Depending on how it’s spun, this review is either laughably late, or a perfectly timed retrospective. Of course, given today is Laphroaig’s virtual open day, it’s undoubtedly the latter. But in reality, my tardiness is simply a function of over-accumulation. A rough back of a fag packet calculation indicates that I currently own enough whisky to have a dram every single day for the next 26 years. That’s somewhat reassuring – whilst toilet paper might sometimes prove scarce, finding a drink is not going to be a problem. But on the other hand, and certainly as my wife regularly suggests – that’s simply too much whisky. A combination of sampling bottles and then purchasing, and purchasing bottles for sampling presents us drinkers with first world problems. You can’t take it with you.
I’m not a collector. Bottle accrual is somewhat easier for those guys to deal with – it just becomes a function of the available storage space. Not quite got round to drinking it yet? No problem - add it to the collection. But as a drinker, all my purchases are based around a desire to actually consume the liquid. And there’s only so much time….and liver….in which to do that.
Whilst this period of friend abstinence has resulted in me steadily working my way through various dregs and heels (and thus feeling better about opening yet more ‘drinkers’) - I came to the conclusion long ago that over-accumulation is part and parcel of being an oft-times over-eager enthusiast. Whilst you can’t catch ‘em all, there’s just too much choice in the whisky sweet shop – even Augustus Gloop would struggle to keep up.
There’s an endless supply of whisky. And when FOMO and itchy trigger fingers kick in, it’s important to remind yourself of this fact. Social media undoubtedly ups the ante for bottle purchasing – least of all through its ability to keep your appraised of the next release from the unending stream – but also through peer pressure (I’ve seen newbies seemingly accumulating at a rate of a bottle a day. All the keen.) and of course ‘unmissable’ deals. But whilst I’m as guilty as the next person of bottle back-log, I’m looking forward to once again being able to share my accumulation with friends. Whilst I can’t take the whisky with me – I’ll certainly get through it quicker in good company. And to a drinker, that's the best possible solution to the problem.
So, one year later and fished from the depths of the backlog comes the Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood. Perfectly timed of course….
Similarly to 2017’s Cairdeas Quarter Cask, 2019’s Triple Wood takes an existing Laphroaig expression and amps thing up into a cask strength experience. The expression is a vatting of ex-bourbon casks which have been re-racked in to quarter casks and then finished in oloroso sherry butts. Identical in development to the existing Triple Wood expression which started life in travel retail before moving over to become part of the distillery’s current core offering. The key point of differential here is the ABV – a substantive increase from 48% to 59.5%.
The Interwebs suggest that the initial ex-bourbon components come from roughly 5-10 year old stock – though as a vatting, and like other Cairdeas expressions, the bottling comes sans age statement. And with 36,000 bottles produced, its little wonder that it’s still available via the Laphroaig website for €92.52. Whilst you originally would have needed an FOL (Friends of Laphroaig) login to obtain the bottling – they’re now letting in any old riff-raff.
Nose: Molten chocolate fondant, salted caramel sauce, cookie dough, cocoa powder and vanilla cream. Alongside – apple compote, steeped fruit teas and leather car seats. Then, of course, smoke – but far from explicitly medicinal – rather burning logs, smouldering vegetation, seaweed and pumice stone. Eau de hospital is set far back with mere suggestions of iodine and disinfectant. Everything sits atop of polished and sappy oakiness. There’s a palpable wood influence here. The addition of water (which the bottle label recommends at a 2:1 ratio – I’ll be here until Feis Ile 2024 at that rate) reveals hot cross buns, doughnut batter and some umami soy sauce.
Taste: The arrivals offers a combination of machine oils and syrupy berries before an onslaught of dry, wood-driven, peat smoke engulfs the mouth. Again, in terms of Laphroaig’s trademark TCP, we’re just not in Kansas anymore. Engine grease, diesel spilt over bitumen, roaring log fires and enough ash to face the Evil Dead. Sweetness runs throughout – sugar-dripped apples, toffee crème caramel and shaved chocolate. The development provides chamois leather, old worn fabric and notes of green pepper. Dilution finally unlocks some house-style remedial flavours – swipes of floor cleaner with salt water rock pools alongside lemon drops.
Finish: Long with resinous dry oak, persistent minerality and sprinkles of sea salt.
Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood is richly expressive – with plenty of impactful flavours and a profile which speaks to its triptych of casks. It’s also a little daft. Whilst the personality is very much in tune with the ‘standard’ Triple Wood expression, the temperament has been considerably dialled up and presents as a rather unexpected peaty beast. Big, punchy smokiness – check. TCP, iodine and emblematic Laphroaig cues – a lot less so. That said, despite the deviation in course, and an abundance of wood influence, I find this to be an enjoyable diversion. Not the droid I was looking for, but certainly quite fun.
But don't take our word for it..
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