Islay

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017

Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory

Mmm… Laphroaig.  It’s one of those whiskies that divides the masses.  One either loves or hates the whisky’s trademark heavily peated character.  There generally isn’t an in-between.  In fact, the brand has embraced the public’s honest assessment of their whisky with their hilarious #OpinionsWelcome campaign.  Here’s the latest spot, entitled “A First for Friends.”

Every year, Laphroaig releases a different expression under their Cairdeas (gaelic for friendship) umbrella.  The 2017 edition is a cask strength version of Laphroaig Quarter Cask.  The 57.2% abv whisky started with a 5-year plus maturation in first-fill bourbon barrels, followed by a six month secondary maturation in quarter casks.  The resulting whisky features no added color and is not chill filtered.

The nose is full of that signature Laphroaig funky Islay peat, as well as vanilla and tropical fruit.  It’s a touch more closed off at cask strength, but opens up with a splash of water, which brings about more of the fruity notes.  On the palate, it’s slighlty less sweet than the standard Quarter Cask, but packed with flavor.  Toffee, brine, and tropical fruits, especially mangos, define the whisky as much as the whallop of ashy smoke in the background.  Some young oak and herbal notes appear on the backend.  The finish is long and complex, featuring notes of vanilla cream, spice and smoke.

At a reasonable price increase compared to the standard Quarter Cask, Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 ($80) is firing on all cylinders.  It’s younish for sure, but that allows for a larger peaty punch compared to older Laphroaig expressions.  Only 177 casks were emptied for this release, so those who want a bottle should act fast.  Recommended! 8.5/10

Laphroaig.com
Thanks to Beam Suntory for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Port Ellen 37-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky (2016) Review

Ah, the venerable Port Ellen.  The cult favorite, or at least among the whisky obsessed.  This 16th release of the infamous Islay whisky is also the oldest ever released.  Distilled in 1978, this bottling was drawn from refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts.  Since the distillery’s shutdown in 1983, we’ve seen a slow but steady trickle of Port Ellen hit the market.  But there is only so much left, which partially explains the $4,000 price tag.  

It took some time (and a few drops of water) for this cask strength whisky (55.2% abv) to open up. When it did, I was greeted by hints of apricot, seaweed, leather, tropical fruit concentrate, peat smoke and carmelized wood sugars. The palate is built on a foundation of sweet peat smoke, but it’s not heavy. Ethereally floating on top are hints of guava, lemon peel, old wood, and vanilla custard, as well as a touch of seaweed and leather (rancio?). The finish is long, leaving hints of light smoke and salted, slightly rotten tropical fruit.

Surprisingly lively for a 37 year old whisky. In fact, I’m the same age and it’s probably livelier than I am! Another spectacular bottling of Port Ellen.  Get this one while it’s still around. 9.5/10

Lagavulin 12-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky (2016) Review

Ah, Lagavulin 12-year-old.  One of my favorite Islay distilleries.  This 2016 edition marks its 14th appearance in Diageo’s Special Releases series.  It bottling has matured in refill American oak hogsheads for at least 12 years, and has been bottled at 57.7% abv.  Lagavulin 12 year retails for about $135.  The 2015 release of Lagavulin 12 year was big and powerful, and this one continues the trend.

This particular release finds lemon custard, freshly baked bread, and seaweed on the nose. Oh yeah, did I mention the signature Lagavulin campfire smoke? It’s here in spades. The palate closely follows the nose for the most part. The smoke builds as waves of toffee, vanilla pudding and lemon rind add a nice counterbalance. Hints of fresh basil and seaweed appear mid-palate. The finish is long and warming, with sweet smoke and oak spice. 

 A mighty Lagavulin! 8/10

Thanks to Diageo for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.