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Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira Cask 2016

Average score from 2 reviews and 4 ratings 90

Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira Cask 2016

Product details

  • Brand: Laphroaig
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 51.6%

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Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira Cask 2016

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.

Tasting notes

  • 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.

Great review as always, I really enjoyed this one and thought it was a great follow up to the 2015 (which was my ATF), I've still got one bottle in the cave for a rainy day.

I totally hear you, the reviews were so mixed on this one with a real love it or hate it divide. I think hindsight is interesting as I'm sure some folks would likely have a different take on things today.

These can make you wish Laphroaig quit the fuckery and put out a dependable range rather than this game of musical chairs they've been on for a few years now.

@cricklewood Interesting comment. I received a large sample of this from @Fiddich1980 3 years ago and I've tasted it several times. It's not bad. One of these days I will get around to reviewing it. I don't have a bottle of this and I'm ok with that. I too preferred the 2015. Thanks to @paddockjudge I have a couple of those. Once I have depleted my open Laphroaig bottles that is one I would like to open. At this point, opening something new will have to be in a group setting.


I think the picture in this review sums up the perfect whisky drinking experience for me. Sitting outside the visitors centre at Laphroaig, overlooking the cold waters of the North Atlantic as they lazily washed over the grey rocks and, most importantly, two extra glasses for sharing my whisky.

The morning had dawned beautifully and we were all set to experience Laphroaig's rather popular tour, Water to Whisky. This is where they take you out to the distillery's water source, visit the peat bogs to cut some peat and then give you the opportunity to hand-fill a bottle down in the legendary Warehouse 1 from a cask of your choosing.

As everyone was prepping and getting their wellies in order I snuck three drams of their latest Cairdeas out for a quiet sip before heading out.

As my two other friends joined me we toasted to what turned out to be a an absolutely wonderful day of whisky drinking and exploring. But I will talk about that in a later post.

In the mean time we had in front of us a rather unusual Laphroaig. To the best of my knowledge this was the first time Laphroaig have experimented with a Madeira cask so, needless to say, everyone was quite excited.

This particular Cairdeas is a vatting of first-fill bourbons which have then been finished off in a Madeira hogshead. The result is a departure from the traditional Laphroaig flavours. My sample is from an open bottle and served at 51.6%

The sharp peat jumps out first. Quite spicy. A bit of oak. Becomes sweet and sour after a while. I don't know if I'm getting influenced by the label but there's red fruits in here too. Red berries. Raspberries. Liquorice. And finally that familiar Laphroaig iodine and seaweed that I was searching for. Dries with a touch of water. This is a good nose if you ask me. Just short of being fantastic but good in it's own right.

Hmmmmm. This is where the Laphroaig distillate comes through more. Well rounded and crisp. The oak is there and it's been dry-rubbed by those same red berries. The liquorice is back. And it's back with some dark chocolate. And, as with the nose, the seaweed and iodine make a last minute appearance. It's sweet and sour at the same time. Once again, like the nose, it does not blow my mind but I'm happy to drink it.

Smoky. Earthy. Hint of those red fruits again.

I love Laphroaig. In fact I love pretty much everything about them. Especially the tour and tasting guides who go out of their way to make you feel special. This new Cairdeas is a departure from the typical Laphroaig house style but I think it works even if it doesn't blow my socks off. I'm more than happy to drink this all evening. Preferably at the distillery's visitor centre.

@Victor Funny you should mention that. I found the 2016 a little similar to the Portwood but somehow did not mention it in my review. I guess that would be natural given that they're both fortified wines. I will have to have a HTH between the three to come back with anything conclusive. Give me a few days!

@maltactivist not for general sale in UK according to Laphroaig only available through ballot or distillery shop, although it has appeared online already but priced at £120 through the ballot it is £70. Got a feeling there might be a lot of ballot winners if the release is in the twenty thousand plus bottle range.

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