Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the many ways to enjoy peated scotch, a style often relegated to cold weather sipping, during the summer months. On its own or in a cocktail, the fact is that smoky single malts taste pretty good in hot weather. And now there’s another reason to enjoy a peaty dram, even during a heatwave—the new Laphroaig Càirdeas 2023.
Càirdeas is an annual limited edition whisky created for the Friends of Laphroaig, but you can snag a bottle even if you’re just a casual acquaintance. Laphroaig is one of the most familiar names in the world of peated scotch, an Islay distillery owned by Beam Suntory that proudly wears its dubiously positive flavor notes like a badge of honor—iodine, tire fire, saline, burning ash are some that come to mind. If you’re a fan of assertively smoky scotch whisky, you’re most likely a fan of this distillery. The 10-year-old expression anchors the range and can be found in any bar or liquor store around the country, and for good reason as this is a dependable, high-quality single malt. But the special releases are where the distillery’s craft and flavor potential really shine, as is the case with the ever-changing Càirdeas lineup.
This year’s release is a marked change from classic Laphroaig, which is aged exclusively in bourbon barrels. The vanilla, oak, and citrus flavors it picks up complement the smoky nature of the whisky quite well. But the 2023 Càirdeas takes things in a different direction—three-quarters of the whisky in the bottle was aged in second-fill madeira barrels, a sweet Portuguese wine that is similar to port. The final quarter was matured in first-fill port casks, and according to the brand, the majority were white port casks, a less common style of this fortified wine that is sometimes drier than ruby or tawny port.
The result of combining these two cask types is a fantastic single malt that really brings a new perspective to the Laphroaig palate without completely losing the thread. Those classic peat notes are, of course, front and center, although a bit subdued on the nose. The palate explodes with a lovely dose of sweet fruit and spice, along with some vanilla custard, lemon zest, and orange juice. Those spice and citrus notes really define this whisky, making it a lighter and livelier sipper than you might expect. And then there’s that iodine-seaweed-smoldering fire explosion on the finish—it just wouldn’t be Laphroaig without that.
If you’re a fan of Laphroaig, or peated Islay scotch in general, this is a bottle to seek out, and it’s available to purchase from ReserveBar with a price tag only slight higher than its $99 SRP. Sure, there’s been a bit of heat wave recently, but maybe that’s why it’s the perfect time to enjoy a sip of this smoky single malt.
- 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