Let's be honest. The scotch industry is making fools of us with special cask finishes. While sherry cask finishes weren't new five years ago, they've sprouted up like dandelions. Then came the wine finishes, which were never all that successful, but plentiful. Oloroso Sherry became a statement of the quality sherry finishes. Port finishes? Oh, yes! There are plenty of port finishes.
So what's a Madeira finish?!? It's maddening! But wait. I've tasted a Glenmorangie finished in Madeira casks, and now a Laprhoaig. Perhaps there is something here after-all.
Madeira is to Port finishes like Oloroso Sherry is to Sherry finishes. Just as Oloroso Sherry finishes are generally better, Madeira finishes are generally better port finishes. Madeira is fortified port wine, which is a fancy way of saying they added wine-based spirit to the barrel at the end of maturation. Madeira is an island of Portugal, and it's beautiful (I'm told) and very hot. That heat is keenly responsible for why Madeira wine is difficult to make, delicious, and unique in character.
So yes, the scotch industry sometimes makes a fool of us, but not in this case. I've yet to taste a Madeira finished scotch that I didn't love, and Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira Cask finish scotch is this intense peated flavor bomb that I need with regularity in my life. Madeira cask finishes add rich cinnamon notes to the whisky, a thick mouthfeel, and a buttery layer that screams dessert whisky.
This is a fantastic whisky. It's also one I'll rarely enjoy, because this release was part of Laphroaig's 2016 Cairdeas series. Each year Master Distiller, John Campbell, picks a new type of Laphroaig to release under the brand. Cairdeas means friendship. So yes, add a cool Gaelic term for friendship to a distillery that seems to do no wrong, and use some rare casks off a hot island of Portugal, and you get the Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016 Madeira Cask.
This is a win for peat scotch drinkers that also love sweet finishes. If you find it, buy it.
Laphroaig Caidreas (2016) Madeira Cask
Category: Single malt scotch, Peated, Madeira Cask, Finished
Nose: Rich toffee, fresh caramel, char, cinnamon spice, butter, and dried fruits. A perfect nose in the category of finished whisky, giving you a lot of everything, in a beautiful balanced display.
Palate: Powerfully rich on the flavors promised on the nose. The sweeter notes (dried fruit, caramel, toffee), hit you on various levels of intensity. The spicy nose (cinnamon, black pepper), are wonderful from the middle to the finish. The buttery notes are present throughout. The zest is light, present, and not a star.
Whisky Cabinet Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have
Decadent peated whiskies are a rarity. This is one of the great ones. It's truly unique in the marketplace, and it's relatively affordable!
*Whisky Cabinet Rating is based on the category:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 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