Laphroaig Cairdeas 200th Anniversary 2015 Review

Laphroaig Cairdeas 200th Anniversary 2015120

51.5% abv

Score:  92/100


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

31 thoughts on “Laphroaig Cairdeas 200th Anniversary 2015 Review

  1. Robert

    This one is on par with the Lagavulin 2011, which was a “nirvana” whisky for me. It has even improved a bit with air time! I’m amazed by the palate, and especially the finish. Hugely better than last years bottling. I’m glad to see the review, as this is an NAS (actually apparently an 11 YO) that is definitely worth the money.

  2. Cameron

    Great to see this review, Curt, as I’ve been massively enjoying the bottle I got at the nut-SAQ for a reasonable $100. Didn’t know it had an unstated age associated with it, which I guess is a lesser evil than straight NAS(?)!. This bottling is further proof to me that straight bourbon-barrel aging is truly the best way to present Islay whisky.

    Also, Happy 2016!

        1. Chris 1

          The Laimrig and the 2015 Cairdeas are two completely different animals, but I would be hard pressed to choose between them. Both superb.

          1. Collegiate

            Agreed. Tough to compare these two great, though considerably different, malts. I would have to choose the Cairdeas by a small margin. Much agreed with Curt’s review. Loved the Cairdeas so much that I ended up getting 4 bottles. Best Laphroaig I ever had and here in Ontario a mere $19 more than the 10 yo, making it a complete no brainer to stock up on it!

        2. Cameron

          Unfortunately I haven’t had the pleasure of trying Laimrig, but I preferred the Bowmore Tempest VI over Devil’s Casks II recently. Also prefer bourbon barrel aged Kilchomans over the wine/sherry finished single casks or Loch Gorm. Same sentiment generally applies to SMWS bottlings I try. That said, Lagavulin does a great job with Sherry Casks

          1. ATW Post author

            Hey, Cam. Good to hear from you, mate. How’s life out East? Happy New Year, by the way.

            I’m with you. Definitely lean toward a well-matured malt in clean bourbon barrels.

            Back in town anytime soon?


          2. Cameron

            Hey Curt – life out east is pretty good. I’ve slowed down on the whisky purchasing (and drinking) now that I don’t have access to Calgary selection/prices and KWM tastings, however this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the time being! Montreal is a great city, with lots of other vices.

            I’ll be out at the end of Feb into early March. Maybe we can grab a dram

  3. Devin

    Tried this alongside a dram of Auriverdes tonight. Was a great eye opener on a couple levels. both bottles are about half empty, opened close to the same time.

    This was so much more balanced, and as you noted mature against what I was surprised to find a rash, beast of an Ardbeg. Still mature beyond it’s years, but I didn’t remember Auriverdes to be so just….BOOMY.

    Similar peat and smoke profiles, but worlds apart otherwise. Biggest difference was just how apparent the sherry influence was in the ardbeg. Fresh green fruit in the Cairdeas and dry reds in the Ardbeg.

    Also, this was the first time that I got hit with bacon in Ardbeg like so many others have noted. I noticed it along the way with the help of other people mentioning it, but it never jumped out at me like it did tonight.

  4. David

    Lagavulin 12 (any year) is usually my go to Islay whisky although I love Laimrig as well, I purchased one bottle of the Cairdeas, liked it so much I bought 12 more while it was still available. A steal at $100.00

    1. David

      12? I know who I want to be in the future. I only picked up one bottle, actually procured by a friend who also gave me a sample so I can try it without opening the bottle. $100 is good value likely (I haven’t tried mine), but $1200 is a lot to shell out at once for me…

      1. David

        Needless to say, my whisky budget is blown for quite some time. I have enough variety in the bunker to last a few years now.

        Hopefully the whisky bubble will have burst by the time I run out.

    2. Skeptic

      Doh! For a second I thought you were holding out on me… wrong David. Darn. Hay David, wanna be friends too?

  5. David

    Just to emphasize what great value the Cardeas is/was at $100.00, the Laphroaig 15 Year Old has been listed in Ontario at $184.95, ludicrous.

