It was the festival day of Laphroaig Distillery during Feis Ile, and we had a lovely tour planned for the day there, and having a look around with all the festivities. The sun was shining bright, the flowers were planted at the distillery, and all was looking sharp, ready for everyone to arrive.
At the gate we were greeted by some friendly people who gave us a map around, and they told us that there were some last minute places left for a couple of tastings. Of course we would love to join on off those!
So, signed up for a Cairdeas Cheeseboard tasting, next to the pre-planned distillery tour we walked a bit around. We were here in 2012, but that was just a very quick stop, to have a look in the shop, and go directly through. That was not really a visit.
There was a good atmosphere around, helped of course by the beautiful weather that made this lovely place even shine more. People just enjoying the sun shine, a lovely dram, and some food and music. The whole day through there were special tastings and tours planned.
Laphroaig is a distillery that produces smoky whiskies, and is started around 1815. The name means 'beautiful hollow by the broad bay' in Gaelic. They cut and dry the peat used at the distillery themselves and then fire the kilns with it. The barley takes on the peaty phenols from the smoke and this is transferred to the spirit during distillation, with an average of 50-60 ppm.
For the barley processed at the distillery they need approx. 200 tonnes of peat each year. At the distillery they can only do about 10-15% themselves and the rest is done at the Port Ellen Maltings.
At Laphroaig they use stainless steel wash backs, 6 in total. Each can hold up to 42.000 liters of wort. Their mash tun is also stainless steel, and is all operated through a big panel. The wash is at 8% abv when processed further for distillation.
In the still house there a 7 beautiful stills. Four spirit stills (9400 / 4700 / 4700 / 4700 liters) and three wash stills (10400 / 10400 / 10400 liter). Between these stills there are two spirit safes. The stills have upward lyne arms. The new make is 69% abv and is watered down to 63,5 before going in to the barrel.
At Laphroaig they use american white oak ex-Bourbon barrels for maturing, and for the quartercask they use the smaller casks off 125 liters. Sherry is used for finishes only. The different thing here is that they use a cask only one. They are also one of the few who have all their warehousing on the island. In total they have 7 warehouses, where their spirit lies maturing for at least 10 years. The only thing done on the mainland is bottling.
After a lovely tour it was time to sit down for a tasting hosted by Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador for Laphroaig & Ardmore in the US. The tasting was Cairdeas bottling's combines with cheese.
- Cairdeas Master Edition
- Cairdeas Origin
- Cairdeas Ileach Edition
Each lovely bottling's and I loved them all, and a very nice combination with the different kind of cheeses. It all went very fast, and there was sadly barely enough time to taste and smell the whisky properly. But this is what I got in the speedtrain tempo of this tasting:
Cairdeas Port Wood
Sweet nose, filled with port, orange, raisin, vanilla, smoky flavours, and different fruit tones. The palate was fruit, light salty, smoke, seaweed, some peat coming through, but warm. Filled with soft fruit, vanilla, custard, honey and some chocolate. The finish was a very nice combination of the salty, sweet and smoky flavours ending a chocolate finish. Nice!
Cairdeas Master Edition
On the nose more citrus then the previous one. Vanilla, peaches, different fruits, light sweet, and some maritime notes. The palate gave me some fruits again, a little bit of dark berry's, and in the back some smoke, combined with honey and toffee. Again a nice soft finish with some peaches drizzled with honey, and ending in a nice chocolate flavor again, but with a lemon twist to it.
Full and fresh, yumm!
Some ginger, orange, sweet, vanilla, citrus, lots and lots of fruit, honey, soft, creamy and round on the nose. On the palate honey, pepper, vanilla, caramel, fruit, creamy, with a light smoky/salty taste to it. Also some custard in there combined with lime, mandarin, and some more fresh fruits. Finish was sweet as honey, but not to sweet. Beautiful expression.
Cairdeas Ileach Edition
The nose gave me here directly soft, sweet and many fruits again. Combined with light smoke, vanilla, raisins, mint. Very fresh. The palate is more smoky then the others, but not too smoky. Red fruits coming through, citrus, peper, vanilla, fudge, cream. A sweet finish filled with vanilla and chocolate. I like.
Simon told us something about the whisky's and the different tones you could find and thought us where to look for the complementing things in combining whisky and cheese. And he also brought us some nice songs and different toasts, very nice setup!
After the tasting we just sat on the shore and enjoyed the sun some more and a little dram, just a very nice relaxing day. Laphroaig was a brand my husband is very fond of, but I never seem to had a dram of them in the past. I know, not good.
But I am learning each day, and smoky/peaty whisky was in the beginning hard for me, and there is just so much beautiful stuff out there. Laphroaig convinced me and made me a lover, what great whisky do they make! Thanks for the lovely time! Slainte!
Below some more photographs of this day made by me, or by my husband Thomas Speller