Laphroaig Cairdeas 2015 Feis Ile

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 51.5% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
Laphroaig will always have a special place in my heart for me. It is constantly fighting for a top spot with Ardbeg for my affections. And I think I’m finally ready to accept that Laphroaig consistently produces better whiskies than Ardbeg.

I am, therefore, officially announcing that Laphroaig is now my No. 1 whisky of choice. Sorry Ardbeg but you’ve let me down far too many times of late.

So it was quite symbolic that the first distillery I ever visited was this one when I traveled to Scotland last week to attend the Islay Festival. We went straight from the tiny airport to the distillery to take part in the festivities.

After standing in line for over an hour we managed to enter the shop and picked up our bottles of the 2015 Cairdeas. With those in the bag we managed to attend a couple of tastings while there.

One of them was called 2015 which included three expressions all released this year. There was the new 10 year old Cask Strength Batch 007, an unreleased 21 year old (delicious!) and of course this years’ Feis Ile release.

This years’ release is different from the others since it uses floor malted barley as opposed to regular malted barley. It’s been distilled using the small stills at the distillery which means it has a lot of fruity characteristics. And matured in first-fill bourbon barrels in the famous Warehouse No1 by the sea.

Distilled in August 2003 my sample is nearly 12 years old and bottled at 51.5% (the last two digits are a nod to the year by the way).

Nose: Typical Laphroaig. TCP. Iodine. Sea weed. There’s a hint of char. Some toasted barley. But then comes the sweetness. So much of it. Lots of fruity citrus. Pineapples. Lemon. Lime. Blood oranges. Tinge of honey. Vanilla. Quite nicely layered.

Palate: Hint of smoke. Touch of peat. Again very sweet. The pineapple is back. So is the vanilla. Warehouse No1 comes into play with all the saltiness. An interesting sweet and salty combination. I really like it.

Finish: Nice and long with a hint of oak.

Overall Comments: This is an interesting Laphroaig which goes back to the old ways of whisky making. The peat is different because of the floor malting. The maturation quite interesting thanks to living in the damp dunnage warehouse by the sea for almost 12 years. Good stuff!

Rating: 92

Laphroaig 15 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 43% | Colour: Muddy Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 85

Review
Laphroaig is my forever fighting with Ardbeg for a top spot in my heart. But Ardbeg has taken upon itself to disappoint me more often than not which means I instinctively take refuge in the arms of the other Islay giant.

After having checked my records I realized that Laphroaig is by far my highest reviewed distillery and I also own the most number of it’s bottles too. A little more than Ardbeg. Just goes to show how much I enjoy this ‘most richly flavoured of all Scotch whiskies’.

The 15 has had a bit of a bad rep. Before I tasted one (a few years ago) there were some who hated it, some who loved and some who were totally indifferent. I ended up being in the latter group. It didn’t exactly set my world on fire and I was happy to let it sit on my shelf for eternity.

Someone then gifted me a more recent bottling (2013) and I just had to see whether they’d made any inroads into improving it. This is after the whole hue and cry of it being discontinued and people throwing themselves off cliffs in grief.

Well, let me tell you something. I think something might have happened here. Five years after being discontinued in 2008 a fresh new spirit was introduced, complete with new label, which I suspect has some much older vintages in it than Laphroaig is letting on.

The result is a restrained sort of Laphroaig without the usual characteristics but which is certainly a step up from it’s older defunct sibling. My sample is from an almost new bottle and served at a weak-ish 43%

Nose: Quite fruity. Some apples. Some pears. All shrouded in delicate smoke. Quite green. Coriander. Some herbs. Garam masala. Mild lemon. Lime. Citrus. Hint of iodine. Coastal sea salt. Fishnets. Brine. I like the nose.

Palate: Hint of sweetness. Mild smoke. Nutmeg. Some citrus. More pineapple than lemon. A touch of char. Dry leaves. The nose does better.

Finish: Took a while to stick. Some smoke. Hint of spice.

Overall I think this is a decent whisky. I am not crazy about it but maybe because I expect huge flavors from Islay whiskies especially this distillery and this one decides it’s a good idea to hold back a touch.

I’m sure this decision garners it more fans. Good on them!

Rating: 85

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength Batch 006

Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch006
Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 58% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
Laphroaig, since 2009, have been churning out a cask strength version of their 10 year old every year. Each edition identifiable by the batch number.

I’ve pretty much enjoyed each and every one of these releases though Batch 003 is slightly ahead of the pack. This Cask Strength series is also one of the reasons why Laphroaig is on top of my Brilliant Distillery list. If there’s anything dependable in the world right now it’s that the next release in this series is going to be bloody good.

Just as this one is.

Bottled at a hefty 58% it is closer to the Laphroaig core flavors compared to the other batches. While the others were a touch restrained this one goes all out.

Nose: Immediate soot and ash. Dying embers on a smoldering barbecue that’s just seen a plateful of sausages. Cold cuts on the side. Faint seaweed and salty fishing nets bring out the maritime nature of the spirit. Earthy peat mixed with dried tea and cherry sweets. It’s a strong captivating nose. Darker and stormier than it’s predecessors.

Palate: Remarkably sweet. Figs and raisins. Then some citrus. Oranges, lemons and lime all covered in ash. Brewed black tea. Finally powerful white spices on peat. This is sexy jet fuel.

Finish: Insanely long. All I can think about is lemons. Lots of lemons. Spicy lemons.

So happy Laphroaig is taking the time out to put these spirits together. It makes being disappointed by Ardbeg that much easier.

Rating: 92

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

Laphroaig An Cuan Mor

Laphroaig AnCuanMor
Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | ABV: 48.7% | Region: Islay | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
Everyone’s into this whole travel retail BS. That’s where the big bucks are I suppose. Ignorant travelers with fat wallets who will buy anything that’s sitting on a well lit shelf. Usually surrounded by ill-informed staff who are hell bent on selling you what ever it is that makes them the most commission.

And it seems like most distilleries are quite happy to package their mediocre NAS spirit and sell it at a lovely profit. I won’t give you any examples – you know very well what I’m talking about.

So when Laphroaig decided to do a Travel Retail exclusive I was quite curious even though I’m not a fan of this marketing gimmick, as you must have guessed by now.

The PX was the first. Quite nice, I must admit. The QA was next. Quite dreadful, actually. Which left the third and final installment in this lineup wide open. Was it going to be worse than the QA or better than the PX?

Well, it was not only better than the PX it knocked it’s socks right off. This is a beautifully crafted spirit. Put together from some of the finest first-fill 18 year old bourbon barrels the spirit was then re-casked in European Oak for a period of time.

The result is an exquisitely textured malt which is quite delicious.

Nose: Quite sweet, mandarin sweet. Raisins and black currant. Followed by eucalyptus. The 18 year old maturity starts coming through next on the back of leather and peaty almonds. Finished off with a musky, iodine nutmeg. Lovely.

Palate: Subtle peat and smokey black pepper on chocolate burnt orange. All smeared on an oaky brown bread sandwich.

Finish: That all too familiar iodine with traces of chocolate.

This is by no means simply a marketing gimmick. This is the real deal.

Rating: 92

Lagavulin 12 (2012) vs Laphroaig CS 005

Laphroaig 10 Lagavulin 12

Review
I had been meaning to put two hard hitters against each other for a while now but never got around to doing it. But tonight I had the house all to my self and figured I had no excuses.

For this epic heads up battle I chose two of my favorite cask strength whiskies from Islay: The Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch 005 and the Lagavulin 12 – 2012.

Individually they both score very high on my scale but I had never had them side to side so I never really knew which one I liked better.

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Lagavulin 12 . 2012 / 56.1%

Nose: Peat butter. Smoke. Red apples. Sour (like tamarind). Lots of greens. Sharp acid like lemon citrus. Ash
Palate: Fiery peppers. Apricot. Pineapple sponge cake. Peat. Smoke. Fresh greens. Cucumber.
Finish: Long. Mint. Spice.

Nose: 22 | Palate: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90

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Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch 005 / 57.2%

Nose: Sweet. Honey. Jam. Maple. Cardboard. Red sweets. Coca Cola. Cherry licorice. Caramel. Hint of peat. Iodine.
Palate: Cherries. Black pepper. Bitter chocolate. Peat. All spice. Burnt jam. Oak.
Finish: Long. Spicy. Dark chocolate. Iodine.

Nose: 23 | Palate: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

__________

So here’s the verdict.

While the Lagavulin 12 is a quality dram the Laphroaig just manages to edge past in the nose and the overall balance of the dram. It is just that much more flavorful with hints of exotic.

The Lagavulin is raw power while the Laphroaig much easier to drink even though it’s at a higher ABV. And for me that tips the scales in it’s balance.

Definitely a very enjoyable match up!

Laphroaig Cask Strength 10 Year old – Batch 003

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
ABV: 55.3%
Colour: Young Sauternes

Nose: 24
Taste: 23
Finish: 23
Balance: 23

Review
This one is awesome!

No preamble, no build up. Straight up this Batch 3 of the Laphroaig Cask Strength series is a gem!

For those who know me know that I’m a little OCD so when I first bought the Batch 004 I instantly knew I had to collect the entire series. Good thing we were only up to Batch 005 up until that point. Of the lot the one I’m most glad to have acquired is this one.

Nose: That same elegant and poised peat that I’ve come to love from this series. But this time with a nutty almond surprise that blends in beautifully with a drop of cherries and red apple licorice. Give it time and it turns beautifully green. First some olives in brine, then green peas and edemame all against the backdrop of fresh oaky grass. Brilliant.

Palate: What a robust and creamy delivery! A lovely discourse of minty maple syrup and chocolate sprinkled artfully with black peppers and a touch of dusty red berries. I almost feel there is a cheeky sherry cask in here some where. I could be wrong but I would love to be right!

Finish: Lingers long and true with just the right amount of oak.

This is truly a masterclass in balance and elegance.

Rating: 93