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Edradour: SFTC 10 and Cask Strength Ibisco 12

A comparison of Laphroaig 10 and Laphroaig Quarter Cask after being open at various periods throughout a year was originally on the docket, but one of the things that was lost during the COVID-19 lockdown was my laptop. Fortunately, this provided the opportunity for me to branch out from the usual suspects and write about something relatively different and inconspicuous. Two Edradours should do the trick.

Edradour is both one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries and often overlooked. Its grounds are beautifully picturesque, situated in Pitlochry, Perthshire. It is possibly the single most scenic distillery currently operating in Scotland, with its wooden fences, swift-flowing stream, and bountiful heather flowers. The distillery itself was formerly owned by Pernot Ricard but in 2002 it was acquired by the independent bottling company Signatory, who own it to this day. While it has never really enjoyed mainstream success, Edradour has a cult following within the whisky community for its single cask and independent bottlings, many of which are exceptional.

Impressively, this little distillery operates on a crew of only two people! A 4200-litre wash still and 2200 litre spirit still work together to produce about 18 casks per week. An especially diminutive operation by most standards, especially in the current era of whisky production. Most of what the distillery makes is used for blended whiskies and their primary focus is on sherry cask maturation.

When it comes to the distillate itself, Edradour is what some would describe as a “dirty” spirit. It is oily, savoury, meaty, heavy and has strong cereal grain and yeast influences in the flavour. Ironically enough, it strongly reminds me of the type of spirit Macallan used to be known for. Promising, since this type of spirit can age exceptionally well in fresh sherry casks. Small stills can be hit and miss; their highs tend to be higher and their lows tend to be lower. That goes double when bottling at cask strength without chill filtration. Personally, Edradour is either a total miss or stupendous in my experience. They do not usually operate in the middle ground. Let’s find out which it will be today.

Edradour 10 Years-Old Straight From The Cask – Review

This small bottle (500 mL) boasts a strong 57.9% ABV. It was distilled on October 30th, 2009 and bottled November 1st, 2019 from sherry butt No. 353. The exact type of sherry cask is not mentioned. Cost is about $100 CAD. Fresh pour from the neck.

Colour: Very dark. As dark as GlenDronachs that are more than twice its age.

On the nose: Big and upfront. Raisins and figs galore at first. The first minute or two is just dark fruit-type scents. Prunes, figs, and the like. Then something similar to brown sugar and roasted barley comes out, followed by chocolate that smells as if it was melted in a pan for a couple seconds too long. Water lightens things up and enhances the brown sugar notes and brings out something floral. The nose is strong and rich, if only a tad simplistic.

In the mouth: It’s one of the oiliest, chewiest, most full-bodied whiskies I’ve had in the 10-year range. It’s also quite hot! Based on the flavours alone (and forgetting the heat) I would have guessed this was a late-teens Glengoyne/twenties Glenfarclas at cask strength. Again, the dark fruits are most dominant but there’s an “umami” sensation. Something meaty or savoury to go along with all the syrupy sugars of the dark fruits. Grilled mushrooms or beef fat. Time and water bring out a bit of the chocolate taste and something resembling an incredibly sweet bbq sauce. The finish is a bit minty and musty.

Even with 2 spoonfuls of water, this drinks pretty hot. If you don’t normally have cask strength whisky then this would be a struggle. Perhaps some more time in the cask or a slower distillation would have smoothed it out more, but the flavours are bang on, even with the burn. The nose packs a punch without betraying the alcohol heat. It has everything a sherry bomb should but it’s not wildly distinct or unorthodox compared to something like A’Bunadh, Glenfarclas 105’, or Glengoyne Teapot Dram, but with just enough character from the distillate to make it unique. Also, this is expensive for a 500 mL bottle, roughly $100 CAD. That being said, you don’t see sherry-matured scotch of this kind anymore.

Score: 6/10

(if the price was better and bottle size was larger it would be a 7)

Edradour Cask Strength 12 Years-Old IBISCO Decanter – review

A standard-size bottle (700 mL) that’s a tiny bit stronger at 58.4% ABV. It was distilled on February 20th, 2008 and bottled April 22nd, 2020 from sherry cask No. 33. The exact type of sherry cask is again not mentioned. Cost is about $180 CAD, or it is available from The Whisky Exchange for £98.95. Fresh pour from the neck as well.

Colour: Almost as dark as the 10, actually a shade or two lighter

On the nose: Powerful and huge! Wow! So many raisins, figs, and dates but as if they were dipped in melted toffee and drizzled in cherry syrup. After 10 minutes more chocolate, honey, and baked bread come out. Water makes the caramel and butterscotch notes come forward more along with something vaguely minty. It’s all juicy, rich, heady, and sweet. Even some umami is in there as well. The nose is a treat.

