I love what Laphroaig has done with the 2015 edition of the popular Cairdeas expression. This bog beast is built entirely of barley floor-malted at the distillery (as opposed to most Laphroaig releases which feature predominantly malted barley procured from the Port Ellen Maltings), distilled in the squat l’il stills and then matured in the Number 1 Warehouse (yes, that is a different place than Bowmore’s legendary Number 1 Vaults) near the briny influence of the Atlantic (if you believe that makes a difference). Whereas we can usually expect Laphroaig’s phenols to hover around 40-45 ppm pre-distillation, who knows what we have here? The peat level isn’t really the main talking point however. The fact that this is an entirely old school malt with a crystalline purity and stunning balance is. Wow, what a dram. Best Laphroaig in a long time, and that is saying something.
The elephant in the room is that this is – for all intents and purposes – an NAS expression. The reality is though that John Campbell, distillery manager and the architect of this dram, has been rather forthright about this one; explaining that it was laid down in 2003 and bottled in 2015. Effectively an unofficial 11 year old, I suppose, as his comments referred to it being ‘nearly twelve years old’. This Cairdeas wears its youth like a badge here, shining bright and conspicuous.
I first tasted this one in a range that included three different Leapfrog 25 year olds, and still this Cairdeas held its own (and then some). Well worth tracking down and spending your shekels on. Oh, and having said that…this one was released in 2015 for the distillery’s bicentennial. It is limited, but to just how many bottles I’m not certain. 20,000 litres in total, I believe. Grab before it’s gone.
Nose: Key lime pie. Peaty, earthy and smoky. Ash and mineral notes. Eucalyptus, in a Mint Leaves candy kinda way. Green Jolly Ranchers. I know this is built on 11 year old malt, but it noses older. Very much a fruity candy treat. With a medicinal edge, of course. Soft sugared dough. Dust, blood orange and tangerine. Latex and ‘old whisky aroma’ (what we’ll call ‘OWA’ from here on out).
Palate: A licorice, smoke and medicinal arrival. Again…wow. How does an 11 year old taste this mature?! Soft fruit meets sugar cookies. Lime zest, rubber. Slightly, slightly bitter. Ashy and oily as hell. Faint cardamom in soft chocolate.
Thoughts: The best Laphroaig I’ve had since the 25, I think. This one works for me on so many levels.
– Images & Words: Curt