Laphroaig Cairdeas – “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”

Cairdeas.  A Gaelic word that means ‘friendship’.  The word itself, for those phonetically curious, is pronounced somewhere between ‘car-chess’ and ‘car-chase’ (depending on how thick the accent of the speaker is).  These annual releases from our good friends at Laphroaig were originally launched as an exclusive for that ever burgeoning group of peat geeks known as the ‘Friends Of Laphroaig’.  In recent years, Laphroaig has upped the outturn on these Cairdeas expressions, and they’re now quite readily available in most markets.

Through all of its various incarnations over the years, there’s one thing that has been fairly consistent with Cairdeas: the presentation of a strong natural whisky of high quality and character.  I honestly haven’t regretted buying a single one of  them.  These releases have been a mixed bag of ages and styles, but the Laphroaig profile (earthy, smoky, peaty, medicinal) has been omnipresent throughout.  The subtleties change, of course, but that familiar and homey style we all love remains intact. 

Highly recommended from this guy.

Now…before we get to the whisky…a quick toast…

This one is for all of the whisky folk out there (bloggers and writers and schillers, oh my!) who seem to have gotten just a little too friendly with the industry of late.  Perhaps it’s a testament to the wisdom of Sun-Tzu.  Hmmmm…wish I could believe that. 


Laphroaig Cairdeas Master Edition 2010025

57.3% abv

Score:  91.5/100


Nose:  This one has the softest nose among these four.  Reminds a little of Laphroaig 18, but jacked up a notch or two.  Smoke, of course.  And peat.  White pepper.  Ginger.  Soft green melon.  Key lime pie.  Green ju-jubes.  A fleeting glimpse of bubble gum.  Slightly minty.  A touch of clean oak.  Wee hint of rubber.

Palate:  Again…soft and beautiful.  Love the candy notes and gentle fruits.  Dry smoke leads into peat, then explodes in sweet notes.  Crisp green pear and MacIntosh apple skins.  Light (very light) orange juice and lemon notes.  The toasted crust of good creme brulee.

Thoughts:  Good balance of old and young.  Aging peat is a thing of beauty.   So much harmony between the nose and palate.  Apparently this is a mix of 11-19 year casks, and you can definitely see the influence of the older whiskies within.


Laphroaig Cairdeas Ileach Edition 2011019

50.5% abv

Score:  89/100


Nose:  Mint Leaves jelly candies.  Peat and earth.  Smoke, but it’s not quite as big as I’d normally expect.  Iodine.  Brine.  Dark soil.  Lemon rind.  Salt and pepper.  Creamy, soft mild cigar tobacco notes.  A touch of vanilla.  Soft white / green fruit.  Bread dough.

Palate:  Peppery, right off the bat.  Slightly drying too.  Fruit candy sweetness.  Smoke and wet rock.  Nutty, earthy notes.  Dry ginger.  Quite a sweet development throughout.  Wet ash.  Fresh lemon squeezed over oysters on the shell.

Thoughts:  Young-ish, but who cares?  Peat is a hell of a ride when offered up in its youth.  And there are definitely no flaws in the actual whisky here.  A great version from a much-loved distillery.


Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin 2012002

51.2% abv

Score:  88.5/100


Nose:  Smoke and a very coastal iodine tang.  Salty dough.  Organic, peaty notes.  Damp ash (a fire put out with saltwater!).  Dusty, old wood (maybe dunnage?).  A faint note of peppered greens.  Fresh dill.  Dirt.  Soft caramel notes.   Seems slightly older than the 2011 edition.

Palate:  Pepper leads (with some salty / briny notes as well).  Apple.  Smoked shellfish.  A fair bit of rubber.  Smoked grains.  Licorice or fennel.  More of that peppery bite again.  Ginger.  Dirt and wet rocks.  A mouthful of ocean water.

Thoughts:  I initially fell in love with this one while at the distillery in late 2012.  Happy to report we’re still in love.  It was a treat when this release landed on Canadian shores last year.  I immediately snapped some up.


Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014003

51.4% abv

Score:  89/100


Nose:  Slightly farmy.  Warm saddle.  Hay and horse blanket.  Zesty…almost savoury (tomato sauce-ish).  Big, clouds of smoke, but very much dampened by the sweetness of the sherry influence.  Peat.  Cinnamon, pepper and ginger.  Notes of good marmalade.

Palate:  Rubber.  Yep.  A fairly hefty amount of smoke and warm rubber.  An odd oregano-like note.  Kinda flinty.  Very dirty Laphroaig (in other words: awesome).  Medicinal notes.  Play dough.  Granny Smith apple.  Quite earthy.  Deep spice, almost chili-esque.  Surprisingly savoury overall.

Thoughts:  Peat and sweet.  Love the marriage of mighty Laphroaig and soft sherry.  This is a heck of a dram.  Wish I knew the age on it. 


– Images & Words:  Curt

19 thoughts on “Laphroaig Cairdeas – “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”

  1. Jeff

    Nice roundup of some quality whisky. It is a little troubling that, in terms of info, this expression has gone from an age range that you could drive a truck through to… nothing, yet Laphroaig still feels the need to demand YOUR age when you visit its website and is paying you nothing for THAT information. I once asked the need for this and was told it was in “the interests of responsible marketing”. Oh, the irony!

  2. Ol' Jas

    Clicking “I’m over 21” is the biggest problem in the scotch whisky industry today. Where’s Jim Murray on this?

    1. Jeff

      No, the single biggest problem, now and going forward, is NAS. But why do I have to volunteer anything about my age simply to be given a sales pitch when sites that actually sell whisky don’t require this, yet producers can’t simply click “this whisky is a minimum of “x” years old” when they’re making their labels and I’m paying for the product? And where is Jim Murray, or indeed any other professional whisky writer, on that?

