Passing through any airport, the tenacious temptation remains the duty-free or travel retail sector. Whether you’re flying for business or pleasure, there’s a degree of compulsion that each trip should be furnished and enhanced with a bottle of whisky.
Except that what once was a bountiful realm of possibilities has stagnated and become eroded. The buying power of the supermarkets has pushed down prices leaving scant reward for travellers. What remains is a cluster of specially conceived exclusives – often minus an age statement or real details – that only fill a void and leave the whisky drinker feeling somewhat cold. Recently, we’ve seen more single cask releases that have been promptly snapped up by a fortunate few and seemingly destined for an auction site near you.
A recent fleeting visit to Malaga confirmed much of the above remains true. Anyone looking for DYC on the shelves would be disappointed. Instead it was your usual cavalcade of familiar brands all nicely positioned and lit. Blends faired better with 1 litre options of prominent brands well under 20 Euros. At times I wonder about the makeup of such blends and if there is any profit to be made.
Alcohol has never been cheaper and yet the Scotch Whisky Association – propelled by the conglomerates membership that stand behind it – consistently highlight the so called unfair percentage that represents their tax burden. Given that many of these firms no longer have their headquarters in the UK and are set up for tax efficiency, or avoidance, depending on your point of view. To an onlooker such as myself, it smacks of greed and a degree of hypocrisy. Do you think any tax break would be passed in full onto the consumer? Anyone that believes so is extremely naive.
As much as I have issues with the Scottish government and believe me there are times when Nicola could do with a good boot up the backside, or taking some responsibility rather than blaming XYZ. The issue on minimum pricing and attempting to deal with the medical issues and subsequent bills can only be a good thing. As someone with a decent circle of whisky friends and an even wider spectrum of familiar faces.
I look on in horror as some friends adopt a vast and increasingly sustained intake. Eventually something has to give and it won’t be the tax burden. Everything in moderation.
Meanwhile my expectations were extremely low venturing through Malaga airport. Wine seemed the dominant focus. A small yet healthy selection of rums made for interesting browsing prior to the whiskies across the back wall. There was little temptation. The array of bottles all seemed of the same ilk with the best casks, master blender inspiration and the fairy tale monsters.
In the corner unfortunately near the horror that is Jura, resided Cardhu. Vastly overpriced in the UK, the No Age Statement Gold Reserve has been on special for what seems like most of 2017. Here it was a more palatable 26 Euros. Not a great whisky by any stretch of the imagination my earlier Cardhu Gold Reserve review was a frustrating experience. However, its older sibling in the form of the 12 year old was heavily discounted to a very reasonable 22 Euros. That’ll do I commented, before purchasing a bottle and making haste towards the departure queue and hence this review.
Cardhu 12 Year Old – review
On the nose: a toffee apple emphasis with a subtle layer of cinnamon and orange pips. There’s a vanilla freshness but generally its a pretty drab and safe nosing experience. I was going to say golden syrup but I’m leaning towards Lucozade. A touch of chilli flakes, caramel with honey, cereal notes and at the end mint leaf.
In the mouth: very pedestrian with caramel, malty, a sprinkling of ginger and more of that sweet cinnamon. There’s a porridge aspect and vanilla meringues. The finish becomes all nutty with just a little heat of alcohol burn appearing on the horizon. Water reveals very little except honey and some decaying apples.
Duller than Jura was the punchline. It probably swims a fairly benign existence whereas Jura loves to be loathed and for good reason. Compared to Jura, the spirit here is well made and has resided in decent casks. It’s then been taken down to 40%, been filtered to within an inch of its life and coloured more than the Nose on his summer holidays minus any sunscreen protection.
However, it’s an entry-level whisky. We should not be snobs here at Malt! I acknowledge I’m fortunate to try all sorts of wonderful whiskies – sourced from my own wallet – and journey back across time itself. This voyage included a Cardhu 12 year old from the 1980’s and today’s exponent is a pale shadow of its former self.
Yet there is a place for the Cardhu 12 year old for those comforted by its approachable features and limited experience portfolio. Yes, at £40 in the UK it’s terribly overpriced. For the airport traveller, 22 Euros seems more fitting although in a couple of years sterling will be almost worthless. Yet if you actually find this type of whisky appealing then I’d point you towards the Aldi Glen Marnoch Speyside single malt. Retailing for under £20 it offers far more flavoursome and a richer experience for more than half the price – you don’t need to be Einstein to work it out.