This is an era of bling bottles and unicorns that you’ll never see in the flesh. Rumours spread of fleeting sightings and only a lucky few will have the opportunity to secure a purchase, or god forbid, actually open and try. These are heady times my friends, with many becoming intoxicated by the possibility of ownership.
Personally, I don’t want to add to the rarities or exclusivity of whisky. I’m all for breaking down barriers and making whisky for everyone; as our recent Edinburgh tasting at Holyrood distillery proved. Therefore you may ask, why I am reviewing a release that constitutes only 60 bottles and is only available from a specific shop in Edinburgh? Good question, because there’s an important message behind this release for all us.
The next question you’ll have is who or what was Maggie? Well, she was the custodian of the bottles within the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s whisky shop. A proud canine that patrolled the shop floor and stockroom with authority. She was a staple of this classic whisky institution for as long as I can remember and sadly, she passed away earlier this year. To give you an idea of her stature, this news actually made the local newspaper and beyond. Such was the impression she left upon many of us.
On a regular basis, she would sit proudly in the store front window watching the hustle and bustle of the Edinburgh tourist scene flow past. Occasionally upon entering the shop, she would approach you to ascertain your importance and whether you had any treats to offer. Failure to do so, would prompt a retort and she would scarper back to the store room, or plonk herself on the store carpet until a better offer passed by.
It’s funny in life, the things we take for granted until they are no longer there. The Cadenhead’s environment is more than just whisky for its patrons. Ok, the whisky was the opening gambit, but beyond it is the staff, store atmosphere and the ability to meet local enthusiasts with the same passion for whisky. All of this, under the watchful and glaring gaze of Maggie. She did, admitadely have an attitude, but that was part of her appeal, as was her assured nature within the shop. Maggie was as much part of the team as anyone and the bottles she would have seen come and go within her tenure would have been remarkable.
We’re all growing old by the day and one-by-one friends, fellow enthusiasts and acquittances are moving on. Such is life. There are only a few guarantees during our brief existence here. Namely taxes, Jura disappointment and I’d like to believe maximum enjoyment. Rather than being sad about a passing, I feel we should celebrate and relive those happy memories. In whisky, we can commemorate and celebrate. This often comes in the form of a special bottle with a particular vintage or age statement. It can also be a bottling from a special visit or a kind gift from a friend. These things are never harnessed or released, until you break that seal.
We should live in the moment more and enjoy our whisky. When I returned to the Edinburgh shop recently, I was informed about this commemorative release and it was a no brainer in terms of making a purchase. It seemed an apt gesture from Cadenhead’s to release this blended Scotch with a suitable label to celebrate Maggie with the shop regulars, who miss her presence and retain fond memories of her unique character. She might not have enjoyed a dram, but seeing herself immortalised on a Cadenhead’s label would be a proud moment for her and many of us.
For Maggie, I cracked open this bottling shortly after purchase. I even took it up north on holiday to explore and revive some old memories. Not just of her character, but those I’ve met and lost within the confines of a whisky shop. A virtual toast to each and everyone of you.
This is a blended Scotch whisky of unknown composition. Bottled at 12 years of age and 46%, after residing in a sherry hogshead. Just 60 bottles were released with a price around £45.
Cadenhead’s The Maggie 12 year old – review
On the nose: walnuts drizzled in caramel, a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, rose, figs and dried fruits. More subtle spices with cinnamon, star anise, clay, ginger root and varnish. A little grain, cherry and apricot jam. Water reveals tobacco and a sense that 46% is the perfect strength.
In the mouth: dark chocolate, fudge, toffee and black peppercorn. Some grain, liquorice, marzipan, nectarines, cloves, cinnamon and glazed cherries. Nectarines and a jammy quality. Very pleasant sipping indeed, which the fill level confirmed after a couple of days. The luxurious buttery quality is quite memorable and water reveals more fruit including strawberries.
In whisky, it is difficult not to be swept away by emotion. Brand ambassadors love to cloud your judgement with tales of why their whisky is sublime and influencers will aim to distort your perception of reality. Sentimentality is a big fat banana skin waiting for your judgement on the next bend. We’re all capable of losing control and skidding Mario Kart style into the barrier.
If I was to score this on the basis of my memories and fondness of the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s institution, it would hit the dizzy heights of a 9 or 10. However, we’re dealing with reality here and we must separate Maggie and the store, from the actual contents. In this respect, I actually enjoyed this release as a regular sipper without too much effort. The buttery aspect is delicious and the orange vibe revives memories of Edinburgh during the summer.
Initially the grain on the nose was very noticeable, however this dissipated the longer the bottle was open and exposed. The influence of a good sherry cask stepped forward and we’re left with a whisky that deserves to be enjoyed with friends and memories revived. Better than the Cadenhead’s 12-year-old blend that I enjoyed earlier this year and is now a staple in my home.
Toast the good days, the fond memories, the punches and the truth bombs. Use whisky as a conduit for your enjoyment and reflection, as who knows what tomorrow will bring?