The 2013 edition of the Laphroaig Cairdeas was double matured in bourbon and port casks and was met with the usual gnashing of teeth by the usual suspects who decry single malt whisky going near any sort of wine cask (never mind that the most traditional of all casks used to mature single malt whisky previously held wine too: sherry). Well, I guess I’ve said rude things about the Glenmorangie Artein and the Bruichladdich Black Art as well, but that’s because I don’t think those whiskies quite work. I don’t rule out the possibility that port/marsala/madeira/etc. cask matured whisky can be very good, and as it happens I think this Cairdeas is very good. At least so I and all the others (including a couple of people who’re not big fans of peated whisky) thought at our local group’s October tasting where I opened this bottle. It’s now past the halfway mark—let’s see how it holds up.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2013, Port Wood (51.3%; from my own bottle)
The label doesn’t say anything about age or whether this is a vatting of whisky matured in bourbon and whisky matured in port or whether bourbon cask whisky spent some time (how much?) in port casks at the end. I haven’t looked around for marketing materials so if you know any of this please write in below.
Nose: This looks very much like a port matured whisky (salmon pink hue) but doesn’t nose like one: no big red fruits, no rich sweetness; at least not at first. Instead there’s a lot of phenolic smoke mixed in with mellow cereally notes. Then an acidic, almost limey note. With time the phenols subside and there’s some red fruit sweetness now—not berries as much as plum compote. A drop of water expands the sweetness somewhat.
Palate: Phenolic smoke but rounded off with the rich sweetness that wasn’t on the nose—that’s the port doing its thing but it’s rounding off the edges of the smoke rather than announcing its own portiness. There’s a bell peppery quality as well which I often find in a lot of sherried peaty Islays. After a while the phenolic smoke seems to become more assertive (sort of the reverse of what happens on the nose). Salt comes in late as well. The palate is sweeter with water too.
Finish: Medium-long. At first the port speaks loudest here but with time, as on the palate, it’s the phenols that really hang around. Some lime too and after a few sips salt too..
Comments: Very nice and a very nice change up for the Laphroaigophile. I do prefer the 2011 Cairdeas which was all bourbon. (I haven’t yet opened my bottle of the 2012.) Water does seem to bring out more of the port influence—I liked it better without.
Rating: 87 points.