While the core expression of Laphroaig’s whiskey lineup stands at a decade old, the new entry in the annual Càirdeas series is a testament to the fact that whisky aged for just a few years less than that can be very good too.
Càirdeas—Gaelic for “friendship”—is a special bottling for the Friends of Laphroaig, a group of superfans of this Islay distillery known for producing very smoky whisky. But the bottles in this series are available for anyone to purchase, although the price runs a bit higher than the 10-year-old. Laphroaig Càirdeas 2022 Warehouse 1 is this year’s bottling, and it’s a single malt aged for seven to eight years (a 50/50 mix) entirely in first-fill Maker’s Mark casks—a bit of brand synergy, since both are owned by Beam Suntory. Warehouse 1 is a 200-year-old building on the distillery grounds that is known for producing whisky infused with maritime notes of brine and ocean spray. This is all subjective and theoretical, of course, but squint your taste buds hard enough and you do detect a bit of salinity in this whisky.
The color of the new Càirdeas is lighter than usual, perhaps due to a few less years in barrels, but there is no dearth of of flavor to be found. The nose is all sweet vanilla and peach cobbler, along with some apricot and a bit of smoke, of course. The palate really opens up quite strongly with bright citrus notes of lemon, along with honey, black pepper, and once again that trademark smoke. Yes, this is a different whisky in many regards from the core expression, but taken in comparison based on age basis alone it’s very interesting to see that less time in a barrel can result in an equally good whisky, something any true whisky fan is acutely aware of.
Scotch whisky ages slower than Kentucky bourbon because the climate is cooler in the UK (present heatwave aside) with less fluctuations in temperature and humidity. But I’ve had excellent single malts aged just a few months above the legally required three years, and this whisky is more than twice that age. But again, it’s not just about years in a barrel, it’s about distillation and carefully monitored maturation. In a way, this is a much simpler whisky than past Càirdeas releases, given that there’s no flashy finish in quarter casks or port barrels, techniques which have also resulted in very fine whiskies. Also of note, this whisky is not bottled at cask strength, but a very respectable 52.2% ABV.
All that being said, there’s no need for special finishes, lengthy age statements or high proofs to make a good whisky. And if nothing else, a confident release like this just shows that the core elements, from mashing to maturation, are strong at this storied Islay distillery.
What Our Score Means
- 100: Worth trading your first born for
- 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
- 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram
- 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
- 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
- Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this