With “Cairdeas” meaning “friendship” in Gaelic, the Fino is the 2018 release of the annual Friends of Laphroaig exclusive that was launched during Islay’s Fèis Ìle.
Although an exclusivity for club members online, the Cairdeas is also available during festivals and directly from the distillery. Therefore, I was fortunate to acquire a bottle when visiting Laphroaig’s distillery during my visit of the island this summer.
In this review, you will discover Laphroaig’s Cairdeas Fino Cask Finish as we explore the following topics:
- Whisky Overview
- Appearance & Visual Analysis
- Nose & Aromas
- Palate & Mouthfeel
- Ideal Pairings
- Overall Experience & Value For Money
Overview Of Laphroaig Cairdeas Fino
- Distillery: Laphroaig
- Expression: Cairdeas
- Region: Islay [Hebrides]
- Age: NAS
- Casking: Ex-Bourbon, Fino Sherry Finish
- Cask Strength: 51.8% ABV
- Chill-Filtered: No
- Pricing: £77 / £85 [Buy Now]
- Parent: Beam Suntory
Launched in June 2018, this year’s Cairdeas features a double maturation which first takes place in ex-bourbon casks before being reracked in Fino sherry Hogsheads sourced from Spains’s bodegas.
Interestingly, this single malt doesn’t feature an age statement unlike last year’s 15 year-old Cairdeas release. However, the overall maturation time is said to be around 8 years. Enthusiasts will also be pleased to learn that this offering isn’t chill-filtered but simply barrier filtered to remove particles.
Finally, with a cask strength of just under 52%, it’s also quite a strong whisky, which helps extend Laphroaig’s signature finish.
Cairdeas Fino’s Appearance
- Hue: Dark Amber
- Transparency: Semi-Clear
- Body: Full-Bodied
With its clear bottle, you’ll immediately notice the dark amber hue that is often compared to old gold. Swirling brings out slow yet relatively thin legs down the sides. These tears suggest a full body but their thinness may indicate a comparatively lighter texture.
Adding a few droplets of water reveals a bursting cloud of viscometric whirls, a hallmark of non chill-filtered whisky, which also hints at some textured mouthfeel.
Laphroaig Cairdeas Fino’s Nose
- Notes: Smoke, Medicinal, Almonds, Vanilla, Banana
- Nosefeel: Eucalyptic
With my nostrils deep inside the Glencairn glass, I found the Cairdeas to be quite sharp and eucalyptic. This was quite surprising compared to the distillery’s typically peppery single malts. Nevertheless, the first notes were quintessential of the brand with overt aromas of peat and sooty charcoal smoke.
However, they were still quite light with a mildly astringent and medicinal profile. Other notes experienced in the nose were roasted almonds and vanilla with a remarkably fruity banana finish.
Cairdeas’ Palate & Mouthfeel
- Primary Tastes: Salty, Bitter
- Notes: Honey, Brine, Bay Leaves, Anise, Charred Oak
- Mouthfeel: Hot, Biting, Oily, Dry
- Finish: Medium [Medicinal, Dried Fruit, Peat]
Opening with a remarkably briny note, the Cairdeas quickly reveals honey with a hint of bay leaf. A glimmer of the nose’s vanilla follows before being overshadowed by anise. Naturally, there’s the unmistakable peat aromas that evoke flavours of charred oak and roasted nuts that dominate the palate before swallowing.
The mouthfeel is quite complex but with a surprisingly youthful texture. Starting off as overtly warm and biting, it quickly evaporates on the tongue to leave and oily yet astringent and dry texture.
As for the finish, it’s shorter than expected with a medium length. Nevertheless, there’s an enduring dry oil across the palate that gives off medicinal notes of peat and dried fruit. Overall, you feel less of the fino sherry’s influence but the experience is rather characteristic of Laphroaig’s smouldering peat smoke.
Best Pairings With Laphroaig Cairdeas Fino
Personally, I found that the Cairdeas Fino was much more enjoyable when cut with water down to around 25 – 30% ABV. This helped to significantly curb the dram’s peppery burn into a much smoother finish and helped release more complexity.
When cut down, the whisky took on a syrupy texture that wonderfully complemented milder sun-grown cigars such as a Gurkha Special Reserve. However, I soon followed with a neat dram paired with a bold Nub Cain Straight Ligero. Although both very different experiences, they were very enjoyable and showcased this single malt’s versatility.
In other instances, I paired another neat dram with a Hebridean blue cheese from the Isle of Mull, which was breathtaking. Meanwhile, one evening I had a glass at around 25% ABV with thick and buttery fudge from Edinburgh’s Fudge Kitchen.
Otherwise, this is a whisky that would fare well with steak, smoked salmon or even a bold meat stew.
Overall Experience & Value For Money
The Cairdeas comes with the classic black text on a white label with the exception of a pale custard block across the bottom. Those familiar with the distillery will recognise the Royal Warrant on the top that was awarded by Prince Charles in 1994.
A fair amount of information is presented bar an age statement that is quite absent whilst the reverse gives a full overview of the whisky’s characteristics. As for the cardboard tube, it is also much like the 10 year-old single malt with the distillery’s monochrome image.
Being a unique yearly exclusive to Friends of Laphroaig, the Cairdeas might be a Scotch that you’d want to reserve for special occasions. Nevertheless, it’s one that is easy to enjoy on a quiet evening alone. Given the way the flavour changes so dramatically with water compared to many other single malts, it’s a very versatile whisky for different occasions.
Furthermore, it’s also a great expression of Laphroaig’s process that manages to capture both the distillery’s essence as well as that of the southern part of the island. Despite the use of fino sherry casks, it retains all the characteristics of the brand.
Finally, Friends of Laphroaig members can purchase a bottle of Cairdeas Fino Cask Finish from the site at £85. However, they can be picked up directly from the distillery at a more affordable £77 if you ever happen to be passing by. Alternatively, the 2018 Cairdeas Fino is also available in the USA on Drizly.com for around the same price.
Although this may seem like a steep asking price for a whisky without an age statement, it’s a unique and enjoyable expression that loyal followers of the distillery should consider acquiring.
A rich and peaty Scotch whisky that exudes complex flavours and smokiness, Laphroaig’s Cairdeas Fino Cask is a refreshing alternative to their usual offerings. With some fruity notes as well as aromatics, the cask finish imparts only slight flavour without becoming disloyal to the distillery’s characteristic flavours.
If you’re into your peaty whiskies or you’re fond of the brand, it’s certainly worth sampling a dram to see how it fares with your palate.