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
After the somewhat lackluster experience with the Rampur Select I tasted last week, let’s stay in India and look at this interesting bottling. Independently bottled Paul John, you say? How does that happen? Well, glad you asked! You buy some casks in India, have them bottled and shipped to Scotland, have some unlucky member of the warehouse staff empty all bottles into casks again, roll them into the warehouse for further maturation – and bottle the whisky once someone higher up in the food, err drink, chain decides to do it. Which didn’t take too long in the case of this 5-year-old whisky. Pretty easy, right? Let’s see if it was worth going through all that trouble…
Dram data: Distillery: Paul John Bottler: Cadenhead’s Distilled: – Bottled: Summer 2017 Age: 5 years Limitation: 360 bottles Cask: Bourbon Hogshead Alcohol: 57,4% uncoloured / not chill filtered Whiskybase link
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: Caperdonich
Age: 39 yo
Limitation: 462 bottles
unchillfiltered / uncoloured Whiskybase link
This is the last one in the trilogy of whiskies distilled in the 1970s at now “lost distilleries”, bottled for the 175th anniversary of the independent bottler Cadenhead’s. Unlike the Convalmore, I’ve got a slightly bigger sample, so let’s give it a thorough taste!
This is the most heavily sherried whisky of this release! The nose is immediately filled with deep, dark, bold aromas. Oak floorboard polished with wax (but not too oaky!), liquorice, cherry and plum syrup, herbal Swiss cough drops rubbed in allspice and forgotten for a few years in a rusty tin box. In fact, can I please call this a fruity cough syrup for grown ups? In a good way, of course! Not much sweetness going on, which is good, but the cask is definitely strong and not much distillery character remains – which is to be expected from a sherry monster of such a calibre. Still a very good balance between oak and fruit, this has not yet gone overboard! Let’s check the palate!Continue reading “Tasting: Caperdonich 1977 39 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary”
After enjoying a very sunny, hot, relaxing Springbank open day, the third and last day of the Campbeltown whisky festival was on: Glengyle open day. Boy, what a day it was going to be, filled with events and tasting after tasting! Let’s just say this up front: There were those who had sample bottles (including yours truly) and there were those who didn’t… ahem.
With a whole day’s worth of dramming in front of the six of us, a fully cooked Scottish breakfast, enjoyed outside in the sunshine, was just what we all needed to get going. Okay, we never had anything else for breakfast, but, hey, any excuse, right?
Soon enough it was time to call a taxi (no walking this time!) for a ride into town – for the first event of the day:
Second breakfast – alternative tasting
The folks at Cadenhead’s are well-known for bottling fine whisky, but they’re also bottling Gin, Rum and Cognac, and that’s what the (m)alternative tasting with chief booze flogger (inofficial title I just made up!) Mark Watt was all about. After tasting the standard Old Raj gin (which went very well with the tonic water on the table – kidding, it’s a very good gin!), we were in for a treat: A cask-matured gin! They filled a firkin with very high ABV gin (someone ignored or forgot orders to dilute before casking…) which apparently led to a bizarre situation when Mark poured samples straight from the cask for a few visitors. Whilst Mark thought it had “a bit of a kick”, allegedly some of the guys were gasping for air… Sadly we did not get to taste this 92,3% ABV version, but a “slightly” watered down one – which was still very impressive – and didn’t agree with tonic water at all. A gin for sipping on its own!
Moving on, we got two samples of a 30yo and a 50yo Cognac from the Distillerie Charpentier in the Petit Champagne. Both were very excellent “Cognacs for whisky drinkers”. Personally, I liked the 30yo a tad more – it just had a bit more going on, but both were really, really good and have since been released (and probably sold out now).
At the end of the tasting we finally tapped into the Rum supply, with the first one being the “Classic Rum” (which I thought was okay, but it didn’t really connect with me), and the second one an 18yo Caroni. Such a gritty, dirty, oily, greasy (think tampered-with German diesel engines) dram – but in a really good way! Also probably sold out worldwide by now, sorry. This tasting highlighted the quality of “malternative” distillates out there – it definitely pays off to look at other (and, these days, more affordable) spirits as well. I mean, a 50yo Cognac for 135£… that’s a steal!
Dram data: Distillery: Convalmore
Age: 40 yo
Limitation: 522 bottles
unchillfiltered / uncoloured Whiskybase link
Another whisky in the stunning lineup to celebrate Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary! I only have a very small sample left, so I’ll make the best of it to get my first tasting notes for a Convalmore up!
