Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014
Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 51.4% | Color: Gold
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 93

Review
I have to admit the last year or so hasn’t been very good for my two favorite distilleries, Ardbeg and Laphroaig. Generally an honest, if not a tad overzealous, fan of anything to come out of these two Islay giants I had been having a hard time justifying my obsession.

Ardbeg has decided to continue disappointing us every year on June 2nd, Ardbeg Day. The Auriverdes being a very good, and latest, example of that.

Laphroaig, too, had a less than stellar year, in my opinion. Of the new releases the Cask Strength series are quite noteworthy. However, I wasn’t very taken with last years’ Cairdeas Edition – the 2013 Portwood. Quite weak and listless and representing just a shadow of the great flavors this distillery produces year after year.

This was followed by the QA which, in my opinion, is possibly one of the worst whiskies to be released to an unsuspecting public. This was followed by the Laphroaig Select which has, to put it mildly, been described as ‘tepid bum water’.

So you can imagine my growing sense of dread as I began to fear if I would ever taste anything sublime with the word ‘Laphroaig’ on it. Well, I should not have worried.

2014’s Feis Ile, the Amontillado finish, is quite possibly one of the best whiskies to come out of Laphroaig. Matured in first-fill bourbon casks and then finished for a year in Amontillado wine there is a complex brilliance to this spirit.

Nose: An immediate sprinkle of mild spices. Garam masala and cinnamon. Quite lemony too. The citrus is layered with that familiar iodine but there is a hint of spearmint too. A bit like iodex. A second wave brings strong black licorice and peat with a touch of cardboard. This is a beautifully balanced nose.

Palate: Subtle smoke and curry powder. Freshly baked biscuits with a lemon and butterscotch centre. But what I liked best was that truly unusual under-ripe savory plum. The creamy texture coats your palate beautifully and caresses your taste buds in layers. Scrumptious.

Finish: Clove and that dry licorice again with a touch of bitter oak.

This is an absolute corker of a whisky and has allayed any fears I might have had about the decline in quality of my Laphroaigs.

Rating: 93

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Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
ABV: 51.2%
Colour: Sunlight

Nose: 23
Taste: 23
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

Review
I quite like the Cairdeas series, frankly. They are unmistakably Laphroaig but add a tarty lemon sweetness to the whole proceedings and this particular Cairdeas boasts of similar flavors.

The nose is soft with restrained peat and iodine and a touch of sea salt. This is complemented with an interesting combination of red grapefruit, licorice and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar (I thinks that’s the sweet and salty).

The palate is similar in profile to the Cairdeas Master with a strong pinch of white pepper and cascading honey lemon. The delivery is extremely oily and flows easily over the palate.

The minty woody finish with a touch of aniseed is quite generous. Another nice malt from Laphroaig.

Rating: 90

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2013 Portwood

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
ABV: 51.3%
Colour: Young Sauternes

Nose: 22
Taste: 21
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

Review
This is an unusual Laphroaig and I suspect not a terribly successful one. And I mean that only because I hold Laphroaig to very lofty standards. I’m a huge fan of Laphroaig so don’t get me wrong.

Firstly it’s pink. Now I’m not fickle about color but pink is not what I associate with whisky. But let’s move on; it’s just a minor point.

The nose is interesting as it wrestles between it’s signature aromas and the new ones that the portwood is forcing on it. There’s the nice peat and the familiar meat stew that is quite Laphroaig. However, the iodine is missing and it’s replaced by pink melon, red grapefruit, guava and, as my brother pointed out, brown bread. It’s not bad but it can be a little confusing.

The palate is where I feel it does not deliver to it’s full potential. There is first the smoky barbeque with a pinch of turmeric. Then a hastily arranged basket of berries and red plums. It’s a muddle really but to be fair it’s not disastrous.

The medium finish has a touch of oaky mint and spice.

I suspect this one will have two camps. The ones who love it and the ones who hate it. And to court controversies from both I have decided to plant my self right in the middle.

Rating: 87

Laphroaig Cairdeas Masters Edition

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
ABV: 57.3%
Colour: Pale Straw

Nose: 23
Taste: 22
Finish: 22
Balance: 23

Review
The first time I had a chance to drink this 2010 Festival release from Laphroaig was with a bunch of friends. Quite fitting since Cairdeas is Gaelic for Friendship.

This is another un-Laphroaig-ian nose that I have encountered of late. Are they toning their spirits down? I hope not. I mean I love how this one smells. I just hope they don’t change their style completely and by that I mean the Quarter Cask, the 10 and the 18.

The nose is an instant drop of lovely cashew nuts and mixed dry fruits. Boiled lemon sweets dipped in malt, drizzled with delicate sugar syrup and sprayed with a lovely peaty mist. The nose is delicate yet assertive. Is it too delicate? Well, yes when compare to standard Laphroaigs. But that’s just me being too picky.

The smooth, oily palate comes tumbling with sugars and crushed lemon rind and melon drops. The late cardamom spices step in to remind you that this is not all child’s play. Not as complex as I would have liked but highly likable nonetheless.

The long finish is a bit chalky and dries towards the end but I quite like the dry spice and mocha coffee beans it brings along with it.

I think this is a wonderfully restrained dram. The only fault I would find is that it did not really let it’s hair out on the palate.

Would I drink this again?

Well, what do you think I’m drinking right now?

Rating: 90