Cadenhead’s second summer outturn, this isn’t as blockbustery at first glance as some others (although if you look at the ages, it really is) but we are coming off the back of the Banff, Campbeltown festival and the rest of the 175th anniversary stuff. However this is one of the most gushing outturn reviews I think I’ve ever written. I make no apologies for lots of high scores; remember selection bias, remember no bell curves, and I just say it as I find it.
What really stands out here then, what should/could you buy?
- If there’s any left, everyone should buy the Paul John. First Cadenhead’s PJ or Indian whisky and definitely the best Indian whisky I’ve tried.
- Fans of mature Glen Garioch, definitely get that.
- Everyone is a fan of mature Bunnahabhain, and this one is particularly good. If you can swing the cost, this is highly recommended.
Despite being late with these, everything I have been able to taste here is still in stock, except the Mortlach. Everything is some variant of excellent.
Bourbon barrel, 186 bottles
Nose - White, creamy, a little sharp (like blackcurrant compote), lots of fruit and some real age in the woods - dusty, slightly tropical, almost charred. There's a really complete, intense maturity to the nose. I wouldn't have guessed a grain, absolutely beautiful (not that I don’t like grains).
Body - Pure white chocolate at first, then some intense grain flavours - yellow oak, bitter wood tannins and butterscotch, developing into Werther’s originals. There is that medicinal note with time, a little Sudocrem.
Finish - Very long and full of vanilla cream, quite an intense bitterness but played against a resilient, oily sweetness. The spirit here is extremely high quality, what a whisky.
A fantastic grain, and the nose is particularly good. The slightly hard edged wood in the delivery, typical of a grain and not unwelcome, makes me wonder if this might have been better put to use as the backbone in a truly amazing blended whisky. Don't add water though, that wrecks it.
Bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles. I've got a good feeling about this.
Nose - Intense and complex, there is a real malt backbone in this. Travel sweets, milk poured on instant coffee granules, blood orange, orange wax and hot sawdust on exhale. Malt and oak. And is it just slightly peated? More tropical with water. This is the kind of intensity I'd expect from a very highly priced OB Glen Garioch.
Body - Rich, mocha coffee and slightly fizzing with gunpowder and hazelnut membranes. Flashes of breakfast grapefruit, and tropical fruit squash.
Finish - Long, a little musky and waxy, bitter citrus builds to the end, where the wood takes over. Fruitier with water. There is peat, earthy and Ardmorey at the end here, I'm reasonably sure of it (although I do sometimes second guess myself).
This is a proper GG, absolutely delicious. The only thing holding it back are some concerns as to the utter fabulousness of the delivery, which is a little fizzy. But it's right on character as for the distillery and if you like GG you should snap this up.
Bourbon hogshead, 270 bottles
Nose - More intensity! Now with wood glue, recently glossed woodwork and an interesting, enriching and quite subtle funk. A fruit salad - orange segments, slightly soggy banana slices (that was always the best bit) and a mix of fruit juices. There's a wax and wood that lifts it above the Glen Garioch.
Body - Deep and fruity, toffee, beeswax, cloves and burning straw.
Finish - Long, deeply fruited (blood orange and beefsteak tomatoes), with tomato leaves and chewed stalks (something like cherry stalks, which of course don’t taste of cherries). At the end, twisted orange peel.
An extremely intense and very rewarding whisky. This is quite first fill with that intensity but the fruit (mainly orange) and herbal woods are balancing, as is that burnt note, and the whisky is very well matured. Delicious. My only gripe is that it may be too intense.
Bourbon hogshead, 192 bottles
Nose - I'm afraid this flight is in danger of becoming a bit gushing and samey! Tropical, in that slightly alien but beautifully balanced way old Bunnahabhain is. This is into fruit salad chews, Trebor softmints (I need to clarify in my own mind which is which, but I think this is spearmint rather than peppermint), menthol tobacco, leather jacket and cut hedge. And a little blue cheese.
Body - Complex, with fruit sour, some numbing oil, a rather fatty smokiness (ham?) and again that soft, slightly ammoniac cheese.
Finish - Rich and creamy, slightly dirty, still ploughing the cheese, are we sure this is only 27 (and at 41.9%, only caught in time)?
Old Bunnahabhain has that otherworldly tendency to be both fruit bomb and utterly weird, and sometimes it doesn't quite come together. Not the case here, there's something very right about this one - fruity, meaty, dirty, cheesey, balanced and very drinkable.
Fully matured in a small bourbon barrel, 120 bottles. <braces self> can't remember Glentauchers this old ever being anything but amazing.
Nose - Here we are again, slightly sourer I suppose, a little older on the oak furniture with overripe fruit and old varnish, but this feels even older than the Bunna. It's the full carpenter’s workshop here though, glues, cut oak and linseed, the fruit is waxy, elegant and a little restrained, but this is rich, old tropical Scotch.
Body - What am I supposed to do about this outturn?! Buy it all? Rich, oily, toffee pennies and mango sorbet. White chocolate mousse and drumstick chew-lollies. More peppery and slightly funkier with water.
Finish - Long, of course, with rich toffee and woods and a [splitting hairs] overripe note that is perhaps a little too sweet.
Another blockbuster old Glentauchers, tropical old Scotch with poise, if perhaps a little too much sugar.
Mortlach 2003, 13 years old, 55.1% A⊕+
Bourbon cask, sherry hogshead finish since December 2014, sold out.
Nose - Sherry (nutty) yes, but with sour blackberries, red wine reduction and quite meaty. It has that sour, toppy, spirity note that young sherry finishes seem to, and is slightly mineral with cracked pepper. Even bloody fruitier with water, raspberries?
Body - Rich and complete, black malt, black currants and a rich cereal complexity. There's something narcotic in here, hash and cherry pipe tobacco?
Finish - Blackcurrants all the way, black jacks and bresaola. Softer and fruitier with water, definitely fruit salad chews now.
Well, that was a masterpiece. That's exactly how you finish a whisky.
Sherry butt, 438 bottles
Nose - Darker. Finally a step down from very amazing, although not too far yet. Caught pulled pork, with Kipling white icing and vanilla ice cream, and a little smacked (and marinated) cucumber. A lovely first fill bourbon feeling with water, still as meaty though, it's making me quite hungry.
Body - Rich and worty, soft liquorice and a little oversweetened. Some sulphur.
Finish - Medium, tannic and blackened, flirting with cabbage (and definitely on that pork note). Fruitier with water, definitely more interesting.
Nothing like the majesty that's come before it, so a tough act to follow, but I like the meaty notes and the honest (if very refill) sherry cask.
Sherry butt, 528 bottles. Not quite sure why I left this until "last"
Nose - Proper dank, dirty leaf hops, pickled onions in dark malt vinegar and soft hash. I can't get over this pickled onion thing, it's not like it's unpleasant, but it is quite punchy. Fruitier after sipping, with something posh-restauranty, like rare venison and port sauce, cranberry jelly, wrapped in cabbage.
Body - Yikes. Blackcurrants, as clear as day, once you peek behind the vinegar. There's cabbage in with the blackcurrants and hops but it's not unwelcome. Because of the fruit.
Finish - This is like a weird sweet from a foreign country "taste these Durian boiled sweets from Cambodia!" (I've never actually tasted Durian). A long finish, thick with oils and sulphur.
Dirty, fruity, challenging but a bit of a guilty pleasure. There are, surprisingly, some hints of Glenrothes in here (the big soft sherry bombs they release, they do have a DNA), but the rest of it is pure porn. This was either going to be an A⊕+ or a C⊕. That means it works for me and (given everyone has different tolerance levels and interest in sulphur) likely to be sketchy for some people.
Palate rest and refresh. Any sulphur in the following whisky is to be treated with suspicion.
Goa bourbon oak cask, 360 bottles. I think this was decanted into bottles and then re-poured into the original cask when it came to Campbeltown to finish. Really looking forward to this.
Nose - Lovely dusty, old hot wood, there's more hops in here! Punchy new world ones, citra and simcoe, and an almost chalky sweetness. Kiwi fruit and sandalwood joss sticks. Beautiful and delicate, I would have guessed a first fill Scotch though.
Body - And now I would guess a very old Islay; beautiful refreshers and a beautiful cask, this is chalky and complex with cherry jam, vanilla cream and real balance and complexity.
Finish - Long and very sweet, balanced by fruit, chalk and fizzers.
I'm getting sulphur in here but I'm ignoring it (see the above Glenrothes) but yes this is pretty spectacular. I suspect Shilton has sent one of his very best casks as the first one (definitely the best PJ I’ve tried). More are coming! Get this now, before it’s gone.
"Barrel", 252 bottles. I don’t think I give non-whiskies a score.
Nose - Laquered, and I am obviously no expert (in fact, I am but an innocent here) but this very much reminds me of the nose on some of the totally ancient Calvados I have lined up to review. Dark apple juice, acrylic varnish painted over recently sanded pine, burning electrical insulation and that intense wooded sweetness that you get in crazily aged French spirits. Weirder with water, obvious wood glue but more herbal and quite musky. Plus cherry tomatoes (I'm not making this up).
Body - Dreamily and softly wooded, with squidgy pipe tobacco and chocolate brownies. It actually has that cherry pipe tobacco later too, and cigarette tar on the lips.
Finish - Long and yes it's intense but there is a very professional fruiting that isn't just "old wood" but great spirit and luck too. Slightly Indian spicing with water (coincidence!) and more of that tomato.
Yeah this is excellent. Fair play Serge.