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Monday, November 25, 2019

Laphroaig Càirdeas 2019 Triple Wood

In the days before Select, Four Oak, Brodir and their woody siblings, the Triple Wood expression was the caskiest of the official Laphroaigs. For those new to Triple Wood, here's how it goes: the distillery takes <10 year old bourbon cask Laphroaig, then gives it a series of brief finishes in small quarter casks, refill sherry butts and first fill sherry butts. The result is usually a very mellow and sugary thing with moderate peat.

I lost interest in Triple Wood, as I have with most of Laphroaig's recent output. Then they went ahead and intrigued me by releasing a cask strength version of the Triple for 2019's Càirdeas (an annual release that tends to be both good and well-priced). Because the regular 3W has a 48%abv, the Càirdeas release would have needed to be a real bruiser to set it apart. Sure enough, it has the second highest abv, 59.5%, of any official Laphroaig release.

My sample of Càirdeas 2019 — courtesy of Mr. MAO — was tried head-to-head with the other two Laphroaigs being reviewed this week...

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Age: ???, though probably less than 10 years
Maturation: bourbon casks (one) then quarter casks (two) and sherry casks (three)
Batch: 2019
Alcohol by Volume: 59.5%
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Probably

It has a bright bold nose. Flowers and chocolate, baby. Specifically very dark chocolate. Mint candy and peated peach Jolly Ranchers. Almond extract meets manure. No element overwhelms another. The very nutty palate has just the right amount of sweetness. Fresh ginger + lemon juice, and a seaweed-y umami note pumped up with Laphroaig 10yo CS power. It finishes with lemons surrounded by a very dense smoke, a sprinkle of cocoa in the background. It has a subtler sweetness and saltiness than the palate.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
It's become a very different whisky. I'm getting s'mores in front of a gorgeous bonfire, on the nose, complete with toasted marshmallows, milk chocolate and graham crackers. A little bit of toffee in there too. The palate has shifted to more of a dessert whisky, though a bitter smoke keeps it in balance. Brisk notes of limes and dried herbs, as well. The finish matches the palate, though the sweetness and bitterness mellows out.

Though nuanced whiskies are preferred in these here parts, this beast won my heart. The volume has been turned waaaay up on the casks, spirit, smoke, sweets, alcohol, the whole thing; and as result it appeals to the senses much more than the most recent batch of Laphroaig's 10yo Cask Strength. For a different take see MAO's review of the same whisky. His enthusiasm for the whisky is more muted than mine, though as he notes, this Càirdeas takes to dilution very well, probably improving it. I'm glad he shared his whisky with me. Whenever I go back to buying scotch bottles again, I will certainly consider buying one of these.

Availability - Available at many specialty retailers in the US
Pricing - $60 to $90 as of this post's date
Rating - 89