Have we all calmed down yet?
When Cadenhead’s announced the return of their Original Collection and the disbanding of the Small Batch range, it’s fair to say the feedback was mixed. Perhaps that’s being a little generous looking on social media from a vocal fanbase. No more cask strength releases in those distinctly shaped bottles or gold labels. Perhaps that’s the reason for the response? People do like a bit of bling, but clearly Cadenhead’s wanted to bring back some value and expand their outturn.
The core principles of Cadenhead’s remain intact for the Original Collection. The releases are as natural as we dare to be nowadays and everything is bottled at 46% strength. Do you remember the days when many were screaming for 46% on all releases? We’re still some way from a market lock-in, but we’re getting there. Maybe we’re too preoccupied with all things cask strength? The independent market is as burgeoning as the queue to get a flu jag right now. Almost everyone does cask strength, so much so that it’s become the norm. And when everyone does something, the market can become static and lacking variety.
If you’re a frequent visitor to a Cadenhead’s store like me, then you’ll know that there was always a gap in their presentation. You had the cheap blends and for a while the bottle your own. However, if you only had a budget of £50 to spend, then you were limited. And that’s standing in Scotland’s most affordable independent. The goalposts had moved on and single cask at cask strength was beyond that magical £50 mark. And if you observed the famous blackboards, you would notice bottles and distilleries that just wouldn’t move.
So, I’m all for trying or resurrecting old ideas. Many independents will bottle at a natural strength, but others will add water to enhance the whisky, whilst still releasing at a strength in excess of 46%. Sometimes taking a dram down to a certain level pays dividends. Yeah, I know the hipsters and blinkered will want cask strength, hammered out of the cask and full of floating bits of wood. I know, because I’ve been there and frankly, there is always a time for such whisky. But if we’re looking to get more people into whisky and not just the ageing Cadenhead regulars, then we need to present whiskies in a new light.
Plus, there’s that demand and supply aspect. A single cask is often gone before you know it. Mixing things up, meant I was able to pick from this new outturn with confidence and everything was available. And then there’s the desire of impulse buying, where that price tag will mean you’re more able and forgiving of a whisky.
At the end of the day, it always comes down to the whisky itself. And I agree in this outturn that Cadenhead’s have played it safe by picking out some of the distilleries they bottle on a regular basis – you didn’t expect them to bottle the crown jewels now did you? Everything comes down to the whisky, so let’s get stuck into these 6 newbies and then wrap things up in the conclusion.
Cadenhead’s Deanston 10 year old – review
Made up of 80% bourbon and 20% Maderia casks, expect to pay around £40.
Colour: light gold.
On the nose: honey and biscuits the Deanston staples but with added sweetness. Lemon drizzle cake, apricot jam, ginger snaps and buttery. On the fringes mustard seeds, apples and pineapple.
In the mouth: a little rubber but that’s ok in my book. Marmalade, lemons, oranges and cask char. Jelly sweeties, candle wax and cinders. It is surprising just how much influence 20% has unleashed here, but details are scant (a criticism), as I’d love to know the full make-up of the casks, refill status, duration etc.
Cadenhead’s Dufftown-Glenlivet 10 year old – review
50% bourbon casks and 50% PX Sherry, this is priced around £43.
On the nose: resinous, treacle, nutty and with honeycomb. There’s an assortment of chocolate, orange zest and chocolate sponge cake. Not forgetting a gentle coaxing of vanilla and nougat.
In the mouth: lighter than expected with the bourbon casks opening things up more than the colour suggests. More chocolate, mossy in parts, varnish, polished wood and rum fudge. Dried fruits, brown sugar and coffee beans.
Cadenhead’s Glenrothes 23 year old – review
60% bourbon and 40% sherry cask matured, this is the premium release at £103.
Colour: ruby ruby ruby!
On the nose: despite the presence of the bourbon casks this is still quite a sherried Glenrothes. Orange zest, brown sugar, leathery in parts and nectarines bring some freshness. The fruits poke through more given time in the cask as the sherry emphasis moves aside.
