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:

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.

Download the Laphroaig Cairdeas Whisky Matrix as a PDF.


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.

Closing Thoughts

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.

About the Author:

Charles-Philippe's work has covered a broad range of subjects from cigars and fragrances to wine and spirits. Fascinated by how history and culture together form the unique contemporary identities of alcoholic beverages, his articles follow an in-depth exploration of their development through a combination of tradition and innovation.


  1. Paul Anthony August 14, 2018 at 10:35 am - Reply

    Great review CP!

    Not a big peat fan, but maybe I can mast it with some strong blue cheese ;-)

    – Paul

    • Charles-Philippe August 14, 2018 at 12:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Paul! Yes, I agree that it’s certainly an acquired taste!



  2. Carlos Alvarez August 16, 2018 at 10:08 am - Reply

    I was wondering how you get to be a Friend of Laphroaig! Thanks for sharing this! Shame I’m in the Americas as I’ve been itching for a bottle of Cairdeas!

    • Charles-Philippe August 16, 2018 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      Now you know! You can find a leaflet in a bottle of any Laphroaig, which features a personalised code. Punch this in and you’re a member – easy as that! Then if you ever head to the distillery, you get a certificate, a free miniature bottle and the opportunity to see your square foot in the proverbial flesh!



  3. George Gardener August 16, 2018 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    I love peaty whiskies. Would you say this is quite heavy on it or mild for the distillery?

    • Charles-Philippe August 16, 2018 at 3:15 pm - Reply

      Hi George,

      Oh, the peat is definitely there. However, I would say that it’s a little more restrained than their 10-year old. There’s a lot more going on with amber notes of honey and bay leaf. Definitely worth a try!



  4. Roy August 22, 2018 at 11:10 am - Reply

    Nice review! How many ppm can we expect from this expression?

    • Charles-Philippe August 22, 2018 at 11:15 am - Reply

      Hi Roy,

      I’m afraid that’s hard to say as I haven’t found the phenol value. I’d say probably around mid to high 40s. The peat is certainly present but not as potentially overwhelming as some of Laphroaig’s other core expressions.



  5. Philippe Jolivet September 9, 2018 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    What a thorough review and well written. Been following your reviews for a while. You certainly know your whiskey and champagne. Well done

    • Charles-Philippe September 10, 2018 at 2:16 am - Reply

      Hi Philippe,

      Great to hear from a regular reader! Thanks for your kind words and looking forward to more of your comments in the future.



  6. David Cheshire September 12, 2018 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    would agree with Phillip, knowledgeable reviews. Keep it up CP!

    Best David

    • Charles-Philippe September 13, 2018 at 5:06 am - Reply

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it! Stick around to see more in the future!



  7. peter jackson September 22, 2018 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    First time I’ve picked up you reviews. Very thorough and informative. Like the writing style

    You have expensive tastes in Whisky

    Well done


    • Charles-Philippe September 24, 2018 at 3:23 am - Reply

      Hi PG,

      Thanks for your kind words. I hope you come back regularly to see our latest reviews. If you do, don’t hesitate to comment as we’ll be delighted to hear from you!



Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.