Na Bràithrean Glencadam 2011

It strikes me that we don’t talk about Glencadam much here or anywhere in fact. Sure, the odd aware of high-five from someone out there, but a concerted focus and effort? I don’t think so.

So, I’m always pleased when I have the opportunity to do so with my last Glencadam review being 2 years ago with the 13 year old Re-awakening, which I thought was tasty stuff. Although Peter did chip in more recently with an actual distillery tour – one I’ve never actually taken. That’s a resolution for when we can get back to some form of normality. It’ll be interesting, I’ve taken one tour under COVID-19 restrictions and I find tours tactile things in general; an ability to touch, smell and appreciate. Such things are hampered with gloves and masks, but we can all appreciate the need for such measures.

Glencadam was founded in 1825, so pretty much from the inception of the whisky industry as we know it today. A faithful producer that has supported a variety of masters and their blends. It hasn’t really sought the spotlight of the single malt catwalk until recent times. Thanks to the sterling efforts of current owners, Angus Dundee. What I’ve always enjoyed about Glencadam is that it has remained faithful to its roots and older style.

And I was going to expand on this, but it looks like we’ll be doing something with Glencadam in the near future. So, we’ll hold that thought for now and dive into these new releases.

As you should know by now, Na Bràithrean showcase what a finish can bring with their Wee Brother (the original cask, your traditional ex-bourbon variety) versus the Big Brother (virgin wood heavy char finish) and put out both to purchase, so you can compare. These are bottled at 8 years of age and distilled on 16th March 2011. The Wee version was bottled on 15th September 2020, while Big Brother waited until the 3rd December 2020. Both siblings resulted in 128 bottles each at 55% and are available from Na Bràithrean with the Wee Brother costing £56.50 and the Big Brother, £62. Na Bràithrean advised me yesterday that there’s just 15 of the Big Brother and 20 of the Wee Brother left if you’re interested.

Na Bràithrean Glencadam 2011 – Wee Brother Jason’s review

Colour: white gold.

On the nose: coarse vanilla and some noticeable feints. Fresh wood, orange and grapefruit. Crisp green apples, oatmeal, some light cask char and cream soda. With time custard and adding water reveals a more creamier nature and tonka beans.

In the mouth: more apples and feints, mossy compost and copper. A touch of smoke, pears, vanilla and some spirit character. Water brings out a spiciness, dried reeds, bitter lemon and maltiness.

Score: 5/10

Na Bràithrean Glencadam 2011 – Big Brother Jason’s review

Colour: caramel.

On the nose: toffee popcorn, fresh varnish, vanilla, some orange segments and cinder toffee. No, make that orange oil, it has more density now and there’s a mustiness as well. Buttery least I forget and some roasted hazelnuts. Aerosol Cream and pumpkin spice. Adding water reveals worn wood, peppercorns, some salt, a cracked leather wallet and ham.

In the mouth: bourbon-like in places, with a nice toasted flavour coming through. It’s certainly changed from the original host. There are caramel and vanilla again, but they’ve become more pronounced. Fleeting memories of Loch Dhu whisky are revived for brief moments. The woodiness is well matched against that bitterness which has now faded and separated into oil. More nuttiness and still some of that spirit character poke through. The addition of water gives more density and a wholesome aspect to the texture with a creaminess and sawdust.

Score: 6/10

Jason’s Conclusions

Quite the transformation. The Wee Brother is a fairly inactive young cask, plenty of youthful vibrancy and spirit. The charred virgin wood finish of the Big Brother actually works quite well. Hints of a bourbon-like agenda take hold of the experience and propel it into a new direction. And that’s achieved in just 3 months…

The ability to compare, contrast and debate such finishes and the whole efficacy and motivation of them, is welcome. Of course, to facilitate this you need to purchase both, but if you’re just looking to dip your toe into the range then the heavy char finish virgin wood is a good starting point.

Na Bràithrean Glencadam 2011 – Wee Brother Phil’s review

Colour: Pinot Grigio.

On the nose: rather light and floral even at 55%. Fresh with a light grassy note and orchard fruit of apple, pear and peach. Vanilla with a touch of caramel and sweet woody spice. Mild almond notes too. Water intensifies the green apple notes and brings forward a green herbal tinge.

In the mouth: A medium mouthfeel with some spun sugar sweetness on arrival. Slightly tart green apples, malt, vanilla and some fresh lemon zest. Mid-palate comes warming pepper. The finish is short with the pepper lingering and Granny Smith apples. Water brings a note of custard cream biscuits but little more development.

Score: 5/10

Na Bràithrean Glencadam 2011 – Big Brother Phil’s review

Colour: Light bronze.

On the nose: a much bolder nose – the same orchard fruit from the Little Brother along with coffee, grilled bananas with caramel sauce, some new leather and stewed citrus. Water makes it slightly woodier – pencil shavings, dates and cinnamon pastries.

In the mouth: again, a medium mouthfeel. Brown sugar on arrival along with a massive hit of
cinnamon and grated nutmeg. Vanilla pods and candied orange. A slight chilli pepper heat mid-palate along with charred oak. The finish is again rather short with clove and pepper spice. Water makes it sweeter again on arrival with dates and cinnamon amplified.

Score: 6/10

Phil’s Conclusions

Two more solid expressions for the lads at Na Braithrean. The Little Brother is a little one dimensional with limited flavour development. It may be simple but it is very drinkable. While not the most memorable dram a bottle would easily disappear with your mates (when we are allowed to do that sort of thing again!).

The Big Brother was definitely my favourite of the two with the charred virgin oak cask definitely stamping its authority on proceedings. Much spicier and wood driven but still allowing the orchard fruit notes of the base Glencadam spirit to come through. Again not massively complex but very enjoyable. Easily recommended.

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