The 2016 edition of the Laphroaig Cairdeas has been in the US for almost two months now and I’ve finally got my hands on a bottle (okay, two bottles). I am very happy to say that I paid only $5 more per bottle than I did for my first bottle of Cairdeas back in 2011. And I’m also very happy that those of us in the US still have no difficulty purchasing the Cairdeas which is always widely available here, unlike every other Feis Ile release which require trips to Islay or large amounts of money or both.
Last year’s edition of Cairdeas was a classic bourbon cask Laphroaig. This year’s edition, however, returned to the wine cask experiments that marked the previous few years (the 2014 release was double matured in amontillado sherry casks and the 2013 in port casks). This year’s has been double matured in “Madeira seasoned traditional hogsheads”. I assume these means that these were not casks actually used to mature Madeira. The wine influence should therefore be mild. I’m curious to see what it’s like—though as a Laphroaig aficionado the odds are against my not liking it (please keep this bias in mind).
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016 (51.6%; from my own bottle)
Nose: The familiar phenols at first but they’re soon swamped by berries, orange peel and a touch of apricot. The smoke picks up steam again after a minute or so in the glass and is joined by a lot of tobacco (unlit cigarettes from a fresh pack). Some lime too and as it sits it gets quite fruit-cakey. The smoke expands further: phenolic and increasingly ashy and dry; and the tobacco moves from cigarette to pipe. With a lot of time a funky/organic note develops as well (reminiscent of raw liver, actually). With water there’s more of the red fruit and less of the smoke.
Palate: Less fruity here to start and very, very smoky: dry, earthy smoke (a smouldering bonfire on slightly damp ground). On the second sip there’s more citrus (lemon here rather than orange). Nice mouthfeel. Gets sweeter as it goes, but always with the dry smoke grounding it—and the pepper from the finish starts showing up earlier. With more time and air the wine begins to emerge a bit (more red fruit here too now) but it is very far away from winesky territory. Sweeter and less smoky with water.
Finish: Long. The smoke really expands here and picks quite a bit of cracked black pepper which provides the lasting note. Tarry notes develop at the end with time and some salt shows up as well.
Comments: The nose is a bit of a wild ride to start but then settles down into a very nice blend of dry smoke and fruity tobacco. The palate is more straightforwardly Laphroaig (which is very far from a bad thing). Well, this is not going to be a huge surprise to anyone who knows my love of Laphroaig, but I really like this and am glad I got two bottles. And I preferred it neat—I think Laphroaig have really figured out the sweet spot in terms of abv for their younger spirit.
Rating: 88 points.