Feis Ile is a Whisky festival that takes part on the isle of Islay every year, and it would not be complete without an annual release from Laphroaig.
The distillery, set on the south coast of the island, release this bottling to celebrate friendship, which is what cairdeas means in Gaelic. Each release is crafted by master distiller John Campbell and the festival would not be same without it.
Here we compare the Cairdeas offerings of the past three years, 2017 included, so you can see how they’ve changed.
The 2015 release has an historical twist. It is based on what Campbell believes the distillery would have been producing 200 year ago. It has been crafted from floor maltings, distilled in smaller stills and finally matured in the No. 1 Warehouse, which is directly beside the sea.
The effect is clear on the dram which has a nose full of seaside flavours, including aromatic seaweed and lots of salt.
This goes perfectly with the sweet orchard fruits that also appear, including apples, pears and some peaches. These are soft and mouth wateringly juicy.
There is also a delicate hint of smoke and charcoal underneath all the sweet and salty flavours.
This char grows on the palate and becomes a full-blown brick of peat. It is rich, thick and earthy with a deep pungency to it.
It is complemented by the big seaside flavours such as iodine, brine and tar. These are equally as rich and luxurious in taste.
There is also a lovely peppery spice to this dram that adds a little bit of heat to the peat smoke.
The fruits are ever present on the palate, with a mellow sweetness that builds as it goes along. This is a nice fruity tang to harmonise with the peat.
The finish is full of this and lots more peat smoke to go with it.
There are similar peated tones to be found in Cairdeas 2016, but this time with more of a citrus influence.
This dram has been matured in ex-Bourbon barrels before being married and finished in Madeira hogsheads.
The nose is full of oranges and lemons, giving it a nice citrus focus from the beginning. The peat is also present and acts as a sounding board for the citrus to really be heard.
There is also a slight aniseed hint in the background, which again, goes perfectly well with the juicy citrus fruits.
On the palate the oranges really make themselves know, with lots of tang and zest. They mix well with the thick smoke that starts to appear, giving this dram a wonderfully refined taste.
There is a nice hint of cinnamon and pepper in the smoke that adds a little heat to it. This is alongside the typical Laphroaig flavours of sea salt and brine.
The finish lingers just long enough, and gives one last tangy orange kick before disappearing in a haze of peat smoke.
The most recent edition of Cairdeas has a sweeter profile than either the 2016 or 2015.
It begins with a nose of toffee, fudge and caramel, bringing in lots of brown sugar and an extra creamy texture.
These are bolstered by a little bit of oak wood making its way through, with a lovely vanilla note to it.
The wood goes hand in hand with the peat smoke that wafts in towards the end.
The peat is also present on the palate, but in smaller doses than with the other two drams.
It is complemented with a hint of char and a lovely, tangy sea salt note.
The sweetness comes back of course, with more caramel and toffee. This makes the mouth feel thick and smooth, with a little bit of chewiness to it.
The oak wood is back also, with more vanilla and a hint of peppery spice as well.
The finish wraps everything up in sweet brown sugar and a lingering touch of peat.
Cairdeas is always a great dram to pick up regardless of whether you get it at the festival or not.
Out of these three though, it has to be said that the 2015 version, with its big seaside and peat features, is definitely the best.