Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 Cask Strength Quarter Cask

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 2.jpg

So with the newest Laphroaig Cairdeas being announced and coming out, as an Ontarian, it’s time for me to talk about last years, and how it hasn’t come out at the LCBO yet.

Which is a tad silly.

Each year, Laphroaig releases a Cairdeas (pronounced somewhere between gorgeous and car chase) as part of the major Feis Ile festival. Unlike the other releases on the island, this one seems to make the rounds more. Granted Ardbeg is catching up there.

So last year they released Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 Cask Strength Quarter Cask. Simple idea: Take the favourite Laphroaig Quarter Cask, find some barrels, and release them at cask strength. Seems like a recipe for good times.

A quarter cask, for the uninitiated, is a smaller cask then usually used. It’s a fourth of the size. Thus more wood contact, which ages the whisky (seemingly) quicker, though with downsides such as not being able to handle the longer period, and missing some of that interaction of complexity that comes with time, air, and the optimal mixture of oak.

Caught up? It’s pretty straightforward. An upgrade of a regular release, in that we have more alcohol and that allows us to explore parts that are washed away by water. Alright, let’s see how this tastes, shall we?

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 1.jpg

Price: Not yet available at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Cask Type: Ex-American oak quarter casks

Abv: 57.2%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/6

Nose: Dust/coal, cocoa, hay/manure, butter, peanut, pear/cherry, cinnamon

Initial nose is earth focused. Some sweetness adds to it and you get a mixture of cocoa and some farmyard.

I’ll be saying this over and over during this review, but at first, I was shocked there wasn’t more until I added water. Then it pops more, with subtle notes coming out at that point. It’s two different animals from one second to the next when it comes to water.

Taste: Chocolate, raisin, smoke, fig newton, brine, pear, cloves

Nice taste, though again it’s quite guarded and simpler than I expected. It’s chocolate and raisins. Simply.

Yet when I added water, this rich fig note, the brine I expect, and even some spice pop up. It’s really quite odd how little water amps this up as much as it does.

Finish: Pear, ash/coal, musty, blueberry, nutmeg, cinnamon, tea biscuit

Alright, let’s cut to the chase: Without water? Musty, short, and pear. Simple, finish is quite, meh. Sad face.

With water? Fruit, spice, dry toast aspect. The finish isn’t elongating, and thus needs viagra, like all of us after a few drams.

Conclusion: Benefits from water greatly. Quite a lot. Without water, this is a skip. Maybe beyond the standard release, for reasons beyond the limited availability and the price premium.

Yet when I added water to it? We have a fully amped up dram, with interesting takes on caramel and blueberry notes, with big spice.

Frankly, there’s an argument for what they currently make. And I think this isn’t just “the normal quarter cask at cask strength”. I think it’s the quarter casks that haven’t been working out. They didn’t follow the standard, and so they took them and made lemonade.

As a whisky divorced from that baggage (if even possible) it needs water and it’s tasty. Not my favourite Cairdeas release, however not a bad dram either. Just really, really needs water.

81/100

Scotch review #907, Islay review #239, Whisky Network review #1455

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