Laphroaig single malt whisky embodies the classic characteristics that one expects from a Scotch – peat and smoke and charcoal. While Scotch offers a far broader array of whiskies than many people imagine, Laphroaig takes those traditional qualities and revels in them.
In 2013 Laphroaig released the Càirdeas Port Wood Edition. This spirit was bottled in celebration of the Feis Ile festival that takes place on Islay, Scotland, the home of Laphroaig distillery. Càirdeas, which is Gaelic for ‘friendship’, is crafted by Laphroaig’s Master Distiller, John Campbell.
Each year the Càirdeas release is different than previous years. For 2013, the spirit is matured in bourbon and port casks. You’ll find the expected peat, smoke and charcoal flavors, but this year’s incarnation offers a unique fruit infusion that makes for something quite appealing.
When you open the Càirdeas Port Wood Edition you will immediately know that you’re in for something special. The aromas seem to jump out of the bottle – peat, smoke, rhubarb, vanilla.
On the pour, the Càirdeas comes out looking almost like a rose whine.
For the taste you’ll get an initial sweetness that graduates into a creamy, slightly oily, fullness. The port emerges – a gentle fruitiness mixed with salt and charcoal and peat. As you finish, the citrus and charcoal flavors linger, long and smokey.
Sometimes when we talk about a spirit we use the word ‘complex’ – probably too often. But complex is a perfect term for Càirdeas. It packs in the smoke and peatiness you’d expect from Laphroaig, but with a series of flavors and aromas that are a treat for Scotch drinkers.
Our tasters felt that Càirdeas was best served neat, but they all agreed that adding a splash of water (or an ice cube) was perfectly acceptable. It cut the peat and charcoal flavors – which can be quite intense.
Laphroaig isn’t afraid to flaunt its assets. People who don’t care for peaty Scotch should probably steer clear of the Càirdeas Port Wood Edition (or just steal a sip from a friend to give it a taste). But for those who like a complex and bold Scotch, Laphroaig Càirdeas Port Wood Edition is a clear winner.
The 2013 Càirdeas packs a punch – 51.3% ABV.
It should be noted that the Laphroaig Càirdeas Port Wood Edition is made for members of the Friends of Laphroaig (sign up on their website), and often sells out quickly. If you want to be alerted as to the availability of Càirdeas or other limited expressions, it’s a good idea to sign up for the brand’s club.
Laphroaig Càirdeas Port Wood Edition retails for about $75, but is often more expensive as it is hard to find.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.