After a week of mezcal reviews (here, here and here), let’s get back to whisky, to Scotland, and specifically to Islay for a week of reviews of heavily peated whiskies. First up, is the 2022 iteration of the Laphroaig Cairdeas, bottled for Feis Ile, the annual Islay whisky festival. It’s a bit of a departure for the recent run of the series being from bourbon casks. Last year’s Cairdeas release was a cask strength version of the Laphroaig PX release; the 2020 Cairdeas was finished in port and wine casks; the 2019 was a cask strength version of the Triple Wood; the 2018 was a fino cask finish. The last ex-bourbon release was in 2017, with the cask strength version of the Quarter Cask. Indeed the last ex-bourbon Cairdeas from regulation ex-bourbon casks was back in 2015 for the 200th anniversary of the distillery. This year’s Cairdeas is back to bourbon casks, the twist being only that these were first-fill casks (from Maker’s Mark) matured in the distillery’s Warehouse No. 1. Will that mean too much oak influence and too much vanilla? The people who obliquely warned me about buying a bottle in the comments on other reviews are probably nodding in the background. But, as I do every year, I bought not one but two bottles: one to drink right away and one to put in my completely pointless Cairdeas collection, which goes back to 2011 (I’m realizing now that I’ve not reviewed the 2011 and 2012 releases, which were both pre-blog). Alright, let’s see what this is like.
Laphroaig Cairdeas, 2022 Release (52.2%; ex-bourbon casks; from my own bottle)
Nose: Big phenolic blast off the top with more bitter char below along with lemon, vanilla and brine. Some charred pineapple pops out alongside the lemon as it sits and the bitter note expands a bit. With a squirt of water the bitter notes back off and the lemon turns to citronella; more salt too now and some cereals.
Palate: Comes in ashier here with quite a bit of lemon and salt. A good bite at 52.2% and rich texture. More phenolic on the next few sips and the ash begins to turn tarry faster. As it sits there’s more fruit bubbling below the bitter smoke but it never quite bursts out. Let’s see if water brings it out. A little bit. The bitter notes get pushed back here as well but what really pops out is vanilla and cream and some malt.
Finish: Long. The ash turns more bitter as it fades out and the salt has the last word. Sweeter and more phenolic here too as it goes. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Well, this has many good parts but they don’t all come together as well as I keep hoping they will. A bit too much bitterness at one end and a bit too much vanilla at the other and only tantalizing glimpses of fruit. So, it’s not the high quality bourbon cask Cairdeas I’d hoped for in previous years but that’s not to say it’s a bad whisky. Far from it: I’ve enjoyed the bottle so far; more in fact than Batch 013 of the 10 CS.
Rating: 85 points