Whisky Age

bridges laphroaigI recently tried a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask. It struck me as strange in that it had no date statement, as is usual in single malts. I guessed that the use of a smaller volume cask resulted in faster aging. Here’s what the brand manager responded.

If you’re a scotch drinker, and somebody who chases the big number (18+) scotches you need to read this as it may change your viewpoint.

Here’s the unedited correspondence:

Good afternoon James,

I hope you are well.

I was able to get in touch with Laphroaig North American Brand Ambassador Simon Brooking to have your Laphroaig Quarter Cask questions answered.

Please see below and confirm whether or not you have any further questions. Thank you!


Here is your original question:
“What is going on with the lack of aging for the Quarter Cask? Given that Laphroaig gives the age of their other whiskies; and given that this is normal even in blended scotch; why aren’t they disclosing that info for the Quarter Cask (as using smaller barrels exposes the spirit to more oaking and therefore will accelerate the “aging” process?”).”

Here is Simon’s reply:

Dear James,

Thanks for your interest in the aging process of Laphroaig .
As you point out Laphroaig Quarter Cask does not include an age statement (NAS). The NAS bottling is an industry wide trend to deal with the popularity and growing demand for single malt Scotches. In order to explain NAS whiskies, it is important to understand bottling whiskies with age statements.

According to the law, the age on a bottle of single malt Scotch is the age of the youngest whiskies that have gone into the bottling. For example, Laphroaig 10 Year as well as it being the No. 1 selling Islay single malt, Laphroaig 10 Year is a marriage of 10 yr, 11 yr, 12 yr and perhaps 13 yr old Laphroaig whisky. The century old tradition of marrying different barrels from different years is done to maintain the consistency of flavour.

As you know, aging in wood is not an exact science. It is very difficult to maintain consistency bottling from single barrel to single barrel . That ephemeral element is the beauty and challenge with single malt Scotches. Unless the label states the bottling is a “Single Cask” or “Single Barrel” , all single malts are a marriage (dare I say – a blend?) of those different years. They are technically not Blended Scotches because Blended Scotches are a blend of different single malt barley whiskies from different distilleries plus a neutral grain spirit.

Laphroaig Quarter Casks are a marriage of 5-11 year old Laphroaig in 200 ltr Maker’s Mark bourbon barrels . All the different aged whiskies are then married and then the liquid is put into 125 ltr “quarter casks” for up to an additional 8 months. The smaller quarter casks create more contact with wood to whisky so you get an oakier quality to the Laphraoig and not as smoky. If we put the age statement on the Laphroaig Quarter Cask we would have to call it a 5 Year Old! The difference is this – we are not bottling to a year we are bottling to a flavour profile which is exactly how aged single malt Scotches are bottled today as well.

Also, Laphroaig Quarter Cask is not new. It has been in the market almost 10 years now and is our second biggest selling expression. One of our newer expressions is Laphroaig Triple Wood. It is an extension of Quarter Cask. After the whisky has spent those months in the quarter casks all the whisky is married and the put into an oloroso sherry cask for an additional 2 years. Laphroaig Triple Wood adds elements of sherry sweetness, dried fruits, apricots and plums etc..

My recommendation is to try the whiskies…(all of them) to better understand the unique flavours of each bottling and find the one that’s right for you.

All the best,

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Spanish Rice Casserole

I was at a potluck with a few members of the Saskatchewan Indigenous Writers Circle the other night and I brought a casserole I’m quite fond of. A couple of members wanted the recipe so here is a) the easy version, b) the notes, and c) the version as served.

The basic version is dead easy.

Brown 3/4 to 1 pound pork sausage.
Fry to golden 1 medium to large yellow onion.
Add crushed clove of garlic one minute before removing from heat.
When onions are done stir in one half cup rice.
Add all of the above to a casserole dish after cutting sausage into bite size pieces.
Deglaze the frying pan with a cup of beer.
Add beer to casserole dish.
Add one cup chicken broth or home made stock to dish.
Add one or two bay leaves.
Cover and bake about an hour, 300 degree oven.
Remove from oven and stir in one 14 oz. can diced or pureed tomato
Add a pinch of crumbled saffron threads, and another pinch of thyme.
Return uncovered to 350 degree oven until no fluid remains in bottom of dish.
Remove from oven and stir in one cup shredded parmesan cheese.


1. I usually use breakfast pork sausages. Chorizo, spicier sausages are also a good choice.
2. I usually use brown rice which adds considerably to the cooking time. You can reduce cooking time by not stirring the rice in the frying onions.
3. I use whatever beer is handy up to and including Lab Light (Gasp!). It tastes best with either a dark ale or a very sharp pilsner. (E.G. Pilsner Urquell)
4. I use either home made stock or a cup of Campbells or some other commercial chicken broth.
5. When in a rush, I brown the sausages and onions seperately (different heat settings) dump ALL of the ingredients into a casserole dish and bake at 350, about 1.5 hrs., until no visible fluid on the bottom of the dish. This is VERY EASY and quite tasty.
6. I hand grate parmesan reggiano and a cup is only about 50 to 60 grams. Commercially pregrated cheese is denser and much saltier. If you use commercial product I would add NO salt until ready to serve, and taste it first.

