Last week I made my monthly trip up to London to taste the new outturn from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. If you’re a whisky fan but you aren’t a member, then I think you should try and sort that out. But we aren’t here to talk about SMWS. Before getting to the society I decided to make a quick stop at Baker Street. Cadenheads to be more precise. Cadenheads is Scotlands oldest independent bottler running since 1842. They buy many different casks from around the world, bottling them when they think right (at great prices too). I have tasted some stunning expressions from them over the last few years and I’m continually excited by what they are releasing. They have three stores in the UK; Campbeltown, Edinburgh and my “local”, London.
Stopping in just to browse their fantastic range, I was met by Stephen the manager who I always enjoying chatting with. He encouraged me to try a selection of what they had in store. How could I say no? Here are the six drams I tried on that Saturday afternoon.
William Cadenhead 13yo Irish Malt (46%)
N: Interesting. Can’t quite gauge this one. A sweet shop after the school rush. Creamy, fruity and malty with lots of marshmallows. Freshly polished metal.
P: Fresh, warm and vibrant. Clean cut grass and raisins. Honey and custard creams. Fresh fruit salad. Not overly malty as the nose suggests.
F: Medium. Smooth and slightly spicy. Menthol. Pretty elegant though. Very quirky and very nice. Don’t know when I would turn to it, but definitely one when you fancy something different. Only £47 though and pretty good value/fun ratio (still available here)
William Cadenhead 12yo Blended (46%)
(Contains 65% malt and 35% grain and is matured in a sherry solera system).
N: Slightly withheld. Dark chocolate gateaux. I got vanilla ice cream and sherry notes after a few minutes, but in general the nose didn’t do too much for me.
P: Pretty smooth delivery. Palate definitely better than the nose. Caramel sauce, malt and burnt wood. Dark fruits and chocolate.
F: Medium. Grainy notes on the finish with the sherried sweetness like christmas cake. This is a dangerously drinkable blend. £34 some would argue is good value for this. It is in the realm of cheaper single malts though…not that it’s a competition.
William Cadenhead 7yo Islay Malt (59.1%)
(This is a single cask)
N: Nice fresh and vibrant peat. Young in age and young in character. Nice briny notes though. Like freshly cooked mackerel on the bbq. The iodine and smoke don’t die down one bit.
P: Warm arrival of huge mouth smashing peat. Crashes around leaving no prisoners, but interestingly softens on the tongue. Salty, briny and accessible.
F: Long, lingering and smokey. What you want from a young and peaty Islay malt. This is a bruiser. If you want a peat bomb at a high strength then this is a good choice (still available here). Now this is definitely not Lagavulin. No seriously not Lagavulin at all. Definitely not. Nope. *cough*
Cadenhead Mortlach 26yo (56.1%)
N: Beautifully rich, Burnt toffee, malty and meaty. Candy-floss, cured ham and cherry bakewell. Like sitting on a bail of hay.
P: Dark toffee. The sweetness of the sherry is there along with the dryness too. Quite oily, meaty with some chilli flakes too.
F: Long and smooth. Rich syrup and cocoa. Very moorish. This tempts you. Plays with you. Complex and beguiling. For £115 it’s yours right here.
Cadenhead Craigellachie 21yo Wine Cask (53.1%)
(This spent half its life in a Sauternes cask from 2006)
N: Pretty sweet with a real darkness. At the start pretty damp and withheld; it needs 10 minutes to compose itself. You get the wine tannins quickly with new packs of haribo and vanilla. Plums, honeyed sweetness and blackcurrent jam. Water brought out some spices and oiliness.
P: Thick arrival with some fizz on the tongue. The wine is powerful and drying, but not overstated. Dark, nutty and slightly bitter. Lemon sherbets, manuka honey and dark fruits. Water brought out the sawdust and chocolate orange.
F: Long, sweet, oak driven and drying. Rum and raisin ice-cream. Really oily and jammy. This was nicely crafted wine cask whisky. It complemented the malt well and brought out its qualities. I bought one of the last ones in the shop as it was great value for money.
Cadenhead Dumbarton 27yo (53.9%)
N: Beautiful grainy wafts of vanilla, honey and gentle sweetness. No rough edges on this one. Sweet shops, freshly cut wood and cake mixture. Intricate and delicate, you could nose this for hours.
P: Powerful compared to the nose, whilst maintaining a beautiful smoothness. Grassy, woody and pretty fresh and vibrant for its age. Hints of custard and strawberries, make me think of jam roly-poly.
F: Long, delicate, drying, smooth and 100% moorish. Some people might call this breakfast whisky. I don’t care what you call it, it’s simply brilliant. This type of dram is for reminiscing. Probably one of the best Lowlanders I’ve ever tasted.
A great few hours spent in a wonderful shop. If you are near any of the Cadenhead stores, I would implore you to pop in. You won’t regret it.