If you have the opportunity to visit a Cadenhead’s whisky shop then I’d recommend doing so. Prices are fair and the range includes most official releases yet more temptingly also some rarely seen examples. Throw in Springbank, Hazelburn, a huge range of Authentic and Small Batch releases and you could be left with a sense of where to start?
For newbies the obvious and I’m guessing most popular (based on my time in the shop) are the casks that add that touch of authenticity where you can purchase a bottle of varying size to take back as a gift. This is particularly true of the Edinburgh store that receives a stream of tourists who often have to contend with baggage restrictions. Whisky is a popular memento and there is a touch of exclusivity with the cask option, plus you can complete the label to enhance that one-off nature.
Sizes start at 20cl and in the Edinburgh shop you can select casks from the major regions of Scotland plus a rum cask. These casks are specially selected for the stores although they might not be readily available in non-UK shops due to the costs of exporting a cask. For this review was sparked by my recent enjoyment of the Duthies Islay, so I plumped for another Cadenhead, blended from Scotland’s most famous whisky isle.
Distillery: its a blend so distilleries from Islay make up the mix
Age: no age given but it doesn’t taste very young
Additional: non-chill filtered and natural colour (as it should be)
Price: for this 20cl £13.10
Aroma: instantly recognisable as Islay; that iodine note followed by sea salt and fennel. More seaweed, fresh pine and then we add a couple drops of water. Let the whisky sit for a little while accommodating this new addition; the Islay edge is tapered and now the fruit comes through. Very ripe pears, sweet corn and lemongrass. In summary a fun and engaging nose.
Taste: This is surprisingly drinkable at cask strength but for those who may have received it as a gift and are newish to whisky please add water to your own preference. A real zesty freshness in the mouth with lemon and that distinctive iodine and brine with the arrival of peat. A long gentle peppery finish rounds off wonderfully harmonious experience with everything pulling in the same direction. In the mouth it may lack the complexity of much older Islay’s but put into context this still punches above expectations.
This is great value whatever bottle size you pick. I’ll tell you a story if I may; I’m a huge fan of Cadenhead’s and the whisky that they release. A recent Laphroaig was bottled at 21 years of age (ABV 49.1%) and a very reasonable price under £100. I had my name down for one and after experiencing a sample of it, I then moved onto the Islay cask in the shop. The comparison was startling; trying to distinguish between them was exceptionally difficult. Throw in that a 70cl bottle was about half the price of the Laphroaig and needless to say I passed on the more famous bottle.
Next time I’m in, I’ll force myself to start on the other casks for Whisky Rover.