We’re all in a club, and at one time, whisky was just a room full of people having a great time—or more than likely, a freezing cold bothy with a stronger farmyard smell than any Brora funk. Nowadays, we’re more segregated; regardless of whether it’s as a result of social media or habit-forming cliques from those with whom we hang around, it’s all too easy to shut ourselves off, bolt the door firmly shut and ignore a different point of view.
That’s the danger of a club or collective. In limiting our exposure, we’re drifting away from what whisky is truly about. Sure, a sense of community and friendship matters, but beyond and at its heart resides that base component: the liquid itself. Whisky is whisky, or whiskey is whiskey, for my American readership. It’s not about who’s got the biggest bottle collection or the largest number of unopened Macallans to shove up their arse. A whisky is the result of nature and human endeavour. Its sole purpose is to be opened and experienced: nothing more, nothing less.
Yet we find ourselves in these clubs and passageways in-between. Many clubs exist to sell on bottles, with Facebook playing host to entertaining avenues for flippers. These clubs avoid auction fees and the spotlight by offering a one-off price (laughably, plus postage) to someone who is in desperate need of a bottle.
An extreme example concerns the current king of the flipping in Fife’s very own Daftmill distillery. One such seller drove for two hours and waited for four in order to ensure two bottles of the Daftmill Royal Mile Whiskies single cask. There was no intent to open, share or explore. This was simply greed and economics. What can you do, apart from getting up earlier? Or wishing we could set the clock back in central Edinburgh to the medieval ages where, hopefully, urine and other foul waste products were tossed from a great height and landed upon such a despicable person?
A £145 bottle that many tried to get for the right reasons—although I admit it was likely a 50/50 split at least with the flippers—became a £500 bottle within minutes. Speaking to the staff at a couple of the specific retailers with the exclusive casks, they just wanted shot of the releases. The stories they told me about some of the antics from the general public trying to secure a bottle left me extremely disheartened with human nature and what we’ve become. I had the sense that what I love about whisky has been pulled apart, blitzed, smashed and ripped from my heart.
Then I pulled myself together.
There’s very little we can do about the above. Extreme measures can be taken, of course, such as breaking the seal on the counter as you complete the purchase, or numbering bottles along with the buyer’s name. Instead, where I can, I’ll continue to open, share and appreciate what I’m fortunate to have at home.
In saying all of this, there is a degree of influence here at MALT. I’m always concerned a positive review here may fan the flames of the flippers, and therefore, of secondary market prices. We’re not Serge by a long stretch of the imagination, and I’ve been in a shop when a 90+ score of his prompts the phone to ring. However, if a whisky deserves plaudits, then that’s what counts, alongside a fair summary of whether the retail price is fair.
This explains why I’m not going to bother reviewing any of the new Daftmill single casks. I don’t think I’ll have anything to say beyond what’s in this article anyway. For the record, I preferred both the Luvians and Royal Mile Whiskies casks over the heavily sherried Berry Bros & Rudd release, which is clogging up auction sites as I type.
Clubs can exist for good. You may know that a few of us got together for a tasting in Glasgow in February, opened a few bottles and raised £500 for a local homeless charity. We could have sold our bottles as a whole or via samples, but this wasn’t a motivation or desire. The real benefit was the opportunity to sit down in a room full of friends, strangers and Phil, enjoying the whiskies and topics that followed.
All said and done, we have the latest Cadenhead’s Club release. The Cadenhead’s Club has swelled in size due to the attraction of value and receiving the monthly outturn early—a benefit that has been washed away by the number of members, all politely forming a queue to get a bottle. Still, I enjoy my membership and the option to purchase a well-priced release such as this 20-year-old blend for £45. It reminded me that clubs and gatherings can be a force of good, and in these dark times, hope.
This release is an outturn of 500 bottles, bottled at 44.6% and heralding from a sherry butt and a sherry hogshead. Available to club members only, you may see a bottle online somewhere…
Cadenhead’s Club 2019 20 Year Old – Review
Colour: bashed copper.
On the nose: an assortment of dried fruits, lemon peel, liquorice root and ginger nuts. Some homemade marmalade, nutmeg, rubbed brass, toffee, margarine and dark chocolate. There’s a gentle reminder of some grain within, but it’s not forceful. It has a well-rounded nose with a modest sherry influence.
In the mouth: nutty on the palate with walnuts, caramel, nutmeg and clove. Moments of varnish, syrup, cinnamon bark, honey, cherry sauce, orange zest and cracked black pepper emerge towards the finish of dried fruits and a hint of dryness.
The blended element has introduced a lightness, touch of space and breathing room to this Club release. What might have been more of a rich, cloying sherried whisky has instead become delicate and—well, ballet-like, I suppose—for a want of a better expression. The downside is that it’s very much an easy sipper, enough to stimulate and entertain without needing total focus. In addition, you’re waiting for that crescendo and uplift to a higher level, which never arrives.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience, and the price itself is an added bonus. If you’re not a member of this Club, then it’s worth considering, or at least checking out some of the Cadenhead’s Creation range that are more widely available. Just don’t keep that door closed and those virtual barriers in place.