I know! The picture above isn’t of Cadenhead’s in Chiltern Street, but the one below is. If you read this via email, you won’t know what I’m talking about.
For today’s catchup, I look back to 28th Nov 2019 and a visit to Cadenhead’s on the evening of Chiltern Street Christmas. Every year, Chiltern Street closes to traffic, giving way to a festive pedestrianized area. As well as live performances, festive workshops, and community-driven design projects, shops open their doors with offerings of food, drink and in-store promotions.
Every year Cadenhead’s generously provide a complimentary array of spirits and snacks and the space to socialise. It’s a good chance to see friends before we all disappear down the festive rabbit hole and into a new and year, or in this instance, a new decade. This year’s spread included Scotch & world whisky, rum, gin, cognac, cachaca and calvados.
As with every year, Cadenhead’s is rammed, which given the size of the shop in Chiltern Street isn’t a surprise. What is amazing is how many of us fit in there at the same time, with room to hold a glass! I’m offered a calvados to start with, and why the blazes not? I know nothing about the stuff.
- C: The cask speaks at the nose. Cloudy dry cider at the death, more herbal on the palate. Very nice indeed. A refreshing alternative to whisky and other spirits.
What I subsequently found out about Calvados is:
- It’s an apple and/or pear brandy made from distilled cider and/or perry.
- Like everything else, Calvados has its own appellation and regions within, as well as permitted apple & pear types. There are orchid rules, fermentation regulations,… you know the drill. If you like apples & pears or cider, you may just love calvados.
- Calvados saw a boom in popularity after Phylloxera wiped out grape-based drinks and spirits.
- Reputed houses will tell you the varieties of apples and/or pears they used.
I spot the cachaca. Regular readers will know that I recently became a fan [WLP]. Whilst I’m on the alternative spirits I try:
- [No notes, not scored]
Cadenhead’s Cachaca 5yo  40.2%
- C: The 5yo beats the 10yo hands down which can often be the case with younger/unaged cachaca and tequila for that matter. Of the 5yo: solid juice with plenty of action. Loved it!
Scores 85 points
Considered one of the best batches the shop has received in a while. Indeed, I’ve found the 15yo been excellent all year [WLP89].
- C: Very sherried, bordering too rubbery for my palate, yet still, with that desirably familiar heathery/barley dry, naturally savoury-sweet grassiness on the palate and a soft roughness overall which is certainly part of Springbank’s unique charm. Another super batch indeed.
Scores 89 points
It’s lovely to have witnessed Mackmyra’s development in real-time, coming of age as a distillery entering its third decade. I’ll be looking out for and expecting to see some cracking expressions when the juice hits 15 or even 18 years.
- N: Apple snow, soft pears, and pineapples,…
- T: ,… with a lovely oak blanket body and cellulose-y waxy mouthfeel.
- F: True to form. This would ‘pear’ nicely with the calvados.
- C: The best Mackmyra I’ve had since I got overly excited about Bruks back in 2013. This independent 11yo is so similar to early Bruks releases in profile but with a maturity that lifts it away from the unripe fruits and those unfortunate detergent-y notes found in some batches.
Scores 88 points
And that was that. I was too busy chatting to try more whisky. I’d come for the social aspect, and social aspecting I certainly did!
There’s more? There’s always more. This seems like a good time to include two more Cadenhead bottlings that tOMoH kindly sent to me months ago, at my request. I’d heard good things you see.
Dalmore 2001/2019 18yo Cadenhead’s Sherry hogshead [246 bts] 51.7% WB86.84
From Cadenhead’s ‘Wood Range’. What doesn’t fall under this range – gin?
- N: A sweetish malty [butterscotch] & dried fruit-tannic pong alongside a large heap of husky & nutty [pecan] < wood-shavings indicates there’s been some vibrant cask action along the way, probably towards the end as a finish. Not particularly my style but like many naked/raw high-abv malts, this one needs some taming. It’s not long before sweeter cakes, confectionary and rich vanilla icecream join the party. The butterscotch covered in sawdust remains a constant niggle.
- T: Crickey, that is some vibrant sherry cask activity! A finish or full virgin cask maturation is the question? [Subsequent research tells me there was a 23-month sherry hogshead finish]. The middle talks of malty-distillate putty, a few plastics, fruit-wax and plenty more wood shavings. Overall it’s rather astringent and struggles to blossom.
- F: Takes oodles of water to coax out more of those confectionary subtleties from the palate [as well as more pecan and butterscotch action from the nose,…], but this one is adamant to remain rather warm and lively. One that’ll warm your cockles around the campfire on a brisk autumnal night, that’s for sure.
- C: Very contemporary. One to shock a regular Dalmore drinker out of their habitual comfort zone.
Scores 84 points
An independent Glen Scotia. Isn’t that less common these days since the distillery began raising the exposure of its own single malt? As far as I can see, this is the oldest bottling of Scotia that Cadenhead’s has bottled thus far, and only 150 bottles came from the cask. This one has been designated for Cadenhead’s ‘Authentic Collection’. Aren’t all their bottlings authentic?
- N: Aside from a familiar toasted-sweet barley note that’s almost caramelized, this smells even older [much older] than it already is, yet there’s no iota of woodiness about it. A touch of soot>peat? with maybe: earth/light-meaty/stones/dust/soil [delete as appropriate], into dense jams, marmalade, hints of rum/clairins that bring a subtle fermented pong, mildly sweet syrups, quince – like a really old Auchentoshan blended with the oldest Hazelburn there yet isn’t,…. Hell-fire, that’s one unique nose!
- T: More minerality [very Nevis], a touch more soot,… then more of that toasted barley, with little sweetness from the nose. It stays mineral-centric with some strangeness underlying,…
- F: ,.. that I struggle to describe. Let’s offer a mineral-y/stone, gin-like, savoury-sour copper coin finish. A bourbon hogshead is credited but isn’t there something else going on? Or maybe it’s just a very metallic-y new make that’s still making waves after 27 years in a refill cask?
- C: A remarkably singular example of an old balanced malt brought by time, with the sum of the parts making for an unlikely but viable marriage. Let’s not forget some good marks for the nose.
Scores 87 points
With thanks to tOMoH and all involved at Cadenhead’s.