A Small Collection Of Cadenheads

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%)
WMCadenhead IRISH 13-cr-400x600 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).
WMCadenhead 12 sherrywood -cr-400x600N: 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)
WMCadenhead ISLAY 59.1-cr-400x600 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.Mortlach-26-cr-400x600

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)
W197_54081N: 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.Dumbarton 27-cr-400x600

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.

 

 

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The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show: Dream Drams & Whisky List

  September is long gone, the leaves are changing colour and I’m having to dig out all my jumpers again. Welcome October and it’s many joys. One being the best whisky event around – The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show. It’s been moved to a bigger venue, there are more drams than ever before and it’s run by Andy Milne, one of my accomplices at university (just ask me at the show and I’ll tell you some stories!)

I can’t even get my mind round the amount of whiskies available over the weekend. Everything from Douglas Laing, Compass Box and Wemyss to distilleries such as The Balvenie, Kilchoman and The English Whisky Company. Not to forget a number of show bottlings from The Whisky Exchange itself; 16yo Laphroaig, 2002 Bruichladdich, 9y0 Ledaig, 22yo Irish whisky and a 21yo Rosebank). The full list of drams are here if you want to start planning.

Don’t forget the Dream Drams over the weekend. You get one free token and they are £10 to buy after that. One token could get you a 30yo Caol Ila, 1952 Glen Grant or a 1980’s 21yo Springbank. With two or three tokens you could find yourself sipping on a 1980’s Karuizawa or a 1965 Macallan. If you want to try a Glenfarclas distilled in 1956 or an Auchentoshan distilled in 1966, then you will need three or four tokens. I would keep an eye out for the Springbank 25yo Cask sample, Brora 35yo, Compass Box Flaming Heart and all of the show bottlings!

To check out all the Dream drams, have a look here.

If you are going, then have an incredible time. Look out for me… I’m the short guy looking like a kid in a sweet shop. If you’re not going, then start planning next year.

  

A #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Advent is a special time for many. For some of us, it is a time of preparation for the celebration of the nativity of Jesus at Christmas. For others, it is just a mad three week rush leading up to the 25th December; including shopping, parties and “valid” excuses to eat and drink too much. The term advent is taken from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” and no matter whether you believe something special is coming or not, you have to admit that Christmas is an exciting time of year. For as long as I can remember, December has brought a sense of excitement to these cold winter months. I love fires, scented candles, singing carols at the top of my voice in church, celebrating with my family and opening my advent calendar each day. This year however, I won’t be opening my calendar in the morning.

Even though you know what will be behind the door each day, the excitement was always there as a child. Then came the joys of chocolate advent calendars. “What do you mean I can’t eat it for breakfast?!” “If I eat five now, that won’t be a problem will it?” Both regular statements in my household. Now that I’m a *tad* more mature and married it means that I don’t get to open my advent calendar at all. That’s my wife’s job and I value my life too much to try stealing chocolate from her!

It was then (whilst grumpily surfing the web last year) that I discovered something even more wonderful than a Cadburys chocolate calendar: The Whisky Advent Calendar. An interesting idea. I know there has been a negative article circulating over the last few days, suggesting this idea is offensive. David Marshall from the Meaningful chocolate company said this type of advent calendar “…distracts from the meaning of Christmas”. Some would say that working for a chocolate company, he could be threatened by the new rivalry and I can tell you that chocolate has nothing to do with the “true meaning” of Christmas either! I do however understand how some people could find an idea of a whisky advent calendar far away from the meaning of advent, and somewhat excessive. However, with less than 3cl per day for this month only, before going back to once or twice a week, I don’t think that would be considered excessive. I am fascinated by the diversity and flavours I find in different whiskies and I look forward to taking notes and enjoying the tastes and aromas of these fantastic samples.

Long story short, I have already tried a large majority of the regular whisky advent calendar whiskies, and the premium selection was simply out of my price range. It was then that it occurred to me that I had a large stash of very special whisky samples kindly given to me by generous members of the whisky community, or #whiskyfabric if you will. What better time to try them than this?

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I have chosen twenty-five of my most exciting, beguiling, rare and down right scrumptious samples from thirteen very munificent whisky friends. The large scale calendar has been constructed by my lovely wife, a massive thank you to her – and the samples have been randomised so I don’t know what to expect. I will aim to primarily taste and enjoy, but will be taking a few tasting notes so that I can review each one on here every day.

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I would love for you to follow what I get to taste this coming month and whether you’re “coming” or going this advent, enjoy yourself and this wonderful month.

Whisky Live

Shhh! Don’t tell anyone… But I attended my first ever whisky show the other week. I know it’s bad. It’s taken me this long to get myself in gear. However, I can tell you something else. It will not be my last. I had heard quite a bit about Whisky Live from my numerous twitter/blogging friends, so I made sure I didn’t miss out on this years. Held at the beautiful Honourable Artillery Company (a somewhat hidden gem in London), Whisky Live gives whisky lovers the opportunity to socialise, try lots of new whisky and meet brand ambassadors.

