For 2022, Laphroaig’s special-edition Cairdeas release eschews fancy finishes and sticks with the tried and true. This release has been exclusively matured in ex-bourbon casks (from Maker’s Mark) and aged in Laphroaig’s Warehouse 1, a historic and iconic building that has stood on Laphroaig’s property for close to 200 years.
And that’s the gist. This is a straight bottling of no-age-statement Laphroaig that should come across as imminently familiar to any fan of the distillery. Or does it? Let’s dive in.
At 52.5% abv, it’s hot stuff, with a classic, iodine-rich nose that reeks of peat in the best possible way. Burning rubber notes meld nicely with hints of camphor and, deep down, a punch of well-roasted malt. Smoky and briny in equal proportions, though the former ultimately comes to dominate. On the palate, a huge rush of menthol cough drops and more camphor hit immediately — bolstered by the overproof nature of the spirit. There’s a brown sugar sweetness, iconic to Laphroaig, that emerges in short order, tempering the minty menthol, at least for a time. It doesn’t last. As the finish builds the whisky falls back on its herbal, medicinal backbone, impregnated with sea spray and beach bonfire smoke before concluding with a touch of chicory and a pinch of well-toasted Eastern spices. It’s the first real glimpse of complexity in what emerges as an otherwise classic Islay drinking experience, just as expected, that grip of ash and tar clinging heavy to the tongue for what feels like ages.
It may not raise the bar on your expectations of what this distillery can do, but Laphroaig fans will undoubtedly lap it up.