I'm not sure the quarter casks are a long-term solution to demand problems.....after all, they're selling the whisky off early, which means they'll have less stock around in a few years to bottle at 10 years old!
Nick's theory of producing two different peating levels for single malt and blending purposes respectively sounds feasible, but something tells me they're unlikely to be ordering in two different malt-bills - unless, the ratio really is 90/10, and they only make the more heavily peated stuff for a small fraction of the year. However, I've not read anywhere that this is Laphroaig's practice.
Besides which, they'll have needed to have been doing this 10-12 years ago for them to have the stocks available to mellow down as people have observed.
What other tricks would they have at their disposal to produce a less pungent whisky?
1. Add older whisky into the vatting.
2. Add caramel or something to mask the peat.
3. Vat first-fill casks where the wood has been more active during maturation to mask some of the peat.
Just ideas of course.
Despite Aidan's disagreeance, I still feel it was no accident that the mellowing occurred at a time when Lagavulin all but disappeared from the market.
I'm currently reading "Worts, Worms, and Washbacks", profiling the career of a former Laphroaig manager, and he does state that Laphroaig have previously introduced measures that mellowed the whisky in order to increase its market appeal.