Macallan highland single malt scotch whisky with dram
Macallan highland single malt scotch whisky with dram

The relationship between oak casks and single malt Scotch whiskies is more mysterious than Abelard and Heloise. Volumes have been written, over the centuries, about this alchemical interaction, the spirit extracting from deep below the surface, often charred to one degree or another, all kinds of natural elements that translate into colour, and flavour.

The Macallan is known for its sherry cask treatments, so when the worldwide trend towards using other types of oak, especially bourbon casks, began to take hold, Macallan took a hard look, and came up with a “Fine Oak” program.

Macallan 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch whisky
Macallan 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch whisky

Add in types of wood, mainly American, Sherry from Spain, and some French, and you have an abundance of possible combinations. Unlimited, when you consider ageing as part of the equation. And then there is the factor of using casks that have already been used, typically for Bourbon whisky, and sherries.  And, finally, there exists the possibility of blending spirits from different oak treatments, into one weighty, unique, and most often massively complex whisky. And so we come to The Macallan, and Laphroaig.

The Macallan is known for its sherry cask treatments, so when the worldwide trend towards using other types of oak, especially bourbon casks, began to take hold, Macallan took a hard look, and came up with a “Fine Oak” program. This has led to many triumphs, but the Double Cask 12-Year Old comes onto market at a great price, and with an interesting innovation. One of the doubles is traditional sherry cask aged whisky. The other, though, is American oak, filled with sherry for seasoning, then emptied and filled with spirit, and aged for 12 years. Then this spirit is blended with the traditional Macallan, and you have a unique Macallan. Subtle orange blossom, honey, and then some toffee and even bread yeast.  Throughout, the signature aged sherry component is present, in a good way. The finish is subtle, almost light, and leaves you wanting a second dram.

History of Laphroaig
History of Laphroaig

The Laphroaig  Cairdeas Triple Wood Cask Strength is one of these, and is quite a stunning statement, even coming from a distillery known for its assertively peaty, smoky character.

Laphroaig Cairdeas Islay Single Malt Scotch whisky
Laphroaig Cairdeas Islay Single Malt Scotch whisky

Laphroaig, over time, has released many memorable whiskies, many of which are available for one calendar year only. The Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood Cask Strength is one of these, and is quite a stunning statement, even coming from a distillery known for its assertively peaty, smoky character. The whisky is aged in ex-Bourbon casks first, and then goes into quarter casks, before being finished in ex-sherry casks.

The dram comes in at 59.5 percent ABV, but there is not a “hot” thing about it.  The nose is explosive, no need to bury your face in it at all. Just gently pass the glass in front of your nose, a few inches away. Given some minutes in glass, the entire room is filled with signature Laphroaig smoky peat and iodine.  With this drink, if you must add water, make it distilled, and make it a very few drops, for that little extra lift in aroma. The nutmeg, black licorice, rich toffee, dark, dark chocolate and a myriad of spices make this powerful from start to the improbably long finish. There is no real mid-palate, just an intense onrush of complex notes, one gracefully yielding to the next. A memorable drink in every way. Try it at the start of the evening. After dinner, all you will think about is having another Cairdeas.

Previous articleThe Season
Next articleTrue artisanal expression
James Tobler was Editor first of NUVO and then MONTECRISTO magazines, over a period of 20 years. He edited and wrote the Passport blog for Kiwi Collection for its first two years as well. He has written four cookbooks, with the chefs, for Araxi, Blue Water Cafe, West, and Cin Cin. He has contributed to a wide variety of publications, including The Globe and Mail, Okanagan Life, Fox News Lifestyle, and Wine Access magazine, where he was Managing Editor. He currently works with Mark Taylor on Gem City Guide, and, now, Inside Spirits magazine.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here