It was tempting to review something very rare, and very special, to mark the occasion. But instead I've gone for something which is relatively easy to get (for the time being), still quite special, and priced quite reasonably. It was also released in 2014, so it seems quite fitting.
Laphroaig's Cairdeas ('friendship' in Gaelic, and pronounced 'car-chiss') range are released each year during 'Feis Ile', the annual Islay festival, both online for Friend's of Laphroaig, and at the distillery. The first release was back in 2008, but over the last couple of years, the Cairdeas releases have appeared in retail stores around the world. In Australia we haven't seen many, in fact I believe this is only the second (after 2012's 'Origins'). This 2014 release appeared suddenly, out of nowhere and without announcement, on the shelves of a major retailer. It can now also be found at a couple of smaller online stores, at a slightly lower price no less.
This release has been finished in Amontillado sherry casks, and although the bottle does not carry an age statement, it is believed to be aged around 9 years. It spent 8 of those years in first-fill bourbon casks, and around another year in the aforementioned Amontillado sherry casks. It was then bottled at 51.4%, although there is no mention on the label as to whether this was cask strength or not. Likewise there's no mention of chill filtration or added colouring, and while, since tasting it, I don't believe it to be highly chill filtered or coloured, we can't be sure.
Regardless, this is a young, sherry-finished Laphroaig bottled at higher-than-usual strength. Yes please.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014, NAS, 51.4%, Islay, Scotland.
Aged in first-fill bourbon casks for around 8 years, and finished in Amontillado sherry casks for around 1 year. No mention of chill filtration or added colouring, but if present, not extensive.
Colour: Bright yellow gold.
Nose: Oh yeah, concentrated essence of Laphroaig straight away. Intense peat, salt, fresh nikko / marker pen (that's new-and I dig it!), iodine, singed rubber erasers, and a slightly milky, caramel sweetness. Slightly nutty as well. Very nice.
Texture: Thick & weighty, slightly milky.
Taste: Nice big whack of peat, slightly sweet and medicinal peat. Some salt and more of that fresh marker pen (which I enjoy, but some may not). Charcoal and rubber. Assorted burnt things, slightly carbolic. Very burnt sugar/toffee that has stuck to the pan and won't budge. Quite well balanced and dynamic, very interesting.
Finish: A bit of chilli heat here, but pleasant and passes quickly. Peat is still there, with salted nuts (hard to pin down- walnut maybe?), a little smoke and wood embers. Medium-long, and delicious.
Score: 4 out of 5.
Notes: Quite a different laphroaig, with some very interesting notes to it. I like it, but I can see some people, even Laphroaig fans, not being that taken by it. Certainly night & day to the 15yo, although you'd expect that. The Amontillado sherry cask has given a result that is nothing like the Oloroso sherry finished Triple Wood, or the Pedro Ximinez finished PX.
The Cairdeas '14 is also very good value at the moment, at Nippy Sweetie Whiskies it's currently going for $160, which is downright cheap for a 50%+ Laphroaig with fancy cask finishing. On that note, I understand that Laphroaig will be doing away with the cask finished Cairdeas bottling's soon, and switching to a limited annual release of the 15yo. So get this one while you still can!
Laphroaig are also celebrating their 200th anniversary this year, along with Ardbeg, and are planning some very interesting releases to commemorate the occasion. Including the temporary return of the Laphroaig 15 Year Old, which should start appearing on shelves in June. Let's hope the 2015 Cairdeas, if there is one, makes it to Australia...