So now that the Springbank Distillery Tour has concluded, with a fun first experience of Scotch distilling in the memory bank, it’s time for one of the most anticipated tastings that I had planned for this trip, the Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tasting!
Now Cadenhead’s is an independent bottler of a lot of different spirits. Scotch is their main draw but they also bottle gin, rum, cognac and various other world whiskies from bourbons to Australian single malts. Cadenhead’s is also known to be a very strong supporter of their local community to where they hire locals almost exclusively, much like they did when they were founded in Aberdeenshire in 1842.
Like with every tour offered at Springbank, it starts at the Springbank Distillery Shop so right as we were done with the Springbank Distillery Tour we enjoyed a quick dram of one of the Springbank core range whiskies right before the time came for our warehouse tasting! For this tasting our tour guide is Donald, a long-time worker at Cadenhead’s, who selected the casks that are up for grabs today. One of the benefits of the Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tasting, which differentiates it from other distilleries warehouse tastings, is that you can purchase a bottle of any of the whiskies you try and have it valinched right out of the cask for you.
We are taken to one of the dunnage warehouses and handed our tasting glasses while Donald explains a bit about Cadenhead’s philosophies regarding their non-use of chill filtration and caramel colouring. Once the introductions are done, we then proceed to try some whiskies straight out of the barrel!
So let’s see what was tried in this lineup!
Strathmill 26 Year 1993 Cadenhead’s
The first dram we start with is a 1993 vintage of Srathmill which is a Speyside whisky that is mostly used in Diageo-owned blends like J&B. This one is an older example at 26 years old, aged entirely in a refill bourbon cask, and bottled at 52% ABV.
Colour: Straw Gold
Nose: Very soft Irish-esqe nose, fresh cereals, vanilla cream, caramel, apple juice, dry lemons, raisins, dry cinnamon
Palate: Nice soft barley sugars, cinnamon candies, apple cheerios, vanilla oil, dry lemon cookies, light kosher salt and toffee
Finish: Long with silky creamy vanilla, caramel, coffee and raisins
The nose is a bit light and typical of a bourbon cask Speyside but the finish is simply wonderful. A very well put together lighter Speyside style!
Glenburgie 14 Year 2004 Cadenhead’s
We now get into the more sherried malts, starting with a Glenburgie that was aged for 14 years and bottled at 54.3% ABV. It was matured in a first fill bourbon barrel for 12 years before a 2 year finish in an Oloroso sherry butt.
Colour: Light Amber
Nose: Ripe dry sultanas, peach juice, allspice, clove, apple butter, cocoa
Palate: Silky buttery caramel, chocolate orange, cherry paste, sea salt, brine
Finish: Medium with more sweet cherries and tangerines, lemon drops and spiced gingerbread
Not as complex as the Strathmill we just tried but still pleasantly punchy with some big gingerbread and red fruit flavours.
Hazelburn 12 Year 2007 Cadenhead’s
Next we go to an all sherry maturation, this time in the form of a Hazelburn! It’s matured for 12 years in a first fill sherry hogshead and bottled at 58.0% ABV.
Nose: Big hazelnut butters, raisins, sea salt, dark chocolate, sea salt, light sulphur and brine
Palate: Nice chewy chocolate toffee cake, heavy brine, charred wood, sulphur, black tea, shortbread, ginger root, barnyard, lemon and eucalyptus
Finish: Medium to Long with pepper, sea salt, brine, sweet oak tannins
This one was really nice, and a big favourite from those who snatched a bottle up a few weeks prior! Lot’s of chewy sherry notes with nice toffee, tea, ginger and eucalyptus notes however the overly oaky finish and the not super pleasant sulphur on the palate kept this one away from being a sure fire pickup. Even then, quite good and definitely a winner with the German and mainland European whisky fans.
Paul John 7 Year 2012 Cadenhead’s
Donald gave us this next dram blind to see what we thought about this whisky and where we thought it came from, so this dram was tasted completely blind! It’s a 7 year old Paul John single cask whisky from India that was aged in Campbeltown for 2 of its 7 years in a bourbon barrel and was bottled at 56.3% ABV.
