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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Laphroaig for my daughter: Laphroaig Cairdeas Port Wood Edition

Yes, after last week's Littlemills, Laphroaig is the other "L" distillery I'm drinking to celebrate my daughter's birth.  I'm going to dig into my Celebration-Only stash for the next two, but first: The Pink Laphroaig.


Distillery: Laphroaig
Product: Càirdeas Port Wood
Release Year: 2013
Owner: Beam Suntory
Type: Single Malt Report
Region: Islay
Age / Maturation: 8 years in ex-bourbon casks, then 14 months in former port pipes
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Probably not
Alcohol by Volume: 51.3%
Limited Release: ?????

With this year's annual Laphroaig Cairdeas due to drop soon, I also thought this would be a good time to review last year's edition.  I liked the 2012 "Origin" edition a lot, partially because it was relatively futz-free.  Then last July, our local Laphroaig rep, Brandon, brought the 2013 Cairdeas Port Wood to Peatin' Meetin'.  Between the port finish and the pink color, the whole package seemed a bit dubious to me, especially coming from a distillery that prides its regular malt on being the "most richly flavoured of all Scotch whiskies".  I requested a pour of the Quarter Cask to chase the Port Wood just in case.  But to my surprise Pink Laphroaig was actually pretty good.  In the following months, I had another handful of opportunities (via different bottles) to try it.  And while I still liked it, the whisky was different each time...

First time -- strawberry shortcake, fresh raspberries, hint of peat
Second time -- tart blackberries, more peat
Third time -- no berries and a ton of smoke
Fourth time -- very sour cherries and salt

This mutability is what kept me from doing a review.  But then, my good buddy Daniel donated a significant sample of this whisky to help further my research.  This allowed me to take notes on two different samples, one much more oxidized than the other, to see if I'd find two different whiskies.

The oxidized sample sat in a half-full sample bottle for one month.  Then, after I poured it into a Glencairn glass I let it air out for 30 minutes.  The non-oxidized sample was kept in a sample bottle filled to the brim, then I nosed and tasted it as soon as it was poured, covering it to keep the air out of it the best I could.

Thus, here are two sets of notes:

Oxidized sample:
Color -- Pinkish orange
Nose -- Young spirity Laphroaig, with an ethyl bite.  Dried peat, tar, and band-aids.  Then milk chocolate, roses, and raspberry jam.
Palate -- Very ashy. Sweet notes like agave nectar and gummy worms. Ripe cherries with a dark berry & tobacco syrup.
Finish -- The sweetness grows, as do some sour berries. Tangy gummy bears.

Nose -- The peat seems wetter, more mossy.  Potpurri-like perfume.  Caramel chews.  Berries in yogurt.
Palate -- Ash, sugar, citrus acid, tart out-of-season berries
Finish -- Sweeter again, jammy and ashy


Non-Oxidized sample:
Nose -- A whole bag of gummy worms.  Lots of fresh berries, and whiff of manure from underneath.  Maybe a blackberry and blueberry compote cooking in a pot.  Port and band-aids
Palate -- Very peppery and smoky.  Sugary peat and berry candies.  A berry syrup that's mostly sugar.
Finish -- Salty.  Ocean peat if that was a thing.  Hint of tangy citrus or berries, but mostly Laphroaig cigarettes.

Nose -- Farty overripe strawberries, sour milk, mentholated peat.  Potpurri perfume and creme de menthe.
Palate -- Honey & raspberries, hints of smoke.  Sweet and porty.
Finish -- Sugar, port, smoke, in that order.

Time for observations.  In both samples, the nose was at its best when neat.  In both samples, water sweetens up the palate.  The oxidized sample was ashy while the non-oxidized sample had more fresh smoke.  Overall, I liked the palate of the oxidized version more, but liked the nose on the non-oxidized sample better.

These samples were different enough that I'm thinking of splitting my remaining Port Wood into different bottles, and letting one oxidize.  This whisky is that schizophrenic.  While that fact can be disorienting if one is looking for consistency every time out, it can also be berry very entertaining if one is just seeking good experiences.  And in this case it only works because each reveal has been good.

In the past, Laphroaig has claimed to not have a Master Blender, but someone is blending up every winey release.  Whomever he or she or they are, I applaud them for concocting this whisky.  I tend to strongly dislike wine cask finishes and I doubted that Laphroaig would go well with anything other than more Laphroaig.  But this one works for me.

Availability - Happy Hunting!
Pricing - original US price range $55-$75, currently......whatever people will pay for it
Rating - 87