It’s the 2nd week of June. I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks supporting local cocktail bars via ordering their cocktails-to-go. I was drinking an unfamiliar cocktail that utilized a peated Islay single malt when my calendar reminded me, I was in Hong Kong exactly a year ago. This was when the Hong Kong protests started growing in size and scope. I remember checking into the airport extra early as a precaution, as I had noticed more and more protesters gathering in Central.
Hong Kong is a place I very much love. I spent some long weekends of my childhood there, when my grandmother was still alive. I love how it’s a great mix of the East and the West. I love their food. I love the bar scene. Like Japan, it never fails to invoke my sentimental side and my fondness for underdogs. I once heard that it’s unusual for Hong Kong to feel sentimental about the past. I guess there’s an irony in being sentimental about a place that is known to not to feel it. Regardless of what we say or do though, the old is always eventually beaten out by the new. Change is the only constant thing in life.
The cocktail and calendar reminder also partly took me back to 2012. I was still very new to whisky back then. I was even newer to the world of cocktails. It was my first time in The Curator Coffee & Cocktails, situated in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines. I told one of the owners that I knew nothing of cocktails, but was into single malt. I ignorantly and dismissively told them the reason for my not being into cocktails was due to my perceived inconsistency towards the drinks being made. So, he made me a Laphroaig Project.
As the name suggests, this cocktail uses Laphroaig (Quarter Cask). This is a twist on a classic cocktail called The Last Word. Basically, the gin is swapped out with Laphroaig. Lemon is used instead of lime. Yellow Chartreuse along with the Green Chartreuse and then add peach bitters. I’m not sure of the origins of the Laphroaig Project. I’ve been told San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch made it. But I’ve also heard that this drink originated in a Vancouver bar. Regardless, the Curator owner said he first had this in a then-new and now an old, but gold Hong Kong speakeasy, called 001. I haven’t had this made in a long time but this drink ultimately turned me onto cocktails and eventually other spirits. Time to ask if the Curator can make this for me.
Since I was yapping about a Laphroaig based project above, it’s just fitting I review Laphroaig for this piece. It would be most fitting if I reviewed the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. But I don’t have a bottle of it anymore. So, I have to “settle” for the other open bottles I have.
Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin 2012 – review
This celebrates 18 years of the Friends of Laphroaig programme. Combines some of the liquid used for the first release of Cairdeas as well as some new spirit fully matured in quarter casks. Non-chill filtered. ABV: 51.2%.
Color: pale ale.
On the nose: I get a lasting dry and lightly smoked toffee nut and honey scent upfront. It’s followed by flashes of nori and salinity. Peat, flashes of apricot and figs, and a longer scent of fuji apples appear at the end.
In the mouth: Refreshing pepperiness followed by an unfamiliar vegetal taste, light peat, light and lasting smoke and some nori. Undertones of a stable and long taste of apple juice, BBQ sauce, honey and toffee. More light notes of nori and BBQ appear at the end.
This does not have the usual peaty, smoky, barbeque-y, bacon and iodine flavors you find in the usual Laphroaigs. In saying that, something different from the norm is almost always welcome with me, as long as I find it good and this fits the bill.
Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira 2016 – review
Laphroaig fully matured in ex-bourbon barrels before being “artfully married together” for a second maturation in Madeira seasoned traditional hogsheads. ABV: 51.6%.
On the nose: A blast of lovely smoke, toffee, nuts and caramel. Flashes of undertones of orange jam, honey, vanilla, licorice, wax, nutmeg and cloves.
In the mouth: Smoke and peat upfront. A hot and incoherent mix of orange peels, bits of cacao, bacon, nutmeg and clove. Bits of nori, honey and BBQ at the end.
I like the nose on this Laphroaig. It makes the dram seem like it’s something you can drink all day. Then, you take a sip and that image crumbles almost immediately. On the palate, this is like a bungled smoky mess. I don’t even taste the Madeira influence in this. Although I don’t always drink Madeira. Still, my palate should recognize it, but it is missing.