A recent impromptu meeting with Mike from Abbey Whiskyprovided the opportunity to sit down with a trio of samples from the exclusive Rare Cask series that this online retailer has specially selected. Currently, only the Glen Garioch remains in stock and given there were just 126 bottles I suggest you snap up one quickly. It may have received a positive review in a Whisky Magazine that I can never find on sale in Scotland, but the Whisky Rover seal of approval is more significant and you know if it’s good I’ll say so, or if it’s a spade then it’s called a spade.
Back tracking for a moment; for some bizarre reason I always thought that Abbey Whisky was an English outfit given the support they have from various bloggers across the border including the fire walker Mark at Malt-Review. I just nether actually bothered to look into it more! To be honest I rarely order online nowadays, I find that with these monthly Cadenhead outturns and my auction acquisitions, the monthly whisky budget is already taken care of. However, speaking with others including #theTormore4 about their Abbey experiences, it’s all been positive.
It came as surprise that Abbey Whisky are actually just up the road from where I live. It’s great to see that the county of Fife is becoming the hotbed for all things whisky related nowadays, with this family firm established in 2008. Dunfermline even has a nice Abbey as well. Speaking with Mike, it was clear he has a passion and interest in whisky which makes everything a little easier. I’ve sampled some potential cask purchases for other independents during my time so I was eager to see what he had selected for the Abbey range, which was launched in 2012 and has received several awards.
So without further ado let’s see what this exclusive trio holds for us.
Caperdonich 1995 17-year-old
The first release in the Rare Cask series, bottled at 57.8% volume with an outturn of 96 bottles.
Nose: a ripe fruity arrival with pears and toffee apples backed up with liquorice. There’s rhubarb laced with cinnamon, vanilla, milk chocolate and honeycomb.
Taste: it deserves a little water to calm this fella down. Initially it’s a wheelbarrow of honey glazed apples brushed with black pepper. Then with the H20 assistance, it develops into liquorice, icing sugar, aniseed and more chocolate.
Overall: a fun Caperdonich with plenty of tenacity that needs stripped down and beneath is a lovely fruity flavoursome experience. A good opening statement.
Kilchoman 2009 5-year-old
This is a PX Finish single cask bottling from cask number 285/09. The initial 4.5 years of its life was in a bourbon barrel before it was finished in a Pedro Ximenez cask for a period of 4 months. Bottled at 58.3%, this was an outturn of 270 bottled originally at £78.95 but now sold out.
Colour: a well-worn copper
Nose: my initial thought is salty, which comes as a surprise as I wasn’t expecting such a coastal spray. Then, there’s more traditional notes with red grapes, sugared almonds and a sweet peat with some smoky presence. Salted peanuts, haggis spicing and red liquorice all meander but nothing dominates.
Taste: it’s a punchy arrival with more of those peanuts followed by charcoal and dark chocolate. There’s smoked vanilla marshmallows from a campfire, a rich chutney and wood shavings plus some spices trying to get through the smoke.
Overall: the introduction of a second cask has almost thrown an safety blanket over this raging campfire. It’s toned the Islay beast down a notch and introduced a little more subtlety to the agenda. Certainly one of the more memorable Kilchoman’s I can recall as there’s a huge swing in quality sometimes with their single cask releases.
Glen Garioch 1994 21-year-old
The sixth release in the Rare Casks series, bottled at 55% volume with an outturn of 126 bottles from a refill hogshead.
Colour: pebble dash
Nose: it’s almost Mediterranean on arrival with an olive oiliness, followed by lemons, white grapes and a hint of smoke. Honey and a creamy vanilla toffee all leisurely arrive, before more notes of sunshine with coconuts, oranges and apricots. Throughout there’s that gentle waft of smoke that is sadly missing from today’s Glen Garioch distillate.
Taste: initially it’s the smoke on the palate that almost injects a touch of bitterness. You almost have to scratch beneath this dew for what lies beneath. There’s what I refer to as a dirty vanilla, a touch of cream and at the back lemon peel. Returning for more there’s grapefruit and butter icing.
Overall: it’s a fabulous nose with plenty of delights to be discovered. The palate isn’t far behind, but I feel this is one you could appreciate even more as the fill level lowered; rather rapidly I envisage as well. Time to purchase a bottle.
Upon reflection, we can focus on the rather good standard of these bottlings or the delightful Glen Garioch in particular, which dates from 1994. Now those who know their history, will realise that in the mid-90’s we lost the classic Glen Garioch style due to changes at the distillery. Yes, it had been slowly on the wane for many years with the shift away from the lightly smoked barley that was dried on its own floor maltings. This bottle arguably comes from the end of that style, before the modern day Glen Garioch we know all know today. Distilleries will argue different but change isn’t always necessarily a good thing and the palate confirms this.
What I appreciated more than anything in retrospect was that the trio here are fairly unfashionable distilleries. Yes, you have a closed example and an Islay, but these aren’t necessarily distilleries you would seek out from an independent. Caperdonich may have in recent times risen in appreciation simply because its closed and the investment brigade love this feature. Yet, when it was bottled, casks from this distillery were still fairly common.
All in all, an impressive standard and food for thought when Abbey Whisky bottle another cask. I’d more than likely just buy it blind and taste thereafter, unless it was a Jura.