...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Single Malt Report: Laphroaig Càirdeas 2015 (200th Anniversary)

Bitch session initiated.

So, there seems to be something weird going on with the distribution of Laphroaig's special releases this year.  While every state east of California received the new 15 year old in July and early August, the Golden State has yet to receive a single bottle.  Meanwhile, the new Càirdeas hit all those states east of us more than a month before California received it.  And while those bottles appeared to have been in decent supply elsewhere (with some Midwestern retailers still selling it), it seems as if barely a handful retailers in California received one case or less each.  Meanwhile (in California) the 2014 Càirdeas is still sitting on the shelves of a much higher count of retailers than those who received any of the 2015.  The 2013 edition took almost a year to sell out here as well.  So has the distributor redirected bottles elsewhere because they thought Càirdeas didn't sell well in California?  Or is there some sort of supply mixup?  I guess I'd lean towards the latter since the 15yo still hasn't arrived.

I have had the opportunity to try the new Càirdeas, though via bottles shipped to CA from two other states.  That seems weird.  I'd like to purchase a bottle of this whisky, but I guess I'll have to wait until Laphroaig gets their logistics issues straightened out.  Or I will never get to buy bottle and life will go on.

Bitch session concluded.

And now for the whisky...

Stolen from my Cairdeas 2012 post:
Since 2008, Laphroaig has been releasing a limited edition bottling in honor of their Friends of Laphroaig group (730,000 and growing), thus the "friendship" Càirdeas name.  The release has coincided with the annual swingin' Feis Ile, the Islay whisky and jazz festival.
This year's Càirdeas coincided with the distillery's 200th birthday.  The whisky is (unofficially) 11 years old, matured only in ex-bourbon barrels, and distilled in their older smaller stills.  What drew my interest in it, other than the ex-bourbon-barrel-only maturation, was that the spirit distilled entirely from Laphroaig's floor maltings.  The Laphroaig we're all used to drinking contains some malt from their floors, but because the distillery's needs easily outpace what they can malt onsite, they have to outsource most of their malted barley.  But this whisky only uses their own stuff and that sounded kind of cool to me.

Thanks to the OC Scotch Club and Florin for the samples!
Distillery: Laphroaig
Product line: Càirdeas
Release Year: 2015
Owner: Beam Suntory
Type: Single Malt
Region: Islay
Age: 11+ years
Maturation: ex-bourbon barrels
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Possibly
Alcohol by Volume: 51.5%
Limited Release: probably around 25,000 bottles

Its color is a yellow amber, lighter than the 10 year old.  The nose starts out grassy and herbal (especially anise).  It has a little bit of vanilla, but that doesn't stand a chance against the push of oysters/seashells and a dusty earthy peating.  It has an aromatic medicinality.  Okay that's a bullshit shorthand term.  More specifically, there are band-aids and brown sugar syrup, along with hints of lemon, cinnamon, and honeydew.  After a 30 minutes in the glass, it reveals doused bonfires (much like my beloved '90s Ardmores) and fruit scented Mr. Sketch markers.  The palate has some of the modern Laphroaig sweets and vanilla, but again that's overtaken by the biggest dirtiest peat blast of the current Laphroaig lineup.  It's a multi-layered peat; so beyond the big and dirty, there's some farm and green moss wrapped up in it.  And it makes me think of chimney bricks.  There's also a nice sharp slice of salt and bitter around the edges.  With time (30+ mins?) in the glass, the palate picks up some bold fresh ginger and cinnamon bark notes.  The finish has some sweets, but much more salt and smoke and moss and the aforementioned chimney bricks.  And suddenly when I think it's done, the whisky reveals the rare boomerang finish, coming back with a big Talisker-like pepper bite.

For the past two years, I had been losing confidence in the current Laphroaig releases, but this.  This.  This has restored some of my faith.  While the 15yo was very good, this is better than very good.  I like it better than anything else Laphroaig has bottled recently, and it's my favorite of the last four Càirdeases.

So how come?  Is it the barley or the stills?  Or maybe ~50%abv is a great spot for Laphroaig right now, as I noted in my attempts to rescue the lackluster Cask Strength Batch 005.  Or sometimes when enough barrels (allegedly 100 of 'em in this instance) are mixed together something excellent happens.

So what did I just go and do?  I bought a bottle from Minnesota.

Availability - Midwest US is your best shot (as of September 2015)
Pricing - $75-$90
Rating - 90