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

A Couple of Burns Night Laphroaig Cocktails

Every January 25th, folks around the world (okay, mainly in Scotland) celebrate the great poet Robert Burns’ birthday with a big haggis and whisky dinner.  I’ve never had haggis, but would love to try it.  At this point it may be a goal for next year’s Burns Night.   This year, my celebration will be very small.  I’ll be making Scotch Eggs and the Ode To Whisky (Sour) cocktail (see below).

Our friends at Laphroaig shared a couple of cocktail ideas inspired by Burns Night.  In addition, they’ve also provided a neat infographic to help with your Burns Night planning.

Caitie McCabe Photography

Tam O’Shanter
By NYC mixologist Andrey Kalinin

1 1/2 parts Laphroaig® Select Scotch Whisky
1/2 part Drambuie® Liqueur
1 part Bordeaux Red Wine
3 dashes Orange Bitters
Orange Peel (for garnish)

1. Add all ingredients together in a mixing glass and stir.
2. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass (served up).
3. Garnish with a flamed orange twist.

All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Caitie McCabe Photography
Ode to Whisky [Sour]
By NYC mixologist Andrey Kalinin
2 parts Laphroaig® Select Scotch Whisky
3/4 part Lemon Juice
3/4 part Heather Honey Syrup
3 dashes Cardamom Bitters
1 Egg White
Fresh Cardamom (for garnish)

1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
2. Dry shake (if using egg white).
3. Add ice and shake vigorously.
4. Pour into a coupe or martini glass (served up).
5. Garnish with cardamom flakes.

All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


Laphroaig 30-Year-Old Single Malt (2016) Review 

My love for Laphroaig is no secret, but the levels of admiration vary between malts.  For instance, I thoroughly enjoy the new Laphroaig Lore with its sherried richness. On the other hand, Laphroaig Select comes across as a touch anemic for my tastes.  Its signature peaty character didnt shine through.

Does that mean I won’t like older Laphroaig expressions?  After all, and I’m painting in broad strokes here, the peat component tends to calm down the older a whisky becomes.  Not necessarily.  I generally find that well made whiskies full of character like Laphroaig age well, and their bold nature is refined as the years pass by.

This is certainly true of the 2016 bottling of Laphroaig 30 year, as you’ll read in my tasting notes below.  According to press material, this limited edition bottling had a “double maturation in first and second-fill ex-bourbon casks.”  It’s bottled at 53.5% abv and retails for $1000.  So, what does a 30-year-old, bourbon barrel-matured Laphroaig taste like?

A refined nose of vanilla creme brûlée overwhelms at first. Once it settles in the glass, wood spice and ripe mango emerge alongside hints of earthy mushroom, briny peat, and orange. A soft entry for such a high proof 30 year old whisky. Lots going on here: dark toffee, freshly grated ginger, orange, and vanilla hit the palate first, followed by seaweed, tobacco and a whisp of lingering peat smoke. Some oak-driven baking spices hit the back palate, as well as a touch of astringency. The finish is long and a little warm, with orange candy, herbs and old oak.

What a zinger of a whisky!  Definitely one of the more complex Islay whiskies I’ve come across, and a completely different beast than last year’s 32-year-old Laphroaig, which was matured exclusively in sherry casks.  Both are refined and delicious, but this 30-year-old lacks the overt dried fruit notes provided by sherry casks.  This is pure, spicy and sweet bourbon barrel maturation that really allows Laphroaig’s bold character to come through.  Though it’s not as lively as the slightly younger 25-year-old bottling also being offered this year, Laphroaig 30 year is the elegant, refined, and complex peated whisky I dream about.   9.5/10

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