Here at Malt, 2017 has brought tremendous change and unlocked huge potential for 2018. With this in mind, Mark asked me to come up with a special whisky to see off the year and welcome in the new arrival as well as a Malt Christmas special. Clearly he knows me too well dear readers, as I tend to always have something interesting stashed away for those memorable moments. Plus Mark seems to have a very limited stockpile of Bruichladdich and GlenDronach whiskies i.e. the boring stuff.
A whisky to mark a special occasion or milestone can be a difficult choice. However there are moments of inspiration or chance that make such decisions straightforward. Thus it was the case to satisfy Mark’s request. For this we must retreat back to October 2017 and the Whiskybase Gathering. It’s a great event and all going well we’ll be returning in October 2018 for the next edition; hopefully we’ll see you there?
It was in the wee small hours of Sunday morning after the Gathering when some weary but content souls found themselves back at the Art Hotel in Rotterdam – or more precisely the hotel bar – chewing the fat about all things whisky. A topic of conversation was the year of celebrations around Cadenhead’s and their 175th anniversary. Had this independent bottler released all of their great casks? Did Mark Watt and Co. have any delights hidden up their sleeves? Apparently a cask gaining such a reputation and excitement was a solitary example from the now lost Inverness distillery Glen Mhor. Bottlings for this distillery are now drying up and coming to an end in recent times as we venture toward the outer limits of cask maturation. Here at Malt, we’ve talked about Glen Mhor previously, which closed in 1983 before being demolished a couple of years later.
Casting back through my fading memories banks – Glen Mhor, cask, unreleased, Cadenheads – I suddenly pitched in that within my possession was a Manager’s Cask sample from this mysterious offering. Purchased from the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s Cage earlier in 2017, its sat in my small, but perfectly formed Glen Mhor stash. These 20cl bottlings are special one-offs, never to be repeated again. In fact the Edinburgh shop will fill out a ledger and ask you to sign alongside the bottle details, before they let you walk out of the premises with the aforementioned bottle. The cost? Well, its pitched alongside the age or status of the distillery. This being around 34 years old and from a long closed producer set me back around £75, which is the top level of the Cage price band.
Needless to say, this special bottling was put aside for a special occasion. I had considered venturing to the site of Glen Mhor given I’d be in the vicinity over the festive period and having a wee dram. Driving laws being what they are in Scotland, it wasn’t perhaps the most recommended option. Instead, speaking with Phil it became apparent that opening and sharing this Glen Mhor would be best suited to a festive visit to the Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar. Fast forward to December.
It’s the 23rd December and the festive tunes are playing gently in the bar. Some epic whiskies have been discussed and traded when I hand over this Glen Mhor and encourage Phil to pour himself a dram and sample for the big day itself. Arguably there is very little Glen Mhor to go around nowadays but whisky should be about sharing and experiencing. Its a perfect moment to dive into this whisky that we may see in 2018 or beyond, depending when Mark Watt and Cadenheads decide its ready.
Cadenhead’s Glen Mhor 1983 Manager’s – review
Colour: a golden honey
On the nose: thankfully not hugely wood driven, there is some vanilla oak and allspice as you’d expect but there’s plenty of life in this Mhor. Red berries and apricots add a fruity twist. A dram such as this benefits from time. Almonds, palm sugar, apple juice and a black tea all drift past with sweet cinnamon and cereals. A bitter chocolate takes us towards the end with a touch of lemon.
In the mouth: we’ve suddenly hit the accelerator and turbo boost. A real fruity delight with mango, Kiwi fruit, apples, pears and a sugary emphasis. Lemons, a vanilla sponge with sugar cubes and limestone with elements of flint, a buttery waxiness and candy floss. A lovely balance between the spirit and a good cask. All the more remarkable as this was distilled during its last year of existence and some distilleries in their twilight years produced some really mundane stuff.
For a Glen Mhor this is very approachable and dynamic. Traditionally in my experience, whiskies from this distillery require patience and detective groundwork to unlock the hidden delights. This Mhor in comparison has an openness not associated with this Highlander. The palate is truly sugar fruit driven, which again, is not characteristic but thoroughly enjoyable. You can appreciate why Cadenhead’s are keeping an eye on this cask and its potential. This Glen Mhor is more than good enough to bottle right now, but can it develop further? I believe it may just do so and I’m already looking forward to the scramble for a bottle when the time comes.