There I was, sitting comfortably, in a relaxing environment one evening, considering the dram at hand. A recent purchase, in the form of the batch 2 Cadenhead’s blended whisky. And then it truly hit me. I couldn’t recall purchasing a blend in ages. A terrible admission, given my fondness of blends prior to the 1980s and suchlike.
Blends are often frowned upon, particularly by those who don’t know much or seem to be obsessed with the single malt brigade. Like you, the regular Malt reader will know, this is utter nonsense. Blends can be evocative and mesmerising liquid experiences. Far removed from the current supermarket fodder that is tainted with a high proportion of industrial grain and artificial colouring. A good blend is to be savoured and often represents value and just enough of that flavour to spend an enjoyable evening with.
Oddly enough, the last blend I can recall purchasing (after referring to Malt’s blend section) also came from Cadenheads in the form of their 2018 Festival bottling, but prior to that the release that sticks out was their 43 year old creation. For the record, I left the remnants of that bottle with Noortje in Dornoch and never saw it again. That’s perfectly fine as I’m sure it was shared and enjoyed, as all whisky rightly should be. I know I’ve been ignoring some of these Cadenhead’s blending exponents for no reason whatsoever. I guess, I‘m just as guilty as having my head turned by the offer of a single malt as much as anyone. Either that, or my wife is right and I am slowly losing my grip on reality.
In 2018, Cadenheads debuted their batch 1 release of this blended Scotch whisky, bottled at a lovely 20 years of age. That initial release featured a simple blend make up for Strathclyde for the grain and Glenrothes for the single malt component. The twist this time around was that Cadenhead’s were adopting a Solera type system for this release and other blended offerings.
Traditionally in Scotland, casks are blended by a boffin, sat comfortably in the corporate headquarters adorned with a nice white apron, who then dictates to the warehouse team. The fundamentals within the equation are colour, aroma, taste and what the blender is trying to achieve. If you’re working for an existing blend, then you have to keep within the parameters of that existing whisky – you don’t want to annoy wee Wille from Cumbernauld, by upping the peat level. Consistency is everything in an established blend or brand. Other considerations are just as important, such as stock management and unit price. There’s no point creating something simply divine, if you cannot release it on a wide enough scale, or at a price point that ensures the margins are not profitable.
All of the above matters to a certain degree, but this is a Cadenhead’s release where they tend to do their own thing and enthusiasts follow. What separates Scotland’s independent bottler from many others is the level of information. That old transparency thing, or what we’ve been calling Malt Truth on Instagram of late. Simply telling the consumer what is in the bottle and how it was created. A refreshing concept and one that should be uniformly adopted across the whole industry. After all, Diageo and William Grant & Sons, love to tell us such details when it suits them, especially when it is to justify some ridiculous price as seen with the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare, or a Ghosted Reserve.
I’ll refer you to this excellent Cadenhead’s blog post about another blend and their Solera system. In essence, I like to think of this method as like driving around Glenrothes. The car is the liquid and you are constantly going around in circles with other cars. Only a handful manage to navigate the chaos and escape the town boundaries. The Solera system is an orchestra of casks with the liquid being consistently refreshed and at the end, well there is no conclusion. You leave some whisky within the maze, to form the foundation of the blend when new whiskies are introduced into the system.
This batch 2 release is an outturn of 696 bottles at 46% strength and remarkably the fearsome darkness is all natural. Reminiscent of that sooty Gordon & MacPhail 1973 Old Pulteney – if it’s half as good as that whisky then we’re in for a treat. As with everything Cadenhead’s there is no chill-filtration implemented and you can expect to pay in the region of £55 for this release. The colour is mesmerising to a certain extent. You’re expecting a massive sherry beast, but in reality, this is something a little more palatable and refined, which leads us onto the tasting notes.
William Cadenhead 20 year old batch 2 – review
On the nose: Chocolate, no make that a warm chocolate brownie. Walnuts, some cherries and rubbed brass. Brasso? Old school cola cubes, liquorice and juniper berries. Resin and a simple vanilla beneath it all. Black shoe polish wax, toasted coconut and Tayberry jam, with a homely worn oak dining table. Water reveals more fruits alongside haggis seasoning.
In the mouth: I hate to say this but smooth. More chocolate flavours, cinnamon bark, mace and aniseed. A rum punch? Charcoal on the fringes. Grape juice and those horrible prunes from the school canteen – tell me they don’t serve them still? A simple pleasure. Terry’s chocolate orange. With water toffee apples and an enhanced finish. Jakeman’s soothing menthol sweets, cracked black pepper and Burdock root.
A damn fine creation it must be said. Nothing biblical, but it has an essence of the old traditional blend about it – a touch of style if you prefer. An irresistible combination of value and an experience. Extremely quaffable as Tweed would say whilst motoring around the countryside in his Range Rover. Put a bottle of this down amongst friends and guaranteed you could plough through most of the contents in a sitting.
This approachability reminds me a little of the Deanston Toasted Oak, a release that went down all too quickly sadly, but the memories live on. With batch 3 of this Cadenhead’s concept due to land later in 2019, I’ll see you down the front.