For its always highly-anticipated limited edition Cairdeas release in 2018, Laphroaig turns to a familiar finishing treatment — the sherry barrel — with a big twist. Rather than utilize the usual oloroso barrels, or even Pedro Ximenez or amontillado casks, Laphroaig finishes this spirit in fino sherry casks. Fino is a very dry style of sherry, commonly served as an aperitif — and I don’t think to date that I’ve ever encountered it used to finish whiskey of any kind.
There’s no detail on the age of the spirit, but Laphroaig says it was “laid to rest in the distillery’s Warehouse 8 and 10 … and features a special double maturation of the liquid in first fill bourbon barrels, and then finished in fino sherry casks.”
It’s a pale expression of Laphroaig — the wine in the finishing barrel being even lighter in color than the original whisky — and its nose is redolent of dry sherry. That comprises perfumy dried florals, roasted nuts, and a heavy, dried cereal note — almost like a cracker at times. The palate continues the theme of dry sherry, offering some notes of pear and spiced nuts, but quickly taking a turn toward astringency that evokes menthol and Band-Aids, all filtered through Laphroaig’s signature smoky peat. The peat is lighter here than in many Laphroaig bottlings, and I will say that it integrates well with the delicacy of the fino sherry. But — while the finished product is plenty unique, it never manages to come across as exceptionally complex or all that earth-shaking.
Still, points for originality are due here.