Distiller: Laphroaig. Region: Islay. ABV: 51.2%. No age statement. Price: $80.
We’re nearing that time of the year when pumpkins lead to turkeys, which lead to elves on shelves and best-of lists litter the proverbial ground like so much left-over Halloween candy. And since I’ve been sitting on this review for a while, now seemed the appropriate time to let it fly.
I’m not going to bury the lead. With just over two months left in 2016, Laphroaig’s Cairdeas 2016 Madeira Cask is the best new single malt I’ve tasted this year.
I loved Ardbeg’s Dark Cove (and fully plan on buying a bottle or two or three), but the Cairdeas 2016 just hits every one of my happy-happy-joy-joy spots.
There’s a faint scent of raspberry on the nose, which melds beautifully with the expected peat and ash, along with crispy smoked pork and the usual slightly medicinal aromas.
The palate has a delicate layer of brine, which works just wonderfully with the peat. I caught more of that slow-roasted meat around the edges, along with some spice and an ever-so-light citrus.
And, man, the finish is something to rave about all by itself. It’s quite long, which allowed me to linger on the roasted lemons, peat, and red wine that came to the fore.
All that’s left to say is that I heartily encourage anyone to discover it, but if you’re an Islay lover like me, this and the Dark Cove are the absolute must-haves of 2016.
There’s still around 65 days left in the year, so I’m not saying it’s my absolute favorite of the year, but there’s little question that it’ll crack my top five.
Here’s to beauty and complexity in our spirits, both those we drink, and those we have within. – TM