Whisky Advocate

Review: Laphroaig Cairdeas

July 13th, 2011

Here’s another new Islay whisky release. It’s also a NAS whisky (No Age Statement.) This one tastes younger than Ardbeg Alligator, which I reviewed on Monday.

Laphroaig Cairdeas, 50.5%, $60

Distinctively pale in color. (A hint of its age?) This annual limited-edition release is finally available in the U.S. Youthful, vibrant, and thumping, with the sea flowing through its veins. Coal tar, peat smoke, brine, seaweed, bright fruit (pear, tangerine) and soft vanilla all compete for attention. The only thing holding me back from scoring it higher is that it comes across as a bit too youthful. — John Hansell

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84

45 Responses to “Review: Laphroaig Cairdeas”

  1. Derek says:

    I agree with you John. Being only 8yrs young, I thought it could have been a little more complex and smooth with a few added years. However, I enjoyed the hint of bourbon which made for an interesting and unique Laphroaig dram.

    See our review on it:

    • Royal says:

      I can only imagine how great a Cairdeas 10 or 12 year would taste, but at the same time I love the way this younger expression is refreshing and vibrant.

  2. Is this review to the latest Ileach edition? The image says Master edition, but I think that was last year’s…

  3. ps says:

    I really love this one. It’s much more to my liking than the 18 year I had the same evening.

  4. mongo says:

    john, i wonder if tasting it blind alongside some of its teen siblings might not have erased any possible <10yo bias in your mind. everything in your review, until the comment about age, suggested a higher score.

    as for the paleness, it's not any paler than some 14yo and 17yo cs ex-bourbon islays on my shelves. what the paleness is probably more a hint of is that unlike regular ob laphroaigs this one is not artificially coloured.

    • John Hansell says:

      Bottom line is that it tastes younger than I would like it to for me to rate it higher. It’s really that simple.

      • mongo says:

        what does that mean though? is it a flavour thing? a texture thing? a balance thing? is it something in addition to the flavours you described? i guess i don’t really have a clear referent for “youthful” or “tastes younger”.

        i tend to have a bias against younger whiskies too. but to my chagrin, when tasting them blind i can’t always find those things i hold against them when i *know* they’re young whiskies. not that i would put my palate/nose up against your experience.

    • Derek says:

      Mongo, funny thing you mention that. We actually did a blind tasting including the Cairdeas. It actually ranked very high compared to the others. However, as you said, we definitely don’t have the experience that John has…considering he has tasted thousands of expressions.

  5. Bob Siddoway says:

    Being younger, it may be better suited to the warmer summer weather as opposed to an older, heavier bottling. I am just hoping that we will get some here. The state’s liquor dispensary is slow to get products through and sometimes avoid limited edition bottlings, although their prices tend to be great. Sounds like something I would love to try, though.

  6. Rich says:

    How does this compare to the Master’s Edition? I had a bottle of the ME and loved it.

  7. Andre Girard says:

    Agree with John. Lack of complexity. It’s a Laphroaig without a doubt but less pleasant than usual expresssions. Would like to taste it with a slighter more higher strength – around 55%, to be able to compare it with the regular cask strength edition.

  8. David D says:

    Interesting. I liked this waaaay more than the Alligator.

    • John Hansell says:

      Both this whisky and Alligator are very polarizing whiskies and I expect people to be firmly on both sides of the fence here.

      • mongo says:

        i liked it more than the alligator too, but i don’t find either to be particularly polarizing. this cairdeas seems to me to be quintessential ex-bourbon laphroaig, and the fact that it is put together from very few carefully selected casks makes it, in my opinion, a purer expression of the laphroaig style than the older ob bottlings. everything i like in the regular 10 is here but more intense and with greater clarity.

        i would probably score the 2011 cairdeas a 87, and the alligator 85-86. both very good.

        • John Hansell says:

          polarizing involves more than one person. Of course, to you, it’s not polarizing. But if someone disagrees with you…

          • mongo says:

            i would think of something as polarizing if it evoked opposing “loved it”/”hated it” responses. probably a whisky with the words gaja barolo or tokaji on the label.

  9. Nash Patel says:

    I’ve tried the other Laphroaig, and I’m a great lover of them, can’t wait to try this one..

  10. David OG says:

    Heard this was a vatting of young and old malt (i.e. 18 yr+)? Is that wrong?

    • ps says:

      yes. it says 8 years old. all ex-maker’s mark casks.

    • The Bitter Fig says:

      There have been different Cairdeas in the past. The 2008 Feis one was quartercasks ~9yo and 17yo sherry butts, and there has been a 12yo ex-Maker’s Mark cask one in previous years, too.

