Cadenhead’s Odd Squad of Old but Gold Whiskies Tasting

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Given the monthly onslaught of Cadenhead releases throughout 2017, I thought it somewhat necessary to enhance the financial overkill by attending the second of the Edinburgh shop tastings. Regulars will have read my summary of the memorable January evening celebrating Burns Night. It was a fantastic evening with some of the staff surprising us by playing a couple of Scottish tunes. These certainly went down well on my Instagram Live broadcast alongside the high standard of whiskies.

The premise behind this Cadenhead’s Odd Squad of Old but Gold whiskies is to spotlight the often overlooked, underrated and almost hidden from sight distilleries that are not fashionable, or have a single malt presence in the marketplace. It’s a worthwhile topic and the promotional email highlighted Speyside with its numerous distilleries mainly focusing on producing whisky for the blended Scotch market.

I’ve always said when you visit a specialist shop such as Cadenheads or others in the capital; speak with the staff and see what’s of interest currently. The blackboard of financial ruin in the Cadenhead shop offers a variety of distilleries, cask types and strengths to entice from the novice to the experienced enthusiast. If you cannot find something on the board, then the stockroom is empty or consists only of Jura. For this tasting the guys put together six cask strength releases and a bonus mystery exclusive straight from the warehouse in Campbeltown.

This tasting was set on the post-Storm Doris Friday. Thankfully we had all survived a disappointing barrage of gusty winds and brief sleet. A chilly evening in Edinburgh ushered us into the small but cosy environment of the Cadenhead shop where another tasting was laid out for the 12 lucky folk to have acquired tickets. This event sold out pretty quickly, as word of mouth seems to have spread since the inaugural January event. For £35 you’ve given access to a series of cask strength whiskies with a couple of surprises. Thrown into the mix are some nibbles, banter and the prospect of a couple of musical tunes. Generally, I find the whole experience great value, very relaxing and you can watch a short video of the live music from this tasting on my Facebook page or via Instagram. The lads at Cadenheads don’t tell you how to drink your whisky or try to brainwash you like some whiskies personalities or ambassadors are capable of. It’s all about the whiskies and enjoying yourself. So without further ado lets commence with the tasting.


Auchroisk 28-year-old

Bottled at 42.8% Bourbon Cask, a Small Batch release that will set you back around £107.

Colour: a light haze
Nose: an very malty arrival almost Ovaltine in punch, plenty of cereal notes and a lemon sponge cake. The freshness cuts through the density and there's a black tea element and nuttiness in the mix. Diluted oranges which is a surprise given the cask type and a touch of salt.
Taste: a sweet caramel arrival, moving into bitterness from the wood and a surprisingly quick finish. Returning there's a pepper aspect, more spice with nutmeg and a hint of blood orange.  
Overall: an interesting nose certainly, not hugely layered yet very distinctive. The palate is lightweight and more of a cleanser for what lay ahead. A classic Speysider for the blenders. 

Teaninich 32-year-old

Bottled in 2015 at 47.5% from a bourbon Cask resulting in 162 bottles. This release will set you back around £190.

Colour: a pale sliced pineapple
Nose: a dense and robust appearance with honey flapjacks and mustard seeds of all things. There's a floral note, creamy vanilla, Scotch pancakes and a buttery oiliness. Not one element dominates instead a blend is formed. 
Taste: oh now we're talking interesting! A puff of smoke initially then butter icing. Blanched almonds, puff pastry and there's a noticeable herbal quality but do avoid water.  

Overall: a very overlooked distillery that produces a unique distillate. We'll have a review of the Teaninich 2001 17-year-old Manager's dram in the coming weeks so watch out for that. In the meantime I'm loving its distinctive qualities.

Miltonduff 36-year-old

Distilled in 1978 and bottled in 2015 at 44.9% from a bourbon Cask. An outturn of 126 bottles priced at around £275.
Colour: apple cores 
Nose: now we're back on Speyside territory and a vibrant arrival with candied fruits featuring cherries, pineapples, orange and lemon peel. The sweetness continues with vanilla marshmallows, honey and elderflowers. 
Taste: slightly waxy on the palate with beeswax and butterscotch. Spicing with cinnamon and a little nutmeg. There's orange peel and toffee elements into a relaxed but elegant dram.

