So there I am (pictured) minding my own business, when Laphroaig sends me an e-mail update regarding...Cáirdeas? Cáirdeas (pronounced Car-dess) is an ancient Gaelic word meaning friendship, goodwill or alliance.
The e-mail continued on that 300 cases of this extra special whisky have been arranged for sale in Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. As a Chicago resident, that's welcome news! As a big fan of various Laphroaig expressions, I was at Binny's the next day to pick-up my first bottle (well, technically our scotch dog courier Rocky [actually pictured above] picked it up but that's neither here nor there)...
The scotch: 8 yr, cask strength at 50.5% abv, light gold color, ~$60 750 ml
From John Campbell, Laphroaig Distillery Manager: "I wanted to create a single expression, but something rather different. After much careful sampling (tough job!) I found a fantastic set of Makers Mark ex-bourbon barrels that have been maturing in No.1 warehouse right by the sea for 8 years. The quality of the barrels was such that the spirit had the smoothness of a much older whisky yet had an extraordinary set of flavours that can sometimes get lost in older expressions. It goes without saying that the characteristic “peat punch” is there in spades, but balanced with a beautiful set of spices and fruits."
Nose: Heavy alcohol first fading into sharp, sweet peat. Floral bouquets and sugar cane.
Palate: At first a smooth yet mysterious bitey peat puts the primer coat on the palate. It's letting me know this multi-layered bottle of sweetness is settling in and going to stay awhile. Once adjusted after a few sips, the whisky continues to roll in like the glimmering Islay sea. Vibrant splashes of caramel, vanilla, and peat meet lightly burnt seaweed, charcoal, and bourbon mash. Adding a splash of water helps soften the whisky, blending the flavors nicely together. Also, helps bring down the spice level a couple of notches.
Finish: Medium-heavy thickness, with water a medium that begins to resemble the standard 10 yr feel (uncut). Importantly, this is where the Makers Mark bourbon taste really shines, and part of the reason I appreciate this one more with each tasty dram! For each sip the final curtain finishes like a glass of Makers with a lasting shot of spicy, burnt peat.
Final Thoughts: Stays true to the signature Laphroaig combo of huge peat with an enticing sweetness while adding in significant notes from Makers Mark. I would say similar (but undoubtedly inferior!) results might be achieved by blending Laphroaig Cask Strength/Makers Mark at 70/30, respectively. It's exciting to see a new addition to the Laphroaig family (if only a summer vacation in a few states). In the end, stays true for fans of Laphroaig and especially rewarding if you have the occasional taste for bourbon. Above average value for the price.
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