As Served

375 g. Johnsonville Pork breakfast sausages
1/2 cup wild rice
2 and 1/2 yellow onions (using up onions in fridge)
1 clove garlic
1 cup home made stock
1 cup Best Bitter (Northhampton Brewing, NB)
1 pinch saffron (crumbled between thumb and forefinger)… I forgot the thyme
3 tiny bay leaves
1 can 398 Ml. Unico Pezzetoni tomatoes diced
The rind of a wedge of parmesan, grated (The old dry stuff tastes great when warmed)
I added salt and pepper to taste when done.
I cooked it about 2 hrs at 300 and one hour at 375. Wild rice is a bit unpredictable in casseroles I find.

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The John Gormley Eggnog Recipe

As I said on the air today, I make this for myself using half the sugar, and skim milk. Dial in the variables to suit yourself. Also shaved dark chocolate on top is a nice touch. As is Fee Bros. Mint Bitters.

The original recipe

A couple of great suggestions from callers

The “Low Cal” and singeton version.

People as about the calories for the original recipe, somewhere between 1500 – 1600 total, call it 400 a serving. If you substitute 10%BF cream you save about 70 calories a serving. If you use skim you save over 100 per serving.

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The Wine Condom – a perfect solution

Today I found the perfect solution to several problems simultaneously. Best of all, unlike my usual perfect solutions, this one is affordable.

Meet the Wine Condom.

Wine Condom

Wine Condom

Cheekily named after its inspiration, it comes in a box of 10 with suitable instructions, for those of us unfamiliar with condom usage.

It is as you’d imagine a size extra-small, unlubricated condom. Once unrolled over the top of an open bottle it seals drip free. (As all good condoms must do.)

Bottle with condom attached

Bottle with condom attached

This allows for two things, both important in the endless fight for a foodie’s fridge space. Firstly you can store you bottle on the side without worrying your Petrus will be decanted overnight on to your lettuce. Secondly, should you wish to store it upright there is no height added to the bottle as there is with most stoppers including a cork. Also, although there is air in the bottle this is also an air tight seal which should slow oxygenation slightly.

Bottle with Condom partly unrolled

Bottle with Condom partly unrolled

I’d guess they’re reusable but at $10 for 10 I doubt if I’ll worry about that too much. Great product at a great price. A must for every wine drinker!

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Sous-vide for Beginners

002This was an experiment in sous vide cooking, which assumed I didn’t want to spend more money and space on new cooking equipment like a home sous-vide unit.

Sous-vide for those of you new to the concept is cooking very low and very slow. The issue of slowness will vary from item to item. Ideally you seal the food in a heavy vacuum bag, place it in water between 130 and 150F (55-65C) depending on the degree of doneness sought.

The result has a much more jelly like texture, closer to raw meat. It also tends to be moist and tasty.

Above you can see everything that went into my effort – eye of round roast, and some vegetables. The pot in the background is filled with water at about 140F, on a 6 inch electric burner.

I have found in the past that the small elements of an electric range when set to minimum work beautifully as slow cookers and it was that which inspired this attempt.

003 I browned the roast in a cast iron frying pan,after rubbing salt and pepper into the skin. This is unnecessary except for asthetics. If you don’t mind your meat looking slightly greyish then don’t worry about it.

I then stirred the onions and carrots into the pan, coating them with jus and remaining olive oil, covered them and put them in a 300 degree oven for two hours. The roast, once cool enough for me to handle – about five minutes – was popped into a ziploc bag and then into the water in the stewpot. The water was at about 140F and burner turned up to two. Over the next 15 minutes the temperature slowly dropped to about 130, and I reduced the heat to minimum.

For the next three hours I let the roast sit in water between 130 and 135. When the temperature of the water hit 135 I turned the burner off. When the temperature hit 130 I turned it on. I suspect just removing the lid could have got rid of this fiddling. (Obviously a sous-vide cooker removes the fiddly part.)

At the two hour mark I pulled the roast and stuck a thermometer in it: it was at 127. I also measured it again at the two and a half hour mark (131). I decided I wanted it a little more done as I wasn’t sure about the hygiene issue of half cooked and eventually pulled it from the water at 137.

finishedAt the two hour mark I turned the oven up to 400 added the potatoes, and left the veg in the frying pan in the oven. They turned to brown carmelized mush that didn’t look great but was extrememly tasty.

Here the finished product.

As you can see it was beautifully done and had a great texture. I normally don’t roast eye of round because it is too dry. But this way it made both a fine meal and the perfect cold roast beef sandwiches for a week.

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