The third Masterclass I went for was my number one choice of the bunch. Cadenhead.
The independent bottler has been off the radar in The Netherlands for the biggest part of the past decade since their shop in Amsterdam went bust, twice. I know that they were very restrictive in otherwise having their whisky imported until two or three years ago so for quite a while all you could get from them was older bottlings.
The drawback of these older bottlings was, to be frank, they were boring. Mind, I’m talking 1995-2003 or so, not the black dumpies from decades ago. Most of the bottlings were young, high in abv and from rather tired casks. A friend bought a couple Islays and they were all more or less similar.
Now, with Mark Watt steering the ship they have revamped their entire range with new bottles, a much larger variety in casks and age range. Everybody was hoping for a showcase of these drams during the Masterclass.
Mark Watt, however, had other plans. He decided to deconstruct a (to be?) released blend from Cadenheads that consists of some rather old whisky. The oldest is from 1989, the youngest from 1993.
Creamy and sweet on the nose, with wheat and quite some alcohol punch. The palate was pretty dry and sharp with grain and vanilla. A bit thin though. The finish had coconut, vanilla and wheat. Classic grain whisky, but nothing special.
A massive hit of barley at first, then salt and sweet, porridge. I also wrote ‘terrible’. I meant that. The palate had barley again, syrupy sweetness, salt and liquorice. The finish was sharp and grainy, and boring. This one tastes like random old Bruichladdich which has a tendency of being rather bad.
Invergordon 1991 (sherry butt)
Sweet, vanilla, pastry cream, coconut and a certain lightness that picks it up. The palate has quite some oak, apricot and other fruits. The finish is light, crisp, with coconut, lots of fruit and lasts quite a bit.
Mortlach 1992 (sherry butt)
Sherry and nuts, fruit, rich leather and furniture polish. Rather traditional Mortlach. The palate was a bit iron-like, with raisins, fruit, sherry and pretty sharp. The finish was again sharp, fruity with some spices and some sherry notes.
The strange thing of this all is that I remember Mark not being thrilled about the Bruichladdich too, but using it for a bit of volume. A very strange remark from someone at the head of the company that just released the blend that these whiskies went in to.
Everyone was yapping continuously, especially after the initial surprise of not being able to taste the new Cadenhead whiskies. It didn’t improve after tasting the Bruichladdich either. In the middle of the Masterclass the guys from Highland Park (Sietse and Martin) ran in and kidnapped him for a couple of minutes. No explanation given so this all was a bit of ‘winging it’, as it felt.
Therefore, this masterclass was not as interesting as most attendants hoped. It still was nice and especially the Invergordon grain whisky was damn tasty, but still, most people were a bit baffled at why someone would do a masterclass like this. Especially when it was so easy to do something much more impressive.
Mark Watt did his best to entertain us, let that be said. He’s a great guy and I loved hanging out with him later that night. A strange discussion about how many monkeys fit in a microwave ensued. Later migrating to how you’d be able to fold Martine Nouet into a pie with the monkeys. I guess we all had a dram too many at that point.
The blend itself, before I forget! We, of course, also tasted that one.
The Bruichladdich influence is clear and a pity. The other whiskies have a very hard time coming through and are really held in check by the old barley scents of the Bruichladdich. Leather, heavy and not really nice to nose. The palate had cardboard, old sweaty leather and golden syrup. The finish was heavy too, with fruit, sherry, oak, polish and chocolate syrup.