Last year, after following Feis Ile vicariously through other blog posts, I ordered some festival samples, including the Laphroaig Cairdeas [car-chase] 2009 release, which I did a post on here . I went to do the same this year for the 2010 release, and discovered that whiskysamples.eu had a few extra samples of the 2009 Cairdeas in stock as well, so I ordered both. I decided to compare both of the Cairdeas cask strength releases with the standard Laphroaig 10 CS Batch 001 release to see how they stacked up.
The 2009 Cairdeas release was a 12 year, specially selected by John Campbell, distillery manager for Laphroaig. The 2010 release was created by Master Distiller Robert Hicks, and is a vatting of first-fill and refill bourbon casks ranging from 11 to 19 years old. All three of the sampled cask strength Laphroaigs fall between 57% and 58% ABV.
10 year CS Batch 001 (57.8%) – A phenol-lover’s delight. Iodine, campfire smoke, tar, and cedar wood stand out on the nose, contrasted against a sweet background with a little bit of fruit (apples?). Plenty of tar on the palate, with a good pepper and alcohol kick. The finish is long and smoky, with the tar and cedar wood coming through loud and clear. 88 Points.
Cairdeas 2009 12 year (57.5%) – Start with the traits of the 10 CS, but add more wood influence, with an especially striking helping of vanilla on the nose. It also seems to have slightly less smoke/tar. The palate and finish are again similar to 10 CS, but with more pepper. Just the right amount of pepper, in fact. My mouth is tingling just thinking about how this one went down, and how alive it made my tongue feel. Great balance! 90 Points.
Cairdeas Master Edition 2010 (57.3%) – Surprisingly close to the 10 CS again, considering this one was made from a vatting of different aged and types of casks. The main difference being that this Feis Ile release is more fruity. Citrus and/or apples are present, taking a bit of the edge off of the phenol attack. Not as much vanilla as the 2009 Feis Ile bottling, and not as much pepper, either. 88 Points.
The Feis Ile cask strength Lapharoaigs are excellent, and totally worth the festival asking prices of around $60-$70. I especially like the 2009 bottling, and kind of wish I had bought a bottle for $100 when I had the chance last year. The extra vanilla and the brilliant mouth feel, combined with the fact that it’s a limited release, make it worth seeking out. The 2010 version, while a bit more fruity than the standard 10 CS, didn’t strike me as necessarily “better.”
While I think the 2009 Cairdeas is worth a little bit of a premium, I would not consider paying high eBay prices for either of the Feis Ile releases. The standard 10 CS is more than good enough to satisfy my cravings for a cask strength Laphroaig experience. I also find that I can get a little bit of additional complexity (vanilla/fruit) by vatting 2 parts 10 CS and 1 part Laphroaig 18 year. It’s not quite on par with the 2009 Feis Ile experience, but still very good. Not sure if I’m venturing into heretic territory by suggesting such a home vatting, though…
Check out these great reviews of the same expressions on two of my favorite whisky review sites: