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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Laphroaig Cairdeas Origins 2012 Whisky Review!

Oh bugger, another Laphroaig Cairdeas to review. I'll just have to struggle through it I guess, just another sacrifice I have to make for you, my dear readers...

Ha, as if! Ticking this one off leaves three more on the list of Laphroaig's annual Cairdeas (pronounced "car-chiss") special releases that I haven't tried, the first release from 2008, the 2010 'Master's Edition', and the 2013 port finish. At first glance you might think this 2012 'Origins' release was just a random vatting of ex-bourbon casks, but oh how wrong you would be! What we have here is a special bottling that commemorated 18 years of the Friends of Laphroaig program, containing a mix of whisky from the casks used to create the original 2008 Cairdeas bottling, and some younger Laphroaig that was fully matured in 125-litre quarter casks. Remember that the regular Laphroaig Quarter Cask bottling is only finished in these smaller casks for an average of seven months, so Laphroaig that was fully matured in quarter casks is quite the rarity.

The original 2008 Cairdeas didn't carry an age statement, but that half of this 2012 Origins bottling is said to range from 13-21 years of age from both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, while the re-coopered ex-bourbon quarter cask-matured half is said to be 7 years of age. But remember that full-term maturation in those smaller casks will have had a different and more pronounced effect in that relatively short amount of time than a regular 200-litre barrel would have. So this whisky has had quite the complicated upbringing. Unlike the 2013 and 2016 (boo!), and of course the earlier releases, this 2012 release did actually make it to Australia officially, and seemed to be a slow seller, possibly because the very large retailer in question didn't make much fanfare when it appeared on their shelves, so most people probably didn't realise that it was available, or possibly because it took Australian Laphroaig fans a while to figure out what it was they were looking at! Whatever the reason was, it's now long gone.

This was also the year the distillery started bottling the Cairdeas at increasing strengths that corresponded to the year of release, so this one was bottled at 51.2%, the 2013 at 51.3%, 2014 at 51.4% etc. and there's no official word on whether this was cask strength or not, so I'm guessing it wasn't. This version does clearly state that it is non-chill filtered though, which is a great move. I could only find one source for the size of the release, which that source claimed to be 20,000 bottles, but that seems rather large to me, and I can't find any information to back it up, so take that with a grain of salt. Anyway, on to the tasting!
Laphroaig Cairdeas 'Origins' 2012, NAS, 51.2%. Islay, Scotland.
50/50 mix of 7 year old whisky fully matured (not finished) in quarter casks, and 13-21 year old vatting of casks from the first Cairdeas release in 2008. Non-chill filtered, likely natural colour.

Colour: Pale-ish yellow gold. I'm guessing natural.

Nose: Fresh, creamy & peaty. Creamy vanilla, strong fresh aniseed, recently cut grass, and fresh, warm peppery oak. Drying grapefruit and some candied lemon peel, and a damp, ashy peat tying it all together. A hint of something like a medicinal balm as well that's hard to pin down. Tiger balm maybe?

Texture: Lovely. Medium weight, creamy & peaty. Very slight heat, but not in an unpleasant way.

Taste: Lovely rich peat, a spicy & ashy peat now. Creamy vanilla again, and a little of Laphroaig's lighter side showing with a fruity and floral sweetness.

Finish: Medium length, more of that grapefruit, and the aniseed coming back with some extra spice and a little chilli now. Then the vanilla & peppery oak again, and the peat still lurking in the background the whole time.

Score: 3.5 out of 5.

Notes: Great stuff of course, as can always be expected from Laphroaig, and a nice mix of the different styles from the distillery as well, probably thanks to the different ages and different casks, so there's plenty going on. In the same vein though, the medicinal and coastal notes that most of us love in our Laphroaig are all but missing in this one, again probably due to the different ages and different casks that were used. So it's quite a different expression as well, edging towards the lighter side I'd say. Not that that's a bad thing of course, it's still a great quality Laphroaig with a very interesting recipe, which is what makes Cairdeas even more special.

So far, I'd have to say my personal favourite from the range that I've tried would be the 2009 12-year old, followed by the very special 2015 anniversary edition. But really you can't go wrong with any of the Cairdeas releases! Speaking of which, there are rumours and a prototype label of the 2017 version out there on the internet, and it looks to me like it's going to be awesome. If it's all true, it's been fully matured in quarter casks (again, not finished), and is bottled at cask strength. If anybody in Beam Suntory or no large Australian liquor retailer in particular is reading this, please bring it here, and please don't deprive us Laphroaig-loving Aussies of the chance to try it! Keep your fingers crossed folks.