Yes, you read that right. A 39 year old whisky bottled just short of its 40th birthday. An own goal in the marketing realm and for most bottlers operating today. The market, the brand and the individual places too much emphasis on a 30th, 40th, insert number here or a commemorative bottling.
Recently someone on Twitter justified the Tamdhu Single Cask Distillery Team Edition release. Going so far as to comment what a valid 120th commemoration it was; arguably shell-shocked by all the whisky advertising. If we set out to commemorate everything within whisky then there won’t be any room left for core releases. It’s certainly starting to feel that way. There’s so much volume released nowadays that you have to question who is actually able to drink the stuff, or able to afford it?
Bottle chasing is an addictive experience. The thrill of the chase, then the capture and subsequent selling on for a modest profit. As an onlooker, it is very tiring to watch and the emotional strains on these poor flippers must be considerable. The nightmares around missing out, the highs of securing the said bottle and then the constant F5 refreshing of your browser when the auction is coming to a close. Really? Has it come to this? The reality of the situation reminds me of a Smiths song. I want the one I can’t have and it’s driving me mad it’s written all over my face. Somehow I doubt Morrissey was thinking of whisky when he wrote that line, but it is firmly rooted in our society nowadays. The quick buck and profiteering, but for what ultimately?
Recently I’ve stepped out from the shadows when it comes to whisky reviewing. It’s part of the Malt gig as we grow more popular and offer that alternative to the rather mundane status quo we endure online when it comes to whisky. More often than not, it’s my voice that is recognised. A rather odd situation when I’m just an enthusiast like yourself. However, maybe some common questions can be answered right now, as I’m tired of them. Yes, I don’t like Jura and I’m not that keen on post-revival Bruichladdich either. No, Malt is not a full-time gig for anyone involved. Yes, Mark is as boring as he seems online. Noortje is a kick-ass Jenga player, Justine is just Justine and as for Adam jeez… Oh I haven’t met Phil so reserving judgement and Alexandra is a postcard thug and yes I do spend too much time/money in Cadenhead’s.
Moving on, it’s this bizarre recognition that prompts unexpected discussions. Recently, prior to a tasting, I had an hour or to spend at a bar. Striking up a conversation with a then complete stranger – although we did have mutual friends it turned out – who recognised the voice of wisdom. The topics of whisky budgets came up and how vital Cadenhead’s are when balancing the pressures of life with the monthly treat of a single malt whisky. The looming spectre of a monthly budget and seeing many whiskies priced outwith your realm. Yes, I’m fortunate here sourcing my own samples or whiskies from generous friends or making my own purchases. It is relative in a way as more and more I’m walking away from a release tutting in disgust at its pricing. Meeting many of you in person confirms that we all have our individual ceiling limits. More than ever our monthly budgets are being restricted thanks to the escalating cost of living, council taxes and initiatives from regional governments. We’re all a little worse off nowadays and whisky is becoming more of a luxury item.
Thankfully, whilst missing out on some of that month’s outturn at Cadenhead’s due to a combination of price or availability, a chance purchase was made within budget. I hope it turned out well for our new friend, as our conversation underlined that we’re in a fortunate position here at Malt, but also how we are held in esteem for being honest, independent and price aware. It’s easy to become seduced by the industry tricks and the freebies and trips. Hell, if I was flown somewhere to review the latest Glenfiddich whisky, it puts you in a difficult position. Except, I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror the next day or stick a realistic number at the end of this review text. You have to be true to yourself and your principles. Once you’ve lost yourself in the industry pleasure zone there is no return, only damnation.
There job done. I was struggling to write about Miltonduff for what feels like the 8th time in the last 6 months or so. Its a Chivas distillery overlooked by many including its current owners, but there have been some tremendous bottlings recently and we’ve covered a few on Malt. This Miltonduff was poured as part of the aforementioned tasting with no one other than Mark Watt himself. An excellent evening and plenty of food for thought thanks to his honest and candid opinions. His answer to why bottle at 39 years of age? Simply because it was ready and tasted as such, but also how do you know its the right moment or is at its peak? Only through experience and being satisfied with what you’re currently nosing and tasting.
Bottled in 2018 after being distilled in 1978, this whisky resided in a bourbon hogshead resulting in 204 bottles at 44.6% strength.
Cadenhead’s Miltonduff 39 year old – review
Colour: a light honey
On the nose: more autumnal and herbal than your typical Speysider. Simulating from this aspect, the fruits do appear but you need to give this ‘Duff the time it deserves. A herbal tea? Now an assortment of subtle orchard fruits presents itself with a buttery shortcrust pastry. A very creamy caramel and popcorn do appear and leave you wanting more.
In the mouth: more of those herbal qualities and a buttery aspect. The honey and caramel are more indicative of what I was expecting. Wood spices linger as do the apples, dried fruits with a delicate orange and that herbal tea aspect revives.
My own thoughts here is this ‘Duff has stepped away from its peak. Tasty stuff, but arguably now the frontage or body you’d expect from something of this age isn’t quite there. Subtle echoes of the past perhaps resonate the more I look back and consider the experience. A very good whisky but I expected a little more.
Image provided by Cadenheads.