In the mouth: more rounded on the palate and pleasingly so. Your sherry-spices and red apples that you expect alongside the chocolate and ginger elements. Some fig and chocolate orange pleasingly, more elements of the bourbon ingredient with vanilla and apples.
Cadenhead’s Strathclyde 31 year old – review
A Lowland grain, this is 100% bourbon matured and £94.
Colour: a morning dawn.
On the nose: zingy and fresh with the clear evidence this a grain. Banana chewits, vanilla, caramel and Custard Creams. Grain by the numbers with lemon sherbet and a burst of alcohol.
In the mouth: lacking texture sadly and a one dimensional grain. Vanilla, vapid in parts with moements of banana, caramel and alcohol on the finish.
Cadenhead’s Tomatin 12 year old – review
100% bourbon matured and priced at £44.
Colour: gold leaf.
On the nose: a light and refreshing arrival. Green apples, Kiwi fruit, an unused tea bag, caramel and maltiness. White chocolate, lime zest and white grapes.
In the mouth: much of the nose is echoed on the palate but in addition, Highland toffee, porridge oats, green peppercorns and more apples.
Cadenhead’s Tullibardine 13 year old – review
Another 100% bourbon cask release which will cost around £44.
On the nose: a creamy caramel, cream soda, lemon brings a real zing with pink lady apples and vanilla backing up an inoffensive whisky with some shortbread.
In the mouth: caramel, hazelnuts, oatcakes, wood spice with honey and some wood bitterness. A simple thing with pine cones and almonds.
As always we would refer you to our scoring guide which underlines the fact an average whisky scores a 5, because that’s the average on the scale. So, these are mainly scoring around the average to good range.
We’ll go through these in review and piece together some thoughts at the end.
The Deanston is one Mark and I picked out in advance as we’re impressed by what this distillery is doing. Plus, our Patreons did vote for something by this distillery last month. The addition of marsala casks in the mix was also an attraction for him. The marriage works well, as I’ve said in my notes, more information would be great and that applies to all these releases. This is a Deanston that teeters on the brink in terms of balance, noting how aggressive some Distell releases have been in recent times. Thankfully, it works well.
The Dufftown-Glenlivet is the one that perfectly encapsulates the ethics of this range. It is affordable, has plenty to showcase and enjoy. It’s not often in life that I say, buy the Dufftown, but this I’m pleased to say that this is one of these moments. I’ve had plenty of more expensive sherried drams – finished or otherwise – that are not as drinkable and pleasurable as this whisky. The Glenrothes is pretty much what you’d expect. And if you’re a Cadenhead’s regular, then you’ll be well versed in the qualities of this distillery and the bombardment of sherried drams that the bottler can unleash. For the money, the Dufftown just seems more of a bargain, which is what this Original Collection is all about.
All of the whiskies hold up well generally to 46%, with the exception being the Strathclyde. I just feel much of its qualities and texture have been washed away. Leaving you with a grain that’s by the numbers and very inoffensive, whilst an echo of what might have been. A hard one to recommend here.
The Tomatin in parts reminded me of the official Legacy release. This Cadenhead’s is slightly older and displays its qualities a little louder and clearer. I’m happy enough with my purchase even though at the back of my mind, I know the Legacy is available for under £30 and batch dependent, is fairly close to this release.
And rounding off the six releases is the Tullibardine. This as well brought back memories of the recently released 15 year old from the distillery. A more natural presentation from the distillery that is fixing its errors of the past and will be making good use of the sizeable investment on site. A perfectly pleasant and pourable Tulli’ without the bizarre finishes they once gave us, or legacy of bad casks.
Overall, a solid start from Cadenhead’s. My preconceptions were that the range would be based on value and increased outturns. This makes the inclusion of the Glenrothes and Strathclyde seem out of place. I don’t believe any whiskies near the £100 mark, or above, are really warranted. Perhaps their inclusion is to generate some excitement or buzz? You can see some justification for a grain whisky being featured and deservedly so, just not at 46% despite the impressive age. There’s almost something for everyone here, especially true when the Caol Ila appears.
My thanks to Cadenhead’s Edinburgh for the samples, and our Patreon supporters.