Updated October 15, 2015
By Father John Rayls
I always feel a little awkward trying to write anything about Scotch. As an avowed Bourbon and Rye drinker, I feel I have really only dabbled with Japanese, Irish and Scotch whiskies.
However, a very good friend of mine claimed Laphroaig as his absolute favorite Scotch, and strongly recommended it to me. While I was considering buying some, I ran across a blurb on Laphroaig Cairdeas. It looked interesting and I tracked down a bottle of the 2015.
It’s bottled at 51.5% abv (102 proof), with the last two numbers meant to match the year it is bottled. It’s Laphroaig’s 200th anniversary edition, and that is a very impressive number. “Cairdeas” comes from the Gaelic language and literally means “friendship”. Floor-malted barley was used to make the whisky in 2003, which was then aged in first-fill bourbon barrels.
To me, Scotch often has a tendency to look somewhat medicinal in the bottle, and this expression is no different. Cairdeas 2015 has a dark yellow coloring with some orange and brown giving it a very light brown appearance over all. The legs are long, but this scotch appears to be a little on the thin side.
Matching up with its medicinal appearance is the ever present pharmaceutical aroma I always expect with a peated scotch. I can’t say that it wasn’t there with the Cairdeas, but it wasn’t as overpowering as I’ve come to expect. It was present in the form of a light peat smoke and a light oak smoke combined with a light vanilla sweetness. All of this came together with some soft fresh fruit aromas, as well. This interesting combination had me sampling the aromas all evening.
The appearance and the nose did not mislead me in my expectations. However, the taste was well above what I expected. I certainly would not describe the flavor as subtle, and yet it is a quiet, complex, not in your face scotch.
On the tongue, you can taste the light smokiness, oak and a caramel flavor undergirding it all. Somehow it’s a salty caramel and I love salty caramel like cashews on a caramel apple. However, there’s much more “there” there. It is an 102 proof, and it’s much smoother in its delivery that that strength suggests. It comes across as a creamy feel/taste, and draws you in for another taste. The alcohol lingers with the flavors reverberating around the mouth for some time. There is a slight flush of light heat as you swallow, but it’s not a burn. This is a whisky I could definitely get used to having around on a regular basis.
Addendum By Richard Thomas
In the glass, the Laphroaig 2015 Cairdeas had the coloring of pale straw, a standard Scotch coloring. The scent was of damp old wood and oily smoke, reminiscent of my time in backcountry camping shelters, sitting before a small, sputtering campfire and trying to stay warm on a drizzly night.
The liquid has a buttery texture on the palate, but only a light flavor to go with it. The wood turns dry and comes first, followed hard by the smoke, and finally taking a spicy sweet turn. That spicy sweetness lingers on, carrying a slow, building warmth in the finish.
I’ve seen the prices advertised for a bottle of the 2015 Laphroaig Cairdeas literally all over the map, from £65 to £135. However in San Antonio, Texas, I managed to get a bottle from my regular supplier for $65.00. I would certainly recommend this Scotch at that low American price, and encourage you to shop around.
As a limited release, some shops may hold out for those with a bigger budget. However, you will be rewarded for your time invested. Slainte!