Here I am with my annual review of Laphroaig’s annual release for Feis Ile, the Islay festival: the Cairdeas (pronounced: car-chuss, roughly). I’ve reviewed the previous five releases—my most consistent commitment to timeliness. This year’s, like 2014’s Amontillado finish, also involves sherry and it also represents a failure on the distillery’s part to make my hopeful attempt at prediction come through: in the review of last year’s Quarter Cask release I’d noted it would be nice if Laphroaig gave us a young all-sherry cask release this year; but what they’ve given us is a a finish. Apparently, this is composed of six year old bourbon cask spirit finished in Fino sherry casks for an unspecified amount of time. Well, I quite liked the Amontillado release and I expected to like this one as well. (Keep in mind though that Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and I’m one of very few people who has liked almost all recent Cairdeas releases a lot—last year’s was the exception.) Continue reading
The 2017 edition of Laphroaig’s Feis Ile release, the Cairdeas, landed in the US this month. You will recall that Laphroaig are the only Islay distillery that release their Feis Ile bottle in the US. They’re also the only one who seem to envision their festival bottling as intended for everyone and not just for those willing to spend a lot of money, either by going to Islay or on an auction site. This cost £77 on Islay (where a lot of it was still available in the distillery shop a few weeks after Feis Ile) and in Minnesota it seems to be going between $70 and $85, and is available at a number of stores including a big chain. Compare this with the cost and contortions necessary to get your hands on the Feis Ile releases from any of the other Islay distilleries. Continue reading
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). Continue reading
Here’s a timely review for a change. I got word while I was in Los Angeles that the 2015 Cairdeas was already in Minnesota. The first thing I did upon getting back last week was to go and secure some bottles for myself.
As you probably know, the Cairdeas is Laphroaig’s bottling for Feis Ile, the annual Islay festival. It’s a different whisky each year (see here and here for my reviews of the 2013 and 2014 releases, which were from port and amontillado sherry casks respectively). This year saw a return to bourbon cask basics with an 11 yo whisky, made in small pot stills from floor malted barley from the distillery itself, and matured in their No. 1 warehouse down by the sea—all this information is from the back of the tube; well, the age isn’t on there but I’ve seen a number of references to that online. As 2015 is the bicentenary of this great distillery, the intent apparently was to produce a version of Laphroaig that looked back to the older style of whisky once produced here. As to whether they have succeeded in doing this is not something I will be able to judge as I have not had too much of that older Laphroaig (though I do very much encourage anyone who wants to help me educate myself to get in touch).
Here is Laphroaig’s Cairdeas release for 2014. Last year’s release was double matured in bourbon and port casks, and this year’s release is double matured in bourbon and amontillado sherry casks. Laphroaig did not send this whisky to space, and nor is it being sold for $150 or more in most American markets. As a result, perhaps, there’s no disproportionate fuss being made about it. I’m not sure how old this is or what relationship it has to their Quarter Cask or regular 10 yo releases but given the rarity of official sherry matured Laphroaig and the high premiums the independents have begun to charge for their releases of sherried Laphroaig, there was no way in hell I was going to think twice about paying just about $60 for this bottle. Now, let’s see what it’s like.z
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. Continue reading