Laphroaig’s popular core range 15 year old was discontinued in 2009, but then reintroduced as a limited edition in 2015. At the end of 2017 the distillery brought back the 15 age-statement once more – this time as a ‘Caideas’ bottling – exclusively for ‘Friends of Laphroaig’ (effectively the distillery’s mailing list). From what I can tell, this bottling, or a bottling similar will become a permanent annual addition to the range. The Cairdeas 15 year old was distilled in 2002, matured in 1st fill ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at 43% ABV. As of writing, it’s still available via Laphroaig’s webshop for £90.
Nose: Fruity and medicinal. Baked apples, roasted pineapple and some trademark Laphroaig peat – ash, soot, surface cleaner – alongside an almost chlorinated swimming pool aroma – slightly unusual and to my palate a little soapy. Along with fruit and peat there’s a good whack of vanilla here (1st fill ex-bourbon will do that), along with sweet honey, earthy hay and some tangy citrus. The addition of water brings out calamine lotion and baby powder – medicinal meets herbal – interesting certainly, but there’s a powdery side that I’m not wholly convinced by.
Taste: An arrival of smoked juicy fruits and roaring BBQ. Scorched ripe apples and tropical chunks are greeted by medicinal peat, iodine, TCP and chemical fire. These are supported by some big vanillins, tobacco, white chocolate and candied citrus peels. Water diminishes the coastal flavours a touch, adding in herbalness – teas and cut flowers.
Finish: Medium in length, quite ashy and chalky, and with smoked tangy citrus.
This latest Cairdeas is quite the thought-provoking bottling. The juicy fruits and high-impact vanilla generally work well with the underlying distillery fire and brimstone character (which is somewhat diminished compared to some OBs), but whilst the herbal notes will probably sit well with some, to my palate, they come across slightly dusty and oddly powdered. Nevertheless, there’s some complexity and subtlety here. Is it a like-for-like replacement of the dearly departed original 15 year old (purportedly Prince Charles’s favourite Scotch)? – nope – this is a quite the different animal.