Review: Cadenhead's Islay cask 58.3%

Every few weeks I’ll drop by the Cadenhead’s Edinburgh shop to generally discuss whisky and see if there are any new arrivals worthy of my hard earned cash. This journey is in danger of turning into a monthly pilgrimage. Sometimes these trips prove fruitful and on other occasions I may leave empty handed; there are no guarantees.

While bottles may come and go a constant fixture in the shop are the regional casks that are very popular with tourists wishing to take back a decent whisky back home. I have been working my way through these with a couple of reviews on Whisky Rover including this earlier Islay example. The casks are refilled when required with new liquid and I envisage my coverage will be a constant as they are always changing. An added bonus is that the smallest bottle size is 20cl, costing around £14, meaning you have some financial flexibility if cash is tight.

Recently I wrote about the in-store peated whisky shortage and how an emergency cask was put together. This resulted in a rather nice dram that was attractively priced. Those cask contents unsurprisingly are no more, but I have a full sized 70cl at home to enjoy in the future. My general rule now for these casks is if it is impressive to purchase a 70cl for a rainy day rather than miss out. This brings us onto this latest Islay peated acquisition that was highly recommended by the staff and a tasting confirmed its quality. A small 20cl was purchased as a gift and a statement of intent to come back for my own 70cl and 20cl the following week was made.

Now I was told the components of this Islay cask are from 2 distilleries on the island, so I don’t know if this is secret information so I won't state which but maybe look at the categories used on this review. The bulk is a 7 year old from a distillery that you never see bottled by independents nowadays. The other rebuilt distillery is more commonly bottled at various ages by independents and is often overlooked. Let’s jump in and see if my first impressions now still count at home.

Distillery: a blend of 2 Islay distilleries, 1 with greater emphasis
Age: young with a component being 7 years old
Strength: 58.3% ABV
Availability: only from in-store casks
Price: a variety of sizes around £14 for 20cl, £48 for 70cl

Colour: cream soda

Nose: a floral mash, a forest walk on a dreich morning with stacks of autumnal vegetative notes. A sense of Ovaltine (a hot milk drink with malt extract), golden syrup and decaying banana skins, all supported throughout by sweet fruity peat. With the addition of water the peat moves up to the stalls and sweetness is the first dish of the day. More kiln smoke evident now.

Taste: now this is a Islay rollercoaster and at 58.3% it's surprisingly drinkable without water despite its younger years. A burst of peat, vanilla, cava sparkle and vegetation before a surprisingly levelling off; then the peat returns for a prolonged encore finish. With water the tables are turned at the expense of the finish as the peat moves into the middle ground. Now we have more saltiness throughout and smoke.

Just a lovely drop that ticks all the boxes in my book. You can quite easily pay double the asking price here for a No Age Statement Islay special edition and it'll fall short of this benchmark. Consistently offering a thorough whisky experience, exclusivity and plenty of value for your buck the shop casks at Cadenhead's continue to deliver. The current Campbeltown cask is pretty good as well and might be another purchase.

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