      1. Ol' Jas

        So I’m skimming old Laphroaig reviews tonight just for fun, and I surprisingly find this silly old sarcastic comment of mine from 2014! At least, I can tell it’s sarcastic both coming and going, but I suspect it reads to most others like a “who cares if you have to click that age button on whisky websites?”

        For the record—because I know this is super important*—I think those buttons are silly.

        *OK, is THAT sarcasm self-evident? It’s hard to tell sometimes on these message boards! 🙂

  3. Robert

    I’ve had the 2014 version open for maybe two or more months, occasionally having a dram. Still don’t find anything in it to make me ever want to buy again. Maybe it’s the amontillado finish? To think I could have had the 18 or CS instead pisses me off (or even the 10!). Currently I’m using it and the Tomatin 18 (another mediocre whisky) as starter drams before I move on to something better. Tonight I had both, as I’m trying to get rid of all whiskies I consider inferior, and finished with Ardmore TC. Even if all three were priced at the same price as the TC ($29) I’d pick the TC every time. I think I’ll just stick with the 10’s and 18 of Laphroaig and none of the Tomatin from here on. By the way, where are those Tomatin reviews?

  4. Robert

    After seeing some positive reviews, I took the plunge and bought the 2015 Cairdeas. Great decision on my part! This is so much better than the 2014, that I’m planning to track down a couple more.

    Also, the Arran 14 finally got to my area. An excellent mix of bourbon and sherry casks with a slight hint of smoke. Reminds me some of the HP 15. A huge improvement over the 10 of a few years ago. Gotta get more of this one too!

    1. Chris 1

      I just got the 2015 last week too, Robert. I liked it right out of the gate, but today I’m finding it a bit less endearing. Better with a few drops of water, maybe it needs even more. I probably shouldn’t have had the Bowmore Tempest before it, because it is totally different and I really liked it. I’ll reverse the order next time and I’m sure I’ll be back to loving the Cairdeas. Can’t even guess the age, I wish I had a 10 yo cask strength to compare it to.

      1. Robert

        I had two ounces of the Arran 14 (it’s so good!), then one ounce of Balvenie 15 (sherried) and then tried the Cairdeas. BTW, a great sequence of drams. I like to start light and leave peat to the last. I also don’t like to have different peated whiskies at the same sitting, as I find they mask flavor.

        1. Chris 1

          Yeah, I see your point there. usually I do as you say and have a non-peater first, but this time I had two hefty peaters back to back. I’ll not do that again.

  5. Robert

    So……. The 2015 is your “Dram of the Day”. I assume that means a review is coming. I’m just having an ounce of this once a week to make it last. Great preated whisky!

    1. Skeptic

      Must be a sample from a friend, because that was released in 2015 and I believe it is NAS, and Curt said he’s not buying any NAS.

      1. Robert

        But it’s so damn good!!! Let’s just assume it’s at least 10 YO (my experienced palate says 11.4 years) and just enjoy it.

          1. ATW Post author

            This is an 11 year old. John has been upfront about that from day one. Not sure why it’s not on the bottle, but it is 2003 stock, bottled in 2015. Proof’s in the pudding:

            And much like with Glaser’s recent transparency (and subsequent gagging by the industry) on the ‘Luxury’ and ‘Flaming Heart’ releases, I will not take exception here, as the brand is not hiding anything. HOWEVER…it is noted, that in this case there is no reason why it shouldn’t be right on the bottle.

            More importantly, though…a very Happy New Year and Hogmanay to all. I wish you nothing but the best for 2016. Hope it is a year full of health, happiness and a great many beautiful drams. Slainte Mhath!

  6. Robert

    11 YO makes sense as it tastes in the 10-12 YO range. Actually the 11.4 guesstimate is pretty close. So I guess we don’t need Jeff to jump in, Sheepdip!

    1. Jeff

      It does bring out a good point though, seen with every prominent NAS expression I’ve ever read about: the people who claim not to care about age are always the first to volunteer speculative age information and recommend what can be assumed about it. It’s the entire reason that JW Blue Label is the most mythologized whisky in history; “I don’t know the age, and I don’t really care about it, but here’s what it probably is and furthermore…”. That said, a guess of 11.4 vs. 11 is still pretty damn good.

      As for all the information that producers would “WANT to share with us” in “a perfect world” while they withhold information that they CAN presently share with us in this one, I find few heroes in that “struggle”/PR exercise. I was born on a Thursday, but not the last one.

      Happy New Year to all the usual, and unusual, suspects!

      “I don’t know. This is bad. The way I hear it, NAS is some kind of butcher, a peerless, psycho, fucked-up butcher” – Fenster to McManus on the subject of the spread of NAS.

    1. Skeptic

      Oh,I thought you were using an endearment…

      So when will we get a review of Sheepdip or pig’s nose? Ah, I see they are already there…

  7. Ol' Jas

    2014 was the first year I started paying attention to these Cairdeas releases. That year, getting one seemed like a big deal: I had to strongly hint to my wife that I wanted one for Christmas, and she had to order it online.

    Looking back, it feels like the ones before 2013 were pretty scarce, 2013 and 2014 were somewhat broadly distributed (the 2014 more so) and the ones since then have been pretty mass-market. Does that sound about right?

    And would it follow that the pre-2013 ones should feature prominently on a modern Islay fan’s “if only” list? That seems about right to this guy, but I hardly ever hear of anyone pining for these like they do for, say, old Ardbeg one-offs like Rollercoaster. I wonder if that’s just due to the general levels of fandom for Ardbeg v. Laphroaig, or maybe due to the release-specific branding, or maybe due to the actual quality of the whisky.


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