Another dizzy, whispered full Scottish breakfast, and the final day of the Campbeltown Festival. A shorter day that ends with us on the flight out of Campbeltown airport, but first there’s an unexpectedly large amount of unexpectedly epic whisky.
Glengyle (Kilkerran) Open Day
The third day is lightly attended due to people leaving for Feis Ile. I haven’t been to Feis but I can’t say I’d rather be there, queueing for a bottle of Lagavulin I’ll never get round to opening, than in Glengyle distillery drinking 80’s Highland Park.
But first, one of the absolute highlights of the whole week.
Cadenhead's Warehouse Tasting
Before going to Glengyle, we have the Cadenhead’s tasting in one of the dunnage warehouses at Springbank. Led by Mark Watt, General Manager at Cadenheads, at very early o’clock, we tasted some absolute gems right from the cask and listened (not for the first time this week) to Mark’s selection of jokes. For example “I’m often asked what type of cask this whisky was from… <points at cask> it’s that one!”.
Glengoyne 2001, 15 years old, refill sherry butt, 59.7% A+
N - Dry, dusty and dunnagey (but then that's where we are). Clean and hard oak. Some ozone, cranberries. B - Hard cereal and boiled sweets. There's a great, rich confidence about it, a cracking little cask. A bit tough for 10am though.
Arran 1996, 19 years old, 44.2% A⊕
The earliest Arran cask Cadenheads have. Andy Bell, the sales manager for Arran was there for the afternoon tasting and he told us in the early days (having just built the distillery) they didn't want to spend big money on good casks so it's rare to find an Arran this good, this old. I thought it was particularly compelling. But then, tasting it in the warehouse is always a good sales technique…
N - Extremely clean and gently fruity. Petrichor. B - Intensely floral, fruity with air freshener. F - Long and dusty, dry at the end. A fantastic cask - intensity, balance well beyond its years.
Caperdonich 1996, 20 years old, 48.9% A⊕+
3 years in sherry cask.
I do like a Caperdonich.
Auchentoshan 1999, Lafitte cask since 2009, 53.9% A⊕
Springbank May 9 1997, 19 years old, re-charred sherry butt, 58.8% A⊕⊕
N - Perfect, mature Springbank (it's all getting a bit much by this point clearly). B - Deep fruits, toffee and charred bananas, black forest gateau. F - Long and spicy, perfect refreshers, old school sherry. Fantastic.
This is an epic whisky, someone on the tasting bought 6 bottles. I wish I had. Proper notes here.
Bowmore 2000, 54.6% A⊕
N - Tropical fruit and cigar tobacco, dirty peat. B - Same as the noise. Refreshers and tannins, Sichuan peppercorns and marmite. F - Very dry. A fantastic, fruity, dry Bowmore.
Caol Ila 1984, 32 years old A⊕+
Who can resist very old Caol Ila?
Kilkerran WIP retrospective.
Springbank took a poll on Facebook and picked the most popular 6 WIP for this tasting . This marks the end of the WIP range and the launch (in August) of the new Kilkerran 12 year old!
Glengyle is amazing. The quality of whisky coming out of this distillery is incredible from a standing start, and they only distil 40,000 litres per year, the distillery is working for only one month per year.
6th place: WIP6 Bourbon, 2014. A⊕
Pink label as two of the sales team had baby girls that year.
N - Hard fruit, boiled sweets. Orange squash. B - Ripe, very sweet, great oak and a touch of tobacco. Nutty with water.
Really, really good, particularly with water.
5th place: WIP1 2009, 5 years old, sherry and bourbon casks. A+
White bottle, 12,000 bottles.
N - Hard and closed, some ozone, some lemon oils. B - Very warming and mature for the age, some fruit whistles, light acetone. F - Lovely oils on this one, great mouthfeel, some red wine. Surprisingly good for 5 years old.
4th place: WIP7 Sherry, 2015 A+
N - Indian spices and green apple. Sea water. B - Sweet and beautiful, a touch of sulphur, ripe pear. Some mint with water. F - Long and clean, fantastic stuff.
3rd place: WIP3 2011, sherry and bourbon casks. A⊕
N- Almond cream, milk tart and mushrooms. B - Creamy and slightly petrolic, toast and pâté. Another robust but beautifully formed whisky.
2nd place: WIP4 2012, 8 years old, sherry and bourbon casks A⊕
Sherry and bourbon casks.
N - More complex, more tobacco. Pink wafers. Beautiful charred oak, toffee and plastic book coverings. F - Medium, quite fruity. Much smokier with water. Madeira cask and red wine tannins. Tropical burps (by this point). I’m surprised how good this is!
1st place: WIP7 Bourbon, 2015, 54.5%
N - Sweet, red wine, hazelnuts. B - Spicy and a little dirty.
And that was the last tasting for us. We were booked into the Q&A session but the Cadenhead’s lucky dip bar was too compelling: Pick three raffle tickets and get 1cl of random cask samples from under Mark Watt’s desk. There was some epic stuff in there (some pictures after the split, below). I was beyond making notes by that point. Starting with a 1977 Convalmore, there was old Girvan, Tomatin, Highland Park…
What a fantastic three days. Somewhat cold and wet at points, but some really fantastic whisky and being immersed in Springbank and Kilkerran, and Cadenheads – and Campbeltown in general – was just wonderful. It seems to me that Springbank is just getting better, but Kilkerran is a real rising star, they have a future classic on their hands. And they’re not even trying that hard!
Thanks to everyone who worked at the festival for making it great and thanks Cuan for coming along. Our accommodation and flights are already booked for next year!