The allure and mystery of the Cadenhead’s chalkboard. The dominant centrepiece of any shop and a black monolith that prompts worship from many passers-by. Ok, the London equivalent is a little finer with some lovely handwriting, but I prefer the classic 1960’s approach of Edinburgh example. Littered with RIP tombstones and vacancies that will never be filled no matter how long you wait. The board has an aura of the past with the ghostly names and one foot in the current with fleeting entries of current distilleries.
Except in today’s climate many whiskies don’t even make the board, such is the high demand for the big names or value-based offerings. A few fortunate survivors do see their names go up in chalk only to be quickly scrubbed off within days. Then there are the foot soldiers of the industry that linger and often gather dust. After all who wants a Tullibardine, North British or even a BenRiach?
Bottles can sit on the board for potentially years as life and custom streams past. Almost consigned to the forgotten pile before being given the chance to showcase their talents. The Cadenhead’s MacDuff 29 year old is such an example purely down to the name of the distillery. An institution without much of a track record for great whiskies this is an example that is worth exploring. Except to do so and noting its age – there’s unlikely to be a sample to hand – you’ll have to either put your faith in the madness of MALT or take a wild punt. Priced at over £100+ that’s a sizeable punt into the darkness for some and way above their bottle budget. Then there those tourists further up the road in an overpriced bar in central Edinburgh happy to pay a similar price for just a dram of a famous name… Fools.
I’ve always been drawn to the dark side of whisky. The extremes, the ignored and the chosen few. The consistency thing bores me into a rigid comma with Mark’s chat around soil or Adam outlining the finer points of bourbon having a similar effect. The brain shuts down and I step into another reality. Thankfully not a planet full of Stormtoopers, adult toys and a life of crippling boredom. Instead, the things that go badly wrong or those blissful moments in time where everything comes together. Mark recently argued in his piece on the GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 7 that single casks were not as complex as single malt whiskies. This from a bloke that’s been drinking Whyte & Mackay for the past year due to his new family. Utter English nonsense!
The single cask is simply where it’s at. That moment in time never to be repeated. Living on the edge with your instincts. The chance finding and discovery of a great whisky from a distillery such as MacDuff. That harmonious marriage between all the elements unleashed into the world in bottle form. Is there no greater satisfaction for a whisky enthusiast than opening such a bottle and stepping into that realm?
Vatting does have its place and I do find it an interesting commodity on the lesser scale that Cadenhead’s employs with its small batch releases. Take for instance this BenRiach that is just 2 bourbon casks brought together. Likely sister casks from the same batch, they’ll get to know 1 another, shout, argue and then makeup. At times it works wonderfully well and then others; you’ll be ducking to avoid the fallout. On a mass scale, vatting loses its edge and steps into the realm of consistency. Yawn.
Apologies to BenRiach as I rarely get to write about this distillery. Mark tends to do the review duties for this overlooked Speyside distillery while I focus on the glory of Tormore. The plan was to actually talk about BenRiach’s fascinating past but I’ve blown it. Thankfully, my whisky sister is sending over a potentially interesting release from the distillery so we can try again in the near future. We’ll do a better job next time.
This Benriach-Glenlivet was distilled in 2008 before being bottled in 2018. Comprised of 2 bourbon hogsheads, this resulted in 564 bottles at a robust 58.9% strength and will set you back £54 from the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s shop. Thanks to the guys for highlighting this lost dram on the chalkboard…
Cadenhead’s Benriach-Glenlivet 2008 – review
Colour: pine wood
On the nose: light and buttery, a vanilla cream, approachable and not overly complex. A twist of lemon, white chocolate and fruit sweetness. A layer of smoke. Poached pears provide the fruit dimension, Scotch pancakes a fun element and sugar cubes more sweetness. Water levels the sweetness and brings out more of the wood influence making it less than welcome.
In the mouth: interesting in a single word. It starts out as expected and then veers off in a different direction towards palm sugar. Buttery again, a subdued greenness with Kiwi fruits, olives and more of those pancakes. A gentle caress from the wood. Not the most active of casks but there’s an enjoyable chemistry here. Water reveals pear drops and juicy fruit chewing gum – a fun whisky!
A good solid drinkable whisky that you could polish off in rapid fashion. At this young age, there’s just enough symmetry between the spirit and the cask to enjoy across a bottle. A tasty, revitalising and engaging drop. Nothing fancy or benign and perfectly suited to the realm of Cadenhead’s value.