The realm of the independent bottler is an extremely competitive one nowadays. This is especially true within the UK, although Phil highlighted in his excellent interview with W.D. O’Connell that Ireland still has opportunities for those able to grasp the initiative.
Standing out from the crowd and offering something different is easier said than done. That difference could be in the presentation, cask finishing or even notable names that other independents cannot bottle. Cadenhead’s manage to do a little of everything, Gordon & MacPhail offer that legacy of quality and Hunter Laing has a hint of class that wins Mark over.
There is something for everyone based upon your preferences. For those living further afield, then names such as Signatory and Douglas Laing are likely companions upon the retail shelves. Perhaps if you’re lucky enough, you may even stumble across one of the growing band of armchair bottlers to use an industry term.
Adelphi is a bottler that does things its own way. From the divisive labels to the preference for big sherry and colour schemes. They’ve even joined the ranks of distillers with their Ardnamurachan endeavour and are increasingly seen internationally. An independent bottler that Mark and I agree upon and we don’t cover enough. Certainly, releases with a sherry taint don’t hang around too long at retail and some of the older expressions are beyond our wallet.
A recent appearance at the Fife Whisky Festival, combined with the support of our Patreons, enabled us to purchase 2 new releases from Adelphi. We picked up the latest, Batch 3, instalment in the Laudale range which is a 12-year-old Dailuaine bottled at 46% strength. Then, the overlooked Alness distillery, Teaninich, receives some overdue attention. Bottled at 55.9% in 2020, distilled in 2007 and an outturn of 615 bottles. Mark joins me for both of these, before I check out a 2006 Benrinnes that I was kindly given a sample of, bottled at 13 years of age and 55.5%.
Adelphi Benrinnes 12 year old – Jason’s review
On the nose: chocolate, soot, honeycomb and red liquorice. Dying embers, beef stock, resin, cloves, burnt toast and an enjoyable earthiness.
In the mouth: thick, oily and laced with burnt wood and treacle. Chocolate, peanuts, ashy, earthy and rubbed brass.
Laudale Dailuaine 12 year old – Jason’s review
On the nose: fudge, fruit loaf with orange pips, cloves, cinnamon bark and aniseed. Walnuts, black pepper and a refreshing layer of zest towards the end. A touch of rubber, figs, aniseed, beef stock, shoe polish and blackcurrant jam. Water reveals chocolate mint and red liquorice.
In the mouth: juicy red apples, lots of chocolate and cranberries. Aniseed, roasted coffee beans, treacle and faded cinnamon bark. Chewy in parts with a little waxiness, orange zest and honey. Cloves, black pepper, raisins, tobacco and smoke on the finish. Water showcases gentle fruits and more wax.
Laudale Dailuaine 12 year old – Mark’s review
Colour: very dark, mahogany, good lord.
On the nose: It’s aggressive at first, but even with time that doesn’t tend to fade. Woody: sandalwood, cigar boxes, with some hefty doses of heather honey and figs. Hints of liquorice even. Prunes, mince pies, with some slightly sour sun-dried tomato note. Balsamic glaze, a touch of boiled pork.
In the mouth: Coca Cola, very woody, with some hefty bitterness swayed only slightly by that fig-like sweetness. The toasted note is there and a bucket of vanilla. Maple syrup, though it lacks the associated texture – it’s quite thin, as if the spirit couldn’t quite handle the very active cask. Cinnamon, black pepper, and mince pie filling again. Indeed, the spirit flavour is hard to detect under all of this. There is no nuance; it’s been dominated.
Adelphi Teaninich 12 year old – Jason’s review
On the nose: dark chocolate, treacle, roasted coffee beans and dried reeds. There’s aniseed balls, spent cinnamon, orange segments, black shoe polish, liquorice ginger root, marmalade and kindling. Honey, amber, mossy and walnuts. Water reveals more shoe polish, blackcurrant and almonds.
In the mouth: more chocolate, walnuts, waxy black shoe polish and faded cinnamon. Coffee beans, cloves and aniseed.
Adelphi Teaninich 12 year old – Mark’s review
Colour: old oak, ridiculously dark in fact.
On the nose: Clean, not overly woody, which is what I had feared; a clinical sweetness in fact, full of dates, plum jam, with a hint of nutmeg. Burnt toffee and roasted nuts. Treacle sponge.
In the mouth: Not a particularly thick texture here, but it’s still pleasant. And again, not overly woody, but just a rush of sticky sweetness: maple syrup, something immensely autumnal about it. Raisins, figs, hazelnut praline; chocolatey – Fry’s Turkish Delight (remember those naff adverts from the 80s?). Jam-smeared brown toast, burnt slightly, and actually reminiscent of some ryes which is a bit weird. Wood spices starting to show on the finish: cloves, black pepper.
I really enjoyed the Benrinnes and it was well suited to the cask profile. A big heavy distillate with the thud of the sherry cask. An orchestra as Mark would say.
The Teaninich in comparison was harder work. It felt here as if the cask had unsettled the balance that we had enjoyed with the Benrinnes. Some nutty qualities did poke through, but in general, water and patience really prompted an archaeological site searching for the remnants of Teaninich. It is fun to dig and I enjoy gardening more than most. However, I do want a little more chemistry rather than total domination.
Leaving us with the Dailuaine. Now, initially, this felt all cask by a long stretch. Then time, patience and water started to resurrect the qualities that we associated with this Speyside distillery. In essence, moving from the Teaninich situation and more towards the Benrinnes balance. The beauty of this release is that it is bottled at 46% and is well-priced at £55. If this has been bottled at cask strength, I believe it would have been terribly off-putting. The addition of water to bring it down to 46% has paid dividends.
In doing so, it has grown on me over these past few weeks. So much so, I have bought an extra bottle, or two, to enjoy in future years. I’ve already seen it going for £120 in a recent auction, which is laughable and disappointing. It is priced to drink and to be enjoyed. We don’t see too many heavily sherried Dailuaine releases and on the basis of this Adelphi, we should see more, please.
The Dailuaine was too blunt, but really it’s the lack of underlying spirit character that I think defeats this. It’s only 12 years old? Wood just overpowered it. Not, I’ll be honest, what I’ve come to expect from Adelphi, but you can’t win them all right. The Teanninininich, well, yes I don’t suppose this is particularly subtle either, but it is certainly intense and brings plenty of fun with it. Not a summer dram, that one; very much a retreat into winter. Being the tit that I am, and this being at the extreme end of one particular flavour spectrum, I started mixing this with some ex-Bourbon Springbank to balance things out a bit and it kind of worked, although weirdly the Springbank dominated. A more robust made spirit will always trump something whizzed through? Mere musings. Why not have a play with things like this? Anyway, much better than the former.
Images kindly provided by the Whisky Exchange. Note the Teaninich photograph is a sister cask; same vintage, same colour.