Colour: Hazy Brownish Gold
Nose: Rich chunky peanut butter, cocoa powder, raisins, cherries, dry vanilla
Palate: Dry peanuts and vanilla at first, then more caramel, cocoa dust, apple jam, raisins, clove and light allspice
Finish: Medium with treenuts, pistachio cream, woodsmoke, tablet and caramel
Sadly my least favorite Paul John but still very good. I personally had no idea that this was a Paul John blind because it seemed to lose the crazy spice complexity I had from a previous small batch Paul John I tried back in the summer, which was a 6 year old, and felt more like a very peanuty bourbon-forward Highland malt. Sadly a letdown for fans of the bigger exotic styles of Paul John.
Edrington Blended Malt 38 Year Old
Now we get to the oldest whisky of the tasting, as well as the last unpeated one. This was a vatting of sherry cask matured whiskies sourced from various old Edrington barrels with whiskies from Macallan, Glenrothes, Highland Park, Tamdhu and a few others. It’s aged at least for 38 years and is bottled at 45.3% ABV.
Nose: Soft leather and dry raisins along with allspice, light oily orange and lemon, cocoa dust, ginger cream and rich vanillas
Palate: Nice rich salted caramel, apple jelly, rich allspice, leather, swiss chocolate, raisins, Navel oranges, peanuts and lemon cake
Finish: Medium with red fruits, mandarin oranges, soft spices and dark chocolate
Very balanced and well put together, but sadly a bit too soft for what I like. It misses the full bodied mouthfeel that various German independent bottlers did of old Edrington stocks so I’d stick with those ones instead.
Springbank 8 Year 2011 Cadenhead’s In The Courtyard Single Cask
The first peated malt today is a signature Springbank that was released as part of the Cadenhead’s In The Courtyard event put on a while back here in Campbeltown for Cadenhead’s Club members. This Springbank was matured for 8 years in a fresh bourbon barrel and was bottled at 60.6% with only 80 bottles available for sale.
Nose: Great floral and honeycomb notes on the nose, white pepper, silky caramel, clove, ginger, spiced apple slices, buttery toast
Palate: Huge rich heather honey and apple butter, salted toffee, raisins, pear, green melon, apple jelly, cocoa dust and black tea
Finish: Medium to Long with white pepper, kosher salt, apple jelly, chocolate bonbons and plump raisins
This was such a well rounded and rich bourbon cask expression of Springbank, but also very different given how much honey and heather I got from this Springbank that would put some older aged Glen Grant’s to shame. A wonderful dram and my favourite from this tasting!
An Islay 12 Year 2007 Cadenhead’s In The Courtyard Single Cask
Our last dram of the day is a single cask Islay, also from the Cadenhead’s In The Courtyard event, which comes from a distillery near Port Ellen that starts with an “L,” but it’s not Laphroaig. It’s matured in a sherry hogshead, with a finish in a fresh Oloroso sherry butt, for 12 years and is bottled at 54.1% ABV with just 80 bottles available for sale.
Colour: Dark Amber, almost Brown
Nose: Massive baby back sweet bbq ribs, lots of brown sugar, brine, rock salt, rich toffees, light ginger, black pepper and salty plums
Palate: Nice ripe blackberries and creeping pork smoke but very light, blueberries, chipotle, molasses, salty plums, cherries, wood tannins and sea salt
Finish: Long and soft with blueberries, fresh meats, cherries, plums, briney salt, chai tea, lemon and soft oak tannins
Very much a BBQ lovers Islay whisky from one of the big Ls although this one wasn’t as complex as some other lighter sherried “An Islay” whiskies I’ve had around this age range. Still a wonderful sweet peat dram to finish this tasting off with!
Overall, a great valued warehouse tasting with a lot of variety even within the malt whisky category! If you’re a Cadenhead’s Club member you’re entitled to two free warehouse tastings every calendar year with the card they send you in the mail so if you’re going to Campbeltown any time soon make sure you look into Cadenhead’s Club and give this warehouse tasting a look as it’s definitely a must-do!