Laphroaig's An Cuan Mor release is a traditional new-age scotch whisky. The scotch is first matured in first-fill American oak in the Laphroaig warehouse against the Atlantic Ocean, then transferred to European oak and let to mature for a while longer.
This might sound like a typical "recipe" for a scotch distillery where many whiskies are "finished" in something, but Laphroaig has been doing anything but typical of late. Laphroaig has been releasing plenty of scotches that have had a lot "done to them." American oak, then European oak, then Oloroso sherry and port casks, and so on and so forth. The results have been excellent. I'm definitely not complaining. But it's nice to see a return to the classic (that's not so classic, of course).
It's not so much what was done to the whisky, but rather the selection of barrels that make An Cuan Mor a particularly excellent release from a distillery filled with great whisky releases. As always, we're told that distillery manager, John Campbell, made the final selection of barrels of scotch that went into An Cuan Mor. The early rumors were the original whisky used here was Laphroaig 18, but since Laphroaig 18 is scarce, I'm going to guess this is slightly younger scotch. Judging based on past tasting notes, this one has changed a little over the last few years, and that change has been for the better.
Laphroaig An Cuan is a Travel Retail Exclusive release. Unless you're at an airport duty free, you're not going to see it. I rarely recommend duty-free exclusives, but this is a good one. I hope to see it as a regular release because it deserves broader distribution.
Laphroaig An Cuan Mor
Peated, Single Malt Scotch, NAS
Nose: Like walking through a barn recently fallen to a fire, and just after the rain. The wet charred oak, the green mossy oak, the spectacular sweetness from the caramelized oak, and complexity of animal feed mixed in (grain notes). You'll just be standing there, in this burnt down barn, which is otherwise a tragedy and yet the smells overtake you. You hear the rain drip down from the leaves to the mossy forest floor.
Palate: Calling Laphroaig intense on the palate is like suggesting Ferraris are fast. This is a barrel of intensity, hitting you at full force with dried fruit and burnt sugar and caramel, with peppercorn spice. The petal is fully depressed, as the flavor bursts through your palate. Like that loud supercar, you hear the buzzy engine way off in the distance into a long spicy sweet finish. The smokiness is nice, sharp, and not unlike sitting a little too close to the fire. Naturally, I love it.
Whisky Cabinet Score: ★ ★ ★ ★
It's a monster of a whisky that teleports you elsewhere in the world. If you love peat, don't pass this one pass by. Travel Retail exclusive don't always guarantee great hits, but An Cuan Mor is a beautiful whisky worth allocating.
*Whisky Cabinet Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆ Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original