It occurred to me the other day that I have never reviewed a Cadenhead’s malt. A worrying position for a fresher to this site, particularly now that the Campbeltown bottler’s most razor-taloned zealot sits up next to Mark; Malt Review shotgun fully loaded across his lap.
A set of samples sent my way to taste blind provided an escape ladder from this mire. Two, it transpired, had already been covered by JJ (indeed it was his review that had provoked the purchase) but the other, once revealed, had not been bagged, so I quickly called scribbling dibs.
I’m increasingly wary of independents these days. As Mark has suggested previously, the quality pendulum seems gradually to be swinging back toward proprietary bottlings, as distilleries look to eke out dwindling supplies of their most choice casks. (If only the value pendulum would do the same…) “Pale straw” seems an ever more common colour descriptor for independents, even those advanced in years, and the flavours are often equally nondescript.
That being said, Cadenhead’s are still much beloved by the internet’s whiskerati, and more than capable of bottling something more memorable than the average indie. (Or, indeed, anyone else.)
Today’s comes from Blair Athol, which is the distillery you probably drove past on your way to Edradour. The one with the Bell’s sign outside it that probably increased the pressure you put on the accelerator. Proprietary bottlings from this place are as plentiful and exciting as you might expect of a distillery which sends 99.7% of their juice off to blends. That being said, it’s decent spirit, and independents frequently seem to have a knack for it. I had a lot of fun at this year’s Whisky Live London with a 28 year old Milroy’s bottling.
This one is 24 years old, distilled in 1989, housed in fresh bourbon and bottled at 50.8%. It’s from the Cask Ends collection, which are effectively an assortment of odds and sods that Cadenhead’s find lying around the place.
So here goes:
Blair Athol 24 Year Old 1989, Cadenhead’s Cask End Review
Colour: Not pale straw, actually. Dilute apple juice I’d say, which is much more evocative.
On the nose: Sweet scent, which covers up the alcohol nicely. Lots of flowers, clear runny honey and extra-sugary tablet. What fruit there is goes in a peachy, stony direction. Not quite tropical, but knocking on the door. Not overly-vanilla, which is nice, given nearly quarter of a century in fresh bourbon. Fruit and honey are neatly in tandem. Plenty of aroma, without shrivelling your olfactories.
In the mouth: Very prettily rounded indeed. Plump, rather than really full-bodied. More effect of alcohol than on the nose, but the flavours stand up to the heat. Ripe, stewed orchard fruits; pears and bramley apples, all coated in brown sugar. Somewhere in between a fruit pie and a strudel by and large. Satisfyingly lengthy finish.
Everything about this whisky is just awfully civilised and awfully well-balanced. It’s confident and expressive, without being shouty. Comforting, without being dull or one-note. It’s the sort of thing you want from a mature, aged, unpeated whisky. I actually guessed further north when I was tasting it blind, but Blair Athol made total sense on revelation. It’s a very tasty thing, and it’s a rather perfect whisky to drink at harvest time, as fruit is plucked and baked, and as the leaves gently turn.
And I’ve finally reviewed a Cadenhead’s malt. I reckon I’m a Tormore short of being properly in the gang.
Many thanks to David for the sample.