  6. Devin

    Curt, you mentioned you tasted the Cairdeas alongside 3 different 25 year olds…Any chance you will post thoughts on those bad boys? I have a 2012 and a 2013 that I simply can’t bring myself to open until I get the right opportunity with the right people.. I’d love to know what I’ve got to look forward to.

    1. ATW Post author

      Hm. Probably not. Unless circumstances change. I tried those at a formal event with 25-30 other folks. Not ideal tasting conditions…but perfect drinking conditions. 🙂 I never take notes in those scenarios. We tried the 2013 and 2014 releases alongside one of the sexy old 2009s. The ’09 took top spot, but I honestly can’t recall whether I preferred the ’13 or ’14 (I think it may have been the ’13).

      What you’ve got to look forward to? Some great whiskies with good friends. Let us know when you do pop the cork.

    2. Chris 1

      The 2014 got pretty luke warm reviews. I agree with Curt, the 2015 is killer.

      I see the new version of the 15 year old is not exactly getting rave reviews, and it’s priced way high, almost as much as the 18 and only 43% ABV. Have you tried it Curt?

      And, oh yeah: “Ziggy played guitar….” RIP David Bowie.

      1. Chris 1

        I see now that you did review the 15 YO back in 2013 and gave it 91.5 pts. Could it be that the current batch is not p to the same standard?

        1. ATW Post author

          Hey Chris 1.

          The old 15 was a real treat. Hoping to try the new one this eve at the MS Festival. I have a couple bottles, but not opened as of yet.

          Tonight won’t be a situation in which I can give you any notes (or even a very accurate gauge), but hopefully I can try it early enough in the evening to say whether or not I liked it. More to come.

  7. Robert

    Yeah, I picked another of these and the new 15 also. $71 and $70, + tax, so both were reasonable. The 15 is quite different from the 10, CS, QC etc, but is a really pleasant dram. I’d like both to stay around, but the 2015 Cairdeas is more impressive, and only a $1 more. At $71 I need to stock up, but there are too many good bottles out there now. Just not Maclellan Lowland!

  8. Robert

    Last two evenings I’ve had an ounce of ECBP that I slowly enjoyed for over an hour, followed by a dram of this Cairdeas. Both are fantastic whiskies at reasonable prices. Both have similar ages (12 YO and 11+YO) and high strengths (69.7% and 51.5%). But for some reason the Cairdeas enters the ethereal realm when it follows the BP. The smells and flavors become enhanced. If you get a chance, try this and see if I’m just crazy.

      1. Robert

        I take a long time to actually drink the ECBP, as I love just nosing it. I also slowly add small amounts of water till it’s down to about 35%(which takes a while!), which is my preferred drinking strength. Then I have some spring water to clear my palate and go through the same process with the 2015. I think it works well since this Cairdeas is bourbon aged (Laphroaig apparently uses Maker’s Mark barrels).

  9. kallaskander

    Hi there,

    this is about the new Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira. Even if I never had one of the Cairdeas bottlings I found the lyrics to this bottling… well strange.

    I am not sure if it is the bottler or the author of the feature but it reads:

    “Cairdeas Madeira features fully matured Laphroaig that is aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being artfully married together for a second maturation in Madeira seasoned traditional casks.”

    and goes on talking about “friendship distilled” and so on carefully avoiding to say anything about the actual age.

    Now I do not want to go Jeff-y here but come on, shouldn’t there be no secrets among friends ? Should not friends know things about each othe such as when they were born and how old they are? Things like that?

    ” Laphroaig encourages fans across the world to share their own opinion of its expressions at or on social media with the hashtag #OpinionsWelcome.”

    I am thinking to join twitter, yet. And furthermore I do think that the fundamental stance Jeff is taking towards NAS whiskies is not so wrong at all.


    PS Sorry for being off topic in a strict sene.

  10. browntown

    Quite possibly my favorite Laphroaig to date. Have not tried many of the older ones, but wow, this one is close to perfection.


Leave a Reply to Robert Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s