  11. Ben says:

    I’m a confirmed Laphroiag drinker, albeit one with admittedly not-the-most sophisticated palate, but I actually enjoyed the recent Cairdeas quite a bit. I sampled it alongside the 10-year (the regular, not the cask strength) and the Quarter Cask, and to me it seemed rather complex — I suppose I would use Mr. Murray’s term “busy.” There seemed to be a lot going on. There has been criticism of this expression’s youth. When I think of a young Scotch, I think of a certain edge or harshness, but I didn’t find anything of that kind here. On the contrary, quite tasty, in my view. (Not that I’m tossing out my other Laphroaigs, mind!)

    • mongo says:

      there are a lot of people with a lot of malt experience who say islays are at their best young.

      i’m never sure how to value complexity myself. complexity in and of itself is not a virtue (nor, of course, is simplicity in and of itself a virtue): there are lots of complex things, not just whiskies, that are not as pleasurable as more direct/simple things (and vice versa), or that are equally pleasurable but in very different ways. consider, for example, the films of bergman and chaplin; or an epic molecular gastronomy dish vs. a simple oyster.

      with good whisky, both youth and age can have a lot going for them, and each can have pleasurable aspects the other lacks.

  12. bj reed says:

    I tasted the UK version a few years ago but do not have my notes – will have to wait to get my bottle from chicago before i can weigh in

  13. John Hansell says:

    One night I tried this whisky next to the Spring 2011 release of Kilchoman and I felt that the Kilchoman, at half the age or so, tasted as mature as this whisky, if not more mature.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      I like Cairdeas very much, John and don’t think it tastes immature– No harshness, butteriness, tequilaishness, or poorly integrated oak (Quarter cask). Kilchoman, which I also like, does taste immature (this comes across powerfully in the mezcal like notes amongst other things).

      I don’t like to rate but I probably would give Cairdeas low 90’s.

  14. Red_Arremer says:

    The whole range of younger regular Laphroaigs (10, 10 c/s, Quarter Cask) has too much Maker’s Mark oak influence.

    Cairdeas, with it’s more delicate bourbon oak influence struck me as much better exemplifying the things I’ve come to love about the distillery character.

    • mongo says:

      that’s odd considering this 2011 cairdeas is all from ex-maker’s mark barrels.

      • Red_Arremer says:

        I’m aware of that. Still, it is younger than the 10’s and doesn’t have the massive oak infusion they laid on the q/c– And I also sense that they chose casks which had turned out drier and less honey-vanilla syrupy than those bottlings. The sweetness is more delicate and gingery on Cairdeas and the body less sappy.

      • mongo says:

        red, see my reply to comment 8 on july 13. we’re essentially in agreement about what we like about this cairdeas. i guess i don’t know enough about what barrels laphroaig uses for all its expressions to put the difference with its older siblings down to less maker’s mark influence here. i’m content with putting it down to its being younger and vatted from only 8 barrels (thus resulting in less regression to the mean).

        • Red_Arremer says:

          It looks like we are in agreement, mongo. Out of interest– do you know what I mean specifically about some of the standard ob Laph’s getting a little too sweet and rich?

          • mongo says:

            the quarter cask, yes, but i haven’t seen it in the regular 10 as much: then again my stash of the 10s (slowly winding down) is from 3-4 years ago.

            you should get your hands on twe’s elements of islay lp1, if you can. also very young, and a real stunner.

          • Red_Arremer says:

            It’s hard for me to get a hold of twe stuff unfortunately– I live in Mass. in the US and buying liquor online and having it mailed to you is illegal. This is a constant source of regret.

    • Thomas W says:

      A very accurate assessment, Red.

  15. MaltMartyr says:

    I tried the Cairdea’s a while ago thanks to the generosity of . . . well, I had too many samples to arguably appreciate it, as much. However, I previously sampled and purchased a Whisky Trails single cask Laphroaig that was about the same age.

    The Laphroaig distillery expressions at that age are distinct. I appreciate it, but strangely have yet to open the similar WT Laphroaig purchased. The younger Laphroaigs are distinct and not as oily as the ten. Laphroaig, like Ardbeg, are very good even as new make, so I appreciate and understand John’s immaturity claim and score. That said, I think I’d bump Cairdeas up to at least 86 pts. based upon my memory. Alligator and Cairdeas both have distinct flavor profiles. This is what makes both of interest to me, rather than the scores.

  16. It does lack complexity, but I’m not always sure that that’s a bad thing. It would perhaps be more interesting if it were allowed to age a couple more years, but I do think it’s quite good as is.

  17. Stray Goose says:

    I live in an area that has dearth of whiskies. I’m looking forward to moving to an area that has a good selection. Laphroaig is my favorite.

  18. Gary says:

    This bottle is just coming into the British Columbia liquor stores and the website says the ABV is 57.5%, (50.5% per your review John). Different bottling?

  19. Peatreek says:

    I was one of the first in line at the Victoria, Foul Bay store for the premium spirit opening. I was fortunate enough to buy a bottle of the Laphroaig Cairdeas and an Ardbeg Alligator. My Cairdeas says 50.5% so I think there was a typo in the BCLD website. I’m very grateful that I had an opportunity to pick these up! Wish we could still get the Laphroaig 10 here!

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