat wonderfully and does not betray the nose’s initial appreciation of the content. The Quarter Cask comes on dry, woody, nutty, smoky, peaty, and less sweet. It’s again bigger and bolder. It lights a brief fire on the palate and continues to warm throughout the drinking experience. The Quarter Cask does mix sweet and fruity in there, but to a far lesser degree than the Caol Ila.
The finishes of both are long and satisfying, reflectling wonderfully everything that came before.
Overall, both are excellent whiskies. I believe each has its place in your collection and can be perfectly enjoyed depending on your mood and situation. I will give the edge to the Quarter Cask for its unabashed bold, woody approach. The Caol Ila is easier to down, a better “every day dram”, and is probably more enjoyable with company who may not appreciate a stronger whisky.
Try them both yourself and let me know what you think!