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Friday, June 5, 2020

Laphroaig Càirdeas 2018 Fino Cask Finish

No rant today, just a list of the past eight Laphroaig Càirdeas releases and their ratings, because assigning a number grade to a liquid totally makes sense.

2012 Origin - 88 points
2013 Port Wood finish - 89 points (though I scored it 87 in my review)
2015 200th Anniversary - 91 points (though I scored it 90 in my review)
2018 Fino cask finish

Are the Càirdeai better than Laphroaig's standard range or are they just fun novelties? Yes. As novelties, they top Ardbeg's annual slog, partially because Càirdeas avoids the dopey marketing, partially because they're better thought out, and partially because they taste better. And, yeah, the Càirdeas experiments often result in better whiskies than Laphroaig usually offers. This streak may be ending or pausing this year, but that was yesterday's rant.

I tried the 2016 and 2018 side-by-side this weekend. You may find the 2016's results somewhere in yesterday's post. 😙 Here are my deep feelings about the 2018.

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Age: ???, though probably less than 10 years
Maturation: bourbon casks first, then a fino-seasoned-hogshead finish
Batch: 2018
Alcohol by Volume: 51.8%
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Probably
(from a bottle split)

The deeply earthy nose is anchored by lovely nutty notes — think almond extract, walnuts and black walnuts — followed by layers of charred fennel-laden sausage, dried apricots, moss and mango. The flamboyance-free palate leads with umami and nuts (mostly roasted almonds but also a hint of those black walnuts). Bits of roots, dried leaves and fresh oregano in the background. Leafy, earthy peat makes up much of the finish, along with smaller savory, salt, limes and plastic notes.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose holds almond extract, dried apricots, salty peat and soot. Though mostly herbal and mineral, the palate gains dimension with umami, lime juice and salty peat. The finish matches the palate, then adds Cracker Jack.

The great fino casks help deliver one of the best Càirdeas noses yet. Meanwhile, the whisky has possibly the most reserved palate of the above-mentioned eight bottlings. A bit of water stirs it up a little, though it's nice to have a peated whisky that doesn't scream in one's face. On the whole it's much better than I'd expected, something I'd considering buying a whole bottle of and in the running for the second best Càirdeas I've had. Probably the antithesis of the 2019 and 2020 Càirdeai.

Availability - Still around, here and there
Pricing - $75-$175
Rating - 89

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