Every year Laphroaig releases a limited edition whisky called Cairdeas (which is Gaelic for “friendship”). Each Cairdeas release is unique, as Laphroaig’s Distillery Manager, John Campbell, chooses to use a different cask finish or some other differentiator for each year’s edition.
The release of Cairdeas is something I look forward to every year, and this year has brought a Cairdeas release that is especially exciting for Laphroaig fans like me—the 2017 version, which just recently became available in the US, is a cask strength version (bottled at 57.2% ABV) of Laphroaig’s popular Quarter Cask.
I’m a big fan of Quarter Cask, which is normally bottled at 48% ABV. It’s my favorite bottle in Laphroaig’s standard lineup (since the wonderful 18 year was discontinued) and was one of the first whiskies I reviewed here on the Mule. I almost always have a bottle of it in my home. So when I first heard that this year’s Cairdeas would be a cask strength version, I was pretty excited and have been anxiously awaiting it’s coming.
Although this is a no age statement (NAS) whisky per the label, Laphroaig has stated elsewhere that this is a mixture of whiskies aged for 5-11 years in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels (Makers Mark barrels, to be specific), and then finished in quarter casks, which are smaller casks—about a quarter the size of a sherry butt, hence the name—also made from ex-bourbon wood. So that would make this a five-year-old whisky, just like the Octomore I reviewed earlier this week. I love Octomore, and I love the normal Quarter Cask. Will I also love the 2017 Cairdeas? Let’s find out.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 Review
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Medicinal peat smoke. Oak. Vanilla. Iodine. Ink. Rubber. Tar. Leather. Dark honey. A hint of cinnamon. Pretty typical Laphroaig nose.
Medicinal peat smoke. Oak. Vanilla. Light fruit medley. Agave syrup. Caramel sauce. Lemon candy. Fresh mint. Dark honey. Brown sugar. Muscadet wine. More of that rubber and tar from the nose, as well as hints of pencil shavings, but those rather odd sounding notes (which are fairly typical for Islay malts) are subtle and balanced out well by the sweet notes.
Mellow, fading peat smoke—less medicinal, more earthy. While the peat fades fairly quickly, other flavors linger for quite some time. Caramel syrup. Tropical fruit, especially banana and papaya. Tar. Motor oil. Lemongrass. Fresh mint leaves. Cinnamon. Sea salt. Dark, dry cocoa powder.
This is the regular Quarter Cask turned up a notch, not just in ABV, but in quality, complexity, and enjoyment. It has everything the normal version has and adds a bunch of other interesting notes, while removing any rough edges. I suspect that Laphroaig not only took Quarter Cask and bottled it at cask strength, but also selected higher quality casks to use for this bottling. The end result is a smorgasbord of peaty Islay deliciousness.
As I say with any cask strength whisky, this needs a few drops of water to open up the flavors (a statement that is now backed by science), particularly the fruit and other sweet notes. If you take your time with this dram, you will find plenty to like beyond just the typical Laphroaig peat smoke.
This is a terrific bottle of Laphroaig. If you are a fan of Quarter Cask, I think you’ll probably love the 2017 Cairdeas. I do. Go find yourself a bottle.
Buy Again? Yes.
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