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.
(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…
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.