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In the world of whiskey (and whisky), special releases are relatively common. They’re often expensive, usually hard to get your hands on, and, when all is said and done, sometimes has a disappointing flavor compared to the effort to obtain the bottle. Laphroaig’s annual Càirdeas special release bucks all of those issues.
Càirdeas bottles are exclusive to Friends of Laphroaig members. The program started in 1994 and is a loyalty card of sorts. It’s like those Subway stamp cards where you got a free sandwich after 10 footlongs, but the rewards are so much better. Depending on your tier (which resets annually), points add up to early notices on special releases, the annual Càirdeas release, and a square-foot plot of land on Islay. Even things like referring a friend, watching a Laphroaig video, subscribing to emails, or taking a brand survey can earn points. And the best part? The Càirdeas is available at the lowest tier, “Peat,” which encompasses everyone who has up to 249 points (meaning all members).
Anyone can sign up. To earn points, simply submit your receipts when you buy bottles of Laphroaig or make the purchase off the Laphroaig shop (100 points for Laphroaig 10 or Select, 200 points for almost everything else). Easy access to Càirdeas is reason enough for joining on.
Fittingly for a program named Friends of Laphroaig, Càirdeas means “friendship” in Gaelic. And 2023’s release is certainly one you’ll want to bring off the bar cart whenever friends are around.
ABV: 52.3 percent (104.6 proof)
Where it’s available: Online through Friends of Laphroaig and select limited retailers
How Càirdeas 2023 Is Made
The 2023 version of Càirdeas is aged in two types of barrels. The primary, where three quarters of the whisky matures, are second-fill Madeira casks. The last quarter ages in first-fill Port casks (the majority of which previously held white Port). Past releases of Càirdeas have included the barrels in other ways—the 2020 edition used Port and wine barrels, for example. This, however, is the first to combine the two.
True to the brand and the vast majority of Islay whisky, the island’s peat is used to dry the malt for a smoky flavor.
What Càirdeas 2023 Tastes Like
Get past the peat for baking spices and ginger on the nose, as well some fruity and citrusy notes. Flavor-wise, white chocolate, citrus, crisp apple, and a roasted nuttiness pull through with a light honey touch that makes it sweet enough for an after-dinner sipper but not so sweet that you want to reserve it for only drinking after dinner. This being an Islay Scotch, there’s plenty of peat smoke. Yet it plays nice and doesn’t overpower the other flavors. Even at the higher proof, Càirdeas 2023 doesn’t feel too hot neat.
At the end of the sip there’s no denying the classic Laphroaig peat and salinity the brand’s whiskies are known for. The liquid itself has body to it—velvety is not a word I normally like to use when talking about drinks, but it’s what comes to mind—for a long and lasting finish.
Why You Should Add Càirdeas 2023 To Your Bar Cart
Càirdeas largely limited to Friends of Laphroaig for direct sales, but since anyone can join, there’s not a whole lot of barrier to entry as may sound at first (searching on ReserveBar, there are also bottles available for an elevated price). Still, it does carry enough exclusivity to be a conversation starter when you pull the bottle out with friends. It’s a reasonably priced Scotch that packs a lot of flavor, and fans of Islay whiskies will appreciate the chance to sip something outside of the go-to single malts that line the shelves of every liquor store.