After the long slog [a mere 15 hours this time] from Sussex to Loch Lomond,…
I reach a stop-off favourite for the night – Vale of Lea Pool. I take a drive-by shot of Loch Lomond Distillery in the morning as a matter of course utilising the now obligatory apocalyptic filters.
The drive from Loch Lomond to Campbeltown is a breeze in comparison to yesterday’s haul. I’m lucky to have just missed the ‘chaos’ that ensued from an exploding petrol tanker near Tarbert – so we heard – that had subsequently blocked the main road into Campbeltown.
All parked up, I soon find myself in the Cadenhead’s shop perusing the lines. Who walks in but Tom & Dawn, Campbeltown & Feis Ile regulars and unabated cyclists who’ve already clocked 60 miles today in preparation for this tasting followed by the Glen Scotia dinner.
Due to time constraints, they leave the Cadenhead’s Club Tasting after the first 3 drams, decanting the rest into pre-labelled sample bottles. Pros!
CADENHEAD’S CLUB TASTING 2022
It seems there are twice as many club members in attendance than in 2019. As a result, we are located in the larger barn to the far left of the maltings. There are fewer familiar faces than in other years though some of the usual suspects remain. I miss us all sandwiched into the smaller malt barn [see pic below, from 2018]. Something of the atmosphere is gone, not least of all because of the absence of Mr Watt.
Tonight’s 6 complimentary drams are all cask samples, the theme: ’Release or Reject’. As is customary, we try all the drams blind.
Also on the tables, we find complimentary tasting packs from 2021 & 2020 – the ‘missing years’ – when Cadenhead’s had produced 700 packs in advance before realising the festivals couldn’t go ahead as planned. How amazing that they thought to redistribute them to all club members in attendance tonight for free and not simply decant them into the living cask vat or sell them. Those packs include a 24yo Inchmurrin, 28yo Highland Park, 31yo Fettercairn, and a host of other delights [notes to follow in due course].
Speyside Distillery 1991/2022 30yo Cadenheads Un-Ob. bourbon cask sample 43.6%
- N: This is very distinctive/familiar to me, but I already feel I’m not going to guess it [the distillery] at the time. The idiosyncratic profile speaks of a sweaty hessian sweet floral custardy treasure trove. This has some age to it though it remains agile too.
- T: Again, with a floral soft grassy maltiness, there’s a distinctive peanut-y nutty oiliness I can’t pinpoint right now but it will all make sense in hindsight. Overall, there’s a homemade vibe here, very well homemade at that.
- F: With a reasonable mouthfeel and some cocoa on the finish, we’ve the perfect storm of cask and spirit.
- C: A decent all-round yet idiosyncratic malt, it remains very familiar throughout. Of course, the Speyside Distillery, that peanut nuttiness & oiliness a dead giveaway. The best/most intriguing Speyside Distillery whisky I’ve had, on par with a single cask 24yo from Whiskybroker [WLP88]
Scores 88 points
Miltonduff 2008/2022 14yo Cadenhead’s Un-Ob. oloroso cask sample 51.9%
- N: With an oloroso finish since 2020, I initially guess 33yo Strathclyde [a year on from that fabulously sherried 32yo from Cadenhead’s [WLP90]. Having said that, there’s a Macallan-esque-ness here too, so single malt [and not grain] will be my subsequent lead. It wouldn’t be the first time Cadenhead’s have poured a Macallan of maturity, though that was at The Director’s Cut [WLP88].
- T: Deliciously soft and herbal, hessian malty sweet soft grassiness, sweet warm lemon juice,… the cask not as dominant as the nose had suggested.
- F: A total comfort-zone dram yet with some heat though additional water soon irons out these quibbles.
- C: Moreish stuff that doesn’t require overthinking. Older grain vs < maturing malt, the reveal is a surprise to many. Either way, it’s a thumbs up regardless.
Scores 87 points
Craigellachie 2010/2022 12yo Cadenhead’s Un-Ob. Chardonnay cask sample 56.1%
The news that this has been maturing in a chardonnay cask since 2019 brings on some jeering.
