Several of the Malt team have had a shot at building their own blend or whisky creation. You may have as well what with several distilleries now offering this as a unique experience such as Glengoyne. Last year during the Spirit of Speyside Festival we sat down in the former Manager’s manse overlooking Parkmore distillery for a similar experience.
The event was hosted by Dean of Murray McDavid fame and our table consisted of some of the finest minds outside of the whisky industry and also Mark the self-proclaimed soil whisperer. Sitting back and watching these devilish intellectuals at work was fascinating as well as entertaining. Reflecting upon the event a year later, the most memorable aspects were that everyone set out to create their own unique blend and even with a core set of materials the end results were vastly different.
A wee splash of a certain malt in theory you’d think would result in little change if any. Yet as in cooking the art of seasoning; detail is vital and the same can be said of creating a whisky. My own initial preference was to consider the grain and the quality thereof. Nowadays we endure some very dull and offensive grains. Industrial in size and often in taste. That distinctive metallic flavour can overstep the mark in a blend and disrupt that pleasurable harmony. The grain should offer the basis and foundation for the single malts to express themselves and interact with the drinker.
As the decades have rolled by, the need to keep costs down and profit margins sustainable has grown and grown. There are after all shareholders and investors to keep happy! The drinker comes further down the list and some would argue in a relegation dogfight. The iconic brands retain that sense of history and quality, but sadly dear reader as I’m sure you’re all too aware the quality has slipped. Adam laid out that scenario in Why Modern Cheap Blends Are Mostly Total Rubbish and he’s totally right for a change. It’s a view held by many including John Glasser and perhaps a component as to why Compost Box have become very successful. These luxurious and bespoke blends are now lavish productions and priced accordingly. However, a few decades ago they would have faced stiff competition from everyday blended whiskies.
Aged stock being limited nowadays or at least the line we’re fed. There are few companies who can engage in experimentation and create something totally unique. Thankfully the team at Cadenhead’s seem to be the source of much material. Recently I sat down with their epic Robust Smoky Embers Batch 3 release a vatting of Ardbeg, Bowmore and Caol Ila. The sheer madness of it all. Imagine taking casks of single malt – perfectly sellable individually – and then chucking them together to see the outcome. Ok, chucking perhaps doesn’t do it justice, but there’s a sense of trying the impossible and awaiting the outcome with glee. After all there’s plenty of Ardbeg on the market so why not do something different for a change…
The creation emphasis for this particular release comes actually from Edrington. The fine owners of Tamdhu, Macallan, Glenrothes and Highland Park. For whatever reason, they put together several casks of whisky from the aforementioned foursome along with Invergordon that transformed it into a blend. Some if not all of these casks were sold on, including Cadenhead’s as a recipient. If you have taken the Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tour in recent times then you’ll have had the option to experience a sister cask of this Creations release whereas this edition was released as Rich Fruity Sherry. They’ve gone so far as to more recently bottle another Creations release at a mighty 44 years of age featuring Glenfarclas, Glenlivet and Invergordon. Needless to say, it sold out promptly thanks to its age statement and an affordable price tag of circa £165.
With all these recent Creation releases I had forgotten about a generous sample of this previous 36 year old within my mountainous stash. Thanks to the guys at Cadenhead’s Edinburgh I believe for this probably back sometime in early 2017. The review is long overdue so let’s get on with it but first those release details. This Creation was distilled in 1980 before residing in 2 sherry butts for 36 years. Bottled at a pleasing 44.5% volume. To find a bottle now you’ll have to keep an eye on the cavalcade that is the secondary market, which does offer the wee bargain now and again if everyone is chasing that Macallan or Ardbeg.
Cadenhead’s Creations 1980 Rich Fruity Sherry – review
On the nose: it’s always a throwaway line but Christmas cake it is. That intoxicating assortment of spices laced with dried fruit and assorted peelings. Laced with sherry influence as well. Homely, satisfying and moreish. Orange and lemon peel bring a citrus dimension before dried nuts appear, then cotton, vanilla and maple syrup.
In the mouth: sultry in a way, the sherry is there brooding, festering and orchestrating everything without taking centre stage. A little sunflower oil, toasted oats, blackberries, rolled tobacco and an approachable degree of lightness. Far from a sherry beast, it’s refined and engaging. Figs with a touch of clove takes us towards the finish and the end.
A realistic price for a fair experience. Nowadays such value transactions are increasingly rare in whisky. Truth be told and that’s what we do here at Malt. The sister cask on the Warehouse Tour has the slight edge, but it’s a close run sibling battle. The winner is ultimately the consumer.
Thanks to Abbey Whisky for the lead image.