After a fantastic night at the SMWS the night before, and an exciting tour round The London Distillery on Friday; a large rowdy group of us descended upon Whisky Live with Glencairns in hand and a gleam in our eyes.

 

Teeling

Teeling Single Grain, Small Batch Blend & Vintage Reserve 21yo

First port of call was the Teeling Whiskey stand. I’d heard too many good things about this whiskey, so I thought it would be a great start. I met the familiar friendly faced Sam (who gave me my first ever SMWS dram) who represents Teeling. He not only gave me three crackers to try, but also a great knowledge of them all.
Teeling Single Grain: Sweet grainy nose with slight menthol/smoke hint. Incredibly smooth leathery palate, with some grass, sweets & wine on the finish.
Teeling Small Batch Blend: Again quite a sweet grainy nose, but rum finish is apparent upfront. Warming, grassy, slight metallic rum note. Lingers nicely leaving cut grass & raisins. I liked it a lot.
Teeling Vintage Reserve 21yo: A powerful, fruity nose. Really intriguing palate delivering smooth sweetness before dark sour fruits bounce over the tongue. Mysterious & complex, I loved it! Thank you Teeling Whiskey, you’ll be in my cupboard soon.

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Mark Thompson: The Grain Man!

Following the Grain theme, I ventured over to the legends of grain – Girvan – where I met Mark who treated me to four of their delightful grains. And delightful they were.

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Girvan No.4 Apps

Girvan No.4 Apps: Oily, musky, floral nose. Palate was fresher & more vibrant with a slight savoury edge. Lingered nicely with a small hint of smoke on the finish.

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Girvan 25yo

Girvan 25yo: Slightly withheld nose, remaining fresh & vibrant considering age. Vanilla, pear drops, ginger & toffee with some dryness on the finish.

 

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Girvan 30yo

Girvan 30yo: Subtlety floral, musty, fruity & chocolate notes on nose (some corn too?!) Oaky, sweet, sawdust and leafy character. Stays fruity & smooth throughout whilst having a slight zestiness to it. Again pretty vibrant for age.

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Girvan 40yo

Girvan 40yo: Rich and quite spicy on the nose. Pretty creamy. More oak and sherry here. Warming with red berries and hint of sawdust. Nicely aged with lots of sawdust and sherry sweetness. Magnificently mature.

 

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Preparations for the masterclass

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Neil spinning his magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was lucky enough to attend two masterclasses on the day, the first being led by three cracking gentlemen: Rob Allanson, Neil Ridley & Joel Harrison (Caskstrength). Providing knowledge and humour, they led us through the previous nights WWA Winners – weren’t we lucky! All interesting whiskies in their own right, showing the vast quality and variety we are lucky to have in the current market.

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WWA Winners

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Nikka Taketsura 17yo

Nikka Taketsura 17yo: Gentle, mossy, spicy, floral, dried fruit and tobacco – complex nose. Dark arrival with oak, cinnamon and liquorice. Fruity, floral characteristics before hidden whisp of smoke appears. Relatively smooth & slightly drying.

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The Lost Distilleries Blend

The Lost Distilleries Blend: Strong but mellows. Grainy, woody & spicy before peat starts to appear. Some leather armchairs too. Floral/citrus notes upfront with coriander and gentle peat balanced with a hint of zest. Very smooth dustiness with hints of peat here and there. Quality!

 

 

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Sullivans Cove

 

Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask: Musty, oaky, bourbon, cereal and almonds on the nose. Quite thin on arrival. Vanilla, honey and spices.Woody, drying and complex. The vanilla continues into the finish with some nuttiness too. Nice, but not my favourite (although it was voted worlds best single malt!)

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Overeem

Oveream: Powerful, sherried & slightly metallic. Fruitcake, caramel and spice. Sweeter on palate, with BBQ and burnt barley. I keep getting cinnamon. Nutty with vague smokey notes. Long finish with dark fruits & spiciness. Some cocoa there too before the sherried fruits take over.

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Balcones Brimstone Resurrection

Balcones Brimstone Resurrection: Very different. Oily, sweet BBQ meat, burnt hay & smoke on nose. Even meatier on palate, with powerful dark dusty flavours coupled with some menthol on the long booming finish. Yikes!

 

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A selfie with Balcones Chip Tate – Legend!

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Balblair tasting

I obviously wasn’t content enough with one masterclass, so I popped along to Balblair’s later that afternoon. We weren’t led as well this time around, but we still got to try some of their nice vintages.

Balblair 2003: Spirity, grassy and floral, really fills the nose. Full on palate with sweet oranges and apricots. Similar to certain new-make. Evaporates quickly leaving apples, wet wood, vanilla and hint of sherry.