The nose is still surprisingly vibrant and alive for a 40 yo whisky! Definitely not an overoaked, dead dram (hey, I’ve seen it happen, they usually come in crystal decanters and expensive lacquered boxes!)! A massive waft of orange peel up front, mixed with gooseberries, apricots, mangos, sweet grapes, pickled ginger – let’s call it a seasonal (summery) fruit basket. But there’s more to it! A few mint leaves rubbed onto a lacquered oak box (ahem) held together by a leather belt, a cinnamon stick and a pinch of ground allspice. Noses more like a 25 yo whisky at first, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, does it? Give it time and time and time again, and it settles down, with the fruity notes getting darker / more condensed. Continue reading “Tasting: Convalmore 1977 40 yo – Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary”
Dram data: Distillery: Jura
Age: 30 years
Limitation: 66 bottles
Casks: Bourbon Barrel
unchillfiltered / uncoloured Whiskybase link
That sample took a while to reach me! It went from Salzburg to Vienna, was forgotten and finally found its way into my hands at its bottling place, Campbeltown, this May, only for me to bring it back to Austria to finally taste it. Apparently, it’s a very good Jura (which you can’t say of all whiskies by this distillery), so I’m very much looking forward to giving it a go!
The nose is rather promising. Rich and properly aged with quite a noticeable oak influence, but not too much. We’ve got an oak storage cupboard with a slight layer of waxy varnish and quite a few kinds of fruit – dried bananas, dried peaches, dried pineapple, tinned lychees, sweet red apples, rhubarb some pickled ginger. Add to that a hint of orange peel, honey and a box of tutti frutti. This is unlike most Juras I’ve tasted – the spirit has been taken over by the cask in a very advantageous way. Continue reading “Tasting: Jura 1986 30 yo by Cadenhead’s”
This 40 yo Banff, distilled in 1976, was part of the 175th anniversary bottling by the independend bottler Cadenhead’s, and we got the chance to try it during the matching tasting with Mark Watt during the Campbeltown whisky festival 2017. I liked what I tasted (I had it at a tie with the Rosebank), so I brought most of the sample home for a proper tasting session. Let’s do this!
Colour: coppery gold
The nose is anything but weak – still going strong after 40 years in a hoggie! What did they do differently in the 70s? Many drams from that era (even ones bottled at a relatively young age) have such a rich, fruity, waxy palate that has rarely been produced since. We’ve got orange peel, waxed red apples, tinned peaches and tangerines, brown banana, banana bread, strawberries in milk chocolate. In short: a complex, rich summer fruit salad served on sweet bread. (Please, hipsters, don’t make that a thing!). Oak, you ask? Well… just a smidgen of oak influence and a light generic herbal note holding everything together in the background, but this is mostly distillate and age talking here. With extended time in the glass, the herbal notes intensify a bit.
Dram data: Distillery: Springbank
Bottler: hand bottled
Age: 19 years
Casks: Recharred Sherry #606
unchillfiltered; uncoloured Whiskybase link
To mentally prepare for the Springbank festival in May, which I’ll attend, I think it’s time I tasted a “wee toon dram” again. How about this 19 yo from last year’s festival? Let’s take a look – and a sniff and taste!
The nose has a lot of power! wow! it’s a re-charred cask (hogshead?), so there’s no sherry left, this is all Springbank distillate and even more wood! The cask spices are immediately there up front – I’m guessing European oak! Cough lozenges, liquorice, cloves, allspice, gentian and a hint of wormwood. The typical Springbank smoke is there, but it really has to fight through the spices, you could easily miss it! The base is made up of burnt toffee, caramel, a whiff of old cigar box and the freshness of illicit cherry distillate with loads of cracked cherry stones in the mash. An aromatic powerhouse, not for the faint at heart! Continue reading “Tasting: Springbank 19 yo 1997-2016 (warehouse tasting)”
Dram data: Distillery: Laphroaig
Bottled: November 2015
Limitation: 192 bottles
Casks: bourbon hogshead
unchillfiltered and uncoloured Whiskybase link
Indie Laphroaig seems to have become scarcer and scarcer these past years – especially older whiskies in their teens or above. Cadenhead’s to the rescue!
Colour: pale white wine
The nose is typically Islay. Well-matured, refill-cask, heavily peated Islay whisky. Peat smoke, the usual phenolic kind with dirty bandages and iodine, soot, ash and well-used machine oil. Behind all that smoke, a salty sweetness creeps in – salted toffee on custard served on clamshells with lemon drizzled on top. Maybe a green apple is involved as well. The power of great refill casks, allowing the spirit to shine, just rounding out the edges. On to the palate: