After a testing drive from Glasgow [Blog], we finally reach Campbeltown – just in time for Cadenhead’s Club Tasting at Springbank’s Malt Barns. After driving past it a few times, we finally spot the understated entrance to Springbank.
Mark Watt informs us that 15% of all Cadenhead members worldwide are in attendance for this evening’s tasting, an event that kicks off Campbeltown’s Feis Ile 2018. “It’s pronounced Faysh Eeyla”, says Mark. “It’s Gaelic you know”.
Tonight we are helping choose the first of the Cadenhead bottlings of a ‘new era’, an era that sees the loss of the member’s loyalty card. As appeasement for the changes, gin & Cognac for example, will be offered as loyalty gifts to members in the future.
A little more on that later. Time is of the essence. The remit is 6 drams [all bottled/decanted last week], in 30 minutes. That is a push.
[Loch Lomond] Inchmurrin 1996/2018 21yo Cadenhead cask #4574 53.1%
- N: Nicely aged malty n salty whisky, full bodied yet with a light & sweet Balvenie-esque fluffiness.
- T: Following on from the sweeter nose, the palate takes on a slightly more bitter direction with putty development.
- F: Rolls on through, sweet to bitter with a tempered malty resinousness.
- C: Solid Cadenhead stock. As it transpired, of the six this is probably the style I preferred, the one I’d buy. That doesn’t mean it was the best mind. That would be the sky falling in on our heads.
Scores 86 points
Speyside 1991/2018 26yo Cadenhead cask #51 50.1%
- N: I picked up a distinct peanut note first, followed by shelled nut butterscotch, dry earth, hay & [dry] wild grass.
- T: Add water for the richer barley juice and a just the right amount of bitter putty/porridge.
- F: Distillery wafts throughout, grassy to the last.
- C: For the five minutes I had with it, excellent whisky.
Scores 88 points
Littlemill 1990/2018 27yo Cadenhead cask #3040 52.1%
- N: Banana chips, candy-ish lemon drizzle cake and confectionary lemon drops.
- T: A natural style of malt. The profile centres around peppery & oily, robust squidgy sour malt/putty and fruity lime. A tricky complexity.
- F: Savoury sour with dried coconut, becoming ever more malty and then mineral-y to finish.
- C: Rather a singular whisky that I imagine won’t be popular amongst the horde, until they find out it’s a Littlemill of course. I found this had slightly less of an outlook/vista than the previous Speyside [though this could well have changed if time had allowed], but there’s little between #2 & 3 – both excellent whiskies.
Scores 88 points
Tullibardine 1993/2018 24yo Cadenhead cask #1868 46%
- N: Decidedly peanut-y [again], with more minerality than the first three. Overall it’s mostly savoury>sweet despite picking out addition notes to the contrary that included barley popcorn/candy floss, more peanut butter with jam & jellybeans, fruit flapjack and raisin shortbread.
- T: Rounder and more consolidated than the previous three, developing on fruity floral>flapjack=shortbread<porridge with a deep mineral sour tendency.
- F: Sour floral fruits and further mineral development.
- C:. Equally as good as the previous two despite their very different personalities.
Scores 88 points
Mark tells us that ‘Happy hour’ and drinks promotions are now illegal in Scotland, which is one reason why Cadenhead had to stop their loyalty points cards. It’s also about numbers. They gave away around 1000 loyalty bottles last year, a significant amount for a relatively small company.
Glenrothes 1996/2018 21yo Cadenhead cask #22 55.8%
- N: A totally moorish, sweet malty, creamy sponge icing number with firm suggestions of sherry. Predictably, this will be popular regardless of all other factors.
- T: Pleasingly, this continues as expected in a sweet malty candy bourbon direction.
- F: Vanilla ice cream, cream soda and fungal-sour milky custard with a slight tannic grapey tannic note at the death. There were suggestions in the room that this could have been kept in cask longer but for me the cask is already very present.
- C: Tasty stuff though I think the previous cask contents rather trumps the underlying spirit, creating a strange juxtaposition between what is, and what was.
Scores 85 points
Glen Grant 1993/2018 24yo Cadenhead cask #15/249-1 52.4%
This enjoyed a three year sherry HHD finish.
- N: This starts out similar to the Glenrothes, but here, maturity trumps the finishing effects. Notes of tobacco, fusty candy and tamari suggest umami is in the developing stages.
- T: Works neat but is merely a flash in the pan. Otherwise [with water], there’s a narrow and (relatively) more subtle/fragile rising coppery travel with a Caol Ila-esque ashy touch reminiscent of those previous Loch Fyne [blog] and Bon Accord [blog] drams.
- F: A funny finish on malty noodles, chop suey, malt biscuits and sponge fingers mixed with suspect oily notes [possibly a culmination of previous dram], resulting in congealed crisp oil at the death.
- C: Even more singular than the Littlemill, here’s an odd ball that certainly works in places. Of course, the horde will love this too.
Scores 84 points
The votes come in. Inevitably #5 & #6 ‘win’, with #4 coming third. Malts #1 & #2 gain only six & four votes respectively. The Littlemill barely features. I imagine a large contingent will now buy the Littlemill. That such a niche group of enthusiasts would distill this down to a popularity contest takes me by surprise, but Mark has seen it all before. “You are so predictable”, he promulgates.