Having enjoyed a few days off from festival life [WLP], Laphroaig’s Open Day is calling. This year’s ‘theme’ is entitled ‘Where Have The Years Gone?’
The route along the Three Distilleries Pathway to Laphroaig [Lagavulin and Ardbeg] is a delightful & scenic one, especially on bike or by foot on a clear day.
En route, I spot new [Laphroaig] warehouses going up:
As has become customary, on arrival, visitors to Laphroaig’s Open Day are gifted a mini Glencairn glass, a glass lanyard, an aluminium water bottle, a 2022 Cairdeas dram token [more on that later], and a soft shoulder bag – all branded of course. Armed with some of the above, I head towards the Filling Station. It’s here where the best liquid action tends to occur. The weather is more than suspect, so being undercover today is no bad thing. The day before, it was blue skies [see pic below].
£20 gets you a three-dram voucher, but it’s a relaxed affair and there’s some complimentary pouring if you ask nicely or are lucky.
Back to the future, it’s time to catch up with releases from those ‘missing years’.
Laphroaig Cairdeas  Ob. Port & Wine Casks for Friends of Laphroaig 52% WB87.93 dramble86
Port & wine! Port IS wine, yes? “Ruby port and red wine” is all the info Feis Ile ambassadors were given via an info sheet on the day.
- N: Bordering on a ‘boing’, we’ve a syrupy ooze in comparison to the PX-finished 2021 Cairdeas. It’s vegetal too with a suggestion of petrol-y rum.
- T: Iodine vegetal rum and grape juice on arrival into a tad fussy/complicated/messy middle before bitter dark chocolate on the turn.
- F: Slightly ashy bitter/sour concluding with more [fruit] chocolate.
- C: Subjective likes/dislikes aside, I ask myself what I would add or take away from this recipe. Given the remit is ruby port & red wine, I’d say the blender has got this one down.
Scores 87 points [and still for sale in the shop more than two years on!]
In passing, I overhear one police officer saying to another about a whisky they’ve just nosed, “when you smell whisky, you don’t think of fruity smells”. It’s catching, this whisky thing.
Laphroaig Caideas  Ob. Cask Strength PX cask finish [32000 bts] 58.9% WB88.15
32000 bottles!! That’s one large ‘exclusive’ outturn.
- C: Beautifully consolidated grainy-rich PX-ed whisky delivering a moreish 32yo Strathclyde-esque [WLP] lemon drizzle cake, buttery, Madeira-esque dram with no bite, tannins, nor sulphur. And yet, it’s not millimetric either. There’s a wonderful simplicity to this one, the best of the last three years – apt as it was John Campbell’s last festival bottling [MoM].
Scores 88 points
Greetings to whisky fans, Paul & Laura who I chatted with for a good long while and said I’d mention here. They’ve been coming to islay for many years. Slainte!
Laphroaig Cairdeus  Ob. Warehouse #1 Maker’s Mark Bourbon 52.2% WB87.30
More and more we are seeing whiskies advertised on the legacy of the maturing cask[s] and previous contents. I got it when Decadent Drinks did it as a one-off with an 18yo Edradour matured in a particularly special ex-1963 Glenburgie refill hogshead [WLP], or Cadenhead’s with their Caroni cask-matured Miltonduff [WLP],… but first-fill [Beam-Suntory] Maker’s Mark casks?! See barleymania’s review for a far more positive perspective. Let’s come at this as objectively as I can.
- N: A friendly/warm soft/easy vanilla-butter bourbon-y nose plus many of Laphroaig’s typical trademark profile traits.
- T: Easy light-sweet salty medicinal arrival, one that travels with ease. Some semblance of form and weight too.
- F: More iodine,…. light bourbon, allium,…
- C: The most unlikely marmite dram. Whilst many raved about it, others poo-pooed it. I find it better than the standard 10 [which I tried recently WLP], and if you were just starting out on your journey and already loved Laphroaig, you’d be more than happy. In comparison to previous years, many peeps decided to pass on this year’s Cairdeas release, and indeed, a vast number of other Feis Ile bottling in 2022. Perhaps Feis Ile has hit a pay wall?
Scores 84 points
Laphroaig 10yo  Ob. Original Cask Strength Batch #14 58.6% WB89.21 WF85 WF86[Angus]
- N: Is this far off the 2022 Cairdeas? With ex-bourbon barrels credited, we’ve the typical fruity ice cream notes alongside Laphroaig’s salty meaty woodfire peatiness [a little ash] with a sweet vegetal medicinal quality, sawdust too and some grey [bog roll] cardboard. Enough.
- T: An acute/affronting savoury-sweet salty lemon-sour affair. The abv seems to carry it but adding water is wholly recommended for a more rounded/less cutting experience.
- F: Salty, citrusy and sharp/acidic with more sawdust and a little dried seaweed, concluding with light clean medicinal burned bitter lemony TCP.
- C: A good whisky but there’s plenty of that around.
Scores 85 points
Laphroaig 10yo  Ob. Original Cask Strength Batch #15 56.5% WB88.39
- N: This one’s got some colour,… from wine, sherry,.. both? Gentile overall with a creamy light sweetness wrapped around idiosyncratic phenols.
- T: Creamy light-sweet again, quite some grapey-ness wrapped up with the iodine-y phenols/oils/fats/acids/esters/aldehydes,… a chew of sorts.
- F: At the tail, rather sour – and/or “bitter”, says Tom – ever-medicinal and saline.
- C: The grape elements erk me a tad, but quibbles aside, I find this one very decent.
Scores 87 points
Laphroaig 2003/2016 13yo Un-Ob. [Bourbon] Cask Sample #7381 57.3%
This is more like it Laphroaig, a never-to-be-bottled nor sold but enjoyed on the day single cask, rolled out exclusively for Feis Ile attendees. So it can be done!
- N: Recognisably Laphroaig with a savoury vegetal/meaty citrus sour profile with saline bandages, liquorice, [clean/dry] smouldering firewood. With a fair weight and oiliness, it’s incredibly relaxed at natural cask strength.
- T: Again, recognisably Laphroaig. I’m more than happy to drink this neat which is fortunate as, untypically, I’ve brought no water. Thank goodness for that water bottle [though the poor cap design remains from previous years]. With a second dram and bottle filled, the profile remains faithful to the nose [and distillery character], vegetal sour with temporal sugars showing from time to time.
- F: Sails on through, unwavering/stalwart from the nose, sour-savoury = barley citrus, a touch ashy.
- C: A solid cask selection, very much the naked side of Laphroaig which only emphasises its strengths.
Scores 88 points
Laphroaig 25yo  Ob. Cask Strength Edition 49.8% WB89.33
I last tried Laphroaig’s official cask strength 25yo in 2018 [WLP87]. This 2020 edition is credited with bourbon/sherry maturation 50/50 [with only Whiskybase currently saying differently].
- N: Without starting an epic shopping list, this gooey-waxy vegetal fungal meaty [fruity pisco-ey?] maltoporn of a nose has a remarkable unobtrusive freshness, no doubt down to a hands-off finishing/rejuvenation programme. Bravo.
- T: Bourbon here, sherry there [a touch of cologne?], we are soon beyond the nuts & bolts with the underlying salty smoky barley soup – consolidated yet fresh without being overexuberant.
- F: Beyond the intoxicating surface, subtle waves of flavour are to be found, finishing somewhat chocolatey [almost as a mouthfeel] and with plenty of soft smoky ashy barley.
- C: I start to consider the £400 price tag before lamenting those jaw-dropping Original CS releases demanding similar price tags at auction. Lovely juice but at a cost.
Scores 89 points [after a take-home sample but I had it far higher at the time/in the moment]
In the end, I managed to try all of these and a couple of extra pours for my initial £20. In the absence of ‘the games’ in 2018 [WLP], it took a little blagging but it is a festival after all!
- Cairdeas 2020 [Port & Wine] – decent but unmemorable 
- Cairdeas 2021 [PX] – It’s a buy, at rrp 
- Cairdeas 2022 [Maker’s Mark!] – instantly forgettable juice 
- CS batch #14 – another quality cul-de-sac moment 
- CS batch #15 – again, decent but unmemorable 
- Warehouse single cask – keep rolling ’em out! Fabulous 
- CS 25yo – Terrific, but at a price 
Back at Port Ellen beach, it’s time to rustle up some grub. I hear distant sounds of ethanol-fueled singing reverberating across at the far end of the beach as I munch away and write up these notes. 15 minutes later – as the singing gets louder & louder [closer & closer] – it transpires our super-happy festival-going singers are parked up next to me.
The two-man choir soon disappear into their motorhome whilst continuing to exercise their vocal cords as if their lives depended on it with a song akin to a combo of Big Mountain’s version of Baby I Love Your Way, and the French children’s song Alouette. As the crashing and banging of pots and pans ensues, I imagine the duo are attempting to cook and make up beds at the same time. Occasionally, one of them pops their head out of a window or door and the volume in the bay goes from 2 to 11.
Their horn Is blown! I hope to god they don’t decide to go for a drive. Blind drunk, they are.
After 15 minutes of near silence, our two maestros reappear with [more] beers and decide to infiltrate an occupied picnic table. The existing group of picnic goers are strong enough, large enough, and mature enough to absorb the trite, and even appear to be entertained by the spectacle. “We’ve been drinking all day”, explains one of them. No shit!!
Aah, Feis Ile! Tomorrow is Bowmore and Ardnahoe Open Day. Which to do?
5 thoughts on “Feis Ile 2022: Laphroaig”
Cheers for linking my review here. I gotta admit I seem to be in the minority with my enthusiasm about this year’s Cairdeas bottling and its cask formula. Most of my friends, with whom I talked about it, where mildly underwhelmed by the – at least on paper – somewhat unspectacular maturation in 1st fill ex-Bourbon casks. But, as I wrote, I loved that idea right from the start. 😀