- N: Of all the whiskies tonight [assuming they are all whisky], being rather sulphury, this could be the most divisive. Furthermore, we’ve a sweet funk – Ben Nevis meets Trelawny? – salty vanilla ice cream, earthy,….. very interesting nose.
- T: Sulphur into sweetness, the oak showing,… still more rubber.
- F: Carbolic/greasy waxy [Glen Scotia-esque] notes suggest a peatiness for some, but for me, it’s more [grape-derived,.. and spirit-borne] sulphur.
- C: Not quite my bag but I just know others will love it. Rather more simple with water.
Scores 85 points [mostly for that nose]
Benriach 2008/2022 14yo Cadenheads Un-Ob. PX cask sample 53.4%
- N: With a PX finish since 2020, we have a sweet-herbal-sour spice woody raisiny situation,… surely Edradour, yes?
- T: PX all the way,… sweet > citrus juice,…
- F: ,… into turkey meat, ash, furniture polish, peppery Demerara sugar. Deliciously soft and forgiving all the way through, I guess the abv to be around 46%.
- C: This surely has to be a PX-ed Edradour but Cameron is quick to say “there’s no chance Signatory would ever release any Edradour to us”. Either way, I like this sherry-dense style though I’d never have guessed Benriach – not woody enough [for an official bottling]!
Scores 86 points
Union 2016/2022 +/-5yo Cadenheads fresh bourbon cask sample 59.2%
Made up of 2 peated and 2 unpeated malts, all aged in sherry before being finished in fresh bourbon since April 2021.
- N: Salty briny light bourbon Rivita/marzipan/Garibaldi biscuits, dung,…. It’s also very Laphroaig-ey.
- T: I’ll stick with my (non-TCP-ed) Laphroaig hunch, though with a savoury stewed apple fruity side course, there are doubts this is even from Islay. Perhaps it’s a CaolLedaiPhroiBeg? On our table alone, we list virtually every other distillery from Glasgow to Wick and even toy with the idea of an independently bottled Balvenie Peat Week-type release.
- F: Dry/not dry, biscuity,… Rich Tea > ginger biscuits [without the ginger?],…
- C: This has everyone scratching their heads. On reveal, we are all astonished it’s a young Brazilian whisky. On another day/different context/expectations/lineup, this might have found itself in a different position. It is certainly something different.
Scores 87 points
Ardbeg 1984/2022 28yo Cadenheads Un-Ob. bourbon Hhd cask sample 51.8%
- N: Being in a fresh bourbon cask since 2019, I first pick up on malty peated oyster sauce. The rest oozes in slowly, undecided yet lively, a touch precocious.
- T: This one oozes age and youth. I initially guess Caol Ila before picking up on an Ardbegian vegetal ashiness which will prove my best insight of the night. With a bitter-sour-savoury body, there’s a hint of [non-sulphured] plasticine/plimsole,… plasticy-ness.
- F: Chocolate oyster sauce, briny plastics, herbal ash again,,…
- C: At the time I wrote, verbatim: ‘You wouldn’t dismiss this as an Ardbeg Day Release’. Given its mature/youthful nature, I guessed it was around 15-16 years of age. It’s been a tricky one to mature apparently.
Scores 87 points
The ‘Release or Reject’ votes are in. The show of hands of approval – estimated in percentages – are as follows:
- 1] Speyside: 80%
- 2] Miltonduff: 90%
- 3] Craigellachie: 80% – more jeers [from the 20%].
- 4] Benriach: 96%
- 5] Union: 99% – wow! Roy’s v-pub is right. Scotland can’t rest on its laurels.
- 6] Ardbeg: 92%
The story of the night is: sulphur is out (not that it was ever ‘in’) and Brazilian whisky is very definitely in. The Ardbeg, Benriach, and Miltonduff sail home also. There’s no doubt in my mind that all of these casks will be bottled in due course. What would the whisky landscape be without independent bottlers, eh? Rather dull indeed.
With thanks to the Cadenhead/Springbank team for their unrivalled generosity and passion. Tomorrow, Glen Scotia Day