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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Single Malt Report: Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin (2012)

Càirdeas means friendship in Gaelic.  Folks can agree on that.  But I've haven't yet heard an agreement on the pronunciation.  Is it Keer-dass or Kar-chiss?  I vote for the former as it sounds nicer to hear and feels more pleasant to say.

Since 2008, Laphroaig has been releasing a limited edition bottling in honor of their Friends of Laphroaig group (543,000 and growing), thus the "friendship" Càirdeas name.  The release has coincided with the annual swingin' Feis Ile, the Islay whisky and jazz festival.  While most of the Islay distilleries squeeze out a special edition whisky in honor of the festival, very few make these whiskies available outside of the fest.  Many thank yous to Laphroaig (and Ardbeg) for allowing the rest of us to get our hands on these goodies this past year.

As can now be expected in this whisky market, all the Feis Ile whiskys instantly become collector's items.  Buyers become sellers, flipping their purchase on the secondary market for a considerable margin.  It leaves me wondering if anyone drinks that rare(-ish) booze.  The Ardbeg Day and Laphroaig Càirdeas Origin are at least more prevalent, maybe some of y'all are drinking yours?

I first tried the Càirdeas Origin at the epic Laphroaig vertical this past December.  It was certainly one of the better drams out of that grand lineup.  With the hands of a thief and the mind of a cheapskate I was able to steal away with a 0.7 fl oz sample of this whisky.  A couple months later, in the quiet of my home I gave the Càirdeas another try.

Distillery: Laphroaig
Product: Càirdeas Origin
Release Year: 2012
Owner: Beam, Inc.
Type: Single Malt Report
Region: Islay
Age / Maturation: (50/50) 7 year old in quarter casks, mixed with 13-21 year old from refill ex-bourbon barrels
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Possibly
Alcohol by Volume: 51.2%
Limited Release: 20,000 worldwide (3,000 U.S.)

Per the bottle: "This whisky celebrates 18 years of our Friends of Laphroaig programme. The 2012 bottling combines some of the original liquid used to first create Càirdeas, further matured and complimented with newer Laphroaig spirit that has been fully matured in quarter casks."

Its color is a take on the classic Laphroaig straw.  The nose starts with a vegetable peat, then some of that quarter cask oak follows.  White and balsamic vinegars take turns.  There's some candied orange peel, oatmeal, and cooked mushrooms.  The peat in the palate is drier, smokier.  There's a very pleasant savory note, along with hay, lemon juice, subtle vanilla, lightly sugared sweetness, and a little salt.  Much more spirit than oak.  More savoriness in the finish, like mushrooms but better!  A little confectioner's sugar is chased by a slight bitterness.  But it's the cinders (very Kilchoman-ish) that last the longest.

And per my post-Laphroaig-vertical haikus:

Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin
Keer-dass or Kar-chiss?
Either way, a lovely thing
Cairdeas means friendship

Vanilla choc'late
Salty nutty peaty moss
Handshake and a hug

It's a little different than most of the official Laphroaigs.  Less underlying sweetness, fewer band-aids, more earthy and savory......which is where those mushroom notes come into play......which is weird because I normally don't like mushrooms.  But I do like this sharp, salty, and dry malt.  So, using the vertical tasting and this sample tasting as a guide, I bought a bottle of my own.

Sadly, this one is getting very difficult to find.  There are some on the East Coast, but not many are left here in California.  I don't think there are any whisky bars serving this up, so this may have to be a blind buy for some folks.  The question is, are you going to save it or drink it?  I'll be drinking mine next autumn, with friends.

Availability - Happy Hunting!
Pricing - original US price range $60-$75, currently $60-$150
Rating - 88