Islay week started out with a Bowmore released in 2019 and then took a jump back in time with an Ardbeg Uigeadail released in 2007. We’re now back to the present, indeed back in 2021 itself. Closing out the week is this year’s edition of the Cairdeas, Laphroaig’s annual Feis Ile release. I was not a fan of 2020’s Port & Wine casks release. The release a year before that was a cask strength version of the Triple Wood from the regular lineup. This year’s release is a cask strength version of the PX release (is that still in the core lineup?) which is basically the Triple Wood but with oloroso casks as the third type of cask involved in the maturation (after regular bourbon casks and quarter casks). Will it send the series back in the right direction? Even if it does, I do wish Laphroaig would go back to releasing good young bourbon cask whiskies in this series. All of the Cairdeas releases I’ve liked best have been from bourbon casks. Either that or just give us a straight forward sherry cask release (both 2018’s Fino and 2014’s Amontillado releases were finsihes/double maturations too). Anyway, let’s see what this one is like—maybe it’ll make me eat my words.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2021, PX Finish (58.9%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Big smoke (both phenolic and dry) off the top with an obvious vein of rich sherry running through it. Quite a bit of salt along with the sweet notes (raisins, orange liqueur) and a faint vegetal note (charred green peppers). As it sits the sweeter notes separate just a bit from the rest. A few drops of water integrate everything and pull out some softer notes (toffee).
Palate: Comes in with the dry smoke and quite a bit of pencil lead. Some tarry bitterness as I swallow. A big bite as expected at full strength and a full texture. The tar is emphasized on the second sip. Not much change after that. Water makes it more approachable alcohol bite-wise but the tarry bitterness is still here.
Finish: Long. The smoke keeps wafting; the tar turns to char and then picks up a lot of salt. Less salt with water and less char.
Comments: The tar and the smoke dominate the palate. It’s really on the nose that the PX character comes through most fully—and that with a bit of water added. On the whole, better than I feared it might be and certainly better than last year’s Port & Wine edition—and I think I liked it better than 2019’s Triple Wood edition as well. I think water is necessary to bring out its best self.
Rating: 87 points.