Sometimes in whisky, you cannot see the wood for the trees. By this, I’m meaning the onslaught of monthly outturns from Cadenhead’s or the multitude of bottlings from independent companies. We’re naturally attracted or compelled to seek out the big names in the whisky world. Experience often shows that whilst the catwalk names of Macallan, the Islay brigade, Clynelish and so on, send the hotline glowing red, there are often other delights of equal or greater purpose from relatively overlooked distilleries.
The best way to ascertain this is to build up your own bank of experiences, friends who share similar tastes and online resources that are more aligned to your palate. Visiting retailers, attending tastings and having the ability to try-before-you-buy. Speak to shop staff about what’s surprising them and cast aside any preconceptions. Let the whisky do the talking.
I’ve often found when dropping into Cadenhead’s in Edinburgh and speaking the Campbeltown young team is fruitful except Donald, who’ll just recommend something from Clynelish or Campbeltown. It still amazes me when I do this or when having a meal at a fine restaurant, let the sommelier decide and on the whole they’ll pick out something you didn’t consider and more often than not, it’s well priced as well. Such is the case with this whisky that was recommended to me in the Cadenhead’s store and a wee sample to digest at home.
The Speyside distillery isn’t a producer that has legions of fans except in Taiwan where it enjoys tremendous popularity. Being established in the 1950’s, it has a bit of age to it, although the use of some historical buildings on site suggests an older heritage. Speyside itself didn’t really get up and running fully until 1987. It wasn’t until 1993 when its first single malt reached the market under the name Drumguish – after a nearby lost distillery. Drumguish wasn’t much of a whisky and is now relegated to an oddity. The revamp of the core range in 2014, complete with distinctive bottle shapes has underlined a new confidence for Speyside.
All of this brings us to this Speyside-Glenlivet from the latest Cadenhead’s outturn. Bottled at 26 years of age, heralding from 1991 and a strength of 48.9% with an outturn of 324 bottles. This release will set you back around £96. It’s far from a fashionable distillery and indicative of those releases that slip under the radar. Potentially resurfacing from a dusty corner, years later when someone rediscovers a box at the back of the store and a possible hidden treasure.
Cadenhead’s Speyside-Glenlivet 26 year old – review
Colour: dried hay.
On the nose: there’s a noticeable mossy quality here alongside wet concrete, cracked black pepper and hazelnuts. Quite distinctive but after this fanfare it’s a little subdued. Returning another evening and there’s a touch of sharpness reminiscent of white wine vinegar, followed by pears and vanilla nougat. Water reveals grapefruit, wine gums and a touch of smoke.
In the mouth: more simple than I was expecting nevertheless an enjoyable assortment of caramel, an ice cream wafer cone, oats and milk chocolate with a tinge of alcohol on the finish. There’s a decaying vanilla pod, green olives and a touch of lime juice.
A distinctive whisky in many ways, challenging in some parts and playful during others. This is why I enjoy discovering new whiskies here at Malt. A relatively overlooked distillery, a rather aged independent cask bottling and the result is memorable in more ways than you’d expect. However, it’s not a whisky I’d charge out to purchase myself. I can appreciate it for what it is, but there’s more fruitful contraband out there…
My thanks to the Edinburgh team for the sample