Overall: this one kinda fell by the wayside during the tasting, but returning to it tonight I find a great deal to appreciate. A whisky I believe you could serve up to anyone and they'd find something to saviour within its wardrobe of quality.


Glentauchers 38-year-old

Part of the Authentic collection, distilled in 1976, bottled in April 2015 at 50.8%. From a single bourbon hogshead resulting in 210 bottles priced around £280.

Colour: apple juice
Nose: a rich stewed rhubarb layered cinnamon and then sticky toffee apples. Orange peel cuts through this orchard followed by caramel wafers, ripe bananas and a hint of varnish.    
Taste: a golden syrup with more of those apples, vanilla and milk chocolate. I'm reminded of apricots and some glazed cherries. On the finish there's walnuts and a touch of rum with a lasting waxiness.    
Overall: this is a classy Glentauchers and Cadenheads consistently bottles some of the best examples from this low-key distillery. A great price for what is an extremely old malt whisky.

Invergordon 43-year-old

A Small Batch release, distilled in 1973 and bottled in 2016 at 48.3%. From a batch of ex-bourbon Casks resulting in an outturn of 468 bottles, expect to pay around £176.
Colour: plum stone
Nose: immediately you can tell this a grain whisky with a sweet sugary arrival. Big on the vanilla and hazelnut oil, followed by raisins and there's a awkward damp wood characteristic in the mix. After much soul searching I'm reminded of blueberries and freshly applied varnish.  
Taste: a wonderful texture, oozing in nature with plenty of vanilla and a big emphasis from the cask and resin. This evening its pretty neutral on the palate with maple syrup and lots of black pepper.  
Overall: very reminiscent of the Invergordon bottled by Dornoch distillery at 43 years of age, but lacks that flash of brilliance. It's decent yet doesn't grab you upon tasting; the younger 25-year-old Cadenheads currently have in stock from this distillery is the better whisky. 

Dumbarton (Inverleven Stills) 27-year-old

Distilled in 1987 and bottled in July 2015, at 53.9% from a single ex-bourbon Cask. An outturn of 240 this sold out long ago.

Colour: worn gold
Nose: a very creamy vanilla arrival with malted milk biscuits notable. Pineapples with peaches and kiwi fruit explode before migrating into sweetness with honey. There's also a mineral, flint quality here giving it a hybrid Lowland/Speyside quality.  
Taste: sugary sweetness with honey and glucose syrup. An oily consistency develops then barley sweets before the vanilla, biscuits and peaches assemble once again.  
Overall: a rare distillery nowadays, this distillery-within-a-distillery is seldom bottled with the main source being Gordon & MacPhail. After all these years it's still a vibrant ray of sunshine in the glass. A fitting tribute to what once was. 
And the Mystery Single Bottle Single Malt just for the night's tasting, straight from the Cadenhead warehouse is...

Caperdonich 20-year-old

This was distilled in 1996 and bottled in 2017 just for this tasting. Apparently this is the remnants of the last Caperdonich sherry cask that Cadenheads currently have. Although there's nothing stopping them from filling existing casks into sherry wood for further maturation. Bottled at 48.9%, this is very much a one-off and a real treat.

Colour: a loved and abused copper pot
Nose: straight off its apple pie with a fine dusting of cinnamon. It's the Caperdonich spirit in harmony with the sherry cask. Walnuts, a creamy Highland toffee bar followed by milk chocolate.     
Taste: funnily enough it does have a brushed copper taste, quite pleasant actually moving into walnuts and honeycomb. Pine nuts, ginger and plenty of resin, there's an element of vanilla bourbon going on here as well.

Overall: nothing forceful with this Caperdonich just elegant and confident. It's a whisky for everyone and ended the evening on a warm note.
So there you have it, another successful tasting from the Edinburgh Cadenhead team. For once it is difficult to pick out a clear favourite from the event. A well-rounded Caperdonich was a treat, but I'm still thinking about the Teaninich and Glentauchers. The Inverleven was another solid example and not out of place in this line-up. 

In total we have 224 years of whisky across these measures. What other tasting gives you this for just £35 plus food and a few rousing live tunes? Lets do it again next month...

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