In the mouth: A fabulous mix of distillate character and cask influence. The sweetness of the sherry with the greasy meatiness of the distillate. Sweet cherries and cherry syrup along with more raisins, prunes, and fatty beef gravy. After a bit of time it becomes mintier with more fresh fruit than the nose indicated. Pineapple and lemon sherbet juxtaposed against old leather and oak tannins. Almost a balsamic flavour at the back of the throat, with butterscotch and burned toffee. A surprising amount of complexity is on display here despite the fact that this is only 12 years old. It’s not overly complex mind you, just more so than you’d think for its age. A pleasant surprise.

This drinks much less hot than the 10-year-old. Either the extra 2 years, specific cask, or both have tamed the spirit a little. Yes, this is a powerful sherry bomb, but it’s the added complexity from the spirit that makes it special. The umami, caramel and butterscotch flavours are strong enough to almost stand on their own against a robust sherry cask. It cannot be stated enough how different this style of sherry maturation is compared to most contemporary single malts aged in sherry. However, the price is still exorbitant, about $180 CAD. It’s incredibly hard to justify dropping that much money on a 12-year-old bottle, even at cask strength, when there are many other options available. This is just so damned good and old-school though. Aaahh if only the price was better…

Score: 7/10

Conclusions

Edradour is a wonderful little distillery that is worth exploring. Bourbon casks are even offered if that is more your style. Bottom line, there’s a good chance they’ve got something you’ll enjoy.

Photographs kindly provided by The Whisky Exchange and there is a commission link within this article.

CategoriesSingle Malt
Greg
Greg

Greg has been following and consuming the world of single malt scotch and bourbon whiskies for 13 years as of 2020. His educational background is in science with degrees in Astrobiology and the Life Sciences. Some of his hobbies include amateur astronomy, weight lifting, playing piano and guitar, and posting one-minute whisky reviews on Instagram.

  1. Avatar
    Tony G says:

    Very intriguing! First I’ve read about this distillery so thank you for sharing/educating! From your notes both bottles sound very rich, worthy of looking for.

    1. Greg
      Greg says:

      Hi Tony, I’m glad you enjoyed the article and happy to introduce you to a new distillery. One thing neither of these bottles lack is richness, that is for sure! If price is no factor then you would immensely enjoy the 12 Years-Old Ibisco bottling. Edradour also produces a peated expression you may be interested in called Ballechin.

  2. Avatar
    bifter says:

    Thanks Greg. These retail for circa £70/£100 respectively in the UK so they are expensive enough here without the usual LCB markups. This has always put me off as value is my number one priority with whisky and single cask/small batch releases are a punt by their nature. Good to see reviews to put some context around them.

    Words like ‘umami’, ‘balsamic’ and ‘burnt toffee’ are sometimes euphemistic descriptors for sulphur. Would you say you are sensitive to sulphur and have these flavours become more prominent in the 12 since opening the bottle?

    1. Greg
      Greg says:

      Hi bifter,

      Value seems to be a concept left by the roadside for most distilleries these days. In the grand scheme of things, it looks like the industry has been bought up and carved out by corporations who are strip mining the warehouses, releasing questionable NAS, heavily reusing casks, or charging a premium for what was once standard. That whole topic could be multiple articles.

      Small batches (true small batches mind you, not the way the word gets tossed around by marketers) and single casks are definitely more hit and miss and not as complex as a blend of a few barrels can be. When they’re good, and priced appropriately, they can be quite spectacular though. That’s why we do these reviews! To help the audience sort out what they like and point them in the direction of something we consider good quality. In terms of this review, that 2008 Ibisco decanter 12 years-old was splendid. I almost gave it an 8 if not for the price. The quality is solid but the value is weak.

      I would consider myself highly sensitive to sulphur. It’s one of the reasons I cannot get into Springbank, I find it to be such a sulphurous malt. I’ve definitely had it in batches of Glenfarclas before, as well as both older and newer Aberlour A’bunadh batches and Macallan releases. It’s a sharp and rotten sensation to me. These Edradours were not sulphurous to me at all, those tastes of umami or burnt toffee were very much softer, earthier, and more of a dense sweetness than anything I would describe as “sulphur” flavoured. I am just a single individual though, my tastes my not align with others’.

      1. Avatar
        bifter says:

        I agree the industry is increasingly being hollowed out. The bones of Japanese whisky stocks were picked clean within a few short months, age statements have all but disappeared from UK supermarkets and the general quality of Scotch has declined noticeably, demonstrably so in fact. The ultimate effect of high prices is regressive, which could mean a generation lost to the joys of good quality malt. Ironically my view of the very producers whose product I love is now jaundiced and I actually hope that the high-rollers move on and that there is another cyclical decline in the industry. However it seems, these days, there is a relentless trend of premium products and brands simply becoming the established preserves of a new, global elite. And if I go any further on that, we’re really off topic!

        I’m just glad to have been able to enjoy the tail end of the ‘good old days’ when whisky was well-aged, good quality and (most importantly) affordable.

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