Campbeltown Malts Festival 2019: Cadenhead’s BIG Tasting

Held at the Glengyle distillery [it is their open day], the rematch was on! Cameron introduces himself to pretend jeers, followed by Jenna to huge applause. She lost last year’s ‘battle‘. She explains that this year is “more of a love-in”. Mark encourages questions. “There are no stupid questions” he says. “Only stupid answers” quips Tom. This lively jovial banter is indicative of the closeness and camaraderie that exists between the Cadenhead/Springbank team and its customers, with friendships formed over the years.

We drink blind, some current releases, some as-yet unreleased. Due to the lack of bottle pics again, random pics will apply.

Cadenhead's Big Tasting.jpeg

Cameron is up first with an old blend destined for an international release.

Cadenhead 1973/2019 45yo [2019] Sherry hogshead 43.1% WB0

This is a blend of Glenfarclas, Glenlivet and Invergordon. Some of the whisky had fallen under 40% abv. The Invergordon beefed it up a little. 3 years ago the concoction was thrown into a sherry hogshead for marrying.

  • N: A soft chalky & fusty, beautifully aged spot-on nose [89-90 point category]. 
  • T: I love this style. It’s not too complex but sits just right. A little thin but the Invergordon certainly provides body and helps with the cohesion.
  • F: The grain remains solid. Vanilla barley cream finish and barley sugar at the death.
  • C: Decent old blend, due to be priced around £130-50.

Scores 87 points


Jenna’s first offering is a very young grain.

Girvan 9yo [2019] Cadenhead Pinot noir cask 61.4%

This as-yet unreleased young Girvan spent 7 years in bourbon and 2 in a pinot noir cask. We are likely to see it in Cadenhead’s second summer batch release later in the year.

Girvan distillery
Girvan distillery
  • N: With a distinctly sweet nutty caramel profile, there are clear Strathclyde similarities [link].
  • T: More Strathclyde vibes. This could easily pass for [first-fill] sherry maturation in my book, such is the likeness to Strathclyde’s cask #11062.
  • F: Decidedly confectionary & cake filling-sweet, the cask positively disguising the grain spirit. Scorched sulphury sherry/butterscotch vibes at the end confirm the Strathclyde likeness.
  • C: Good casks. I wouldn’t want a whole bottle, but I’d drink it from time to time when I fancied something sweet.

Scores 80 points


Jenna’s up again. Mark reflects on last year’s ‘battle‘. Whilst Cameron’s choice saw a whole cask of Bowmore drained in less than an hour, Mark gives credit to Jenna as “the only person in the world to offload 50 bottles of Aberfeldy in one go”.

valinching is hot work

Littlemill 27yo [2019] Cadenhead Authentic Collection 49.8% WB89.52[29] SW87

  • N: Husky putty, some plastics, [yellow] fruits,… Irish?
  • T: Easy drinking, Irish-esque puttied mash and waxy plastics again. Seems so obvious once it’s revealed as a Littlemill. 
  • F: A tutti frutti linseed-putty finish.
  • C: Old Littlemill has that ability to resist woodiness by firmly holding onto its putty mash roots. This one is no exception. Something isn’t quite firing however to push it closer to the 90’s.

Score 87 points

Cadenhead's Big Tasting HOSTS.jpeg

Mark steps up next with a rum that will be available,…. in the future! We are reminded that Cadenhead were originally a rum & spirits bottler.

Columbian Rum 26yo [2019] Cadenhead 69.4%

All we know is this is Columbian rum that spent 20 years in a bourbon cask before 6 years in port. At natural colour, it’s reddish black.

Columbia rum 26yo [2019] Cadenhead 69.4%.jpeg

  • N: A big nose with lovely toasted fruity sugars. Surprisingly clean/not that funky.
  • T: Oh yeah, desirably potent! I expected a high-ester style but it remains on the level as a big fruity woody, savoury < sweet number. 
  • F: Drops in intensity before lingering.
  • C: A beauty of a beast. The port has likely made all the difference.

Scores 85 points


Who presented the next one? Can’t remember, don’t care. It matters not! One of these guys anyway:

The Big Tasting.jpg

[Photo from]


Cooley 1992/2019 11yo/[26yo] Cadenhead Malts Festival ‘Big Tasting’ single cask 53.4% WB89.45[13]

This has a sibling from a previous release earlier in the year [WB].

Cooley 1992:2019 11yo:[26yo] Cadenhead Malts Festival ‘Big Tasting’ single cask 53.4%.jpg

  • N: Dried tropical [green & yellow] fruits, a touch farmy. I guessed it was a Springbank on the back of the low ppm.
  • T: Sticky chewy mouthfeel on more yellow fruits – from melons [on the nose], to pineapples on the palate. Also, a lovely touch of peat, barley bread, some light meatiness, mash, putty,… super stuff!
  • F: A little drying with a hint of chilli, but it’s the delicious fruity putty mash base that endures.
  • C: Very decent indeed, and at £100 for a 26yo/[11yo] Irish whiskey, it looks like a steal.

Scores 89 points

Cadenhead's Big Tasting room.jpeg

Bunnahabhain 5yo [2019] Cadenhead [Peated] 59.4%

Yet another 5yo peated Bunna, different from yesterday’s however that was featured at Cadenhead’s Club Tasting. Made up from three bourbon barrels, it’s super-light in colour.

  • N: Fatty, sweet and phenolic with descriptors that included pickled onions, sweet vinegars, old man, a few drops of Persil,….
  • T: With a distinct light nail crud note this doesnt deliver as I’d hoped it might and water ruins it which is a shame. With perseverance I start to get into it more but it’s a struggle.
  • F: The unforgiving spirit plows on. 
  • C: Not for me but no doubt the vikings will love it.

Scores 81 points, mainly for the nose.



A BIG thank you to Cameron, Mark & Jenna






Glengyle distillery.jpeg

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