So far 2017 has belonged to Cadenheads with their monthly deliverance of whiskies orchestrated by the guiding hand of the Overlord, the Emperor, the Keeper of the Casks and a million other names enthusiasts toss at his feet, Mark Watt. Who has had the privilege of putting together these assaults on our disposable cash allowance. The celebration of their 175th Anniversary has been a fitting tribute, but within 2017 there is another important date concerning the establishment of the Edinburgh Cadenhead store.
It’s 30 years since the shop opened and in Edinburgh it has been offering visitors the opportunity to purchase whiskies from across Scotland, with those traditional Cadenhead values on quality and affordability. Oh, to have walked through those doors all those years ago and gaze upon those bottles. Throughout 2017, the Young Cadenhead Team (YCT) at the store have been putting on a series of tastings, celebrating the joys of Cadenhead bottlings around various themes. I’ve managed to attend most, but had to bypass the last event that broke out of the small confines of the shop (it can only hold around 12) and a new plush location that can hold 4 times that number. Then there was a pause for the Campbeltown festival, before this special 30thtasting.
June is midway point of the year and the 30th Anniversary, with a special store bottling to mark the occasion. It seemed fitting that a special tasting should be held at the Royal Scots Club in the plush New Town area of Edinburgh. The momentous event was marked by the extraction of the Dark Lord himself, Mark Watt, from his Campbeltown den of destruction, to lead the tasting. The whiskies themselves were shrouded in mystery, having been handpicked by the team in Campbeltown. On paper it seemed a fitting and remarkable tasting shrouded in mystery.
Needless to say the event was a sell-out, almost instantaneously, the asking price of £50 for such an experience seemed a bargain. Included in the asking price were a commemorative Glencairn glass and a discount off the Edinburgh bottling from Springbank, which had sold out in around 20 minutes. By purchasing a ticket for the event you were guaranteed a bottle of this 14-year-old Springbank, exclusively matured in a Guadeloupe rum cask, delivered at 57.1% and an outturn of 186 bottles. Yes, I’ve tasted it, but will have to return for a firmer impression.
Now all the above was written pre-event, but I’ve kept it intact for posterity. Sadly, Mark was unable to lead the tasting due to unforeseen events, but his lieutenant Cameron was dispatched from the Death Star, with whiskies for the long drive to Edinburgh. Leaving just after midday, he only just arrived at the tasting in the nick of time. Thrust into the limelight, if you’ve taken a warehouse tour at Cadenheads whilst visiting Campbeltown, then chances are Cameron has led the way. I appreciated the last minute nature of it all, having had to step in for a work colleague only just a few days previously. Giving an unscripted talk about my employer and day-to-day events to a room full of new recruits was an interesting way to spend a morning. Fortunately, Cameron recognised many faces in the room, as being a constant menace with their regular visits to the company’s warehouses.
Before us were 5 cask strength whiskies, adorned with a drawing of the shop itself. In retrospect it may seem odd to those unfamiliar that a shop, or a company for that matter, can spark such a devoted following. Those who were unsure soon realised the beauty of the Cadenhead appeal, as Cameron underlined the importance of quality and charging a fair price. Sales targets? No such thing, instead it’s releasing whiskies when they’re ready and at a realistic price.
It was good to see so many familiar faces during the evening. At times it did feel like a family gathering, new acquaintances and introductions to be made. Regulars will know I tend to drift into the background however it was different to be pulled aside by enthusiasts who seem to enjoy the mix of humour, writing and information I put out on Whisky Rover. This for me is just a bit of fun along with exploring whiskies for myself, but it’s humbling to know that some out there enjoy the rollercoaster as well. They certainly picked a good tasting to attend as you’ll soon discover in a moment.
The concept was that each whisky would be accompanied by the team in Campbeltown actually drawing some whisky from the same cask, residing in the warehouse. Normally these whiskies are solely available only for those visiting warehouse 9, however for this special occasion they headed north. The modern age had reached Campbeltown, or at least threatened to, as we in dialled live to the warehouse. It’s almost a comedy routine in itself, with Jenna kicking off the tasting with an 11-year-old Tomintoul straight for the cask. It set a great tone for the tasting and the ambition was that we would to the same prior to each whisky. Technical issues put paid to that, but I do have the one and only live attempt, so prepare yourself for the tasting. Apologies for the waiter at various points.
Tomintoul 11 year old – review
Caledonian 30 year old – review
Kilkerran 11 year old – review
In the mouth: initial notes were sweet and lovely, so let’s elaborate a little. A light smoke brings a harmonious quality. Then it goes down under with earthiness and that rum sugary sweetness and smoked bacon. Seriously one you could drink all evening.
Glen Spey 22 year old – review
The mysterious 37 year old Edrington Blend – review
Longrow 15 year old – review
Caroni 18 year old – review
Springbank 16 year old
Glentauchers 27 year old – review
This brought an end to a mesmerising evening of discussion and whisky from across the floor. A fitting celebration of Cadenheads and 3 decades of a fantastic whisky shop. My favourite of the night is the Kilkerran, but on the whole there was something to appreciate in almost every choice that took us across a wide range of casks and styles of whisky.
All there’s left to say is thanks to the team in Campbeltown and the Edinburgh shop staff for putting on the event and going that extra mile to make everyone feel at home, with the live music always a great feature. I may not be around for the next 30th Anniversary, but hopefully I can make the 50thand wish the shop many more happy years – just slow down on the releases guys – 2017 is killing us!