Balblair 1997: More tropical fruits on nose with raisins and a sweetness again. More fruity and delicate with some citrus and heather. Vanilla, brown sugar and bourbon notes on finish.
Balblair 1990: Fresher nose, with sherry soaked fruit and sawdust. Dusty, floral, smoothly sherried with very small hints of peat. Long warm finish with lots of depth.
Balblair 1983: Dark fruits, wet wood, toffee and an old sweet shop on the nose. Palate’s less sweet, giving a dry maltiness mixed with a fruity depth. Slightly edgy on finish showing its maturity and smoothness. I love this one.

 

Twas time to move away from the Scotch and try something else, and after chatting with my friend Scott, we decided to head to the Taiwanese distillery Kavalan. All five whiskies we tried were well made, with the Kavalan Classic and Kavalan Port getting some good nods and the KingCar whisky giving me a big juicy, fruity, briny, smile! It was the three ‘Solist’ bottlings that stood out however.

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Kavalan Soloist Bourbon

Kavalan Solist Bourbon: Strong bourbon nose with sour fruits and sawdust. Strong palate giving lots of berries, raisins and some earthiness. I could have drunk it for days.

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Kavalan Solist Sherry

Kavalan Solist Sherry: Big, rich and dark! This is serious sherry on the nose, palate and eye. Holds the tongue with dark fruits, brown sugar and sawdust. Long long finish.

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Kavalan Solist Wine Cask

Kavalan Solist Wine Cask: Cracking nose, subtle yet powerful. Sweet, wet wood, grapes, some tannins and dryness. I just wrote “lovely lovely stuff”.

 

 

 

We decided to try some non distillery bottlings after this, so slid over to That Boutique-y Whisky Company. The delightfully cool Cat Spencer guided us through some of the cracking bottles they had on show. I’ve got a few of TBWC’s bottles, and I can tell you that their awesome comic book bottle labels are just the start!

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TBWC Clynelish

TBWC Clynelish: Strong, meaty, salty and lovely. However, not a typical Clynelish. Some forrest fruits and nuttiness balanced with a whisp of smoke.

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TBWC Caol Ila

TBWC Caol Ila: Classic Caol Ila. Big peat, big smoke, some delicate TCP, earthy and strong. This was like smoking a quality cigar.

 

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TBWC Kilchoman

 

TBWC Kilchoman: Peat-tastic! Slight farmyard peat on nose, with floral notes lurking behind. Doesn’t feel too young (even though it obviously is). Great mix of apples, earthiness, peat and biiig sweet smoke. This was awesome and my favourite of the TBWC bunch!

 

 

Another indie cask strength stand, and our friends over at The Whisky Exchange offering some Elements of Islay. The wonderful Billy and (my good old friend) Andy had some great choices.

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Br5 – Bruichladdich

Br5: Old Bruichladdich nose, salty, briny, earthy with some grass and sultanas. Strong on the palate with apples, grass, bourbon and hint of smoke on the tail. Beautifully balanced with some toffe at the end. This seems like an older laddie to me…. but I could be dreaming.

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Bw3 – Bowmore

 

Bw3: Great nose. Mellow peat, some salt with a slight fragrance to it. Peaty clings to top palate with some ripe fruit (grape & blackcurrent). Nice stuff, seems like a mid-aged Bowmore to me.

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Lp4 – Laphroaig

LP4: Less TCP than other Laphroaigs. Sweet peat, smoke and a very small savoury hint. Smooth palate with peat gliding over the tongue with a earthy quality. The smoke here was spot on. All three bottles showed some real quality.

 

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Chris – Cracking Chap!

We did make it to various other stands, but sadly 6 hours just wasn’t enough time to  visit them all, which is a shame. A big shout out to Chris on the Compass Box stand. As usual, he was delightfully personable and gave some lovely whiskies to sample. [Watch out for an upcoming Compass Box vertical]

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Chris chatting to John Glaser… Mr Compass Box!

Some of the other whiskies I got to try throughout the day: Glencadam 14 Olorosso, Glencadam 18, Compass Box Hedonism, Balcones Baby Blue, Balcones Brimstone, Balcones Number 1 and Nikka 15yo.

 

A wonderful afternoon, trying some marvellous whiskies. Could you ask for more? Oh yes… the fantastic company I had throughout the day. New friends brought together by the love of this magical liquid. A big shout out goes to Scott (@saunders_afc), Tommo (@ifotou), Stevo (@steveprentice), Ben (@ben_copps), Jon (@dvdbloke), Dave (@whiskydisovery), Andy,(@ardbaggie) Dave (@whiskyrepublic), Kat (@whiskydiscovkat), John (LRwhisky), Adrian (@mynameisgone), Stewart/Kirsty (@whiskycorner). Just a selection of the #Whiskyfabric

 

* Thanks goes again to Whisky Live for the pass and for putting on a great event *