Laphroaig Cairdeas 2022
Here we have the latest limited edition from the south Islay distillery, Laphroaig. Their annual releases are called “Cairdeas” which translates to “friendship” in Gaelic and are a perfect name for these special bottlings. Usually these are released at cask strength and have something unusual about them. Whether it’s special cask types used or different production methods, they are a standout every year from not just Laphroaig but from Islay whisky as a whole.
This year's release is simply titled “Warehouse 1” This is a nod to the warehouse adjacent to the shores that surround the island of Islay, which allows for a lot of interaction between the casks maturing inside this warehouse and the elements that daily interact with the famous white building. Sea spray, maritime winds, sometimes hot sun, rain, and the salty air that seems to just waft across this stretch of the easternmost Atlantic Ocean. I will honestly say that when I first heard what the name of this year’s Cairdeas was, my heart sank a little. I thought maybe they were going the way of another Islay distillery just up the road from Laphroaig, that has consistently released underwhelming, over-marketed, and uninspired limited editions. As reviews started coming in from overseas, my hopes grew and grew.
Matured exclusively in ex-Maker’s Mark bourbon casks
Aged their entire life in the famous Warehouse 1
In the Glass
Once poured, this dram is a pale yellow and very transparent. Thick and quick initial legs all the way around the glass after a slight swirl, followed by way skinnier and slower secondary legs. Leads me to think this may have a nice coating mouthfeel. The glass is about a foot away from my face as I type this and I can't help but smell the beautiful Laphroaig typical notes wafting over to my nose.
On the Nose
I can’t just say “Typical Laphroaig” as it truly wouldn't do this whisky justice. Yes, there are the slight iodine and maritime notes like most, but there is something just different about this one. As easy as it is to say typical, these notes are a little tamed down to say the CS 10 year or even the Quarter Cask bottles. They are joined by a bit sweeter than usual notes of a vanilla and buttery note. Like if someone drizzled vanilla flavoured butter on fresh homemade popcorn. There is a coolness to the nose on this one as well. Grassy and honeyed, citrus fruit peels all set on fire but not smokey, just smoked. At first i had to re-check the abv as this does not nose at all like a cask strength Laphroaig. It's making me very curious to dive into this and sip on it.
Taking a Sip
Wow, as soon as it hits the tongue, you know it's something different and unique. The initial sip hits with a bit of sweetness I've never experienced from any laphroaig and that includes ones with sherry casking. The sweetness is honey and vanilla over strawberries and cream but then transfers quickly into salt. Salty brine and herbaceous. I get ginger and a touch of salted caramel while also experiencing a very very slight tingle on the tongue and cheeks. A bit of lemon tinged tannins show up and then finally the smoke comes through and lasts through the finish along with the salted citrus note which could be a bit of the younger casks showing through to the end. I immediately take a second sip to see if it all comes through again. It does, but I am struck by how creamy and refined the palate is. Its more refined than much older versions i have tasted like the 16 year. This is much more than the 16 year ever could be.
This not only beat my expectations, it blew them out of the water. This is Laphroaig at its most complex yet not at all disjointed self. I can’t stop thinking that it is elegant. It's Laphroaig dressed up and ready to go to the Ball with its Cinderella. If you are the lucky Cinderella then you are envy inducing i must say. This is such a nice side of Laphroaig that contrasts the bombastic norm that comes from the distillery. Another great Cairdeas release to stand tall next to the previous few that I have loved.