Story by Manos Angelakis
Images courtesy of the distilery
Last month we talked about two North American whiskeys, WhistlePig - a Canadian product blended and bottled in Shoreham, Vermont, and Angel’s Envy Cask Strength - both finished in aromatic wine barrels that add complexity and a hint of sweetness to the finished liquor.
It is very interesting to note that a very traditional Islay single malt producer, Laphroaig, is now offering two expressions, Laphroaig 25 Years Old, and Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira, both finished in American Oak bourbon barrels that were first used by European wineries to age Madeira wine for the Cairdeas and Oloroso sherry for the 25-years old.
I received samples of both expressions from the importer.
They both have a rather traditional peaty Islay nose modified by the sweet scent of bourbon and the wines previously stored in the casks. The color is also considerable different from the usual 10 year old expression.
Specifically, the 25-year old is bottled at cask-strength. The color is 14 karat yellow gold. Initially, the nose seems to be quite closed but, add a small splash of cold water or a single ice cube, and aromas and flavors develop to overlay the Islay peat trace and add a sense of fruitiness. The sweetness of Oloroso sherry emerges from the full bodied whisky but is tempered by the long and lasting, slightly salty finish. The complexity excites the senses and invites further study of a very fascinating product. The price, though seemingly high at $499.99 MSRP for a 750ml bottle, is commensurate to the scarcity and very limited distribution of an exceptional product.
The Cairdeas Madeira is also initially matured in American bourbon barrels, and then further matured in Madeira casks. 24 karat red-gold in color, it is another limited production bold and spicy expression, available only for a short time at some of the top retailers. The nose is very interesting with hints of orange peel, smoked paprika, roasted chestnuts, licorice and Caribbean spices, overlaying the peaty Islay finish. The palate is earthy but like the 25 year old expression, opens up with a splash of water to reveal smoked bakon, orange peel, boiled chestnuts and walnuts followed by a slight seawater finish. The price is a more affordable $74.99 MSRP, and is available for a slightly longer period and in a few more outlets than the 25-year expression.
If you are an Islay whisky aficionado, like I am, you would love these two Laphroaig expressions.
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