Every year, independent bottler Cadenhead’s gets to select one cask of Springbank whisky to bottle under their own name – and they have to pay their parent company, which owns Springbank distillery, for it. This year, the winner out of apparently 37 casks was a 24-year old Springbank, distilled back in 1994 and matured in a refill ex-bourbon barrel. Must’ve been one heck of a barrel with an outturn of 312 bottles. Maybe it was married and re-racked at some point? This whisky was featured as one of the drams in the “Director’s Cut” tasting at the Campbeltown Malts Festival this year as a preview and I brought the drample back home with me for a proper assessment. So, what do you expect from this whisky? Nothing but the best, right? Let’s verify that…
Dram data: Distillery: Springbank Bottler: Cadenhead’s Distilled: 1994 Bottled: 2019 Age: 24 years Limitation: 312 bottles Cask: refill barrel Alcohol: 50,8% no colouring added / not chill filtered Whiskybase link
Ord – sometimes also referred to as “Glen Ord” is a rather unknown distillery. There are no official bottlings – well, almost. Owners Diageo bottle it in their very confusing (and mostly underwhelming) “Singleton” line of malts – the same branding is used for three different distilleries and each version is only available in a specific market. Way back when (Glen) Ord was bottled under its own name with an age statement it happened to be my first bottle of Single Malt. Now if I could only remember if it was the 8 or the 12 yo… Anyway, as my first proper single malt, this big – and since massively expanded – distillery has a special place in my heart. Cadenhead’s recently released a 14-year-old expression in their Summer 2019 batch 2 and the folks at the Vienna shop were kind enough to provide me with a miniature. Let’s give it a taste and see if I will part with some of my hard-earned money to pick up a full-size bottle!
Dram data: Distillery: Ord Bottler: Cadenhead’s Distilled: 2005 Bottled: Summer 2019 Age: 14 yo Limitation: Cask: bourbon hogshead Alcohol: 54,8% no colouring added / not chill filtered Whiskybase link
Ardbeg. One of those distilleries I have a love/hate relationship with. I’m rather fond of the distillery itself and the base distillate they produce but I’m less than enthusiastic about the over-the-top branding with all the flannel and the special releases, it just doesn’t appeal to me. These days I might get a bottle of the still very good TEN every once in a blue moon when it’s on sale but I ignore the rest. That also includes independently bottled Ardbegs. At one point Ardbeg was a distillery you HAD to buy casks of if you wanted casks from one of the higher-valued distilleries in their owner’s portfolio. These days independently owned casks are rare, sought after and priced accordingly. In my opinion and experience, the only somewhat sanely priced bottler of Ardbeg remains Cadenhead’s – and even their current prices are above what I’m personally willing to pay. So I guess this is already sold out in most markets but thanks to the shop in Vienna (who miraculously still seem to have stock, according to their website, at the time of writing) I was sent a wee sample to have a wee nose and taste…
Dram data: Distillery: Ardbeg Bottler: Cadenhead’s Distilled: 1993 Bottled: 2019 Age: 25 years Limitation: 216 bottles Cask: Hogshead Alcohol: 51,6% uncoloured / not chill filtered Whiskybase link
Dram data: Distillery: Bladnoch
Bottled: Summer 2018
Age: 26 years
Limitation: 246 bottles
Casks: Bourbon Hogshead
uncoloured / unchillfiltered Whiskybase link
Now that we’ve got a Cadenhead’s store in Austria again I can be a bit more timely with my tasting notes on some of their wares. So let’s take a look at their recent release of a 26-year-old Bladnoch, a distillery I’m usually quite fond of …
Colour: white wine
The nose is quite fresh, yet sophisticated. A good marriage of refill wood and spirit, so it seems. We’ve got citrus (with peel), apple and pear peel, a strawberry or two, a hint of fading summer flowers on a slate board, sweet grapes, old banana and a touch of icing sugar. Light and delicate but with lots of little things going on in there. Delightful! Let’s check the palate!
If you’ve been into whisky for any length of time you will have noticed single malts being items of luxury. In a world where whisky is more often than not sold at a premium in fancy, shiny boxes due to people going crazy for old, aged whisky, we maltheads must take care not to pay way over the odds. One of the best names in the independently bottled whisky market is Cadenhead’s. Established in 1842 it is the oldest independent bottler in Scotland – and one of the biggest. Size is important – if you’ve got the stock you can afford to buy casks of whisky young and cheap(ish) and wait years and decades before bottling instead of having to sell it quickly. Add to that their no-frills packaging (to quote Mark Watt, Director of sales: “You can’t drink packaging”) and a reasonable price and you’ve got a winner.
The only trouble is getting access to their wares. Cadenhead’s offers two different product lines: Their “international range” (mostly vattings of two or three casks) is available, well, internationally through a network of retailers while their rarer, single cask “Authentic collection” is only available at Cadenhead’s branded stores – of which there are only nine spread throughout Western Europe. Up until the end of 2017, when they stopped operating under the Cadenhead’s brand, we Austrians were lucky enough to have a shop in Salzburg. After eight long months of absence (though my wallet quite liked the reduced whisky spending…), on Tuesday, the 14th of August 2018, a new Cadenhead’s shop opened its doors in Austria. Did I rush to be there for the opening day (and night)? You can bet on it!
Dram data: Distillery: Deanston
Age: 19 years
Limitation: 846 bottles
uncoloured / unchillfiltered Whiskybase link
I guess everybody has one – a distillery whose products they’re struggling with. There are very few of them – but Deanston is amongst them. It’s hard for me to find a Deanston malt that “connects” with me – for whatever reason. So what drove me to purchase this bottling by Cadenhead’s? Don’t remember! Let’s see if this is a Deanston malt that “works” for me…
Colour: dark straw
The nose is pretty light – second fill butts were probably used for maturation. We’re greeted by lemon, citrus peel, a whiff of alcohol, unripe grapes and grape seeds on a bed of candyfloss. A mix of limoncello and grappa, perhaps – aged in oak barrels. After 19 years this is still rather spirit-driven, which is not a bad thing unless you’re expecting a sherry bomb. Let it sit for quite a while and more subtle nuances appear, together with a grape and apricot sweetness and fruitiness. Not a dram to be rushed. Quite good so far – let’s see if it’s the same on the palate!
Dram data: Distillery: Highland Park
Age: 28 years
Price at the time of purchasing: – (official price: about 220€)
Casks: Bourbon Hogshead
Unchillfiltered, no added colouring Whiskybase link