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In my previous post, I reviewed the Macallan 15 Year Old Fine Oak, which I brought to Kingston with my friends Omar and Fab for our boy's weekend. We enjoyed it before we went out for dinner, beer and weird stoned strippers. But when we got back to the hotel (sans strippers), I cracked this puppy open!
If I had to choose a #1 favourite distillery, it would be Laphroaig, one of the most pungent, and divisive, of the Islay whiskies. It was founded in 1810, right next to Lagavulin, which has not made it easy for them given their neighbour's stature. They have also retained their own floor maltings, which supply about 1/5 of their needs (in other words, it's for tourists and marketing more than anything else).
One of their more successful marketing initiatives is their Friends of Laphroaig program, where you join an online community of fans, and get your own square foot of Islay land (ok sure). The 2012 Cairdeas Origin bottling commemorates 18 years of the program (Cairdeas is gaelic for "friendship"), and various Cairdeas expressions have been around for a few years. This particular one retains some of the whisky from the very first Cairdeas expression (which is now between 13 and 20 years old), and blended 50/50 with 7 year old spirit that has matured in quarter casks. It is non-chill filtered.
The colour is a pale golden yellow (which seems unique to this whisky). On the nose you get, of course, sweet peat smoke, but it's not overwhelming. Wet rain slicker, diesel exhaust, iodine (but not a lot), and some orange (yum!) Not as much of an Islay burst as you might think - there is some subtlety here. Is that a very slight hint of Parmesan cheese in the background, or am I nuts? A drop of water brings out some brine. Over time, the nose becomes more muted.
Off the top of the palate, you get some malt vinegar (which becomes stronger the longer the whisky sits in the glass), followed by enveloping smoke and white pepper. Salty as well, which water accentuates. With some barley sweetness as well, this is a fantastic flavour.
The finish is long and ashy, a slow gentle, slightly damp campfire in your chest. It has power but it holds it in check. This is a perfectly balanced dram, one of the great Laphroaigs in my opinion. I first tasted it at a Laphroaig event in Toronto but I am very glad I have a bottle so I can give this more attention! The wide variety of seemingly disparate flavours makes this an endlessly fascinating and entertaining dram. Omar and Fab loved it even more than that earlier Macallan, and it made the perfect end to a (slightly) debauched weekend - that is, until Fab woke me up with the loudest snoring (besides my ex-wife's) that I've ever heard.