Laphroaig’s special-edition Cairdeas releases often fall back on wine casks — its 2013 Port cask release remains one of my favorite Islay whiskies ever — so this 2020 offering offers some familiar elements. It’s a marriage of fully matured second-fill Ruby Port barriques and ex-bourbon barrels, which is then finished in red wine casks. As usual, there’s no age statement on the bottle.
At first blush, the whisky doesn’t cut a hugely different character than more standard Laphroaig bottlings, with a heavy nose of brine and iodine. As with many a Laphroaig bottling, the maritime elements here are filtered through sweetness, with a brown sugar note that hints at a candylike fruitiness akin to Swedish Fish.
On the palate, Laphroaig 2020 drops it into gear and you really see where the wine barrel influence lies. Quite sweet, the flavors run from cotton candy to Hawaiian Punch, then move into fresher fruit notes of tangerine and ripe banana. It’s all filtered through a smoky, salty haze, but the overripe fruit notes manage to overpower it all. Sure enough, the finish is a bit haphazard, blending the saline and sweet elements fitfully — a peat bog filled with Jujyfruits. Perhaps it’s the red wine cask that’s pushed things just a bit too far into sugar town? It’s not my favorite Cairdeas, but it is something different… and worth a peek at least.
B+ / $100 / laphroaig.com