Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Laphroaig. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
To the delight of fans, Laphroaig has been releasing the Càirdeas series since 2008. The first was named by Distillery Manager John Campbell’s grandmother, and she chose the Scottish Gaelic for “friendship.”
The 2019 release brings us Laphroaig Càirdeas Triple Wood Cask Strength. A blend of past years’ successes, this whisky combines three aging vessels: ex-bourbon barrels, quarter casks, and, finally, Oloroso sherry European oak casks. Quarter casks are relatively tiny, around 50 liters, so allow for more wood to liquid contact. This echos the 2017 release.
These whiskies are released annually during Fèis Ìle: The Islay Festival of Music and Malt. Attendees camp and enjoy dances (traditional and not), dinners, fly-fishing, golf, bowling, and concerts in addition to the whisky tasting. Though dominated by the more famous houses, independent Islay distillers have their own day of tasting, too. The festival week brings a different feel to the mostly serene island. Those in the know think the festival will continue to grow with significant development in the region.
Tasting Notes: Laphroaig Càirdeas Triple Wood Cask Strength
Vital Stats: Laphroaig Càirdeas Triple Wood clocks in at 119 proof, and is made from 100% malted barley. The age is undeclared, and a 750mL bottle retails for $79.99. (According to Laphroaig, this is only available to Friends of Laphroaig, but it seems significant amounts were exported to the States.)
Appearance: This whisky is a very clear, pale copper that quickly forms thin legs.
Nose: The aroma is somehow bold and soft at the same time: leather, wisps of Traeger smoke with caramel undertones and salt air peeking out as it rests in the glass.
Palate: It’s biting on the palate, with that classic Laphroaig iodine. The cask strength is serious. The mid-palate opens to nutmeg and clove with a surprising toffee sweetness – maybe an artifact of the oloroso barrels. A drop of water extends this part of the experience. The finish lingers – it’s all peat smoke.
The smoke of this whiskey turned away from campfire and toward unswept chimney. That effect was most pronounced on the finish, so a simple cocktail (gasp!) like a Penicillin could be a solution.
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In 2014 I founded Portland Bitters Project with the vision to create the best bitters on the market. Now our bitters are enjoyed around the country and internationally to make expressive, delicious cocktails. I teach at two Portland colleges and visit private groups, distilleries and maker's spaces to spread the...