This is an abridged version of a blog entry I'm hoping to post tomorrow
Care-dee-ass? Car-deez? Is that Portuguese? According to Laphroaig's Distillery Manager John Campbell, it's pronounced "car-chiss". Cairdeas is Scots Gaelic for "friendship" and the name makes sense. Laphroaig offers a rewards program to its faithful customers, known as "Friends of Laphroaig". Aside from the square foot of land a FoL is "given", one of the main perks of membership in Friends of Laphroaig is a chance to buy unique Cairdeas bottlings before they go on sale to the general public. Sadly, the LCBO frowns upon anything fun or creative that offers any value or joy to any of its customers. These Cairdeas releases are hard to find on LCBO shelves outside of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), and are usually a year late if they arrive at all. Fortunately, if you have friends or family who travel abroad, there are still gems to be found. The 2016 edition of Laphroaig Cairdeas was "fully matured" (though no age is given, so make of that what you will) and then finished in Portuguese Madeira wine casks. How does this Portuguese wine influence the salty, tarry, smoky goodness of Laphroaig? Does it work as well as Seu Jorge singing "Life On Mars?" in Portuguese in a Bill Murray movie (The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou)? Seriously, if you haven't seen that movie, do it now.
- Nose (undiluted): very light and bright, red fruits popping before the classic Laphroaig maritime character (brine, iodine, peat and smoke) appears. The vanilla notes are present, but subdued.
- Palate (undiluted): gentle arrival, with a nice, oily mouthfeel, I wouldn’t have guessed this is 51.6% ABV. More red fruit; cherries, strawberries, red licorice (cherry nibs), giving way to rich tobacco smoke.
- Finish: medium length, more smoke, cream, strawberry jam, hazelnuts, and a bit of oak.
With water, the fruit is subdued on the nose and the vanilla comes forward with the classic Laphroaig maritime nose of a bonfire on a seaweed-filled beach. The flavour of the barley comes through a bit more with water as well; think toasted whole grain bread. The finish becomes creamier with water, but it's a trade-off as the fruit is less pronounced. This Laphroaig won’t be for every Laphroaigophile. It’s much fruitier than most of their offerings, but it works brilliantly. I prefer it without water.
Some people don't do well with change; they prefer the tried and true. This Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira Cask received mixed reviews, as did The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Keep in mind that the Wes Anderson film has become something of a cult classic in recent times, and it wouldn't surprise me to see the same thing happen with this Laphroaig bottling. It's complex, intriguing, and it just works for me, like listening to a stripped-down, Portuguese version of a classic David Bowie song. Very highly recommended.
Wow—you really liked this one!
I had a bottle when it was current and my enduring memory of it is just "sour." It was fine, but I didn't want a second one, and I was 100% OK with my club buddies guzzling it all down at Burns Night 2017.
@MadSingleMalt We often talk here of batch variation, but I wonder if this one is subject to bottle variation... I’ve read wildly varied reviews for this Laphroaig. Some of them left me wondering if I was tasting the same whisky. I got nothing sour in this bottle at all. It was a tad too fruity at first, but within a few weeks it settled into a lovely balance of sweet and peat.