Booze Review

Whisky Review – Laphroiag Cairdeas Madeira Cask


G-LO liked this whisky so much that he asked Santa for a bottle. I guess he wasn't as bad as we thought in 2016, because Santa obviously granted his wish.

G-LO liked this whisky so much that he asked Santa for a bottle. I guess he wasn’t as bad as we thought in 2016, because Santa obviously granted his wish.

My In-laws, in an effort to support the blog (or perhaps hasten my demise because I am not Italian, and because there is a certain amount of Neapolitan-ness in their bloodlines), presented me with a $100 gift card to a local liquor store. In this instance, local meant a 20 minute drive even though I have about eight other liquor stores within a five minute drive. Given the distance from my home, I’ve never had the opportunity to peruse the offerings of this particular liquor store. While the proprietors of this establishment have other stores closer to my home, the in-laws were headed out for rolls and stopped at the store nearest their favorite bakery. Naturally, this particular gift card, while generous, was not transferrable to the other similarly named locations, so with my $100 gift card in hand, I headed out on an unusually quiet Saturday afternoon to do some booze shopping.

Whilst on the way, I texted G-LO the following questions…

  • Do I use the amount to offset the cost of a very good bottle?
  • Do I use the amount to purchase multiple bottles (there are a lot of quality Bourbons for under $40)?
  • Do I use the amount to purchase a single bottle, i.e. a really good Bourbon, an Irish whisky, or maybe a limited edition Scotch that could be had for around $100?

G-LO replied quickly and sent me off in search of the latest Laphroaig Cairdeas. This wasn’t a gun-to-your-head kind of suggestion by G-LO, rather, he just threw out a single bottle of a certain quality and limited edition status that was within the price range of the gift card. Not coincidentally, he is almost always directing me toward Islay. Curse him and his peated tastes!

Despite the rather high prices at this store (it wasn’t really worth the drive, so it’s doubtful that I would go back, unless of course I receive another gift card!), I found a bottle of the Cairdeas which just happened to fall within my price range. Truth be told, I also picked up a bottle of the Jameson Black Barrel, and had the prices not been so high, I might have also grabbed a bottle of Bourbon.

The Cairdeas is an annual limited edition bottling (begun in 2008) from Laphroaig. The limited edition status comes from the last little bit of creativity that goes into the maturation process. Each year, there is a different choice in the type of wood that is used for the finishing. Previous bottlings have used Sherry, Port and Amontillado casks to finish the whisky. This year’s Cairdeas is finished in a Madeira cask and bottled at 51.6% ABV.

Here’s what Laphroiag has to say about their 2016 Cairdeas

Each year our Master Distiller, John Campbell, handcrafts a limited edition malt to celebrate friendship (“Cairdeas” in Gaelic).

This 2016 bottling features fully-matured Laphroaig aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being artfully married together for a second maturation in Madeira seasoned traditional hogsheads. 

As you begin to enjoy this expression, you’ll find an aroma of ripe orange fruits and sweet liquorice moving into spices and dry mixed peppers before concluding with a lovely dry, nutty finish. 

On the palate peaty, earthy flavours emerge, followed by a hint of dry saltiness. Creamy orange tones follow as this Cairdeas finishes with a bold and lingering spicy dryness.

The result is a unique expression to be savoured by Friends of Laphroaig, old and new.

And here are my impressions…

  • Appearance: Orange blossom honey.
  • Aroma: A bit grapey with a soft peaty aroma, i.e. smoked fish, salty brine, and leather.
  • Taste: A bit of alcohol (duh! It’s bottled at 51.6% ABV) then a nice winey characteristic followed by a bit of peat. This peaty quality was not so much a blast of Kingsford briquettes, but just enough to make you say, “Hello Islay!”.
  • ABV: 51.6%

The Verdict

G-LO has dragged me kicking and screaming (and drinking) out of my safe Irish / Speyside / Wheated Bourbon comfort zone all the way to Islay. While I can appreciate what the fine folks on Islay do, I find the peat characteristic to be almost overwhelming at times. This was not the case with this edition of their Cairdeas release. The Madeira Cask finishing mellows the peat quite a bit while bringing out the quality of the finishing cask. Well done!

___________________________________________________

Many thanks to the In-laws for their generous gift card!

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