Laphroaig Càirdeas 2023 & SMWS 29.71 (Laphroaig)


Coming off our Rock'ndaal review, we're heading to the south of Islay and looking at this years Càirdeas release alongside an older SMWS single cask.

    Laphroaig Càirdeas 2023

    Region: Islay

    ABV: 52.3%

    Price: £89.00

    This year's Càirdeas release is a combination of Madeira and White Port casks. Three-quarters of the whisky was matured in second-fill Madeira casks, while the final quarter was finished in first-fill white port casks.

    Nose

    Ginger, honey, cream soda, lemon, and in the background there's some bonfire smoke. Giving it air reveals more white fruits, green apple, chopped pears, and melon. There's also some maple-glazed smoked bacon and pineapple juice. The sweeter notes are hiding the smoke somewhat, and while we can identify the white port, we're not really getting any Madeira.

    Palate

    Wet fresh soil, cloves, and brown sugar are initially present on the palate, with lots of fresh sea salt on the finish, along with a touch of raw chili and ash. There’s a dark chocolate bitterness here, along with some melon from the nose. It has a good mouthfeel, and the finish lasts for a considerable length. We’re getting a lot of earthy peat here, and in a blind tasting, we might have potentially pegged this as a committee release from Ardbeg.

    Nose (with water)

    On the reduced nose, we're getting more notes of pears, apples, and melons, along with some dolly mixtures (without the liquorice) and barley sugars. The smoke is still somewhat overshadowed by the sweetness.

    Palate (with water)

    The mouthfeel remains good even when reduced, possibly becoming more oily or syrupy. The spice has been brought into better balance, and it's now sweeter with hints of juniper. However, the trade-off is that some of the peatiness is diminished. It’s down to personal preference whether or not you reduce this.

    Conclusion

    A solid entry into the Càirdeas range, that beats out last year’s release, but falls a little short of the 2021 release. Just don’t go in expecting a typical Laphroaig release and you’ll find plenty to enjoy.

    Score: 7.5/10

    Value

    At £93 it’s not cheap, but it is in line with the Càirdeas pricing over the last few years and a bargain compared to some of the other Fèis Ìle releases.

    SMWS 29.71 (Laphroaig)

    Region: Islay

    ABV: 58.2%

    Price: £???

    As an older bottle from the SMWS there’s not much in the way of details on this one, but we can tell you that it was distilled October 1996 and bottled August 2008. If we had to guess we’d say it was a refill bourbon cask.

    Nose

    Initially on the nose we’re getting lemon juice, pineapple, mangoes, iodine, whipped cream, and tropical jawbreakers. A little time in the glass reveals strawberry jam, more peat smoke in the form of a log burning fire, sea salt and malt vinegar. It’s fruiter than we usually find Laphroaig, but we sometimes get that with these older bottles.

    Palate

    The sweetness from the nose carries through to the palate with slightly less peat than we were expecting. There's an alcohol bite, but it's well balanced. The sweeter notes linger on the palate far longer than the peat, which quickly turns to ash before disappearing. There are plenty of candied almonds here, along with vanilla syrup, coconut milk, marshmallows, and whipped cream. It has a good mouthfeel, and like the nose, this is tamer than we were expecting.

    Nose (with water)

    Reduced, we find a little less smoke, while the citrus notes are really accentuated. We can say that it's more medicinal now, with hints of cloves and aniseed, along with some pistachios, cream soda, Mr. Whippy Ice Cream, and a touch of caramel. The nose has handled a few drops well.

    Palate (with water)

    Like the nose, there's a little more citrus on the palate, along with Werther's Originals. We're also noticing the smoke more now. The mouthfeel remains good, but we're getting a hint of bitterness that wasn't there pre-dilution. Additionally, we're experiencing a little more spice now. Still, like the nose, a few drops don't hurt this.

    Conclusion

    It’s always interesting to try these older bottles to see how they stack up against more recent releases. In this case, we’re finding this different from more recent bottles, it’s sweeter, with much more fruits, but equally enjoyable as other young Laphroaig releases.

    Score: 7.5/10

    Value

    N/A - you’re only ever getting this on auction and not at a reasonable price for an 11 year old whisky.

    • 10 - Perfection. One in a million
    • 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
    • 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
    • 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
    • 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
    • 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
    • 4 - Below average. Passable.
    • 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
    • 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
    • 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.

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