Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood review
Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood 2019
Type & Region: Scotch, Scotland, UK
Composition: 100% malted barley
Price: $65-75 (750mL)
From the Laphroaig website:
“The unique expression is a special triple maturation, first matured in ex-bourbon barrels, then in quarter casks and finally in European oak casks which previously held oloroso sherry. It is then barrier filtered and bottled at cask strength to create a punchy dram with Laphroaig’s signature richness of flavour and smoky taste.”
Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood overview
For 2019, Laphroaig released their annual Cairdeas Scotch as the cask strength version of their existing Triple Wood. I haven’t had the standard release, so I don’t have any bias towards the Triple Wood in one way or another. The Cairdeas releases often experiment with different wood finishes, such as Madeira (2016), Quarter Cask (2017), and Fino (2018), but for 2019, Laphroaig did not only one, but two finishes. Laphroaig Triple Wood is first aged in ex-bourbon barrels as normal Laphroaigs are, then finished in quarter casks (smaller barrels), and finally in ex-Oloroso barrels. At its core though, Laphroaig Cairdeas is still cask strength Laphroaig, and oh boy do I love Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength.
Although it seems that I may be positively biased, it’s actually the opposite. The 10 year cask strength has already set a high bar, so I have high expectations for the Cairdeas Triple Wood. No matter what, every cask strength Laphroaig is going to be an intensely peaty, savory, and rich Scotch, definitely not for everyone. This is also the first Laphroaig Cairdeas I’ve ever had, so I’m excited and curious to find out what the extra finishing and limited release-nature add in this Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood review.
Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood smell
I’ll state the obvious first: Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood smells like Laphroaig. It’s very peaty and smoky up front: barbeque, mesquite smoked wood, ash, slightly dried Chinese medicine, a little garlic and onion, sweet barbeque rub, and smoked and dried chiles. There’s an underlying brown sugar sweetness and hints of apricot, date, and dark berries. That’s the sherry finish finding its way to the surface, but it’s still overshadowed by the intense peat. The oak is certainly there, but nothing outrageous or out of place, and the alcohol smells more tame than the 59% would indicate, a good sign of maturity. So far, this Laphroaig smells amazing: smoky, savory, spicy, and sweet.
Swirling makes the alcohol punch a little harder, and then turns into a sweet and smoky meatiness that gives way to some dark fruits. As my nose adjusts to the smoke, I start to smell more honey, dried apricots, raisins, dried berries, and vanilla that come and go, nicely completing the peat. The sherry influence is there, but it’s not as strong as it is in say Nikka From The Barrel, which has a lot less peat. Peat it still the dominant scent now with smoked wood, white pepper, and dried mushrooms, with the occasional floral citrus and underlying vanilla creaminess. As the liquid subsides in the glass, I start to smell more grapefruit and tropical fruits that gain their footing as the peat and alcohol taper.
Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood has an absolutely awesome nose. It’s not overpowering or one dimensional; it’s actually somewhat delicate and complex. I would have loved to get more Oloroso notes though.
Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood taste & aftertaste
Wow, Laphroaig Cairdeas packs a lot of brown sugar and honey sweetness with nearly as much charred oak, burnt meat ends, and smoke, but little sherry influence. That’s all immediately followed with heaping amounts of meaty and savory barbeque spices: cayenne pepper, black pepper, celery salt, and onion. The alcohol has quite a bite, the opposite of the nose, which lulled me into thinking it would be calm. It’s a lot to process all at once.
After “chewing”, I still taste a stream of smoke and spicy wood followed by honey, oak, barbeque spices (think mesquite, paprika, garlic, onion, pepper, and celery salt), and a little orange and vanilla. It’s crazy barbeque-y and savory, and if I recall correctly, spicier than Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength. Again, there isn’t much sherry influence, and in general it’s tough to pick out much of the fruit. Even with smaller sips I still struggle to pick out specific fruit notes. There’s predominately honey with hints of fruitiness, but the fruit is mostly washed over by peat and spice. The potent alcohol kick is still there, but not out of the ordinary for 59.5%, so prepare yourself.
Easing into the finish, I’m left with honey, oak, smoke, and chili spices with lingering smoky oak. The dried berries start to appear midway through the finish, but I’d love to have more. Post “chewing”, there’s brown sugar, a drop of dense orange extract and orange peel, with a lot of residual smoke, char, paprika, spice, mushrooms, and vegetation. The fruit tends to appear more in the finish than the palate. This Cairdeas has a barbeque-y and savory finish.
Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood is a crazy savory, smoky, delicious, and intense Scotch, but I wish that there were stronger fruit notes, something I’d expect from sherry finishing. Still, this tastes great, so buckle up for the ride.
Place on the Whiskey Shelf
Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood, without a doubt, is a powerful Scotch that has many of Laphroaig’s signature notes, but with its own character. Just like Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength, this year’s Cairdeas is incredibly smoky, savory, and charred in a mesquite barbeque kind of way, but takes it to another level with extra cayenne pepper, black pepper, celery salt, and onion mixed-in with the sweet honey and brown sugar flavors.
As much as I hate to say it, I’m a little disappointed in the sherry finish of the Cairdeas Triple Wood. I’ve had enough sherry-finished / aged Scotch to known what it can do, and it’s too subdued in the Laphroaig. Then again, it’s possible that they were going for just a little sherry. I was looking for a stronger infusion of dark fruits to liven-up the experience, but my expectations may not match their intentions. The nose is incredible though, with just enough sherry peeking out to remind me that it’s there, but generally lacking in the flavors to provide the additional layer of depth and intrigue that I hoped to get.
All that said, I greatly enjoyed Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood. It’s a cask strength Laphroaig through and through so it certainly won’t convert anyone who dislikes peat, but it’ll certainly satisfy peat lovers out there (including me). If you can find it at a reasonable price (let’s say under $80), I say buy it and try it for yourself.